A little over 20 years ago, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) conducted a military exercise that involved a “hypothetical scenario” of hijacked planes flying into both the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
One year later, on October 24-26, 2000, another “hypothetical” military exercise was played out featuring an airline crashing into the Pentagon killing 341 people followed by yet another May 2001 Department of Defense “hypothetical scenario” which saw hundreds of medical personnel training for a “guided missile in the form of a hijacked 757 airliner” crashing into the Pentagon.
What arose from the smoke and debris of September 11, 2001 was unlike anything the sleeping masses or international community expected.
The shock effect so traumatized the masses that quite suddenly, citizens found themselves willing to give up their liberties at home while acquiescing to any retaliatory action desired by their government abroad. The scale of horror was so great that the international community banded together and showed their love and solidarity towards America in the wake of the tragedy with candlelight vigils across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Russia and South America. Humanity’s natural tendency to embrace and aid our fellow man in times of crisis expressed itself like a bright light in a world of confused darkness and a hope for a durable peace awoke in the hearts of many.
Alas, as the world came soon to discover, that hope was short lived.
The Neocon Takeover of America
Police State measures grew swiftly with the Patriot Act and mass internal surveillance under the “crisis management” run by the neocon cabal in the White House. While a new type of regime change war was created abroad, Dangerous protocols for Cheney’s “Continuity of Government” were set into motion and with these procedures, new mandates for Martial Law were created amplifying the powers, financing and deployment of U.S. Military capabilities both within the USA “under crisis conditions” and around the world.
Governments that had no connection to 9/11 were swiftly targeted for destruction using false evidence of “yellowcake” produced in the bowels of MI6, and a broader unipolar military encirclement of both Russia and China was set into motion which President Putin called out brilliantly in his famous 2007 Munich Security Conference Speech.
Of course this should not have been a surprise for anyone who took the time to read the Project for a New American Century manifesto published in October 2000 entitled Rebuilding America’s Defenses’ (RAD).
Under the Chairmanship of William Kristol (a neocon agent today leading the charge to impeach President Trump) and co-authored by John Bolton, Richard Perle, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, and Donald Rumsfeld, RAD stated that to “further the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one-absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event- like a new Pearl Harbor”. Going further to describe its Hobbesian agenda, the cabal stated that “the Cold War was a bipolar world; the 21st century world is- for the moment at least- decidedly unipolar with America as the world’s sole superpower”.
While much has been said about the “inside job” of 9/11, a lesser appreciated terrorist act occurred over several weeks beginning on September 18, 2001 killing five and infective 17 in the form of envelopes laced with bio-weaponized anthrax.
The Age of Bioweapons and PNAC
This anthrax attack led quickly into the 2004 Bioshield Act with a $5 billion budget and mandate to “pre-empt and defend further bioweapon attacks”. This new chapter of the revolution in military affairs was to be coordinated from leading bioweapons facility at the Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick. Since 2002, over $50 billion has been spent on Bioweapons research and defense to date.
The earlier October 2000 RAD document emphasized the importance which the neocon cabal placed on bioweapons (and other next generation war tech) stating: “Combat will likely take place in new dimensions: In space, cyber-space and perhaps the world of microbes… advanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool”.
Lawyer and bioweapons expert Francis Boyle stated in 2007 that Fort Detrick’s mandate includes “acquiring, growing, modifying, storing, packing, and dispersing classical, emerging and genetically engineered pathogens for offensive weapon programs.” These new post-9/11 practices fully trashed the 1975 UN Convention Against Biological Weapons ratified by the USA by establishing a vast international network of bioweapons labs coordinated from Fort Detrick which would be assigned the role of doing much of the dirty work that the U.S. was “officially” prevented from doing on its own soil.
Where Hitler used the burning of the Reichstag to justify his enabling Acts, the neocons had their 9/11. The difference in the case of America was that Cheney failed to achieve the same level of absolute control over his nation as Hitler captured by 1934 (evidenced by pushback from patriotic American military intelligence circles against Cheney’s Iran war agenda). With this neocon failure, the republic lurched on.
The Rot Continues Under Obama
Obama’s rise was seen as a hopeful light to many naïve Democrats who still had not realized how a “false left” vs “false right” clash had been slowly constructed over the post WWII years. Either camp increasingly found itself converging towards the same world government agenda through using somewhat dissimilar paths and flavors.
It didn’t take long for many of Obama’s more critically-minded supporters to realize that the mass surveillance/police state measures, regime change wars, and military confrontation of Russia and China begun under Cheney not only failed to stop, but even expanded at faster rates than ever.
In the months before Obama left office in July 2016, the classified Directive 40: National Continuity Policy was enacted creating a line of “Devolution authority” for all branches of the government to a “duplicate chain of individuals secreted outside Washington available in a catastrophic emergency”. Days prior to Trump’s inauguration, Federal Continuity Directive 1 was issued to transfer authority to military forces who could be used to suppress “insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination or conspiracy.”
The Importance of Knowing This History
There are very clearly two diametrically opposing methods of analyzing, and solving the existential crisis threatening our world currently: Multipolar or Unipolar.
While Russia and China represent a multipolar/pro-nation state vision driven by large scale development projects that benefit all- rich and poor alike exemplified by the New Silk Road, Polar Silk Road, Space Silk Road and now Health Silk Road, something much darker is being promoted by the same financial oligarchy that owns both right and left sides of the deep state coin. These later forces have provably positioned themselves to take control of western governments under crisis conditions and are not afraid to use every weapon in their arsenal to destroy their perceived enemies… including bioweaponry. This latter uncomfortable reality was asserted quite candidly by leading officials of Iran and even the Chinese Foreign Ministry just weeks ago.
Admittedly, whether or not the current coronavirus pandemic is a bioweapon is not yet fully proven (although growing body of evidence asserts that it is, as seen here and here and here and here). What we know for certain are the following facts:
Numbers are being systematically misrepresented to convey much greater rates of death vs infections as dozens of leading medical experts have proven. Contaminated test kits have started showing up in the UK on March 30 and countless false results are showing up since covid test kits are often not differentiating between covid-19 and the typical coronavirus strains of the flu that average between 7-14% of flu cases every year. This doesn’t mean that COVID-19 should not be taken seriously, but only that the reported numbers are being artificially falsified to generate heightened panic.
The COVID-19 Task Force at London’s Imperial College has been found to be the singular source of the false “left” vs “right” debate poisoning the west’s response to the pandemic. Teams working out of this British Intelligence nexus have generated BOTH the “do-nothing-and-wait-until-natural-resistance-evolves” herd immunity theory while simultaneously creating the “shut everything down one-size-fits-all” doomsday models being used by the WHO, UN, and leading Deep State assets like Michael Bloomberg, Steve Bannon, Bill Gates and George Soros. In case you doubt the influence of the Imperial College on world policy, a March 17 New York Times article described them in the following terms: “With ties to the World Health Organization and a team of 50 scientists, led by a prominent epidemiologist, Neil Ferguson, Imperial is treated as a sort of gold standard, its mathematical models feeding directly into government policies.”
Investigative Journalist Whitney Webb’s February 2020 research demonstrated conclusively that DARPA had received funding in tandem with Fort Detrick since 2017 on genetic modification of novel coronaviruses (with a focus on bats) as well as the development of never before used DNA and mRNA vaccines which change the structure of DNA both for an individual and potentially for a whole race.
Lastly, and most importantly, the pre-9/11 military exercises were not merely hypothetical scenarios but exercises which led directly into a new “Pearl Harbor” that modified the behaviour of Americans under terror, panic and misinformation like nothing ever seen before. The parallels to today’s coronavirus outbreak cannot be missed for anyone who has taken a serious look at the strange case of the Event 201 Global Pandemic Exercise on October 19, 2019 in New York. Event 201 was sponsored by the Michael Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, and World Economic Forum which ran simulations under the “hypothetical” scenario of a novel coronavirus pandemic killing 60 million people. Reviewing just one of Event 201’s many recordings openly available on their official site features some very disturbing parallels to the events unfolding today:
Unipolar Martial Law or Multipolar Marshall Plan?
As I outlined in my previous paper, the mass-panic generated by COVID-19 has created a 9/11-situation with the expected police state laws being passed under the radar of many people who would normally be paying attention to such things. One of the most dangerous measures enacted involved a classified bill in February which formally mandates the head of NORTHCOM (who is also the head of NORAD) to become acting President of the United States under conditions of Martial Law, un-governability of the executive branch or general chaos in America. This later scenario is not terribly unlikely considering the danger of a financial blowout of the banking system combined with economic lockdowns of the west.
China and Russia both understand the nature of the game and both nations have acted responsibly in dealing with the outbreak of Coronavirus with China’s successful containment having won seven consecutive days of no new cases. It is important that unlike the remedies promoted by London’s Imperial College, neither Russia or China have totally shut down their nations, but have rather kept their economies alive which selecting methods for selective quarantines and lockdowns (China only locked down 15 nations plus Wuhan while the remaining 95% of their economy continued to produces and support the recovering component).
We know that President Trump has resisted the pressure by Deep State Experts to shut down America and has stated so repeatedly, but up until his recent conversations with Xi Jinping and Putin, there were very few options available to him beyond those proposed by Dr. Cauci, the Green New Dealing Dems or “bailout everything” monetarists around Mnuchin and Kudlow.
Now that China and Russia have begun sending cargo ships of vital medical equipment to America as part of the Health Silk Road (over the screams of neocons and neoliberal technocrats like), a new possibility for a cure has presented itself. If Trump acts decisively with courage and intelligence, there is still a chance that sovereign nation states may yet stay in the drivers’ seat and use this crisis as an opportunity to force through a debt jubilee, banking reform and new Bretton Woods emergency conference to establish a foundation for a new just economic system. If Trump is unsuccessful in this task, it is more than a little scary to think about what hell will beset the world in the coming months and years.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The first draft of the civil rights-eroding USA PATRIOT Act was magically introduced one week after the 9/11 attacks. Legislators later admitted that they hadn’t even had time to read through the hundreds of pages of the history-shaping bill before passing it the next month, yet somehow its authors were able to gather all the necessary information and write the whole entire thing in a week.
This was because most of the work had already been done. CNET reported the following back in 2008:
“Months before the Oklahoma City bombing took place, [then-Senator Joe] Biden introduced another bill called the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995. It previewed the 2001 Patriot Act by allowing secret evidence to be used in prosecutions, expanding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and wiretap laws, creating a new federal crime of ‘terrorism’ that could be invoked based on political beliefs, permitting the U.S. military to be used in civilian law enforcement, and allowing permanent detention of non-U.S. citizens without judicial review. The Center for National Security Studies said the bill would erode ‘constitutional and statutory due process protections’ and would ‘authorize the Justice Department to pick and choose crimes to investigate and prosecute based on political beliefs and associations.’
Biden’s bill was never put to a vote, but after 9/11 then-Attorney General John Ashcroft reportedly credited his bill with the foundations of the USA PATRIOT Act.
“Civil libertarians were opposed to it,” Biden said in 2002 of his bill. “Right after 1994, and you can ask the attorney general this, because I got a call when he introduced the Patriot Act. He said, ‘Joe, I’m introducing the act basically as you wrote it in 1994.’”
I point this out because it is now more important than ever to be aware that power structures (and their goons like Biden) can and will seize on opportunities to roll out pre-existing authoritarian agendas. We know it happened after 9/11, and we may be absolutely certain that it is happening now.
Good thread compiling the many, many authoritarian measures which governments around the world have implemented and are preparing to implement to deal with the virus. https://t.co/cZ3KnMzdPp
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) April 1, 2020
Commentator and satirist CJ Hopkins has a long, long, long, long ongoing thread on Twitter right now compiling dozens and dozens of creepy Orwellian steps that have been taken by governments around the world and by Silicon Valley tech giants in response to the virus over the last three weeks. I emphasize how long the thread is because if you think you’ve finished scrolling through it you probably haven’t; make sure you keep clicking “more replies” until you get to the current entries.
I strongly encourage everyone to scroll through the thread when you get a chance to get a sense of the scale and scope of the drastic measures that are being implemented around the world, and maybe bookmark it and keep checking back now and then for updates. The entire thread is comprised of mainstream media articles with excerpts; some entries are more jarring than others, but taken as a whole it becomes clear that we’re looking at a whole lot of power being handed over to the kinds of institutions which historically don’t do good things when given a lot more power.
And these are just the steps we know about.
To what extent are these drastic, intrusive, authoritarian measures justified? The answer, in my estimation, isn’t clear yet. There are too many unknowns about the virus, too many unknowns about the responses to it, and too many unknowns about exactly what is going on behind the veil of secrecy in opaque government agencies around the world. There’s an argument expert epidemiologists are making that there’s no time to get perfectly certain of these things before dealing with a pandemic, that speed is of the essence and hesitating due to fear of maybe getting something wrong can cost millions of lives. Maybe that’s true; I’m not an epidemiologist and I do not know.
What I do know is that enormous changes are happening, and that powerful people are definitely conspiring to advance their own interests as this unfolds. There are many theories about who specifically is conspiring with whom and the specific manner in which they are doing so, and they’re being dismissed by establishment loyalists as “conspiracy theories” as though that in and of itself constitutes some sort of argument. That conspiracies are happening is actually just a fact that is obvious to any adult with a mature understanding of the world, and it can be useful to come up with theories about how that might be occurring; calling theories about conspiracies the thing that they are in a disparaging tone does not actually invalidate them.
There are a ton of theories about what’s going on behind the scenes with this pandemic and the policies that are being put in place to respond to it. Some are smart and relatively well-founded, some are stupid and rooted in generalized paranoia or partisan idiocy, many contradict each other, and many could potentially fit together in some way. I personally haven’t seen enough evidence for any one theory to throw my weight behind it, but I am watching carefully, and I am glad that the hive mind is chewing on this riddle.
One thing I will put my weight behind right now is the prediction that those of us who are dedicated to truth are going to have to drastically revise our worldviews in the coming months. There are such large-scale shifts happening in such an unclear information environment that the only thing we should expect is the unexpected; this virus is shaking things up (and being used to shake things up) in ways we don’t really understand yet, and even before the virus the world’s dominant power structures were acting very weird. This means our ideas about what’s going on in the world will likely have to undergo some revising in the relatively near future; the bigger the revelations, the more revision will be necessary.
Right now that’s the primary piece of advice I have to offer: stay skeptical, stay intellectually honest, and keep your perspectives malleable. If we are more interested in the truth than we are in being proven right or in feeling smug, then we are likely on a collision course with future revelations that will change our ideas about how the world is functioning in some pretty significant ways. If this doesn’t sound possible to you, it’s only because you currently lack the humility, intellectual honesty and cognitive flexibility to understand that you may not be seeing the full picture yet.
Things are shifting; all we can do is keep our minds agile enough to shift with them. Prepare to have your worldview obliterated.
British newspapers delivered the grim news on their front pages Tuesday: Prime Minister Boris had been taken into hospital intensive care because his health deteriorated rapidly overnight from Covid-19 disease.
The Mirror splashed: ‘Sick Boris Faces Fight For Life’. Other newspapers conveyed similar shocked tones and the disquieting sense of a government in disarray. Who will lead the government if Johnson is incapacitated, they asked?
Compounding the sombre mood is a mounting death toll among Britons, with over 5,300 succumbing so far to the global pandemic. Britain has not reached its peak in the epidemic.
Only the day before, however, the Mirror and other British news outlets were telling the public that 55-year-old Johnson had been admitted to hospital as a routine precaution. It was roundly reported that he was “in good spirits” and that, so to speak, there was nothing to see here or worry about. Move along everyone.
In particular, the British media quoted the prime minister’s Downing Street office as dismissing as “disinformation” earlier Russian reports claiming Johnson’s health condition was more serious. There was a palpable sense of British disdain that the Russians were distastefully indulging in infowar at a most inappropriate time.
A report on Monday in RIA Novosti, and picked up by other Russian outlets, claimed that Johnson was hospitalized and he could soon be put on a ventilator. The claim was attributed to a senior source in the British national health service. That claim indicated the prime minister’s health condition was not “in good spirits” but actually in grave decline, requiring medical intervention to assist with breathing.
The pathology of Covid-19 as shown in other cases is such that it can rapidly go from mild symptoms to aggressively attacking a patient’s internal organs, especially the lungs in which case victims can drown from their own pleural fluids.
Johnson was first diagnosed as having contracted Covid-19 nearly two weeks ago. He had been self-isolating in Downing Street and taking conference calls as the head of government, while reportedly suffering “mild symptoms” of coughing and fever.
On Sunday, he was admitted to St Thomas’ hospital in London, near Westminster, because of “persistent symptoms”. But, as noted above, the British media were dutifully repeating the official version that the hospital admission was precautionary and nothing more serious.
Things took a dramatic shift on Monday evening about 7.30pm local time when the BBC delivered “breaking news” that Johnson had been taken to the intensive care unit (ICU) within St Thomas’ hospital. Still, the British media were maintaining that the latest move was more precautionary than an emergency intervention. Even though being in ICU is a big deal.
The Independent reported Tuesday: “Boris Johnson has been moved to intensive care after his coronavirus symptoms worsened, just hours after Downing Street insisted he was in good spirits and in control of the government’s response to the escalating crisis… The prime minister is understood to still be conscious and to have been moved as a precaution, in case he requires ventilation to aid his recovery.”
The outlet added: “He was given oxygen to help his breathing before he went into the intensive care unit, sources said last night.”
British media Tuesday were quoting Cabinet ministers as saying that Johnson had not been subjected to invasive ventilation, requiring the insertion of an oxygen tube into his lungs. Though it was admitted that oxygen was administered to him, presumably via a face mask.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove told the BBC on Tuesday: “The prime minister’s not on a ventilator. He has received oxygen support.”
If there is any change in his condition, “Number 10 [Downing Street] will ensure the country is updated,” Mr Gove added, according to the BBC.
At this point, Downing Street and the British media have lost credibility in their reporting on what is the exact condition of Johnson. Up to now, they have both been downplaying the matter and playing catch-up.
Was Johnson put on a ventilator on Monday, as Russian media were saying? Or was it a less invasive procedure of oxygen administered with face mask? It scarcely matters. The point is that the British prime minister’s life is in a lot more vulnerable condition than the British media were telling.
It was the Russian media who had the story largely correct and yet they were peremptorily dismissed as Russian “state-owned disinformation”. The dismissal by Downing Street was given added emphasis by British media outlets who seemed to be more keen to rubbish Russian rivals than actually check out the facts about Johnson. The rubbishing of Russian media also plays into the long-running dubious narrative about Russian interference and Kremlin-sponsored media influence.
Well, it looks like the Russian media had the scoop on Johnson’s deterioration. And it turns out the British media are the ones that were peddling fake news and keeping the public in the dark.
This is not meant to engage in petty oneupmanship and schadenfreude.
It’s a basic question of the British public’s right to know about a crucial matter on the state of their government in competently handling a public health crisis. The last thing needed is public uncertainty and distrust about what they are being told about a life-threatening pandemic, either by the government or by the media.
As economic aid from Brussels is debated and delayed, millions of Mediterraneans are already questioning the European project.
Since the birth of the European Union, there has been an intense debate about the possibility of creating a two-track Europe, divided between the Mediterranean nations and those of Northern Europe.
Supporters of this solution argue that the differences between these two parts of Europe are irreconcilable, in terms of their lifestyle, in the way society is conceived, and especially in the mentality of citizens. The possibility of division first appeared in Greece during the 2008 crisis, and it now seems to be intensifying with the coronavirus emergency.
Today, the dividing line between north and south has hardened, and is defined by opposing views on how to tackle the spread of the virus.
On one side, the Latin countries of Europe ask to use the so-called “Eurobonds” or “Coronabonds,” a financial instrument with a common European debt linked to the resources that are strictly necessary to face this health emergency. Italy and Spain do not ask to share their ordinary public debt with Germany and the other northern European nations; they only seek to share the resources they need to bear the costs to fight Coronavirus. On the other side, German politicians and the media accuse the south of seeking to finance the crisis response with German money. France stands halfway between these two blocs, even though in practice Macron’s point of view seems to be closer to the southern European countries’ position.
The solution proposed by Angela Merkel and other northern European governments is to use the resources of the European stability mechanism (ESM), a fund set up to lend money to member states in financial difficulty in ordinary times to prevent situations like the 2008 crisis. The resources of the stability mechanism would be used by individual states and so would not constitute a common debt. The Italian position is simple and based on two main points: First, since Europe is not facing an ordinary situation, we need extraordinary means that cannot come from the use of ESM funds. Second, the COVID-19 emergency does not concern a single country, but all of Europe, and therefore, the cost of combating it and rebuilding should be shared by all countries.
From Italy’s standpoint, there are other considerations as well. Italy contributes more to the EU than it receives; its net annual contribution comes to EUR 20 billion, making it the third largest contributor after Germany and France. This means that the resources granted by the European Union as aid are also partly Italian money. The same applies to the resources of the ESM. Italy contributes 17.80 percent of its resources and Spain 11.83 percent. Among other nations that oppose the use of Eurobonds, the Netherlands contributes just 5.68 percent, Austria, 2.77 percent, and Finland a paltry 1.79.
Why don’t the countries of southern Europe (and Ireland, which has joined them) want to accept the use of the resources of the ESM? Journalist Nicola Porro, one of the most well-known voices in the world of the Italian center right-wing, put it this way in one of his popular videos: accepting the ESM would risk putting Italy into receivership administered by a reborn “troika” consisting of the ECB, the EU and the IMF — just as happened in Greece in 2008. The risk of accepting those resources today could prove fatal since the conditions of the loan would most likely change after the emergency ends.
The fear of the center-right parties, in particular Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia and Matteo Salvini’s Lega, is that the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will end up accepting the ESM, which will probably be packaged and presented differently, but in substance will remain the same.
The current crisis cannot be compared to that of 2008. In 2008, Europe faced a financial crisis with economic and social consequences. Today, we face a public health emergency, which means that the emotional aspect also plays an important role. How do you tell an entrepreneur from Lombardy, one of the wealthiest regions in Europe with a GDP higher than many regions of Germany, that the European Union allocated ten days to discuss and find a solution—in the middle of a pandemic, when lives are at stake? How do you explain that to someone who has worked for a lifetime, paid taxes, provided jobs to many people and who has probably lost his father, a friend, or an employee to the coronavirus in a matter of days?
Even if the European Union continues to function in a political and formal sense, emotionally, for the majority of the citizens of Mediterranean countries it no longer exists. If tomorrow morning a consultative referendum were held in Italy with an online vote, 80 percent of Italians would likely favor an exit. Not only conservative and center right parties have opposed the current European Union, but for the first time, many liberal and left-wing citizens have also taken sides against the EU as they observe their response to the pandemic and the perceived indifference to Italy’s fate.
Coronavirus has highlighted the failure of the globalist ideology, as the intellectuals Marco Gervasoni and Corrado Ocone put it in their newly published Coronavirus: The End of Globalization, and one of the main pillars of this ideology on which they focus is exactly what we call Europeanism, that is “the idea that, pending the creation of a World Republic, we can indeed create a European Republic, the United States of Europe, in which freedom of exchange, trade, movement, and the so-called ‘external borders’ remain as open as possible.”
In addition to the different political and economic points of view, there are deeper fractures related to different visions of the European project between the peoples of northern Europe and the Latin countries in the south. For proof, just look at the article signed by a series of German intellectuals in Bild, a major German newspaper, expressing solidarity with Italy. The article’s Italian title states: “Siamo con voi!” (“We are with you!”), but the content, probably contrary to its good intentions, has generated a feeling of disdain in Italy. The text is full of stereotypes and condescension about Italian food, such as “you brought us good things to eat. Suddenly we could enjoy appetizers, butterflies, and tiramisu too. […] We wanted to know how to cook pasta like you, to drink Campari like you, to love as you do.” About the so-called Italian “dolce vita” they say: “We always wanted to be like you. With your easy-going ways.”
These are certainly not words of comfort for a nation that mourns hundreds of dead every day, where doctors work twelve-hour shifts and where, thanks to the extraordinary dedication and efforts of its citizens, a brand new hospital was built in Lombardy in just a few days. Unfortunately, despite good intentions, the words in the Bild article only synthesize the ‘pizza, pasta, and mandolin’ stereotype of Italians that many people from northern Europe believe to be true. They show an unwillingness to see our beautiful country as a large industrialized economy and a net contributor to the EU budget whose citizens cannot simply accept the dictates of the European Union.
In Italy, even barring direct mention of Italexit, for the first time in the political and media debates there is consistent talk of a plan B, of “an alternative to this Europe,” and of the need for “new solutions.” From a practical point of view, exiting the EU presents two problems: the fact that the Italian currency is the euro and the difficulty of holding a referendum.
Unlike Great Britain, which kept the pound sterling after joining the EU, Italy abandoned the lira. To be sure, Italy adopted the euro under conditions unfavorable to its economy, but abandoning the euro now would make things even worse.
Besides, Italian law does not provide for the possibility of a referendum like the one held in the UK to approve Brexit, and holding one would require a constitutional amendment. Without an amendment, if the majority of Italians voted for Italexit, the parliament would need to pass an ordinary law, as was the case with the approval of the Lisbon Treaty. At that point, there exists a risk that incompatibility would arise with Article 117 of the Italian Constitution, which regulates the legislative competences between the national government, its regions, and the EU as a third actor, and so a further constitutional change might be necessary.
This complicated path is improbable if not impossible, at least in an ordinary situation. However, we are not in an ordinary situation but an extraordinary one, and the pandemic has changed the sentiments of the Italians.
In reality, there is another possibility, which is also difficult but no longer appears to be a chimera: the collapse of the European Union. If the entire European scaffolding collapsed, there would no longer be a need for an Italexit. Across Southern Europe, many more citizens are asking, what is the point of a supranational entity that is expensive and legally cumbersome, but unable to provide adequate solutions to more than 120 million citizens of Italy, Spain, and Portugal in this dramatic moment?
A recurring theme among conspiracy theorists is that the elite are just waiting for the right moment to roll out their ‘mark of the beast’ technology to remotely identify and control every single human being on the planet, thus sealing their plans for a one world government. And with many people willing to do just about anything to get back to some sense of normalcy, those fears appear more justified with each passing day.
In the Book of Revelation [13:16-17], there is a passage that has attracted the imagination of believers and disbelievers throughout the ages, and perhaps never more so than right now: “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark…”
Was John of Patmos history’s first conspiracy theorist, or are we merely indulging ourselves today with a case of self-fulfilling prophecy? Whatever the case may be, many people would probably have serious reservations about being branded with an ID code even if it had never been mentioned in Holy Scripture. But that certainly has not stopped Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who has been warning about a global pandemic for years, from pushing such controversial technologies on all of us.
In September 2019, just three months before the coronavirus first appeared in China, ID2020, a San Francisco-based biometric company that counts Microsoft as one of its founding members, quietly announced it was undertaking a new project that involves the “exploration of multiple biometric identification technologies for infants” that is based on “infant immunization” and only uses the “most successful approaches”.
In a new interview, Bill Gates authoritatively states that mass public gatherings will not come back “at all” until we have mass vaccination. Who made him king of the world? https://t.co/siW7bZ9yGc … pic.twitter.com/ivaCI8eAEl
— Alternative News (@NewsAlternative) April 4, 2020
For anyone who may be wondering what one of those “most successful approaches” might look like, consider the following top contender for the contract. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed what is essentially a hi-tech ‘tattoo’ that stores data in invisible dye under the skin. The ‘mark’ would be delivered together with a vaccine, most likely administered by Gavi, the global vaccine agency that also falls under the umbrella of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“The researchers showed that their new dye, which consists of nanocrystals called quantum dots… emits near-infrared light that can be detected by a specially equipped smartphone,” MIT News reported.
And if the reader scrolls to the very bottom of the article, he will find that this study was funded first and foremost by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Today, with the global service economy shut down to prevent large groups of infectious humans from assembling, it is easier to imagine a day when people are required to have their infrared ID ‘tattoo’ scanned in order to be granted access to any number of public venues. And from there, it requires little stretch of the imagination to see this same tracking nanotechnology being applied broadly across the global economy, where it could be used to eliminate the use of dirty money. After all, if reusable bags are being outlawed over the coronavirus panic-demic, why should reusable cash get special treatment?
Writing earlier this month in these pages, geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar provided a compelling argument that the coronavirus, which is driving the world towards a New Great Depression, is “being used as cover for the advent of a new, digital financial system, complete with a forced vaccine cum nanochip creating a full, individual, digital identity.
As one possible future scenario, Escobar imagined “clusters of smart cities linked by AI, with people monitored full time and duly micro-chipped doing what they need with a unified digital currency…”
Those fears took on greater significance when Bill Gates sat down over the weekend for a breathtaking interview with CBS This Morning. Gates told host Anthony Mason that mass gatherings might have to be prohibited in the age of coronavirus unless and until a wide scale vaccination program is enacted.
“What does ‘opening up’ look like,” Gates asked rhetorically before essentially changing the entire social and cultural makeup of the United States in one fell swoop. “Which activities, like schools, have such benefit and can be done in a way that the risk of transmission is very low, and which activities, like mass gatherings, maybe, in a certain sense more optional. And so until you’re widely vaccinated those [activities] may not come back at all” [The interview can be watched in its entirety here].
According to Gates, anything that could be defined as a “mass gathering” – from spectators packed into a stadium for a sporting event, to protesters out on the street in demonstration – would be considered an act of civil disobedience without a vaccine. Little surprise that Gates chose the concept of “mass gathering” to snag all of us, for what is modern democratic society if not one big mass event after another? Indeed, since nobody will want to miss the next big happening, like the Super Bowl, or Comic-Con, or, heaven forbid, Eurovision, millions of people would predictably line up for miles to get their Microsoft-supported inoculation, even if it contains tracking technologies.
MIT is working on a “quantum tattoo” that will mark you with an invisible identifier while also delivering a vaccine. Can you guess who is the premiere donor of the project? https://t.co/ZEWqCUVGwI pic.twitter.com/jFVip4DaqZ
— Roosh (@rooshv) April 4, 2020
All of this seems like sheer madness when it is remembered that there are other options for defeating the coronavirus than a mandatory global vaccine regime.
Just last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director, told a Senate Subcommittee that over 80 percent of the people who get infected by the coronavirus “spontaneously recover” without any medical intervention. This makes one wonder why the global lockdown was designed for everyone instead of just the sick and elderly. Meanwhile, the drug hydroxychloroquine, which has been downplayed in the media despite being named as the most effective coronavirus treatment among physicians in a major survey, is starting to get a fresh look.
Just this week, following Nevada’s lead, Michigan just reversed course and is now the second democratic state to request the anti-malarial drug from the Trump administration.
Michigan reverses course, requests anti-malarial drugs from feds to treat coronavirus. Second Democratic governor to change mind this week, following Nevada. https://t.co/TkZyXEqs9l
— John Solomon (@jsolomonReports) April 3, 2020
So now it looks as though we are off to the races to see what will become the approved method of fighting the global pandemic – a hastily developed vaccine that may actually worsen the effects of the disease in those who contract it, or the already proven inexpensive drug hydroxychloroquine.
If the winner turns out to be a global vaccine, possibly one that carries ID nanotechnology, don’t expect the wealthy to be lining up with their kids to be the first to get it. In 2015, The American Journal of Public Heath surveyed some 6,200 schools in California – the epicenter of biometric ID research – and found vaccine exemptions were twice as common among kindergartners enrolled in private institutions.
It seems that the elite are betting heavily on the development of an ID-tracking vaccine that would bring all races and institutions together under one big happy roof, but clearly they will continue living in their own fenced-off neighborhood in this one world government. Whether or not they will get a ‘special pass’ from receiving the new-age mark is another question.
Throughout the world in countries that elected right-wing anti-government libertarian leaders – from the United States and Brazil to the United Kingdom and Australia – incompetence and lack of preparedness for the Covid-19 pandemic will directly lead to hundreds of thousands of needless deaths. The political rhetoric of those leaders who practice “barbarian laissez-faire” policies have been exposed by Covid-19 as worthless pablum designed to enthrall their unthinking supporters.
Donald Trump’s penchant for believing in conspiracy theories and his blatant xenophobia and racism clouded his judgement on the outbreak of Cobid-19 as a “Chinese” problem. Trump and his fellow right-wing allies around the world pushed back against a need for mandatory stay-at-home orders, quarantines, and social distancing.
Trump’s disdain for international cooperation and science, as well as his “America First” dogma, resulted in several factors that led to an unforeseen epidemic blossoming in Wuhan, China to transform into a global and extremely deadly and disruptive pandemic. The Trump administration was criminally derelict in abandoning several units and programs initiated by past administrations to combat a global pandemic. These include the National Security Council’s Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense; the Department of Homeland Security’s National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), which conducted modeling as recommended by the 2006 National Strategy for Pandemic Implementation Plan; and the federal government’s PREDICT program that worked with 60 worldwide laboratories, including that in outbreak city Wuhan – which originally identified SARS-CoV-2, the novel Covid-19 – and 1,200 other viruses.
Pandemics on the scale of Covid-19 are believed by many to have wiped out or contributed to the downfall of entire civilizations, the Olmec, Mayan, Aztec, and Byzantine empires, as well as the Athens hegemon.
Like the “beast demons” of ancient mythology, Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, treated Covid-19 as an opportunity to conduct anti-democratic power grabs, infringe on the powers of constituent political provinces, states, or regions to set their own public health requirements, and carry out frontal assaults on the independent press. In the case of Trump, there were blatant directives by him and his Eurasian Jewish criminal syndicate-linked son-in-law, Jared Kushner, that were intended to corner the market on critical medical equipment and supplies in order to distribute them to pro-Trump U.S. state governors and Israel.
Acting under similar orders, Israel’s Mossad and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency began scouring the world to obtain ventilators, virus test kits, and personal protective equipment by whatever means possible, including theft and piracy. “Ha’aretz” reported that the head of Mossad’s technology division, someone identified only by the letter “H,” boasted about how Mossad obtained some of Israel’s ventilators from abroad, saying, “We stole, but only a little.”
“The Washington Post” reported that Israel was obtaining ventilators from North America, where they were already in short supply. After the publication of the “Post’s” report, Kushner announced to the world at a White House press briefing that America’s strategic reserve of ventilators were “ours,” meaning the Trump administration’s, and not for use by the states. The Mossad’s operation, directed by Israel’s criminally-indicted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, to obtain ventilators from abroad through bidding wars and outright theft, is all-the-more noteworthy when considering that Netanyahu is a longtime personal friend of Kushner and his family.
Trump and Bolsonaro were responsible for Covid-19’s spread to both Florida and Brazil when the two met at a mid-March summit at Trump’s coronavirus hot zone of Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. The summit and social gatherings resulted in members of Bolsonaro’s delegation and the Republican mayor of Miami becoming infected. Bolsonaro, in rejecting Covid-19 as nothing more than a “cold,” matched up with the propaganda coming out of Trump’s media circle in the United States. Both Bolsonaro and Trump insisted that regular influenza killed more people than Covid-19. Early on, Trump called Covid-19 a “hoax” by the Democratic Party. Attempts by White House spin doctors to backtrack on Trump’s statement largely fell on deaf ears.
As the virus spread throughout Brazil, Bolsonaro’s antics wore thin with state governors, his own health minister, and, most importantly of all, the Brazilian armed forces. Just as Trump engaged in personal insults directed against the Democratic governors of Michigan, Washington, and other states, Bolsonaro began attacking Governors João Doria of São Paulo and Wilson Witzel of Rio de Janeiro for instituting curfews and quarantine measures. The Brazilian people sided with their governors against Bolsonaro, just as Americans sided in large numbers with their governors and mayors against Trump.
After Bolsonaro contradicted Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta by scoffing at the need for social distancing and promoting quack medicinal cures, Facebook and Instagram removed the Brazilian president’s posts as harmful to the public. In cities throughout Brazil, angry citizens took to their balconies banging pots and pans and shouted “Bolsonaro Out!” There were calls by the opposition in the Brazilian Congress to impeach Bolsonaro. Economics Minister Paulo Guedes took issue with Bolsonaro’s desire to send Brazilians back to work prior to the virus’s abatement.
After Trump tweeted that quarantines and stay-at-home orders could not be “cures” worse than the disease, Bolsonaro, in an example of “monkey see, monkey do,” echoed Trump by declaring, “The collateral effects of the measures to combat the coronavirus must not be worse than the disease itself.”
As Bolsonaro found himself in political hot water, Trump also began promoting the use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which remained untested for treating Covid-19. Bolsonaro also chimed in with a tweet extolling the use of the same drug. It was one of Bolsonaro’s tweets that Twitter removed.
The Argentine press began reporting that the Chief of Staff of the Brazilian Presidency, Army General Walter Braga Netto, had actually replaced Bolsonaro as “operational president” of the country. There were reports that the Brazilian armed forces chief of staff had informed his Argentine counterpart that it was General Netto, not Bolsonaro, who was making all the presidential decisions regarding Covid-19 and other critical matters in Brazil.
Since Bolsonaro and Trump like to match each other’s policies and rhetoric, the intervention of the Brazilian armed forces in sidelining Bolsonaro served as a stark warning to Trump, especially after Trump ordered the firing of Navy Captain Brett Crozier, the Commanding Officer of the nuclear aircraft carrier “USS Theodore Roosevelt.” The ship’s commander had fired off an angry letter through his chain-of-command warning that his crew of over 4000 sailors was in jeopardy from an outbreak of Covid-19 on board the vessel. Crozier had plenty of supporters in the military and political establishment, including his own crew and presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, as well as the great grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt. The examples of General Netto and an angry U.S. Armed Forces provided uninformed and ignorant libertarian “beast-men” like Bolsonaro and Trump with a stern wake-up call that their clownish antics have definite limits.
Other “beast-men” like Duterte and Johnson also used the coronavirus to brandish their particular political theatrics. Duterte ordered Philippines security forces to “shoot dead” anyone violating mandatory curfews and social distancing in the country. Johnson, a Brexit “one-trick pony,” found himself incapable of adequately dealing with Covid-19, especially after years of decrying Britain’s valued National Health Service as an unnecessary bureaucracy. Johnson’s ignorance of the virus and his reliance on political adviser Dominic Cumming’s ridiculous advice to take a chance on Britons developing a “herd immunity,” thus allowing the virus to make an initial sweep through Britain and count the dead and the survivors afterward, resulted in not only Johnson, but his pregnant fiancée, Carrie Symonds; Prince Charles; and Cummings contracting Covid-19. Australia’s evangelical Prime Minister Scott Morrison was also slow on the draw in taking resolute action to combat Covid-19, perhaps putting his faith more into his vaunted religious passages than scientific research. Critics of Morrison’s right-wing government pointed out that it was not only toilet paper that was in short supply in the country, but also honesty, truth, and transparency.
Rejection of science, public health, and common sense, as well as using a pandemic to score political points and increase personal power, has its penalties, a fact that has not yet seemed to dawn on Trump, Bolsonaro, Johnson, and like-minded political dolts around the world.
Government leaders everywhere are calling for their people to wage war against the coronavirus outbreak, recalling past victories in an effort to boost public morale. In Britain, politicians cite the Second World War as a suitable example of determined and successful resistance to a terrifying enemy.
Yet the faltering response of the British authorities to the Covid-19 pandemic so far is much closer to the failures of 1914 than anything that happened in 1940. The parallels are striking between the crisis today and the one that exploded on the world just over a hundred years ago. Then as now there was poor leadership – inadequately prepared and hampered by an initially mistaken strategy – sending frontline forces over the top to suffer massive losses. The difference is that then the casualties were in the British army and today they are in the NHS.
“Lions led by donkeys,” was the phrase used to condemn the waste of lives by incompetent First World War generals and their political masters. The same words could be used again today: once the shortages were of machine guns and artillery shells while now they are of ventilators, surgical masks and testing kits. The common feature is that in both cases the shortage will kill or disable a proportion of those who do not receive essential equipment.
Overdramatic? A pandemic is not the same as war? Governments around the world are already talking of potentially millions of dead unless the virus is brought under control. It is disrupting life and destroying economies on a scale not seen since 1945.
An excuse for the stumbling performance of most governments is that this crisis is unprecedented. Although China, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore put their experience with the Sars epidemic to good use. Again the best comparison is with 1914 which was the first great international military conflict since the Napoleonic Wars a hundred years earlier. Come the Second World War people had plenty of grim experience of what such an earth-shaking conflict would be like.
But this does not quite explain why British political and scientific leadership has been visibly worse than almost all other developed countries. From the beginning, the authorities underestimated the gravity of the crisis: only five-and-a-half weeks ago, on 21 February, a meeting of government scientific advisers concluded that Covid-19 posed only a “moderate risk” to Britain. This was well after the epidemic had swept through China, where there were already 75,465 cases and 2,236 deaths, and was spreading to South Korea, Taiwan, Iran, Italy and France.
Scientific panjandrums who have since become television celebrities, such as the pandemic modeller Neil Ferguson, were at the meeting. But there appeared little objections raised to the conclusion directly afterwards. A quarter of a million people were allowed to attend the Cheltenham Festival on 10 to 13 March, only ten days before Boris Johnson said that everybody should stay at home and not gather in large numbers to avoid the spread of the deadly virus. These were miscalculations of First World War dimensions and are already exacting a heavy toll in human lives.
The government appears to think in slogans and not in joined up policies. “Get Brexit Done” has been replaced by “Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”. There is an amateur air about all that is done: giant drive-through testing facilities were opened at Chessington World of Adventures and Ikea at Wembley, but nobody from the NHS was let in without a email giving them an appointment, something almost impossible to obtain.
A counterpart to the British tradition of amateurism is an exaggerated respect for supposed experts. In times of trouble, everybody looks for saviours with magical powers: a hundred years ago this was to be Kitchener and today we hope that the chief scientific officer, Sir Patrick Vallance, and the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, both articulate confident professionals, know a feasible way out of the crisis.
Critics unkindly point out that this political distancing will not work since Dr David Halpern, a senior Downing Street official, gave an interview five days before the government’s U-turn, confirming that official policy was to protect the most vulnerable so by the time they emerged from their cocooning, “herd immunity has been achieved in the rest of the population.”
The government is racking up an impressive record of poor judgement and inability to translate words into action. Why did it adopt a policy so different from the rest of Europe and Asia and contrary to that advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO). One explanation is probably that a Brexiteer cabinet, whose members had spent three years lauding the virtues of British separatism and exceptionalism, found nothing strange about going their own way. Another is that the British have always had difficulty in taking on board that they can learn anything from the experience of other nations and must wait until it happens to them.
There are other dangers on the horizon that might be averted if the experience of past world crises is taken into account. It is important not to overreact to chaos by putting some outside figure as head of medical procurement like Churchill’s appointment of his friend and ally Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of The Daily Express, as minister of aircraft production in 1940, in the mistaken belief that he would “energise” the aircraft industry.
But according to General Sir Alan Brooke, the supremely competent British chief of staff, he disrupted the carefully planned output of different types of aircraft. Brooke was particularly enraged when Beaverbrook used armour needed for tanks to make his own entirely useless armoured car, called the Beaverette, to be supplied to the Home Guard. His other stunt was to organise a campaign whereby kitchen utensils – along with ornamental railings – were collected as scrap that were supposed to be melted down to be turned into aircraft: “we will turn your pots and pans into Spitfires and Hurricanes, Blenheims and Wellingtons.” By most accounts, municipal dumps were full of useless and unused scrap by the end of the war.
The First World War exposed most governments in Europe and beyond as bunglers who could not cope with a real crisis. The pandemic is likely to provoke a similar political earthquake that governments, which carelessly use the rhetoric of war to their own advantage, will be lucky to survive.
There is certain wisdom to the statement that “no one is truly qualified to be President”. The leader of the United States (or any other country) should in theory have an expert level of knowledge in all the areas of society that the government is responsible for. This is a wide variety of issues from the military, to healthcare, to road infrastructure to agriculture. The leader with the veto hammer should know it all and not only that but be an incredible public speaker with a good sense of humor that works for a wide audience and be at least six feet tall. Although some leaders may come close, there are no such perfect people to vote for. Yes, no one is qualified to be the President, but when candidates can’t even manage their electoral campaigns which they directly control themselves it leads one to wonder about the quality of the people over the years who have had the nuclear suitcase resting against their leg while seated in the Oval Office.
Michael Bloomberg, despite being a massive media player, ran a shockingly boring campaign for the Democratic ticket and now it would seem that the workers who made the cogs in his dismal attempt turn are getting together to file a class-action lawsuit against him. Apparently Bloomberg made the common pledge to support his workers all the way till the end of a “best case scenario” campaign throughout 2020. Essentially win, lose or draw everyone would get paid till the end of the election cycle.
This did not happen, and the former mayor of New York City cut funding for his people the day he cut his campaign short. Impressively Bloomberg was able to spin this defeat as a victory for the greater good of destroying Trump. In his concession speech he said…
“I’ve always believed that defeating Donald Trump starts with uniting behind the candidate with the best shot to do it. After yesterday’s vote, it is clear that candidate is my friend and a great American, Joe Biden,”
Selling the complete and total failure of a campaign from a media billionaire with real political experience as a triumphant step to defeating the great evil of Trump takes a lot of nerve. It also took a lot of nerve for Bloomberg to refuse to pay any health benefits to his campaign workers as a Democrat.
Bloomberg preaches from on high while not paying those at the bottom.
But this betrayal is actually by far not the first time candidates have put the screws to their own campaign workers. Bernie Sanders was unable to pay workers the cherished $15 per hour wage that he feels is almost a human right and has publically spoken for man times. Young volunteers were expecting Sanders-style Socialism but got treated to a big plate full of pragmatic Capitalism instead. Sanders may have officially been offering $15/hour for a 40 hour per work week schedule, but in reality many of this workers were putting in 60 hours a week with no hope of getting any overtime for it. Workers’ rights including things like paid overtime are issues at the core of Sanders’ message, sadly when push comes to shove he is unwilling to make his words match his deeds.
Hillary Clinton during the previous campaign cycle at least had the decency to pay her troops while she may have laundered $84 in illegal campaign contributions. Maybe Sanders should try looking for “alternative sources of funding” as well?
So what’s the big deal? Running a campaign is hard, there is chaos everywhere, the candidates are running all over the country, accidents and missteps are bound to happen right?
Running a presidential campaign is indeed a massive challenge that demands serious organizational skills, but compared to being the President of the United States it’s a walk in the park. Many of the very few people whom we can actually move towards a presidential run are too incompetent or corrupt to even run their campaigns properly.
Bloomberg was too cheap, bitter, distracted to bother fulfilling his promises to his staff that he could easily just write a check for. He could have left the campaign leaving goog feelings and a good reputation but that could have cost a small percent of his yearly earnings so why bother?
Sanders managed to prove his anti-Socialist skeptics right by failing to put into practice even on a miniature scale the policies he wants for all American businesses across a massive nation.
And Clinton, well she does a great job of teaching us how much money you can make even as a destined loser.
There may be a tiny handful of people hiding somewhere across the American landscape who are capable of running a competent campaign and then ascending to the Oval Office. They may be out there but the options we are given to vote for in primaries are just pathetic. When people used to tell children “America’s great anyone can be President” that used to have a positive connotation. Now it seems like anyone no matter how dim their campaign is run could get the nomination given the right connections, cash, and the right look/message.
If someone is completely unable to run a campaign effectively they have no business being President of the United States of America.
How Heraclitus, the Riddler, may teach us to fight Covid-19
He was known as “the Riddler.” Even “the Dark.” Heraclitus of Ephesus was one of a kind.
In his heart of hearts a contemptuous aristocrat, this master of paradox despised all so-called wise men and the mobs that adored them. Heraclitus was the definitive precursor of social distancing.
We, unfortunately, owe the “pre-Socratic” reductionist label to 19th century historians, who sold to modernity the notion that these thinkers were not so preeminent because they lived before Socrates (469-399 B.C.) throughout the 6th and 5th century B.C., in assorted latitudes found in today’s Greece, Italy and Turkey.
Yet Nietzsche nailed it: the pre-Socratics invented all the archetypes of all the history of philosophy. And if that was not enough, they invented science as well. Their Grandmaster Flash was, unequivocally, Heraclitus.
Perpetual detective story
Only around 130 fragments of Heraclitus’s thinking managed to survive – prefiguring Walter Benjamin’s intuition that the beauty of knowledge is encapsulated by the fragment.
Let’s start with “Nature loves to hide.” Heraclitus established that nature and the world are ambiguous par excellence, in a never-ending film noir. As nature is a nest of riddles, he could only use riddles to examine it.
It’s tempting to imagine Heraclitus as a doppelganger of the famous Delphic oracle, which “neither declares nor conceals, but gives a sign.” He’s certainly a precursor of Twin Peaks (the owls are not what they seem). Legend has it that the only copy of his book was consigned to a temple in Ephesus in the early 5th century B.C., shortly after the death of Pythagoras, so the mobs wouldn’t have access to it. Heraclitus, a member of the Ephesus royal family, would not have settled for less.
So we, as a race, are essentially a misguided bunch. “Men are deceived in the recognition of what is obvious, like Homer who was wisest of all the Greeks,” Heraclitus wrote. “For he was deceived by boys killing lice who said: ‘What we see and catch we leave behind; what we neither see nor catch we carry away.’”
Heraclitus compared our lot to beasts, winos, deep sleepers and even children – as in, “Our opinions are like toys.” We are incapable of grasping the true logos.
History, with rare exceptions, seems to have vindicated him.
There are two key Heraclitus mantras.
1) “All things come to pass according to conflict.” So the basis of everything is turmoil. Everything is in flux. Life is a battleground. (Sun Tzu would approve.)
And that brings us to the river metaphor. Everything in nature depends on underlying change. Thus, for Heraclitus, “as they step into the same rivers, other and still other waters flow upon them.” So each river is composed of ever-changing waters.
If you step into the Ganges or the Amazon one day, that would be something completely different compared with stepping in on another day.
Thus the notorious mantra Panta rhei, “Everything flows”. Flux and stability, unity and diversity, are like night and day.
One river may consist of many waters, and even if there are many waters, it’s still one river. That’s how Heraclitus reconciled conflict and unity into harmony – quite an Eastern philosophy concept.
No fragment tells it explicitly. But what’s fascinating is that flux in unity and unity in flux do look like moving parts of the logos, the guiding principle of the world, which no one before him had managed to understand.
Next to your fire
Everything flows. And that brings us to war – and once again Heraclitus meets Sun Tzu: “War is father of all and king of all.”
That also brings us to fire. The world is “fire ever living” and “fire for all things, as goods for gold and gold for goods.” Here Heraclitus seems to be equating gold, as a vehicle of economic exchange, to fire as a vehicle of physical change. He would have despised fiat money; Heraclitus was definitely in favor of the gold standard.
No wonder Heraclitus fascinated Nietzsche because he was essentially proposing a cyclical theory of the universe – Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence – with everything turning into fire in serial cosmic bust-ups.
Heraclitus was a Taoist and a Buddhist. If opposites are ultimately the same, this implies the unity of all things.
Heraclitus even foresaw the reaction we should have towards Covid-19: “It is disease that makes health sweet and good; hunger, satiety; weariness, rest.” Lao Tzu would approve. In the Heraclitus framework of serial cosmic recycling, disease gives health its full significance.
This collective attitude could go a long way to explain the relative success of Eastern societies in the fight against Covid-19 compared with the West.
And once again, all this Heraclitean interconnectivity could not be more Eastern – from Tao to Buddhism. No wonder the grandmasters of Western civilization, Plato and Aristotle, didn’t get it.
Plato distorted Heraclitus like there was no tomorrow. Plato based his analysis on Cratylus, a philosopher who misunderstood Heraclitus in the first place. Because Plato and Aristotle basically regurgitated Cratylus’s reductionist interpretation everyone afterward followed them, not the original Riddler.
For Plato and Aristotle, it was impossible to understand Heraclitus because they seemed to have taken “You cannot step into the same river twice” literally.
Heraclitus in fact discovered, for all humanity to see, that rivers and everything else in nature change constantly. They’re all about flux, even when they seem still. Call that a definition of history.
At least Plato’s misguided interpretation raised a key question we are still debating 2,500 years later: How is it possible to have certain knowledge of an ever-changing world? Or as Nietzsche famously put it: There are no facts, only interpretations.
So because of Plato’s misunderstanding, Heraclitus the genuine article became a sideshow in the history of thought. The Riddler would not have given a damn. It’s up to us to do him justice in these anguished times.
One beneficiary of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efforts being made to alleviate it has been the Western propaganda campaign against China and Russia. It was intriguing, if repulsive, to read the Washington Post story headlined “Trump called Russia’s coronavirus aid to US ‘very nice.’ Putin may use it as a propaganda coup.” Pictures of a loaded cargo aircraft prompted “former commanding general of the US Army in Europe, Ben Hodges, to tweet that a photograph published by Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs of thousands of cardboard boxes stacked in a plane hold was a ‘hoax’ because ‘no professional Loadmaster in the world… in any air force… would load a plane like this’.” The man is a malicious fool, but many people pay attention to his prattle.
It is apparent that the Washington Post and similar propagandists fail to understand that nations round the world are trying their best to assist others simply because it is in the interests of humankind for there to be as much international cooperation as possible in this crisis. As reported by the New York Times, “stockpiles of medical supplies are running low,” in the US, and it might be thought that any improvement in what is a most serious situation would be welcomed.
But the Post shuddered that “it is not Moscow’s first shipment of medical aid to a NATO country this month. Earlier it sent 15 planeloads of medical equipment and military virologists and epidemiologists to Italy, in trucks emblazoned with ‘From Russia with love’.” For the Post to highlight this labelling shows that these people have no sense of humour, because “from Russia with Love” is the title of a 1963 James Bond spy movie, which was corny but very popular during the years of the first Cold War. Anyway, the much-needed stores and experts are doing good in Italy, “a Nato country” (does that make Russian aid more sinister?) whose people are most grateful for the assistance, which must be irritating for the West’s anti-Russia propagandists.
And in Washington there are many people who have benefited from the pandemic, among them Senator Richard M. Burr who you might think would be spending as much of his time as possible, along with other US legislators, in assisting the administration in its flailing efforts to improve US health care. But Senator Burr had other priorities, as indicated by the New York Times which noted that he “sold hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock in major companies last month, as President Trump and others in his party were still playing down the threat presented by the coronavirus outbreak and before the stock market’s precipitous plunge. The stocks were sold in mid-February, days after Mr Burr, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote an opinion article for Fox News suggesting that the United States was better prepared than ever before’ to confront the virus… The record of Mr. Burr’s stock transaction shows he and his wife sold 33 different stocks on February 13 that were collectively worth $628,000 to $1.7 million.”
Barr is obviously a clever person who has talents that could be put to good use in the worldwide battle against the pandemic, but there is no evidence that he is doing anything to help — and regrettable that he did not follow the example of Dolly Parton who has “donated $1m (£800,000) to research into a coronavirus vaccine, as she begins a new storytelling series for children in lockdown.” No doubt he’ll come out of it all smelling like roses.
Which brings us to the other side of the world, where the smell in India is of incipient dictatorship. The country is run by an ultra-nationalistic prime minister named Narendra Modi, a favourite of Donald Trump who considers him “an exceptional leader, a great champion of India.” But the great champion has seized upon the pandemic to extend his grip on the country and has clamped down ferociously — resulting in chaos and even more suffering by the poor and deprived who are innumerable in that country of 1.3 billion.
In one pre-pandemic indication of India’s accelerating descent to harsh autocracy the New York Times reported on 2 April that in March a large and widely-watched television station “had been cut off by an order from India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The government decided to block the channel for 48 hours because it had covered February’s biggest news story — the mob attacks on Muslims in New Delhi that flared into broader unrest — in a way that seemed ‘critical toward Delhi Police and RSS’. The RSS is a Hindu-nationalist social movement with close ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party.”
In 1930s Germany, before the television era, Nazi propaganda master Joseph Goebbels declared “It would not have been possible for us to take power or to use it in the ways we have without the radio . . . [Radio] reached the entire nation, regardless of class, standing, or religion. That was primarily the result of the tight centralization, the strong reporting, and the up-to-date nature of the German radio.” As in today’s India, the National Socialist party of the Reich would not permit adverse comment about the ruling party to be conveyed by the media, and Modi’s broadcasting minister, Prakash Javadekar, could have been following Goebbels’ guidelines when he said that “Press freedom is absolutely essential in a democratic setup and that is the commitment of the Modi government” — and adding that “but let me also say that everybody accepts that it has to be a responsible freedom.”
Yes indeed: a “responsible freedom” for the media — as laid down by the government in power, just as in Hungary, where, the Economist reports, “a law enacted on March 30th means [prime minister] Viktor Orbán can rule by decree — bypassing parliament — until the coronavirus crisis is over.” A member of the Nato military alliance, Hungary has for years been on the slope down to what one commentator describes as “an authoritarian regime that wields a cynical interpretation of the law as a weapon,” and this conclusion is amply justified by Orban’s new legislation that includes an all-embracing threat that to “claim or spread a falsehood or claim or spread a distorted truth in relation to the emergency in a way that is suitable for alarming or agitating a large group of people” would be punishable by up to three years of imprisonment.
There are many other beneficiaries of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and their motivations differ little from the greed and lust for power that have so far been demonstrated. Washington’s greedheads are complemented by those who seek global military supremacy, and the sinister and incompetent Modi has a European reflection in the more skilful but no less menacing Orbán of Hungary.
It is hoped that the pandemic will be overcome by international cooperation and national determination, and also that that when finally there is victory there will be concerted efforts to establish rapprochement and re-establish democracy in countries whose leaders have taken advantage of the crisis to try to stifle democracy.
Will the European Union itself become the first real institutional victim of corona? It seems that the warning signs are already there as we see genuine anger and vitriol across the 27-nation bloc from people of all walks of life, who fall victim to the 21st century plague.
What Corona has re-impounded is the uselessness of the EU, its impotence and delusional idiocy and above all its futility. Even those across Europe who believed passionately in the bloc, now see it for what it is. In the words of the Serbian president, “a fairy tale”.
Need convincing? Just look at how the European Commission president is so enfeebled that she can’t even unveil any kind of rescue plan, either for those infected or for the millions who have to suffer, lose their jobs, or small business that go under.
At the end of February, the Commission unveiled a 250m dollar aid package. Oh yes it did. You might have missed it, or didn’t quite see it properly if you didn’t have your reading glasses on, as articles next to it on Google, flanked Spain’s 220 BILLION euro aid package.
But wait. You might be wondering how the European union is able to give 500m euros of its own cash to dictator of a country in Central Africa which has been thrown into turmoil following the same despot’s coup d’état but not manage much for the entire 27-nation bloc as Europeans drop dead like flies.
It’s all about competence. A little known secret, until now, about the EU is how the European Union puts on a great show, by paying cash to EU media giants to subsidise their reports from Brussels, and pretends to the greater public that it has competences and power in areas where, in fact, it doesn’t.
Any Brussels-based hack, worth his weight in Mules and Frites, will tell you that two chief no-go areas which are sacred are health and culture. But don’t let that stop Brussels from blowing billions and billions of euros of taxpayers money on setting up and running a “ghost ministry” in the name of pan-EU healthcare policy. Yes, the EU actually has a directorate of health, run by a Greek called Stella Kyriakidou. But like foreign policy, it’s yet another one of these talk shops which doesn’t actually do anything.
Yes, the European Commission’s own Directorate General of Health is a white elephant, which is why not only have you not heard or seen this Greek lady in front of the media’s spotlights, but the EU also has no real power – and therefore no cash – for healthcare, which is what the corona pandemic would fall under.
So, in short, add ‘health’ to the growing list of competences which the EU claims to have, but in fact are bogus. On that same list, ‘foreign policy’ is a good contender for the top place and yet the EU’s foreign diplomatic service, the EEAS, blows over a billion dollars a year just on keeping 130 odd “diplomatic missions” around the world open. That’s one billion dollars with a ‘b’. And all we have heard from the aged, bumbling Mr Magoo – ‘ol Josep Borrell – about corona is that it is a “global problem”, which he muttered recently in a spammed social media video clip. Is that code for “we can’t really do anything about it. Sorry”?
Of course, Borrell could. He could propose that the 1bn dollars a year blown on his own diplo yaddah yaddah service be diverted to saving Europe’s small businesses. Or jobs. Or face masks. Anything.
But that’s about as likely to happen as Borrell himself, standing up to Donald Trump and defending Iran against crippling, and morally bereft US sanctions. Yet nothing comes from Borrell on this subject. Can Iran assume that the EU has totally abandoned it? And that, in reality, Brussels wasn’t the great architect of the so-called Iran Deal, that is claimed to be? Can Tehran assume, that in its darkest hour, that the EU is simply a cheaper, poorer grovelling cousin of the White House? Yep.
And what about immigration? Could or should that be added to the White Elephant list of non-competences, which EU taxpayers fund, which is failing spectacularly as we witness the total implosion of the so-called Schengen Agreement?
Corona has shown us that the US is not the super power it might like to think it is, as there was no leadership from Trump around the world. It has also shown us how London, Paris and Berlin are helpless when it comes to health crises and that the concept of unity is very limited at best. Presently, what we are seeing is a new war emerging which pitches NATO countries against their foes over face masks. Germany recently lashed out at the US which “confiscated” a shipment of facemasks heading towards Berlin cops; France and Spain are also at loggerheads over a consignment of face masks from a Swedish firm based in Lyon, got swiped by the French government before they could be delivered to Spain which ordered them. Turkey is also in the news for face mask banditry, but this time threatening to nationalise firms which make them on its own turf. While all this kicks off, Trump holds a press conference defending his decision to take face masks from Putin.
But where is the European Union in all this? What is Josep Borrell doing? In fact, celebrating. According to his own twitter Feed we see that the former Spanish FM was self-pleasuring over the news that Albania and Northern Macedonia had got the “green light” to begin accession talks with the EU.
The EU is getting more insular and elitist. It can’t help but think of its own priorities no matter how banal they may seem to outsiders. When countries join the EU, even those on the edge of darkest Europe, this gives EU officials a massive rush, as though expanding the club provides temporary relief to the reality that the building is falling down – like using gasoline to put out a fire, it provides a small flare, a distraction which endears the viewer, while he realises that he’s in the midst of an inferno.
How will the European Union survive this stunning lack of dynamism and misplaced priorities? It’s hard to imagine it will hang on as the lack of any real power or influence is even being picked up by journalists in MENA countries who watch such things carefully. Corona has its own media dynamism which hundreds of millions of euros of cash which MEPs voted should be put aside to “assist” EU media report on the EU, cannot buy.
Governments have resorted to seizing, diverting, outbidding and outright stealing equipment from each other in a desperate bid to stem the tide of the coronavirus epidemic.
There were dramatic scenes at an airport in Shanghai, China, as U.S. agents hijacked a plane full of lifesaving equipment, including 60 million masks, bound for coronavirus-stricken France. While the plane was on the tarmac, American agents managed to bribe locals into diverting the plane to the United States, plying them with cash.
The story was revealed by the president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region, Renaud Muselier, who noted that he had already paid in full for the cargo. “The Americans pay double – in cash – before they even see the goods!” he told French newspaper Libération, worrying now that his country is engaged in “a race against the clock” to secure and distribute masks amid the pandemic. PACA is situated in the southeast of France, bordering Italy. The first case in PACA was confirmed on February 28 in the famous seaside resort town of Cannes; a young woman traveling back from Milan – an epicenter of the virus – was infected. Muselier’s story was backed up by Jean Rottner, president of the Grand Est region. “On the tarmac, they arrive, get the cash out… so we really have to fight,” he said.
This appears not to be an isolated incident. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed that he had received similar reports of goods being seized and taken to the United States. “We need to make sure that equipment that is destined for Canada gets to and stays in Canada, and I’ve asked ministers to follow up on these particular reports,” he said yesterday. Brazil, one of the U.S.’ most loyal allies, also broke with convention to criticize the Trump administration’s pandemic gangsterism. “Today the US sent 23 of their biggest cargo planes to China to pick up the material they had acquired. Many of our purchases, which we had hoped to confirm in order to supply [our country], fell through,” said the country’s health minister, Luiz Herique Mandetta. “The whole world wants [supplies] too. There is a problem of hyper-demand.”
France has been hit hard by the coronavirus; 59,929 people have officially tested positive, but 5,398 have died already, the nine percent death rate suggesting that the country has not tested enough of its citizens. Both local and national governments have been criticized for their slow response to the pandemic, failing to shut down public events like markets. The famous Paris-Nice bicycle race, which finishes in PACA, was one of the last professional sporting events still running in Europe. Today the French service sector officially plunged into the deepest recession in its history. With tourism and transport halted, the government is using the high-speed TGV train service to ferry patients around the country at up to 357 mph to hospitals with free beds.
If the initial French response lacked zeal, the U.S. was even slower. President Trump spent weeks claiming the virus was a liberal “hoax” intended to dent his credibility, then downplaying the seriousness of the problem, before changing tack and blaming China for the thousands of dead. This week he declared that if 200,000 Americans die, that would be a great victory for his administration. Over 6,000 have already died, with the tally of confirmed cases almost certain to rise above a quarter-million today. The Trump administration has used the virus to impose further sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, in an attempt to overthrow their governments. It also tried to compel a German pharmaceutical corporation to move production to the U.S., in order to make sure that America alone had access to and control of any coronavirus vaccine it might produce. He reportedly wished to ensure that it would only be available on a for-profit basis. “Germany is not for sale,” the country’s furious economy minister replied. The U.S. also managed to fly out half a million test kits on a military plane from Lombardy, Italy, the epicenter of the Italian outbreak.
Other countries, too, have made highly questionable decisions. Czech authorities seized Chinese medical supplies bound for Italy when a plane refueled there, the country keeping the equipment for itself. Meanwhile, Turkey has not only banned the export of protective gear but is also reportedly reneging on shipments that other countries have already paid for.
The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic appears to be bringing out both the best and worst in human nature. With these latest U.S. moves, seizing and diverting lifesaving equipment from other countries, it seems there has also been a serious outbreak in gangster capitalism.
“You can’t handle the truth,” Jack Nicholson screams at a crucial moment in a silly 1992 film called, “A Few Good Men.” Nicholson was addressing Tom Cruise for reasons no one can bother to remember. But he may as well have been addressing Donald Trump, who is equally helpless when it comes to the truth about Covid-19.
Brett Crozier, captain of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt, is the latest example why. Last Monday, he sent a four-page memo to higher-ups warning that the coronavirus was racing through the ranks and that the only solution was to remove all but a skeleton crew and subject them to a two-week quarantine. “Keeping over 4000 young men and women aboard the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care,” he wrote.
This was the simple truth, and yet Crozier’s reward was to be fired on the spot. This makes him the American version of Li Wenliang, the 33-year-old ophthalmologist who in December first noticed that a new virus was making the rounds in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Li, who would later die of the disease, got in trouble for telling officials what they didn’t want to hear, and now Crozier has gotten the ax for doing the same.
But Crozier’s message was not only that the Navy faces a huge problem in terms of disease control. Implicitly, it was that the entire U.S. war machine is effectively inoperable. The military could still “fight sick” in an emergency. But since no emergency exists, its only realistic option is to shut down until the pandemic is under control. Otherwise, the military infection rate will continue to climb, spelling disaster for every civilian population the military comes in contact with.
But faced with the loss of its high-tech toys, the brass responded in typical childish fashion by shutting it eyes, stopping up its ears, and screaming, “I can’t hear you!” Crozier is out on his derrière as a result while the Trump administration is now beating the war drums just to show it can.
The insanity was on full display at an Apr. 1 press conference announcing the White House’s latest military offensive against Venezuela. Trump was his usual Mussolini-esque self while Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, a former Raytheon lobbyist, was the perfect image of a self-serving careerist whose only concern is winning his next promotion. “At a time when the nation and the department of defense are focused on protecting the American people from the spread of the coronavirus,” he began, “we also remain vigilant to the many other threats our country faces. Today, at the president’s direction, the department of defense, in close cooperation with our interagency partners, began enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. This initiative is part of the administration’s whole-of-government approach to combating the flow of illicit drugs into the United States and protecting the American people from their scourge….
“Included in this force package,” he continued, “are Navy destroyers and littoral combat ships, Coast Guard cutters, P-8 patrol aircraft, and elements of an army security force assistance brigade. These additional forces will nearly double our capacity to conduct counter-narcotics operations in the region.”
All of which was not only nonsense, but dangerous nonsense at that. Sure, some illicit drugs enter the United State via the eastern Pacific and Caribbean. But they mainly travel by land and by post, with China far and away the leading source for artificial opiates that have wreaked such havoc in recent years. Yet not only is Fentanyl all but impossible to stop since it’s a hundred times stronger than heroin gram for gram, but it can be easily synthesized from precursor chemicals, according to the Rand Corporation, that are themselves perfectly legal.
A destroyer is as useless against such a threat as a medieval crossbow. Moreover, Venezuela isn’t a major player even when it comes to cocaine since production mainly takes place in Peru, Columbia, and Bolivia, all solidly in the pro-U.S. camp, while transport is chiefly overland via Central America and Mexico. As for good old-fashioned heroin, the world’s leading producer happens to be Afghanistan, a U.S. protectorate since 2001.
If the U.S. wants to blockade someone, it should probably start with itself since it’s the chief source of the problem.
So what’s the real explanation for the latest round of saber rattling? Is it because Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro may have begun dabbling in the drug trade like so many others? Or is it because he sits on top of some of the largest oil reserves on earth?
The latter is far more likely, obviously. But with oil already in the mid-$20 range and sure to plunge even lower, even that doesn’t quite make sense.
Rather, the only way to understand it is as a form of imperial madness in which chest-thumping becomes an end in itself. The Trump administration wants to intimidate Venezuela for the same reason that it wants to intimidate Iran or blow up Iraq by launching a military offensive against Shi’ite militias with closes ties to the Baghdad government. It wants to merely in order to show it can. It wants to prove that, virus or no virus, it’s still the toughest guy on block, so everyone else better step said.
But the act rings hollow in an age of Covid-19. A destroyer is more a threat to itself if half its crew is down with corona, and that goes double for an army security force assistance brigade, whatever the hell that is. The Trump administration’s efforts to control the virus have already been a colossal failure domestically while now it’s seemingly doing everything in its power to make the problem worse everywhere else as well. Sending troops into battle, ordering ships to deploy against nonexistent threats, stepping up economic sanctions that cripple efforts to defend against the disease – all of this is merely insures that the disease will intensify and thousands more will die.
An empire that is incapable of responding rationally to an existential threat is not one that’s long for this world. A lot of banks and corporations will go belly up before this crisis is through. But so will political structures, beginning with the rickety structure known as the United States. The gods first make mad whom they wish to destroy.
A widely disseminated and highly dubious story asserting China concealed tens of thousands of deaths originated from a US government propaganda outlet and a veteran member of a right-wing anti-China cult.
As the United States suffers from the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, President Donald Trump has insisted that if his administration manages to keep the death toll to 100,000, they’d be doing a “very good job.” To deflect from the unconscionable failures and deceptions that allowed the pandemic to spread deep into the US population, the White House has launched a blame-shifting PR campaign targeting China. At the heart of Washington’s narrative is the accusation that Beijing orchestrated a “cover-up” that is responsible for the disastrous situation in the US.
Having zealously demonized China while it battled the worst of the coronavirus crisis, corporate US media is seizing on the effort to redirect American outrage onto a foreign bogeyman. Even as it alleges that the US coronavirus response is being “undermined” by Chinese and Russian “disinformation”, the US press is in fact, promoting obscene conspiracy theories claiming that China’s coronavirus death toll is higher than the official count by an order of tens of thousands.
Conspiracy theory pushed by US government propaganda network, Radio Free Asia
The claim about tens of thousands of hidden deaths appears to have been first reported by Radio Free Asia (RFA), a US government news agency created during the Cold War as part of a “Worldwide Propaganda Network Built by the CIA”, according to the New York Times. RFA is operated by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a federal agency of the US government under the supervision of the State Department. Describing its work as “vital to US national interests,” BBG’s primary broadcasting standard is to be “consistent with the broad foreign policy objectives of the United States.”
In an article published on March 27, RFA makes the damning and explosive claim that China’s coronavirus-related deaths are far higher than the official figure, accusing government officials of perpetrating a cover-up. Unsurprisingly, RFA’s evidentiary threshold for extraordinary claims about China is extremely low.
RFA relies on the “basic math” of “some social media posts” to conclude that “estimates show” 42,000 to 46,800 people died from COVID-19 in Wuhan, the epicenter of China’s coronavirus outbreak. These numbers far exceed the official death totals of 2,548 for Wuhan, and 3,312 for the country as a whole. This would be akin to Chinese state media outlets making claims about the US on the basis of anonymous posts found on the dark recesses of Twitter. Oddly, none of the social media posts RFA referred to were quoted in its article.
RFA’s “estimates” are based on morbid speculation regarding the cremation capacity of Wuhan’s funeral homes. RFA cites a story by the Chinese media outlet Caixin on funeral arrangements being made by Wuhan residents during the crisis. On March 26, Caixin reported that 5,000 cremation urns had arrived at a mortuary in Wuhan over a two-day period. This is treated as nefarious evidence of Chinese government deception solely because it exceeds the official death total in Wuhan.
RFA completely ignores the fact that residents have continued to die from other causes during the pandemic, as well as the backlog in funerals and cremations caused by the city’s several month long lockdown. In 2019, approximately 56,000 cremations took place in Wuhan, according to the city’s official statistics.
That means that roughly 4600 residents died per month, a figure that was likely higher during the winter months and with Wuhan’s health care system overwhelmed by the outbreak. With Wuhan under lockdown since January 23, a substantial increase in the use of funeral homes and crematoriums should have been expected.
Unconcerned with the dearth of hard evidence marshalled by RFA, or its transparently shoddy methodology, US corporate media — alongside far-right, neoconservative Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton — have amplified the US government outlet’s incendiary claims. Outlets that uncritically pushed the story included Bloomberg, TIME, VICE, Yahoo! News, Newsweek, and Fox News.
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) March 27, 2020
Washington has seized on the conspiracy theory to boost efforts to deflect attention away from its mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak. Shortly following these media reports, US intelligence agencies stated that they had “concluded” that “China’s numbers are fake” with respect to coronavirus infections and deaths. These findings were based on a “secret report” prepared for the White House — the contents of which the intelligence apparatus has declined to reveal.
Far-right cult Falun Gong behind cremation claims
While RFA did not disclose the source of its claims, they appear to originate from the far-right, anti-government Chinese cult, Falun Gong. In VICE’s report on the “urns” story, they cite a tweet by veteran cult member Jennifer Zeng, in which she makes outlandish claims regarding China’s coronavirus infection and death totals. It is important to note, Zeng’s tweet, dated March 26, was published one day prior to RFA’s initial article.
How many people died in #Wuhan and #China?
Conservative estimation based on numbers of urns being given out at 8 crematoriums in Wuhan by financial analyst @charles984681
Total death in Wuhan: 59K
Total death in China: 97K
Total infection in China: 1.21 M#CCPVirus #COVID2019 pic.twitter.com/epvvy9dAXn
— Jennifer Zeng 曾錚 (@jenniferatntd) March 27, 2020
Since 2001, Zeng has worked as a reporter for Falun Gong’s propaganda arm and ardently pro-Trump media network, The Epoch Times. An NBC News exposé in August 2019 found that the organization spent over $1.5 million on approximately 11,000 pro-Trump advertisements in just six months, “more than any organization outside of the Trump campaign itself, and more than most Democratic presidential candidates have spent on their own campaigns.”
Zeng has joined American far-right forces working to oppose rising progressive and socialist movements in the US. At a “Stop Socialism, Choose Freedom” rally organized by the Tea Party Patriots in Washington DC in September 2019, Zeng delivered a tirade called, “I Escaped ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’; I Don’t Want to Live under Socialism again in the US.”
“I don’t want to live in any sort of socialism again.” Zeng declared before the crowd. “But here in the US, I am starting to feel like it has followed me.”
Zeng speaking at a rally organized by the Tea Party Patriots on September 19, 2019
Zeng writes that Chinese people view Trump as their “powerful grandpa” and hope that he “ends the Chinese Communist Party” in the same way former US President Ronald Reagan “[got] rid of the Communist Party in Soviet Union”.
Wishing for China to return to a state in which it is dominated by the West, Zeng advocates for the US to “regulate China’s behavior […] with American standard, American rules, and American norms, which are, of course, also the universal norms of the free world.”
International medical and scientific community challenges US establishment’s anti-China propaganda
The recent wave of accusations that China is concealing its coronavirus-related death totals is just the latest instance of the corporate media’s denigration of the Chinese response to the outbreak, as documented by Alan MacLeod for Fairness and Accuracy in Media and independent researcher Amanda Yu Mei-Na.
In stark contrast to the denunciations of the U.S. establishment, leaders of the World Health Organization (WHO) have lauded China’s efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic and suggested that the world follow its lead.
“In the face of a previously unknown virus, China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history,” read the report of the WHO mission of 25 international medical experts which travelled to China to investigate the COVID-19 outbreak in February 2019. “China’s bold approach to contain the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic.”
“If I get COVID, I’m going to China,” said Dr. Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s Assistant Director-General and head of the agency’s COVID-19 mission. “They know how to keep people alive.”
“What I saw was a tremendous sense of responsibility, and of duty, to protect their families, their communities, and even the world, from this disease,” reflected Aylward. “I left with such a deep sense of admiration for the people of Wuhan and for Chinese society in general.”
The WHO has categorically rejected accusations that China was responsible for the global spread of the COVID-19. According to Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “[China’s] actions actually helped prevent the spread of coronavirus to other countries.”
“I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of coronavirus, not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries,” said Tedros, as he is known. “In many ways, China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response.”
Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, echoed these sentiments, saying the agency has “never seen the scale, the commitment of an epidemic response at this level” and that China was “taking extraordinary measures in the face of what’s an extraordinary challenge.”
Tragically, Washington and US corporate media appear more determined to deflect blame for their completely inadequate response than in protecting Americans from a pandemic. With their bellicose and increasingly overheated claims about China’s response, they are setting the stage for another global crisis. As two Trump administration officials recently told a reporter, “Trump is furious [at China] and wants action.”
The intrusion of some wholly extraneous event – like a pandemic – into any given status quo doesn’t necessarily break it, in and of itself. But it exposes cruelly the shortcomings and workings of the existing status quo. It shows them, as not just stark naked, but also with its dark backstage of barely legal, dole-outs to business, and Wall Street friends, suddenly spotlighted.
Fyodor Dostoevsky sets out in The Brothers Karamazov an allegory that can be applied to our times, but was set in Seville, in the most terrible time of the Inquisition, when fires were lighted every day to the glory of God (rather than today’s ‘glory to Mammon’), and in that splendid auto da fé, when wicked ‘heretics’ were burnt alive. It was published in 1880.
Into this city an entirely extraneous (shall we say non-human) event occurs, that deeply unsettles society: Citizens are suddenly snatched-up from their humdrum daily slog to see the status quo afresh – but now with eyes wide open.
The Grand Inquisitor of Seville is outraged. This extraneous occurrence risks spoiling his carefully contrived status quo:
“Oh, we shall persuade them [the citizenry of Seville] that they will only become free when they renounce their freedom to us, and submit to us. And shall we be right, or shall we be lying? They will be convinced that we are right … Receiving bread from us, they will see clearly that we take the bread made by their hands from them – [only] to give it back to them … In truth they will be more thankful for taking it from our hands – than for the bread itself! Too well, will they know the value of complete submission! We shall show them that they are weak, that they are only pitiful children, but that childlike happiness is the sweetest of all.
“We will indulge them their sins; allow them to occupy themselves with their vices. We will monitor everything, regulate everything, order and legislate for everything – and be their conscience too – so that they do not have to trouble themselves to think, overly; or, to be obliged to make decisions. They exist only to serve us, the élite who rule over them: The millions, numerous as the sands of the sea, who are weak, must exist only for the élite, who rule over them. In this mystery, says the Grand Inquisitor, “lies the great secret of the world”.
Well, here we are: We have an extraneous event: Covid-19. It is different, of course. The Inquisitor literally burnt-out the threat (alive), to the existing order in Seville. Similarly, our ‘Elect’ of today, are equally agog to preserve the status quo. And for reasons very similar to those of the Inquisitor.
Today’s élites face, however, a much more complex paradigm: We are speaking here more of the consequences of Covid-19 on collective human psychology, rather than about the efficacy of any actions taken, or not taken, by the Fed, or G7 Central Banks. The threat in Seville, fundamentally, was about psychological transformation: The Seville ‘event’ induced citizens to question meaning in their lives – and to doubt human agency (and élite ‘agency’, in particular). It didn’t end well in Russia – or for the Inquisitors, ultimately.
The issue for governments – at bottom – is how to resurrect an economy that has been placed into hibernation. Western leaders are fearful that if it is not awakened – and quickly – there may be permanent damage to the infrastructure of the real economy – and consequently, a series of defaults leading to a possible financial crisis, or implosion (i.e. curtains for the status quo). So, we hear a lot now about the cure being worse than the disease, i.e. a locked-down economy can be more harmful than letting people die of Covid-19.
But the paradox here is that élites have no agency. This is not the War on Terror. There is no one to blame (though the U.S. would like to pin Covid-19 on China): ‘We didn’t start it’. ‘Death’ came to us – an event from ‘the beyond’. Combatting it has been declared ‘a full war’ nonetheless. There is nothing tangible, no real enemy ‘to fight’ – just a shape-shifting virus, that virologists tell us is not ‘alive’, but represents organisms that lie at the very edge of life. Such entities cannot literally be ‘killed’.
And how to fight this war? Where is the battle plan? There is none. There can be none (beyond mitigating the reach of death). Dr John Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Stanford University, tells us that the modelling on which government plans for its ‘military’ campaign wholly depend is worthless:
“The data collected so far on how many people are infected and how the epidemic is evolving are utterly unreliable. Given the limited testing to date, some deaths and probably the vast majority of infections due to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) are being missed. We don’t know if we are failing to capture infections by a factor of three or 300. Three months after the outbreak emerged, most countries, including the U.S., lack the ability to test a large number of people and no countries have reliable data on the prevalence of the virus in a representative random sample of the general population …”.
Mortality rates, too, are similarly all over the place: As researchers debate what’s causing Italy’s 10%+ mortality rate, one thing is indisputable: mortality rates are climbing. Virtually every nation that has a large number of reported cases has continued to see mortality rates climb. In Spain, the mortality rate now stands at 8.7%. Ten days ago, it stood at 5.4%. In the Netherlands, the mortality rate stands at 8.3%. Ten days ago, it stood at 3.8%. In the United Kingdom, the mortality rate stands at 7.1%. Ten days ago, it stood at 4.6%. In France, the mortality rate stands at 6.7. Ten days ago, it stood at 3.9%.
Death, in other words, it seems, may be getting the upper hand in this ‘war’.
And yet, behind the governmental fear for the financial and economic status quolies another ‘demon’: mass hysteria and revolt, by those who, now unemployed, haven’t the money to buy food. Again this – the psychology of a rioting mob – is a figment of collective psyche. It can’t literally by killed by soldiers. This psyche is already beginning in the south of Italy where people, who say they are hungry and have no money, are storming supermarkets, and looting food. (It is only food, for now, but soon, it will be raiding for money).
Social disorder and riot is likely to spook governments even more than the deflating balloon of their economies. But isn’t this what the ‘War on Death’ paradigm is about? Police on the streets; the army patrolling; martial law; and the criminalisation of unauthorised movement: It is mounted in readiness for the prospect of popular revolt: against the fear that the Paris – mainly immigrant – banlieues, or the Italian Mezzogiorno, will explode.
The Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies recently warned that a “social bomb could explode at any moment” over Western cities. That is because the evolution of the pandemic, which has crashed the American economy into a depression, could result in social unravelling in major metros, specifically in low-income areas.
A governmental desperation – stemming from the risks of social and economic disintegration – is likely to push governments to gamble on either an early-ish lifting of social-distancing, or a partial lifting. But the same dilemma applies: governments will be doing this ‘blind’, or on the basis of empirically flawed modelling.
And a gamble it is. The Signier Laboratory gives us this illustration of the possible maths behind ‘distancing’:
This, like most current models, is guess-work in terms of the underlying assumptions (such as a rate of infection of 2.5). But its’ message is clear. Going for partial opening or localised opening will invite some sort of Phase Two. China already is experiencing this – and has had to lockdown Jin Province, after it had just opened Hubei.
Where then does the balance of advantage lie for desperate leaderships? Who knows? A phase II may arrive anyway; the virus might mutate (as happened in August 1918, with Spanish ‘flu), and become more (or less) lethal. What makes Covid-19 infection particularly difficult to manage or predict is that it drops infection from day ‘0’, yet the carrier will not experience any sense of having been infected (or being ill at all) until 5–8 days later. Yet all that time, he or she will be 100% infectious – and potentially spreading a new phase. (There is no general testing for antibodies).
Governments likely will ease distancing anyway to alleviate the social and economic pressures. They will have their fingers crossed that Covid-19 does not return in a new phase to ‘thumb its nose’ – and make a nonsense of all these measures. It is a gamble – and these governments’ credibility will be on the line – whatever they choose. They are becalmed between Scylla and Charybdis: no good options.
So, where does this take us? To a (not unexpected) schizophrenia. On the one hand, there are those – so in thrall (in the J B Yeats sense) to the status quo – that anything other than a rapid re-instatement of ‘normality is beyond their reach. Mental retort sealed shut. As one example:
“One well known set of UK asset managers this morning [yesterday] are blithely predicting a V-Shaped recovery from the third quarter onwards …They think QE Infinity packages have “resolved” the debt bubble, the equity market is now realistically priced for a global recovery, governments have mitigated the damage, and we will see a massive jump in sentiment, activity and repressed demand when the lockdowns end, and economies reopen – with a leap of unfettered joy”.
This line of thinking holds that what is happening in the U.S. and Europe is not a real recession. The economic fundamentals were great. We shut down the economy only because of Covid-19. So, if we were just to start it back up again – everything will be fine.
But, just as heavy doses of refined sugar may impact the human brain in a manner similar to addictive drugs by releasing dopamine, the brain’s “reward” chemical. So too, since 2008/9, we have what Dan Amoss calls, a ‘sugar-rush economy’.
So, the prescription inevitably – to maintain the status quo – is more sugar, more spending and more money printing. And if the effect starts to wane, the reaction is to ‘double the dose’. It is all wishful thinking. It’s a part of the delusion. The economy wasn’t fine. Since 2008, the Fed has fed a sugar-rush economy. It’s a bubble. That’s the problem. And the bubble may have been fatally pricked.
What happens, when finally, we are released from lockdown: We will walk out – still blinking – into the daylight, but it will be a very different world. We will see that human agency – i.e. our governments – were wholly unable to have wrung a scintilla of victory from this war. Recriminations will multiply. If death has retreated – finally it will be because nature, and biology, willed it. There is, of course, human agency – but there are other forces at work in this Cosmos of ours, that can make human Promethean hubris appear pathetic.
It was just such insight that so unsettled Seville, in Dostoevsky’s allegory. The extraneous ‘intrusion’ into their city jerked into consciousness half-forgotten memories of what it is to be fully human, and recalled a different mode of human potential. Intimations of mortality, often do that trick (too), of course.
What follows will be a more hesitant, cautious world. Shocked economically, and at our root we will, I suspect, be much more careful in the future: credit cards will be cut in two; we will try to save more, and we will adapt ‘downwards’. Will we go out and spend liberally? A pent-up ‘jump in sentiment’? No. The experience for all has been chastening. Who now sees the future with any certainty? Every aspect of life is going to be changed. Some of the smaller businesses will open, but many will remain shut. Many of us will continue to work from home. Many of us won’t work at all – and may never work again.
But what seems to be searing the public consciousness is of a different mode: Empathy during the pandemic – there was none. (Recall the comments how Covid-19 striking down Hubei would be good for America). Solidarity – there was none (at least from the EU, to be sure); Leadership – there was none, yet semi-legal corruption – abundant. Trump has taken charge of the U.S. Treasury, which in turn, now fully controls the dollar printing presses of the Fed. Trump is King Dollar. He can print whatever he likes. Give it to whomsoever he wants (via the Treasury’s secretive Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs)), outsourced to Blackrock Fund. The U.S. Budget now is toast.
As one banker noted: “Would you want to be a Democratic candidate running against [a Trump] spending USD2 trillion on infrastructure in a weak economy? Good luck with that!” Eyes wide open: Where is our moral compass – as well as our common humanity?
The mask is off: Is this the point of inflection for the global order, when the western hyper-financialised system is unable to reform itself, refuses to reform itself – and yet is unable to sustain itself, as it once was? Will the system – so busily engaged in looking after itself – even notice that the world doesn’t believe in it anymore, not even one jot?
Patrick J. BUCHANAN
If March shocked this nation as severely as 9/11, what is coming may be even more sobering.
“Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully,” said Samuel Johnson.
And as it is with men, so it is with nations.
Monday, Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, projected some 100,000 to 200,000 U.S. deaths from the pandemic, “if we do things almost perfectly.” She agreed with Dr. Anthony Fauci’s estimate that, if we do “nothing,” the American dead could reach 2.2 million.
That 2 million figure would be twice as many dead as have perished in all our wars from the American Revolution to the Civil War, World War I and II, and Korea and Vietnam.
This does indeed concentrate the mind wonderfully.
Now add to this slaughter of our countrymen a market plunge steeper than the 1929 Crash and a 1930s-style Depression. Wall Street analysts are talking of a wipeout of 30% of our GDP and unemployment reaching 35%.
What a difference a month can make.
On March 3, Super Tuesday, we were caught up in the 14 primary contests after Joe Biden’s stunning victory in South Carolina, which broke the momentum of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ wins in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
What March 2020 produced and what it appears to portend is a sea change in U.S. history, an inflection point, an event after which things never return to what they were.
The coronavirus crisis seems to be one of those epochal events that alter the character of the country and the course of the republic.
Consider what has happened in three weeks.
The Republican Party, the party of small government and balanced budgets, approved with but a single dissent a $2 trillion emergency bill. There is talk now of a second $2 trillion bill, this one for infrastructure.
In a single month then, a Republican Senate and president grew the federal budget by 50% and are looking to double that.
For years, Democrats raised alarms about Trump’s poaching of the powers of the other branches. Now Democrats are demanding to know why Trump has not shut down the economy by presidential decree and not used his latent dictatorial powers to order U.S. companies to produce what the nation’s hospitals demand.
Democrats who long accused Trump of xenophobia and racism for seeking to close the borders to migrants entering the country illegally are now silent as Trump closes America to the world.
First Amendment free press champions are calling for Trump’s White House briefings not to be carried on TV because the president is spouting propaganda and lies. The problem: The people are watching and approving of what the media think the people ought not see.
If people in a crisis will jettison lifelong beliefs like this readily, how enduring will their professed belief in democracy itself prove?
The president thinks this will be a V-shaped recession, that once the economy hits bottom and turns up, it will soar, as in 1946 when pent-up demand from World War II was unleashed and America began to churn out cars and consumer good as rapidly as it had weapons of war.
Perhaps. But put me down as a skeptic. You can’t go home again. The shattering events of March, followed by what is coming in April and May, will have lasting impacts on the hearts and minds of this generation.
That once-insatiable appetite for Chinese-made goods at the mall — will it really return? Will Americans, after having “socially distanced” for months from family and friends, be reassured of their safety and pack into restaurants in July?
Observing the carrier Theodore Roosevelt in Guam offloading scores of sailors infected with coronavirus, will Americans be up for a clash with a China that is even today asserting its claims to the South China Sea?
Will Americans who survive this crisis care whether Iranian-backed Shiites dominate Iraq or Saudi-backed Sunni prevail in Yemen?
If March shocked this nation as severely as 9/11, what is coming may be even more sobering.
Are millions of unemployed workers without the cash to pay for or to find medicine and groceries likely to stay indoors for weeks or months?
All those criminals being given early release from virus-infested jails and prisons without the means to provide for themselves and their families, how will they react to weeks of mandatory sheltering in place?
Will MS-13 and its thousands of members, and its rival gangs that live off narcotics sales, comply?
Americans have done well in staying home in March. Will they do so through April, May and perhaps June? Or will the system gradually break down just as the second wave of the virus in the fall appears?
In times of crisis in America, there is a tradition of self-sacrifice.
But there have also almost always been not a few whose mindset is that of the Fort Lauderdale spring-breakers.
As coronavirus spreads in Latin America, indigenous peoples find themselves at imminent risk of annihilation should the pandemic break out in their communities. The Coordinator of Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) has written to the governments of countries which share the Amazon rainforest to enforce control on movement in and out of the indigenous territories, to help prevent a possible contagion.
However, the virus spread is not the only danger for indigenous communities. In Colombia, unknown assailants killed two indigenous people and wounded two others. All victims were in their home observing quarantine. Far-right paramilitaries are suspected to have carried out the attack, with full impunity from the Colombian government due to its reluctance to investigate criminal activity and the targeting of the indigenous populations on their lands.
Indigenous representatives have asked the government to implement a ceasefire to regulate the precarious political situation. Failure to regulate hostilities would exacerbate the already violent conditions under which indigenous communities live, especially with the virus threat looming.
In Ecuador, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorean Amazon (CONFENAIE) closed access to the rainforest for non-indigenous people and companies, demanding a complete halt to industrial activity as a means to prevent the coronavirus from reaching their communities. Two cases of coronavirus – both tourists who visited the forest – have been confirmed, thus raising the alarm and a possible threat of extinction for indigenous people in the area.
Across Latin America, indigenous populations are emulating Ecuador’s approach, with communities taking the initiative to protect themselves by blocking access to their lands and staying on their territory. The action taken by indigenous communities is a form of resistance which governments have criminalised in the past within the context of multinational companies’ exploitation of land and natural resources. For indigenous communities, the current protection for their own well-being to prevent a coronavirus outbreak is also the means through which a statement can be made about land ownership which, in Brazil and Chile for example, will be in direct confrontation with the governments’ plans for industrialisation of the Amazon and the Araucania, respectively.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has taken the coronavirus spread lightly, prioritising profit over health and refusing to set strict quarantine rules. The poor are suffering the most, rationalised the president who has squandered Brazil to neoliberal profits. Bolsonaro has also threatened to fire Health Minister Luis Henrique Mendetta after the latter emphasised the importance of quarantine and refused the president’s rhetoric that coronavirus could be treated with medication used for malaria.
Refuting pandemic evidence constitutes additional dangers to indigenous communities in Brazil’s Amazon. An indigenous woman from the Kokama tribe in Brazil’s Amazon has contracted the coronavirus, raising fears of the spread among the communities. If industries – notably mining and agribusiness companies – disregard quarantine which the president himself is not taking seriously, both the risk of contamination and the risk of violence against indigenous people will be heightened. Undoubtedly, the communities will be on alert for any disruption that could jeopardise their communities’ health. However, with the government offering no protection, it is possible that there will be an escalation of violence committed with complete impunity from the government.
The danger for indigenous communities and environmental activists is unlikely to drop in the coming months. Colombia is one example of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to target indigenous people. For right-wing governments in the region, the pandemic presents an opportunity to combine two deadly weapons – a virus and state impunity – to criminalise and target indigenous communities and their activism. Always elusive, governments’ accountability in this period is likely to become even more inaccessible through state and multinational violence cooperation, if there is no complete cessation of incursions into indigenous terrain.
Andrew J. BACEVICH
As a fledgling officer long, long ago, I was taught to abide by the hierarchy of Mission first, then Men, and then Self. Simple enough in theory, that code is not easy to live by.
For mere mortals, the requirement to subordinate self is almost unnatural. Anyone who serves in the military for more than a few weeks will likely encounter leaders whose personal code—never to be spoken aloud—is Me First. Their approach to accomplishing the mission and taking care of their troops blends seamlessly with their own career ambitions. The hierarchy becomes a triangle, each element connected to the others. There is no need to choose.
Now we have the case of U.S. Navy Captain Brett E. Crozier, until recently commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, one of the 11 nuclear aircraft carriers that form the backbone of the fleet. Command of an aircraft carrier is a prize appointment, given to upwardly mobile officers. We can safely say that barring Congressional intervention on his behalf, Captain Crozier’s upward mobility has ended.
On April 2, the Navy relieved Captain Crozier of his command. Relief is a polite term for being fired. In each of the services, this happens from time to time. In the Navy of late, commanders have been fired for allowing lax discipline which resulted in accidents. In 2017, for example, the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain were involved in collisions. Both captains were fired as was the three-star admiral commanding the 7th Fleet to which both ships were assigned. Senior authorities had lost confidence in their ability to command.
Captain Crozier’s offense was of a different order. Soon after a show-the-flag port call at Da Nang, Vietnam, undertaken at the Pentagon’s direction, members of his crew had tested positive for COVID-19. Crozier reacted as the Trump administration, not to mention various slow-on-the-switch governors and mayors, should have: He saw the onset of the Coronavirus as posing a lethal threat to the Roosevelt’s entire crew of several thousand sailors.
So he sounded the alarm, sending a letter to 19 senior military officials. The gist of that letter was a recommendation to disembark and isolate the Roosevelt’s crew, treating those infected and subjecting the entire ship to a thorough cleaning to eliminate the virus. “We are not at war,” Crozier wrote. “Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset—our Sailors.” While the ship’s operational readiness would momentarily suffer, Crozier was intent on ensuring that none of the men and women under his command would “perish as a result of this pandemic unnecessarily.”
For this he was fired. Needless to say, his letter leaked. Navy officials were thereby embarrassed. While eventually taking the actions not unlike those that Crozier had recommended, they gave him the axe. According to acting Navy secretary Thomas B. Modly, himself a Naval Academy graduate, Crozier lost his job because the Coronavirus outbreak “overwhelmed his ability to act professionally.”
That’s one opinion. Mine differs. Faced with a perplexing leadership challenge, Crozier made a very tough call: This was one instance, he concluded, where Men should come before Mission, while he unhesitatingly placed his own career interests last. His superiors, up to and including Acting Secretary Modly, ought to have applauded his actions. That they did not calls into question their own good judgment.
Of course, my own opinion matters not at all. On the other hand, my guess is that for Crozier the opinion of his sailors matters quite a lot. As he left his ship for the last time, in a moving display of support for their former skipper, they gathered spontaneously to give him a rousing sendoff. Crozier left with their cheers ringing in their ears. The men and women assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt know professionalism when they see it.
It’s becoming increasingly clear as the Coronapocalypse wreaks havoc on all of our lives that the relationship between China and the U.S. has changed, and not for the better. At every level of state actor we’ve seen a huge increase in the rhetorical hostility between the two nations.
From President Trump calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” to the Chinese officially accusing the U.S. of seeding the virus in Wuhan back in October, these interactions signal a big shift is underway. Alexander Mercouris of The Duran has been saying for months that the U.S. and China have been headed for a divorce. And that this divorce is one of Trump’s strategic goals.
He recently upgraded that divorce to that of a new Cold War and I have to agree with him. We’re seeing a sudden shift in anti-China coverage coming from CIA house organs like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Both sides are effectively accusing the other of engaging in bioweapons deployment and attack which is very serious when one considers the U.S.’s current nuclear posture.
I don’t want to alarm anyone with this statement, because the likelihood of anything like that happening are incredibly low. Instead I want you to consider what the purpose of such rhetoric is.
It’s an excuse to ratchet up the domestic propaganda as cover story for how and why both countries are getting very ready to “take their toys and go home.”
Against this backdrop of a fundamental shift in U.S./China relations I want to bring up the recent phone call between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Because I feel this phone call highlights a number of significant changes to the landscape both domestically and internationally.
Here’s the first one. Putin and Trump talked and the U.S. press didn’t go into apoplexy. The absence of irresponsible histrionics by the likes of Rachel Maddow and Jake Tapper at CNN. Speaker Nancy Pelosi wasn’t rushing to a microphone denouncing Trump. Adam Schiff (remember him?) is AWOL.
You would think they would be trying to eviscerate Trump over talking with Putin at this moment in time. The talking points are ready made. “How can this president spend his time taking orders from his master Putin when there are thousands dying in New York?”
Because Trump secured a plane full of needed medical equipment from Putin. And these same people are the ones whose lives are now directly threatened by COVID-19. I guess we may have found the limit to their depravity, when their lives are in danger they will back off on the petty, divisive and toxic politics.
Maybe they’ll save it for the weekend talk show circuit, but the lack of coverage here even after Trump’s tweets about massive oil production cuts from Russia and Saudi Arabia is telling.
Just spoke to my friend MBS (Crown Prince) of Saudi Arabia, who spoke with President Putin of Russia, & I expect & hope that they will be cutting back approximately 10 Million Barrels, and maybe substantially more which, if it happens, will be GREAT for the oil & gas industry!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2020
While Russia denied this initially, Saudi Arabia called for a new OPEC meeting right after Trump ‘spilled the beans.’ It seems MbS got the message, “You cut now or I cut you off. Russia will do what Russia does.”
The simple truth is that Trump and Putin came to a quick deal for assistance to the U.S. similar to what happened after Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Putin spoke.
Putin’s early handling of the Coronapocalypse placed him and Russia in a strong position to render aid quickly. Even though he and his country have been treated abysmally by Trump and the EU there was no hesitation. In both cases, aid was on the way withing 24 hours of the phone call in question.
To me this is a big deal. It shows what happens when everyone’s priorities shift to that which is truly important, human life, and away from that which isn’t, ideology and personal power.
It’s an easy political win for both Putin and Trump and highlights the insanity of their detractors in the West. This is something that will go a long way with Trump. For all of his faults Trump is a patriot. He values American lives and anyone helping him to save them will have his trust in the future.
This isn’t to say his actions always are the best for the American people, but that he acts with that in his mind. Does he care less about everyone else? Likely. Be as cynical as you want about what his or Putin’s motives are but that doesn’t change the conclusions in the dispassionate analysis.
Putin is someone Trump can deal with.
On the other hand, the accusations flying from the U.S. at China speak to something far different. From Trump’s perspective, right or wrong, China withheld information about COVID-19 from the U.S. and threatened to cut off drug precursors.
That puts them in the “to be dealt with” pile on Trump’s desk rather than the “to cut a deal with” pile.
But the real question still remains whether Trump is someone Putin can, or more importantly should, deal with. That comes in the future. And the phone call which secured the medical aid for the U.S. also covered other issues, namely oil production and what Trump’s concerns are for U.S. oil and gas production.
Trump is very committed to U.S. independence in energy. He may finally see that his ‘Energy Dominance’ policy has failed miserably. But judging by the way his administration is handling Venezuela still, I very much doubt that. Russia’s move to buy Rosneft’s stake in Venezuelan energy assets signals that they are not abandoning Nicolas Maduro despite continued pressure by the U.S.
But, at the same time, getting Putin to agree to some form of production cut to help the, now crippled, U.S. fracking industry has to be counted as a win. The big question is what did Putin get in return? Because there is no way he hands Trump that win without getting a major concession.
There are a number of issues outstanding here which could be the basis for an upcoming deal. Most of them involve sanctions which Trump, thanks to CAATSA, doesn’t have much say over since that law puts the removal of those sanctions applied under Congress’ control.
We’ll find out in the coming days but Trump has to make a decision as to who is in a better position to help him save his domestic production, Russia or Saudi Arabia. The Saudis may have come to the end of their life as an ally for the U.S. if it can’t control the Arab producers and, by extension, protect Israel.
In the end, Putin is the far better choice on both of those fronts since he and Russia are in a position to deliver on their promises. Meanwhile, bin Salman has proved beyond incompetent in containing the Axis of Resistance or marshalling the other Arab states into an effective counter force to cover the U.S.’s strategic withdrawal, something Trump wants.
Given this and Trump’s looming re-election giving him new opportunities this phone call may be the first in a series that finally gets us back on track for a grand bargain in the Middle East that looks a whole lot different than what’s been on offer the past few years.
Things often look the way they do because someone claiming authority tells us they look that way. If that sounds too cynical, pause for a moment and reflect on what seemed most important to you just a year ago, or even a few weeks ago.
Then, you may have been thinking that Russian interference in western politics was a vitally important issue and something that we needed to invest much of our emotional and political energy in countering. Or maybe a few weeks ago you felt that everything would be fine if we could just get Donald Trump out of the White House.
Or maybe you imagined that Brexit was the panacea to Britain’s problems – or, conversely, that it would bring about the UK’s downfall.
Still feel that way?
After all, much as we might want to (and doubtless some will try), we can’t really blame Vladimir Putin, or Russian troll farms spending a few thousand dollars on Facebook advertising, for the coronavirus pandemic.
Much as we might want to, we can’t really blame Trump for the catastrophic condition of the privatized American health care system, totally ill-equipped and unprepared for a nationwide health emergency.
And as tempting as it is for some of us, we can’t really blame Europe’s soft borders and immigrants for the rising death toll in the UK. It was the global economy and cheap travel that brought the virus into Britain, and it was the Brexit-loving prime minister Boris Johnson who dithered as the epidemic took hold.
The Bigger Picture
Is it possible that only a few weeks ago our priorities were just a little divorced from a bigger reality? That what appeared to be the big picture was not actually big enough? That maybe we should have been thinking about even more important, pressing matters – systemic ones like the threat of a pandemic of the very kind we are currently enduring.
Because while we were all thinking about Russiagate or Trump or Brexit, there were lots of experts – even the Pentagon, it seems – warning of just such a terrible calamity and urging that preparations be made to avoid it.
We are in the current mess precisely because those warnings were ignored or given no attention – not because the science was doubted, but because there was no will to do something to avert the threat.
If we reflect, it is possible to get a sense of two things. First, that our attention rarely belongs to us; it is the plaything of others. And second, that the “real world”, as it is presented to us, rarely reflects anything we might usefully be able to label as objective reality. It is a set of political, economic and social priorities that have been manufactured for us.
Agents outside our control with their own vested interests – politicians, the media, business – construct reality, much as a film-maker designs a movie. They guide our gaze in certain directions and not others.
A Critical Perspective
At a moment like this of real crisis, one that overshadows all else, we have a chance – though only a chance – to recognize this truth and develop our own critical perspective. A perspective that truly belongs to us, and not to others.
Think back to the old you, the pre-coronavirus you. Were your priorities the same as your current ones?
This is not to say that the things you prioritize now – in this crisis – are necessarily any more “yours” than the old set of priorities.
If you’re watching the TV or reading newspapers – and who isn’t – you’re probably feeling scared, either for yourself or for your loved ones. All you can think about is the coronavirus. Nothing else really seems that important by comparison. And all you can hope for is the moment when the lockdowns are over and life returns to normal.
But that’s not objectively the “real world” either. Terrible as the coronavirus is, and as of right as anyone is to be afraid of the threat it poses, those “agents of authority” are again directing and controlling our gaze, though at least this time those in authority include doctors and scientists. And they are guiding our attention in ways that serve their interests – for good or bad.
Endless tallies of infections and deaths, rocketing graphs, stories of young people, along with the elderly, battling for survival serve a purpose: to make sure we stick to the lockdown, that we maintain social distancing, that we don’t get complacent and spread the disease.
Here our interests – survival, preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed – coincide with those of the establishment, the “agents of authority”. We want to live and prosper, and they need to maintain order, to demonstrate their competence, to prevent dissatisfaction bubbling up into anger or open revolt.
Crowded out by Detail
But again the object of our attention is not as much ours as we may believe. While we focus on graphs, while we twitch the curtains to see if neighbors are going for a second run or whether families are out in the garden celebrating a birthday distant from an elderly parent, we are much less likely to be thinking about how well the crisis is being handled. The detail, the mundane is again crowding out the important, the big picture.
Our current fear is an enemy to our developing and maintaining a critical perspective. The more we are frightened by graphs, by deaths, the more we are likely to submit to whatever we are told will keep us safe.
Undercover of the public’s fear, and of justified concerns about the state of the economy and future employment, countries like the US are transferring huge sums of public money to the biggest corporations. Politicians controlled by big business and media owned by big business are pushing through this corporate robbery without scrutiny – and for reasons that should be self-explanatory.
They know our attention is too overwhelmed by the virus for us to assess intentionally mystifying arguments about the supposed economic benefits, about yet more illusory trickle-down.
The transfer of draconian powers to the police, and preparations for the deployment of soldiers on the streets. Detention without trial. Martial law. Measures that might have terrified us when Trump was our main worry, or Brexit, or Russia, may now seem a price worth paying for a “return to normality”.
Paradoxically, a craving for the old-normal may mean we are prepared to submit to a new normal that could permanently deny us any chance of returning to the old-normal.
The point is not just that things are far more provisional than most of us are ready to contemplate; it’s that our window on what we think of as “the real world”, as “normal”, is almost entirely manufactured for us.
Distracted by the Virus
Strange as this may sound right now, in the midst of our fear and suffering, the pandemic is not really the big picture either. Our attention is consumed by the virus, but it is, in a truly awful sense, a distraction too.
In a few more years, maybe sooner than we imagine, we will look back on the virus – with the benefit of distance and hindsight – and feel the same way about it we do now about Putin, or Trump, or Brexit.
It will feel part of our old selves, our old priorities, a small part of a much bigger picture, a clue to where we were heading, a portent we did not pay attention to when it mattered most.
The virus is one small warning – one among many – that we have been living out of sync with the natural world we share with other life. Our need to control and dominate, our need to acquire, our need for security, our need to conquer death – they have crowded out all else. We have followed those who promised quick, easy solutions, those who refused to compromise, those who conveyed authority, those who spread fear, those who hated.
If only we could redirect our gaze, if we could seize back control of our attention for a moment, we might understand that we are being plagued not just by a virus but by our fear, our hate, our hunger, our selfishness.
The evidence is there in the fires, the floods and the disease, in the insects that have disappeared, in the polluted seas, in the stripping of the planet’s ancient lungs, its forests, in the melting ice-caps.
The big picture is hiding in plain sight, no longer obscured by issues like Russia and Brexit but now only by the most microscopic germ, marking the thin boundary between life and death.
It sure is a good thing that the Russians decided some ten years ago to fund a massive multi-lingual news network. It is also good that the Russian independent media pulls ten times their weight. Otherwise the fact that “poor backwards corrupt” Bearistan is now the one sending medical supplies to the U.S. would probably have been ignored.
A good example in the spin behind the story comes when we compare Fox’s and the Guardian’s take on it. They both ran very surprisingly neutral sounding headlines. “Russia sending plane filled with medical equipment to U.S. amid coronavirus pandemic“ and “Coronavirus: Russia sends plane full of medical supplies to U.S.” respectively. Although, the devil lies in the details of The Guardian’s subhead…
“Critics likely to claim Moscow will exploit goodwill gesture as public relations coup”.
This is a very odd statement to make as a news organization, for this is a vague prediction rather than news. Speculation about the future of the economy or an election cycle makes perfect sense, but trying to guess what opinions could be, makes it seem like the Guardian is trying to convince the reader of what they should be. And just who exactly are these critics and why do they matter? Movies have movie critics. Music has music critics. Does international humanitarian aid have its own form of critics? If so that would be by far the most boring content on YouTube.
The only real concrete criticism in the article came from a quoted Tweet from a member of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace…
“Hopefully someone will tell Trump that he’s playing right into a propaganda ploy”
Foreign Policy mirrored this attitude with their article…
“Beware of Bad Samaritans – China and Russia are sending medical aid to Italy and other coronavirus-stricken countries, but their motives aren’t so altruistic.”
Not surprisingly Russophobia’s shining light on a hill The Washington Post went with the headline…
“Trump called Russia’s coronavirus aid to the U.S. ‘very nice.’ Putin may use it as a propaganda coup.”
So ultimately as we sift through the Mainstream Media and their pundits’ reactions, we don’t see the old style Russia collusion narrative, but instead a new sort of warning to an ignorant orange skinned Trump about a “ploy” by Putin. After all, Russia’s willingness to help Italy deal with the Coronavirus situation in their country has allowed many impressive photos of Russian military transport and men seemingly moving about the boot-shaped peninsula freely. Other than for some sort of international military parade, it is hard to imagine Russia being able to get their “polite people” to do cooperative work deep in the historical heartland of NATO. But, the Coronavirus situation is a crisis, and any crisis can open up doors for change thought impossible just weeks before.
It must also be noted that the materials being delivered from Russia are commercial products produced within the countries that others could order/buy. The days of the Soviet Union are long gone and the supplies that Washington will receive come from Russia’s private sector but delivered on a government airplane.
Photo: This particular image of Russo-Italian cooperation quickly became iconic across the Russian internet. You can probably guess why.
Perhaps the Mainstream Media and punditry in the U.S. have become spooked by what is happening in Italy and subconsciously fear it could spread to America. This fear is probably doubled in the minds of those who are still convinced that Trump is a Manchurian candidate.
The likelihood of Russian green men being needed to “help out” on American soil is something we will probably never see in our lifetimes. And if you care about America’s national sovereignty you should hope it never happen at any point in the future. But what the punditry/geopolitics wonks really fear is that not only has Russia become an “unshuttable” countervoice in news media but Moscow is starting to take a segment of the humanitarian aid game that they will never give back.
Normally it is the exclusive unwritten right of the USA/West to be the ones to conduct Marshall Plans and send out all sorts of humanitarian aid with or without strings attached. In fact this is such a large part of U.S. foreign policy that we cannot forget that there is an entire official branch of the government that deals solely with it – USAID.
Photo: Washington decided to send humanitarian aid to Georgia right after their 2008 conflict with Russia. Is this pure philanthropy? And does Russia have the right to send aid to America’s unfavored nations?
In fact USAID is a very serious state organ and is funded to almost half of what the Russians pay for their entire military budget. The panicked punditry who are flipping out over Russian aid coming to America are probably afraid that the Russians can do more with less funding like they have done in the news media – budget-wise RT is completely outgunned and yet it is a smashing success that influences narratives even in the West.
There is one other factor that is creating a strong backlash from the mainstream punditry regarding assistance coming from Moscow – pure racism. The U.S. has used foreign aid and assistance to win favor (i.e. as propaganda “ploys”) for decades and this is perfectly reasonable. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the U.S. using its wealth to buy influence and positive views from across the world. This seems like a normal and natural thing to do that America just happens to be better at doing than pretty much anyone else. Good for America!
But, when Russians or the Chinese (or anyone Washington doesn’t like) tries to do exactly the same thing, now it is unacceptable. The logic looks something like “The Russians are sending humanitarian aid? It must be a ploy! They are inherently evil after all.” And this friends is the very definition of racism. Perhaps the geopolitics boys are just tweeting their basic primal fears that some other tribe is stomping on their territory.
What we are seeing in the Mainstream Media’s/Punditry’s reaction to Russian aid being sent to America:
They fear that Russia may shatter the virtual monopoly on foreign aid giving that the U.S./West possesses, in the same way they did in terms of news media.
The #Russiagate narrative is shifting from Trump being a Manchurian Candidate for Moscow to him being duped by Putin’s “ploys”. This leads one to believe #Russiagate may finally have died.
Automatically assuming that Russians providing foreign humanitarian aid is an evil scheme while the U.S. always does so altruistically is pure backwater hillbilly bigotry.
Fox and conservative media are less spooked and actually display tweets from the Russian side. This is another drop of evidence in the bucket, that for the near future the America Left will hate Russia and the American Right will hate China.
Russia was able to get their gesture into the public/media consciousness in the United States. Something that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.
Just like today, brass and bureaucrats ignored warnings, and sent troops overseas despite the consequences.
The U.S. military has been forced by the coronavirus pandemic to make some serious changes in their operations. But the Pentagon, and especially the Navy, have also displayed a revealing resistance to moves to stand down that were clearly needed to protect troops from the raging virus from the start.
The Army and Marine Corps have shifted from in-person to virtual recruitment meetings. But the Pentagon has reversed an initial Army decision to postpone further training and exercises for at least 30 days, and it has decided to continue sending new recruits from all the services to basic training camps, where they would no doubt be unable to sustain social distancing.
On Thursday, the captain of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, on which the virus was reportedly spreading, was relieved of command. He was blamed by his superiors for the leak of a letter he wrote warning the Navy that failure to act rapidly threatened the health of his 5,000 sailors.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper justified his decision to continue many military activities as usual by declaring these activities are “critical to national security.” But does anyone truly believe there is a military threat on the horizon that the Pentagon must prepare for right now? It is widely understood outside the Pentagon that the only real threat to that security is the coronavirus itself.
Esper’s decisions reflect a deeply ingrained Pentagon habit of protecting its parochial military interests at the expense of the health of American troops. This pattern of behavior recalls the far worse case of the U.S. service chiefs once managing the war in Europe. They acted with even greater callousness toward the troops being called off to war in Europe during the devastating “Spanish flu” pandemic of 1918, which killed 50 million people worldwide.
Itwas called the “Spanish flu” only because, while the United States, Britain and France were all censoring news about the spread of the pandemic in their countries to maintain domestic morale, the press in neutralist Spain was reporting freely on influenza cases there. In fact, the first major wave of infections in the United States came in U.S. training camps set up to serve the war.
Abundant documentary evidence shows that the 1918 pandemic actually began in Haskell County, Kansas, in early 1918, when many residents came down with an unusually severe type of influenza. Some county residents were then sent to the Army’s Camp Funston at Ft. Riley, Kansas, the military’s largest training facility, training 50,000 recruits at a time for the war. Within two weeks, thousands of soldiers at the camp became sick with the new influenza virus, and 38 died.
Recruits at 14 of 32 large military training camps set up across the country to feed the U.S. war in Europe soon reported similar influenza outbreaks, apparently because some troops from Camp Funston had been sent there. By May 1918, hundreds of thousands of troops, many of whom were already infected, began boarding troopships bound for Europe, and the crowding onboard the ships created ideal conditions for the virus to explode further.
In the trenches in France, still more U.S. troops continued to be sickened by the virus, at first with milder illness and relatively few deaths But the war managers simply evacuated the sick and brought in fresh replacements, allowing the virus to adapt and mutate into more virulent and more lethal strains.
The consequences of that approach to the war became evident after the August 27 arrival in Boston harbor, when visitors brought a much more virulent and lethal strain of the virus; it quickly entered Boston itself and by September 8, had appeared at Camp Devens outside the city. Within ten days, the camp had thousands of soldiers sick with the new strain, and some of those infected at the camp boarded troops ships for Europe.
Meanwhile the lethal new strain spread from Camp Devens across the United States through September and October, ravaging one city after another. From September onward, the U.S. command in France, led by Gen. John Pershing, and the war managers in the War Department in Washington, were well aware that both U.S. troops already in Europe and the American public were suffering vast numbers of severe illnesses and death from the pandemic.
Nevertheless, Pershing continued to call for large numbers of the replacements for those stricken at the front lines, as well as for new divisions to launch a major offensive late in the year. In a message to the War Department on September 3, Pershing demanded an additional 179,000 troops.
The internal debate that followed that request, recounted by historian Carol R. Byerly, documents the chilling indifference of Pershing and the military bureaucracy in Washington to the fate of American troops they planned to send to war. After watching the horror of lethally-infected soldiers dying of pneumonia in the infected camps, acting Army Surgeon General Charles Richard strongly advised Army Chief of Staff Peyton March in late September against sending troops from the infected camps to France until the epidemic had been brought under control in the surrounding region, and March agreed.
Richard then asked for stopping the draft calls for young men heading for any camp known to be already infected. March wouldn’t go that far, and although the October draft was called off, it was to resume in November. The War Department acknowledged the heavy toll the pandemic was taking on U.S. troops in October 10, informing Pershing that he would get his troops by November 30, “if we are not stopped on account of Influenza, which has now passed the 200,000 mark.”
Richard then called for troops to be quarantined for a week before being shipped to Europe, and that the troopships carry only half the standard number of troops to reduce crowding. When March rejected those moves, which would have made it impossible for him to meet Pershing’s targets, Richard then recommended that all troop shipments be suspended until the influenza pandemic was brought under control, “except such as are demanded by urgent military necessity.”
But the chief of staff rejected such a radical shift in policy, and went to the White House to get President Woodrow Wilson’s approval for the decision. Wilson, obviously recognizing the implications of going ahead under the circumstances, asked why he refused to stop troop transport during the epidemic. March argued that Germany would be encouraged to fight on if it knew “the American divisions and replacements were no longer arriving.”Wilson then approved his decision, refusing to disturb Pershing’s war plans.
But the decision was not carried out fully. The German Supreme Command had already demanded that the Kaiser accept Wilson’s 14 points, and the armistice was signed on November 11.
The disastrous character of the U.S. elite running the First World War is clearly revealed with the astonishing fact that more American soldiers were killed and hospitalized by influenza (63,114) than in combat (53,402). And an estimated 340,00 American troops were hospitalized with influenza/pneumonia, compared with 227,000 hospitalized by Germans attacks.
The lack of concern of Washington bureaucrats for the well-being of the troops, as they pursue their own war interests, appears to be a common pattern—seen too, in the U.S. wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Now it has been revealed once again in the stunningly callous response of the Pentagon to the coronavirus pandemic crisis.
In the 1918 war, there was no protest against that cold indifference, but there are now indications that the families of soldiers put being at risk are expressing their anger about it openly to representatives of the military. In a time of socio-political upheaval, and vanishing tolerance for the continuation of endless war, it could be a harbinger of accelerated unraveling of political tolerance for the war state’s overweening power.
It became increasingly clear, right? The DNC nomination process was really just aimed at derailing Bernie Sanders campaign, despite his groveling and failure to rise to the historical moment. Biden nevertheless couldn’t possibly be the DNC nominee. There was just no way, not in his present condition. 2016 Biden maybe, but in the past few years his cognitive decline has become all the more evident. His last few TV appearances and a strange virtual town-hall went very badly for him.
Now we’ve seen the DNC’s sheepdogs like The Young Turks, The Hill’s Rising, and Jimmy Dore, all fall in line and report out on the resuscitated claims against Biden. That’s how we know this isn’t a form of vetting that builds upon his electability. This has all come up before, and when things already settled come up again and again, and they come from inside the DNC itself, that’s how we know the fix is in against our failed fixer himself.
Coronavirus changed everything
Maybe there was some idea that the novel coronavirus would work out well for Democrats – the collapsed economy, public disapproval of Trump’s response. But two strange events went down in the middle of March that may be related. Bill Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft and Bloomberg backed out of his billion-dollar pledge to defeat Trump ‘at any cost’, leaving the DNC with a meagre $18 million dollar ‘thanks’.
Bloomberg was Biden’s meal ticket. This is the real scandal about to be exposed, when it’s discovered that Biden has no real fundraising to defeat Trump. And how that went down was no accident.
The #MeToo axe being taken to Biden, and the fact that his dementia is becoming more and more a talking point among DNC sheepdogs, and is no longer denied by any Democrat having an off-record conversation, truly raises some very big questions. It also makes other things increasingly likely.
If it comes from the DNC, this is Hillary’s move – point blank.
While TYT, Rising, and Dore all seem to have been pro-Bernie and ‘anti-Hillary’, thinking people aren’t fooled. Appearances are such just because the entire base of the party was pro Bernie and anti-Hillary. You have to meet people where they are at – the sheepdog has to run alongside the sheep for quite a few long strides in order to herd them in the desired direction. The three related YouTube endeavors who share an interlocking directorate of backers, all operate towards the same goal, with each channel playing to a particular grade or hue of Democrat. TYT is for those who hate Hillary the least, Rising sits in between TYT and Dore, as Dore is there for those who just might even vote Trump as a ‘spite’ vote and really already know it’s been time for a third party for decades – Dore’s job is to keep them involved in ‘Democrat resultant politics’ and promoting down-ballot ‘progressives Democrats’ like the psy-op AOC, while never openly endorsing Clinton or the DNC’s shenanigans at the top.
In the past few days, all of them have brought up the #MeToo allegation from former staffer for Joe Biden Tara Reade, who is making the rounds now recounting her experience from the 1990s with then-Senator Joe Biden. This now shockingly includes the use of the words ‘sexual assault’, along with the previous and more mild (version of the same), inappropriate touching.
Her denial of legal resources from the Time’s Up #MeToo organization previously was at first given a rather weak reason. This organization behind #MeToo claims that as a nonprofit, they can’t make a charge against Biden because he’s a candidate for office. But the hashtag and memetic #MeToo feels otherwise. This much doesn’t really matter, and those claims are pre-existent – they had been there to give Biden the veneer of protection from the #MeToo Twitter Stormtroopers. All the while, we had only heard of the Bernie Bros misogyny against Pocahontas Warren.
Doesn’t that candidate excuse echo Biden’s Burisma invincibility armor as well? A candidate can’t be implicated, but a sitting president can be impeached – riddle me that one.
And what of Clinton – will she take “O’Biden’s” place?
The DNC has been engaged again in its ‘auto-leaks’, where it begins to promote an idea in virtual spheres at a distance, simulating that the notion had come organically from netizens themselves. This time, it’s that the Queen of Warmongers, Madam Secretary Clinton herself, would ‘step up’ and become the DNC nominee.
The poll numbers are already there, and event gambling sites are already giving odds. These odds have spiked in recent days.
What’s more? Rasmussen’s been running scientific polling data on the question since October 2019. In reporting now that Trump vs. Clinton is ‘Still Neck and Neck’ – they explain:
<<Among her fellow Democrats, 48% see a Clinton nomination as likely, 46% as unlikely. This includes 17% who say it’s Very Likely and 20% who consider it Not At All Likely.>>
The neoliberal BBC was among the best ‘foreign’ press examples of Clinton’s actually existing presidential campaign for 2020. Here we are informed that Madam Secretary is “under enormous pressure to run in 2020”. This much is featured, while in the entire text we are never informed that this pressure comes from anywhere besides Clinton’s own second, third, or fourth personality. Indeed, the BBC explains:
<<“I will certainly tell you, I’m under enormous pressure from many, many, many people to think about it.
“But as of this moment, sitting here in this studio talking to you, that is absolutely not in my plans.”
Mrs. Clinton did not elaborate on who was pressuring her to mount what would be her third White House campaign.>>
We offer this slight clarification: “At this moment, no, but in the previous moment and in the following moment, yes.”
Clinton had set up the terrain for some time, refusing to go away. She produced and featured in a Hulu original documentary about … herself! Fittingly titled Hillary, this love-letter exalts her own legacy as seen through her own eyes; she’s the most caring, righteous, progressive, skilled, and qualified historical figure in living American history. The adversities she’s faced makes MLK Jr. seem like some out-of-touch mansplaining privilege lord. Clinton deserves to be president, don’t you see?
Why was this doco produced? Narcissism alone can’t explain its timing. As this author previously wrote – none of these antics are a bug, they are a feature.
She’s also written yet another book, with the same narrative themes as the doco, titled The Book of Gutsy Women. ‘Gutsy’ seems strangely appropriate when we look at the ‘guts’ used in Marina Abramovic’s ritualistic cannibalism, the Clinton’s Rasputin.
As for Cuomo, we will deal with Cuomo, because there are various possible combinations which insert Clinton in the end.
On a certain level it’s practically unbelievable that a person so fantastically despised not only by potential swing voters but by her own party’s base, would continue on like this. The lack of self-awareness is stunning indeed, but more unbelievable is that it forces decent people to once again confront the charmless neurosis of clinical narcissism and sociopathology.
She can’t help that arrogant smirk and head wobble when she thinks she’s said something brilliant. It begins even as she takes a seat. It’s strange in that it communicates a sort of a child-like state of ecstasy as well – likely giving psychoanalysts a field day as they connect her psychopathology to early childhood events.
There’s been so much written about why she’s disliked that over-complicates that point. As this author wrote at the end of 2015, Clinton needed to transcend her own limitations and accomplish a narrative arc of transformation simply by being apologetic. She doesn’t have this in her, and along with the head wobble and smirk, that’s what it boils down to. Not neo-liberal policies – she’s capable of lying about progressive stances. Re-watching her first debate with Trump, there was nothing she said that didn’t come from Bernie Sanders talking-point arsenal.
Yes, psychopaths can feign sincere apologies – in fact they excel at them often. People elect likable psychopaths all the time. What makes Hillary strange is the combination of this pathology combined with an aggressive lack of self-awareness.
As this Coronavirus pandemic hysteria either persists or blows-over, and the real economic crisis it attempted to take credit for ruins the lives of millions of Americans – the gamble now is that Trump will be unable to act decisively, and that Clinton can run against this.
No, Clinton wouldn’t do any better were she the president, this much is known. But she will be running against the sitting president and how the media – which she has tremendous sway over – construes his response. This comes as her very own Pelosi worked to derail the more progressive aspects of Trump’s first round recovery and aid package, and media reported out the literal opposite. And therein lies the rub and the growing possibility that Madam Secretary is aiming to be finally crowned the long-overdue honorific, Madam President.
And Corona-hero Cuomo?
Like Giuliani who became America’s hero after 9-11, a very real event – at least a real as the Coronavirus pandemic that has struck the U.S. – Cuomo has become America’s governor. Just like Madam Secretary, he has denied any intention to run for office ‘someday’ (people are talking 2024, which is alarming for weird reasons once you think that one through to its two only logical paths). But yet, media keeps asking him about it.
Are we really to believe this played out arc of the reluctant protagonist? Will ‘moderate’ Dems have to ‘recruit’ Cuomo to his historical destiny, despite his scripted deference to ‘compassionate and competent Joe Biden’?
Cuomo hasn’t been vetted, there’s likely many things that Epstein will reveal about Cuomo once he testif …. Ahh haa! But interesting images are circulating around of Cuomo in a polo shirt giving a coronavirus briefing, and his kinky sex-fetish nipple rings are abundantly and obviously poking through that thin shirt.
The truth is that there’s no time. No time to vet Cuomo, this is an emergency, and the DNC convention has been delayed by a month – for now. Will it be delayed again? The truth is that Trump set a new standard, being sleezy or creepy is no longer a campaign killer in real life. But it can be used to cover for the fact that Bloomberg pulled out right as Gates stepped down from Microsoft. The conspiracy sphere is having a field day with the fact that both were the primary sponsors of the Event 201 scenario-drill from just last October, and then the U.S. is hit with the same event – but with live ammunition – or as Mike Pompeo said ‘This is a live exercise’, slipped in during a White House press briefing on Corona in the third week of March.
These are the conspiracy theories and – who knows, maybe planted – Easter eggs that the hardcore post Q-Anon Trump sector will drill into the public through Reddit and beyond.
But something happened that forced out the primary Event 201 sponsors that forced one to step down, and the other to step out.
And as a result, Biden is decreasingly viable. The real problem is how Hillary can get herself back in the campaign. Will it be Sanders-Clinton? Clinton-Cuomo? Cuomo-Clinton? Biden-Clinton?
This is what we need to be asking now regarding the 2020 election – if, that is, there is one.
Is it a done deal? Not yet – but at this time as we enter April, an increasingly strong argument can be made that Clinton is absolutely angling her way to be Madam President. By hook or by crook – the Clinton way.
The author can be reached at FindMeFlores@gmail.com
In my recent paper Why Assume There Will Be a 2020 Election?, I took the opportunity of today’s multifaceted crisis in order to revisit an important Wall Street funded coup d’état effort of 1933-34. As I explained in that location, this bankers’ coup was luckily exposed by a patriotic general named Smedley Darlington Butler during one of the darkest moments of America and profoundly changed the course of history.
The Deep State Plot Against JFK
The danger of World War and a military coup arose again during the short lived administration of John F. Kennedy who found himself locked in a life or death struggle not with Russia, but with the Military Industrial Complex that had become dominated by the many Dr. Strangeloves of the Joint Chief of Staff and CIA who fanatically believed that America could win a nuclear war with Russia. Kennedy’s valiant efforts to achieve dialogue with his Soviet counterparts, move towards peace in Vietnam, support of colonial liberation, promotion of space exploration and advocacy of a Nuclear Test Ban treaty made him a target of the Deep State of his time. During this period, this effort was led from the top by JFK’s two most powerful American opponents: Allan Dulles (director of the CIA) and General Lyman Lemnitzer (head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), both of whom were proponents of pre-emptive nuclear war, architects of the Bay of Pigs regime change trap and advocates of Operation Northwoods (an ultimate “inside job” precursor to 9/11 which JFK subverted).
As historian Anton Chaitkin recently reported: “Lemnitzer had displayed what his faction viewed as his qualifications for this role back in August 1960, when, as Army chief of staff, he announced that the Army was all ready to “restore order” in the United States after a nuclear war with the Soviet Union—to bring back normalcy just as the military does after a flood or a riot”
This plot was detailed in a quasi-fictional book written by investigative journalists Fletcher Knebel and Charles Bailey published in 1962 entitled Seven Days in May and swiftly made into a famous film with unprecedented support by JFK himself who gave the film crew and director John Frankenheimer full access to the White House, advisors and materials for the film which he believed every American should see.
In the story, a patriotic lieutenant discovers the plans for the coup which is scheduled to take place during a vast military drill whereby a President who is close to finalizing a de-armament treaty with Russia will be incapacitated in a bunker while a military regime takes over America.
Tragically, where the lieutenant is able to expose the plot and save the nation in the story, by the time of the film’s 1964 release, JFK had been deposed by other means. Now 56 years later, history has begun to repeat itself with distinctly 21st century characteristics… and a viral twist.
The Stage is Again Set for Martial Law
Another President resistant to regime change and nuclear confrontation with Russia and China finds himself today in the White House in the form of Donald Trump.
As in 1933, today’s financial collapse threatens to rip the social and economic fabric of America to shreds, and just as in 1963 a powerful military industrial complex and private banking system manages a web of power which is devoted to overturning the 2016 election (and 1776 revolution) by any means. The biggest difference today is that a global coronavirus pandemic threatens to be the catalyzer used to justify military dictatorship in America and broader nuclear confrontation with Russia and China.
Instead of names like “Dulles”, or “Lemnitzer”, today’s coup directors feature such names as “Pompeo” and “O’Shawnessy”… both Deep State assets highly positioned in 3rd and 4th place to take over the Presidency at the drop of a hat.
Terrence O’Shawnessy: The Man Who Could Be President
Having slipped silently under the radar four weeks ago, the American Government passed a new emergency protocol into law which vastly expands powers and procedures of Martial Law under “Continuity of Government” which must be taken very seriously. These new protocols deal at length with the triggering of Martial Law should the nation become ungovernable through a variety of foreseeable scenarios that COVID-19 has unleashed, such as “unwanted violence” caused by “food shortage, financial chaos” or also if the President, Vice President and Secretary of State all become incapacitated for any reason.
Even though this act was classified “Above Top Secret” a surprisingly in depth March 18 Newsweek report by William Arkin documented how the “Combat Commander” of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) will immediately take power as a part of the “Continuity of Government” procedures which took on monstrous dimensions under the control of Dick Cheney in the wake of 9/11. According to Newsweek, the new regulation drafted by the Joint Chiefs states that the military may take control where “duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation” even when “authorization by the President is impossible”. Arkin describes the new protocols for “devolving” leadership to second-tier officials in remote and quarantined locations.”
General O’Shawnessy, (former Deputy of UN Command in Korea) currently doubles as the head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and has devoted his past 14 months to the promotion of a military confrontation over the Arctic which he has described as “the new frontline of our homeland defense” against Russia and China who are “determined to exploit the region’s economic and strategic potential”.
NORTHCOM went operational on October 1, 2002 as part of the Neocon takeover of America. This neocon coup which came to full fruition with 9/11 was governed by a manifesto entitled the Project for a New American Century which laid out a Pax Americana of police state measures at home, regime change abroad and containment of a rising China and Russia under a religious belief in a unipolar world order.
This continental organization interfaces closely with both FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, and was given a wide jurisdiction embracing not only the USA but also Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, acting as “primary defender of an invasion of America”. NORTHCOM interfaces closely with the deep state by hosting personnel from the FBI, CIA, NSA and Defense Intelligence Agency in its headquarters and is responsible for the protection of the President, Vice President and Secretary of State.
Most recently, RT has reported on March 28 that O’Shawnessy has ordered teams of “essential staff” deep into vast bunkers 650 meters below the surface in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado to “wait out the COVID-19 crisis”. Announcing this secretive mission, the General tweeted “Our dedicated professionals of the NORAD and NORTHCOM Command and control watch have left their homes, said goodbye to their families and are isolated from everyone to ensure they can stand watch each and every day to defend our homeland.”
Other military personnel have been banned from travelling and commanded to stay near their bases ready for action and as of March 30, over 14 600 National Guard forces have been deployed to all 50 states. Although they cannot currently engage in policing due to the 1878 US Posse Comitatus Act, Martial Law would render that provision null and void.
It is also noteworthy that only one day after the Coronavirus was labelled an “international public health emergency” by the World Health Organization on January 30, Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved nationwide pandemic plans and warned NORTHCOM to “prepare to deploy”.
This author doesn’t believe it to be a coincidence that patriotic voices who would typically be opposed to such a Martial Law agenda have been taken out of public life due to chaos emerging from the Coronavirus with Senator Ron Paul’s March 22 COVID-19 diagnosis forcing him into quarantine and the politically naive Tulsi Gabbard’s dropping out of the presidential race in order “to be prepared for the national guard duties”. It isn’t very hard to imagine a COVID-19 diagnosis, real or fabricated to take the President and other members of the government out of office at a moment’s notice.
Time is running out for America and only bold, decisive action taken courageously and swiftly can change the course of self-annihilation upon which the republic now finds itself.
Presidents Xi Jinping and Putin have opened their arms to welcome America and other western nations into their new multipolar system which is built not upon a worship of money or militarism, but rather cooperation and creative mutual growth. Project Airbridge collaboration between China and the USA has begun as a part of the Health Silk Road bringing millions of medical supplies to America. Meanwhile a brilliant coalition of former Latin American heads of State called for the creation of a new just economic order and debt jubilee as a response to the failure of the neoliberal system which shines a principled light out of the current threefold danger of economic collapse, war and Martial Law.
The author can be reached at email@example.com
In the Belt and Road framework, China is supplying much of the world including virus-hit Europe with medicine and healthcare items
What does the pandemic mean for the U.S. election in November?
If the U.S. can ride through the crisis with a mortality rate of less than 1 percent or so, a strong economic recovery may still happen in the short term: Then President Donald Trump will likely be reelected. That is especially the case if the Democratic candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden maintains his Invisible Man profile of the past few weeks.
Indeed, the Democrats in the United States appear to be totally swamped by a Freudian death wish – entirely understandable and deserved in the party that relentlessly champions unlimited abortion on demand and now even abandoning surviving botched abortions who are deliberately left to die.
Last week, we saw the Democrats in the Senate delay the vital and enormous financial support package unnecessarily for a full five days during which time millions more Americans lost their jobs.
Bernie Sanders shredded what was left of his credibility by demanding his Green New Deal wish list – which is childish absurd economics and climate science combined – to be imposed when the Republicans – actually right on this subject – pointed out that the prime focus for American survival – let alone recovery – was containing and exterminating the virus.
Sanders no longer needs the U.S. Mainstream Media or the Democratic Party establishment to discredit himself. He has been doing a vastly superior job of that on his own: And he has only himself to thank for it. The Democrats can still certainly win in November. But it is now certain they cannot win with Bernie Sanders.
Then, 2016 party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton could not restrain herself from tweeting a repulsive message congratulating Trump on making the United States Number One and global leader in COVID-19 deaths.
A charitable explanation was that she was drunk as usual at the time.
Far more likely, however, she was stone cold sober when she tweeted. Psychopaths do have a sense of humor: Their problem is that no one else finds it funny.
However, already the number of plague cases in the United States has surpassed those in China. Predictably, the Usual Suspects in the American media and politics are saying it really is far worse in China and the Chinese are just lying and underreporting their cases.
This of course leaves open the question how much U.S. authorities have or will under-report their cases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures, for example, are routine reported significantly less than Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center ones, which appear more reliable in real time.
It is clear that the epidemic is raging wildly out of control in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City – Sanctuary Cities all. The Liberal Elites and governments in those cities will take no responsibility for the catastrophe at all: Liberal Elites never do. Right now they are screaming for massive federal aid. No more proud talk for once of defying the democratically elected federal government in the name of protecting illegal immigrants.
But this will pass. Rob Reiner, a competent movie director and repulsive human being is already trying to scapegoat Trump for the entire plague. At least it makes a change from blaming Russia.
Every year, around 50,000 people die of the winter flu, and larger numbers from cancer or heart disease and then there is the U.S. pandemic of death by gun violence. For all these things no one loses any sleep in our Great Republic.
But if the coronavirus death toll tilts well above one percent, let alone up to three or four percent, expect even Joe Biden to beat Trump in November.
It may yet happen that a delayed Democratic convention could nominate a “hero governor” who can be credibly presented as having done a good job handling his state’s pandemic as an alternative presidential candidate.
However, forget the silly talk about Andrew Cuomo: He showed no indication whatsoever that he was at any time able to prevent New York City from becoming the global epicenter of the pandemic.
Also, note the pace of economic recovery after the pandemic. If it is slow, non-existent or too sluggish with a total population traumatized by the extent of the human loss, then even a sleepwalking Joe Biden can beat Donald Trump.
Even if Trump wins in November, there are profound longer term changes coming. The Ronald Reagan pseudo-conservative/neocon/libertarian zeitgeist that has dominated U.S. politics and public thought for the past 40 years will finally crack if the death toll is high.
Libertarianism and the demonization of government was always filled with empty hot air, bluff and fraud anyway. Once lives were seen to be clearly at stake, all the absurd, obsolete quarter of a millennia old destructive fairy tales of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, Patrick Henry and all the foes of federal power in the 1780s and 1790s were certain to be dumped into the trash can of history. They are going to be dead as dodos.
Therefore, if the death toll in the U.S. is relatively high and recovery is sluggish, expect the Democrats back, with out of control inflation and a Wall Street collapse to rapidly follow.
Finally, the precedent of the political reaction to the terrible pandemic of 1918-20 should be factored in as well. Americans flocked to the least energetic, most reassuring most passive candidate available, Senator Warren Harding of Ohio. They rejected the incumbent party of Woodrow Wilson by record-breaking margins.
In November, if the mortality toll of the pandemic is high, expect Trump and Biden to outrace each other in presenting paternal, grandfatherly reassuring images to the public. Populations do not have wild, ambitious dreams of Making America Great Again or of Green New Deals after any pandemic. They just want to heal slowly and mourn their dead.
The U.S. President will be elected by means of a standardized physical and personally signed mail-in ballot, which, starting in the first month of the election-year, is mailed out to all registered voters, who are broken down into 100 different and all-inclusive randomly assigned daily batches of 1% of the electorate (5% of the electorate per week), and which asks each such person “Whom do you wish were America’s President right now? (Name a living American.)” Each of the top two chosen named persons that is Constitutionally qualified and willing to serve as President — both of them naturally being publicly well-known — will then, within 30 days of having been publicly announced as having been selected by the voters for the second-round voting and willing to serve, post online that individual’s proposed Presidential policies; and each of these two contenders will, then, after yet another 30 days, together face a town hall, with 100 randomly selected Americans, at which event ten of them who would like to ask questions will randomly be selected, each one of these ten questioners to ask only one question (secretly held by that randomly selected individual), which they want to be answered by both of the contenders, and allowing each such questioner up to 5 successive follow-up questions on that one question, to ask that question of each one of the two contenders, but allowing no other question, and no time-limits. (That will, at a maximum, be 10 main questions, plus, for each question, 10 follow-up questions, or 110 questions total, as an absolute maximum, at this event, which will be the one and only Presidential-campaign town hall during the entire election-season.) After that town hall, each of the two candidates will have a half hour of free and federally financed air-time on all networks each week, so as to be able to address any issues that may have arisen. 100 days after that town hall, a second standardized physical mail-in ballot will be mailed out, this time all-at-once, to all registered voters and listing as options only those two identified individuals. All of the returned and personally signed ballots in each of the two rounds will be permanently stored for possible recounts. The candidate who receives the majority of votes will be the next President. The loser will be the Vice President.
The twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution is hereby nullified.
The twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is hereby nullified.
Article II, Section 1, Clauses 2 & 3, of the U.S. Constitution, are hereby nullified.
THIS PROPOSED AMENDMENT WOULD ESTABLISH A MEANS OF AVOIDING THE MAIN SOURCES OF PROBLEMS THAT ARE IN THE EXISTING SYSTEM OF SELECTING A U.S. PRESIDENT, such as:
Nominees being selected entirely by means which enable billionaires and other top political donors collectively to control the outcome by eliminating candidates whom they all oppose.
Major newsmedia, which themselves are controlled by billionaires, coloring or ‘interpreting’ candidates’ assertions so as to sway voters toward their preferred candidates.
Staged ‘debates’ with only shallow questions that have been pre-approved by representatives of the billionaires, which representatives have negotiated, in advance, what questions will and what won’t be allowed to be publicly debated at these ‘debates’.
Replacing the Electoral College and eliminating the role that superdelegates play in the Presidential-selection process.
Eliminating the argument for term-limits on the Presidency (because no arbitrary requirement will be placed on whom the President should be, other than the requirements that were imposed in the 1787 Constitution itself).
Temporally spreading the initial selection-process, out to 100 weekdays, or 20 weeks, will prevent any one news-event or scandal or emergency from over-influencing the first-round choices of whom will be the two individuals competing in the second round.
By limiting the final choice to the individuals who were the two top chosen persons in the initial choice and willing to serve, that final choice will not only be between two individuals both of whom are highly regarded by a substantial portion of the population and willing to serve, but in the second (the final) round will allow each of them to present the individual’s case for him/herself and against the opponent; and this natural adversarial process will produce the polarity that is necessary to be accentuated in any meaningful election, so as to expose not only the strengths, but also the vulnerabilities, in each of the two electoral options (persons) that are being offered to the public in the final stage.
Since this Amendment would eliminate the influence of Party-organizations (because the voters would be choosing on their own and not guided by the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee), it would introduce a new type of Presidency — one which, for the very first time in American history after the election of George Washington, would produce Presidents who are not answerable to any Party-organization but only directly-and-only to the electorate. The balance of powers between the Executive and the Legislative branches would then be much closer to what the Founders (who had wished to avoid any political Parties from forming in America) had intended to be the case, regarding the selection of the President. The Founders opposed political Parties because they knew such Parties to result inevitably in, and to encourage the development of, corruption. They wanted the President to represent only the public, no Party organization. The Founders also knew that any admixture between the Legislative and the Executive functions will greatly exacerbate corruption, by means of reducing the separation-of-powers. This proposed new U.S. Constitutional Amendment would restrain corruption because it would separate the President not only from the Party-system that controls the Legislature, but from the Legislature itself. This double-insulation would amplify the President’s “bully pulpit” (by institutionalizing adversariality, competition, between the Executive and Legislative branches) and simultaneously diminish the President’s direct influence (which, under the current system, a President exercises via his own Party-organization) over the Legislature. Politically, the President will therefore then be competing against both the House and the Senate, and will cooperate with the Legislature only so as to produce legislation that both the Executive and the Legislative branches will want to take to the electorate in their respective re-election campaigns. The objective here is to maximize the Government’s electoral accountability to the public.
The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution (setting a term-limit upon the Presidency, at no more than two four-year terms) was instituted during 1947-1951, under President Truman, in order to reduce democracy (eliminate the public from choosing the President) when an incumbent in the Presidency has proven to be so good that the public will probably always be happy for that person to continue on in that office until that person either dies or quits — such as was the case with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had died as the President in his fourth term, on 12 April 1945. Historians rank FDR as the 2nd-greatest President, after only Abraham Lincoln. Though he was popular as President, he is even more admired in retrospect by historians. In his own time, America’s wealthy were hostile toward him. The first-ever U.S. Presidential-election poll was taken by the conservative Literary Digest during the Great Depression in 1936 and only amongst middle-and-upper-class Americans, and it showed FDR likely to obtain only 43% of the vote, but in the actual election, he won 61%, and that magazine then died in 1938. Months after the Literary Digest poll in 1936, George Gallup mocked that pollster’s methodology and correctly predicted FDR’s win (though likewise under-estimating it, at 56%), thus creating the first scientific polling-organization, which still exists. The 1940 pollings showed FDR as being almost certain to win, which happened; and, then, in 1944, likewise. Republicans didn’t want that to happen ever again and thus forced through the 22nd Amendment so as to prevent it from happening. They sensed that they could never get a Republican as President who would be so popular for so long. However: that Republican 22nd Amendment is inevitably an invitation to corruption because it reduces the incentive for a sitting President to govern so that the public will be and will remain supportive of that incumbent’s continuance in office. The 22nd Amendment was thus part of the degeneration of American democracy — not part of its enhancement. If FDR had been held to the standard that the Republicans succeeded at imposing upon the country in 1951, with the 22nd Amendment, then in 1941 when the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor and America’s economic recovery from the Republicans’ Great Depression was already blossoming in full force since 1938, the Republican Wall-Street lawyer and proponent of regulated monopolies, Wendel Willkie, would probably have become President, and America’s degeneration into extreme corruption would likely have begun four years before it ultimately did. Willkie wouldn’t have kept America out of WW II, but he had zero record in public office and there was nothing in his public record which would indicate that he would have served America and the world better in WW II and afterward than FDR and even Truman did. The 22nd Amendment was just a thinly rationalized power-grab by the Republican National Committee, as soon as FDR died. But merely eliminating it wouldn’t be enough to make America’s Presidential-selection process truly and directly democratic. Parties must be removed entirely from that process. This Amendment would do that.
The 12th Amendment to the Constitution, as well as Clauses 2 & 3 of Section Two, all deal with the Electoral College, and thus likewise would be eliminated by the proposed Amendment. Those provisions, too, had been introduced by conservatives, especially the slave states. Particularly, during the U.S. Constitutional Convention, “southern Convention delegates, who personally thrived on the institution of slavery and represented others who also did so, forced the compromise establishment of our bipartite constitutional scheme for presidential elections.” The Amendment which is proposed here would replace all of that. This Amendment would, in fact, at the Presidential level, end the institutionalized rule of America by its former slave states. The Civil War didn’t do this, but only held the Union together while outlawing outright slavery. Some of the Deep South’s stranglehold against democracy remained even after the 14th Amendment ended the overt commerce in human beings. Moreover, slavery continued in Alabama right up to WW II, when FDR, on 12 December 1941, ordered it finally to be ended.
Consequently, this would be a very important Amendment.
“Fiddling while Rome burned” was how historians cast the ineffectual Roman emperor Nero when the ancient city was consumed by flames in 64 AD. The same expression could now apply to certain Western states, ideologues and pundits regarding the present coronavirus pandemic.
One would think that given the global emergency it would be entirely apposite to put aside antipathies and hostilities in order to work together as common human beings motivated by solidarity, compassion and a sense of survival. Lamentably, and bizarrely, this seems not to be the case.
This week, Russia sent a huge cargo plane to the US with medical equipment to fight an escalating epidemic of the deadly disease. The US is on track to become the new epicenter of the pandemic, partly because the country has critical shortages of equipment. The gesture of solidarity from Russia was promptly arranged after President Trump phoned Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin requesting assistance.
Pathetically, however, the humanitarian aid was cynically twisted by diehard Russophobes who dismissed it as “a propaganda coup” for Moscow. It was speculated that Russia was trying to exploit the move to gain “leverage” over Washington in order to rescind economic sanctions. It was also speculated that Putin was trying to show the world that Russia is superior to the US.
Fortunately, such mean-spirited views were not widely taken up by the US media. Which would tend to show that most people can see how such views are irrational, inappropriate and indecent. For we are in a global situation where the priority must be concerted collective action to contain this pandemic. All other considerations, in particular dubious ideological caricatures, are indeed tantamount to “fiddling while Rome burns”.
In just a matter of a few weeks, the world has been taken by storm due to the Covid-19 disease which has spread from China, ravaging Europe and North America. This week, the global death toll surpassed 50,000. Potentially, the death toll in the US could reach into the millions.
Nevertheless, the persistence of Cold War ideological mindsets – seemingly immune to the necessary common response to overcome the Covid-19 emergency – is a depressing sign of failure in political and moral leadership.
This week, the US, Britain and European Union blocked a Russian draft resolution at the United Nations calling for the end to all unilaterally imposed international sanctions. The call for ending sanctions was also backed by the UN General Secretary, Antonio Guterres.
All impediments to fighting the spread of the disease must be removed. It is a matter of practical exigency.
Sanctions imposed on countries inevitably add further difficulties to combat the pandemic. As the epidemiology of the disease demonstrates, no country is immune to it. If it exists in one place, it will eventually disseminate to all others. Surely then, a global strategy of cooperation is required, and part of that strategy must be to ensure that all countries are empowered to defeat the pandemic. That empowerment involves giving nations full economic freedom to muster resources and obtain international medical aid. In that context, sanctions are an enemy of the correct response. Worse still, such sanctions at this time can be seen as barbaric.
Russia, China and Cuba – three countries which have endured Western unilateral sanctions – have shown commendable international solidarity in recent weeks. Those countries have sent medical equipment and personnel to badly stricken nations. Italy – one of the worst hit with nearly 14,000 deaths so far – has thanked Russia for its assistance.
Yet, the veritable gestures of solidarity have been shamefully twisted by Western Russophobes, as with the case of Russian aid to the US.
Some European Union parliamentarians and an EU so-called media watchdog accused Russia and China of running “disinformation campaigns” about the Covid-19 pandemic. They claim that Russia and China are trying to “sow division” and “undermine public trust” in Western governments. (Admittedly, China and the US have both engaged in unseemly claims about bioweapons, but that verbal skirmishing is marginal to the central problem.)
Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s envoy to the EU, slammed the indecent accusations as showing “poverty of intellect”. It may also be said such accusations betray a “poverty of humanity”.
The Covid-19 pandemic can be seen as a powerful leveler. The common threat to humanity reminds us of our common humanity. All distinctions within and between nations now seem redundant. The priority is collective action for the greater good.
For those suffering from Russophobia, there seems to be no cure, except for their own obsolescence and downfall.
If a disease can teach wisdom beyond our understanding of how precarious and precious life is, the coronavirus has offered two lessons.
The first is that in a globalised world our lives are so intertwined that the idea of viewing ourselves as islands – whether as individuals, communities, nations or a uniquely privileged species – should be understood as evidence of false consciousness. In truth, we were always bound together, part of a miraculous web of life on our planet and, beyond it, stardust in an unfathomably large and complex universe.
It is only an arrogance cultivated in us by those narcissists who have risen to power through their own destructive egotism that blinded us to the necessary mix of humility and awe we ought to feel as we watch a drop of rain on a leaf, or a baby struggle to crawl, or the night sky revealed in all its myriad glories away from city lights.
And now, as we start to enter periods of quarantine and self-isolation – as nations, communities and individuals – all that should be so much clearer. It has taken a virus to show us that only together are we at our strongest, most alive and most human.
In being stripped of what we need most by the threat of contagion, we are reminded of how much we have taken community for granted, abused it, hollowed it out. We are afraid because the services we need in times of collective difficulty and trauma have been turned into commodities that require payment, or treated as privileges to which access is now means-tested, rationed or is simply gone. That insecurity is at the root of the current urge to hoard.
When death stalks us it is not bankers we turn to, or corporate executives, or hedge fund managers. Nonetheless, those are the people our societies have best rewarded. They are the people who, if salaries are a measure of value, are the most prized.
But they are not the people we need, as individuals, as societies, as nations. Rather, it will be doctors, nurses, public health workers, caregivers and social workers who will be battling to save lives by risking their own.
During this health crisis we may indeed notice who and what is most important. But will we remember the sacrifice, their value after the virus is no longer headline news? Or will we go back to business as usual – until the next crisis – rewarding the arms manufacturers, the billionaire owners of the media, the fossil fuel company bosses, and the financial-services parasites feeding off other people’s money?
‘Take it on the chin’
The second lesson follows from the first. Despite everything we have been told for four decades or more, western capitalist societies are far from the most efficient ways of organising ourselves. That will be laid bare as the coronavirus crisis deepens.
We are still very much immersed in the ideological universe of Thatcherism and Reaganism, when we were told quite literally: “There is no such thing as society.” How will that political mantra stand the test of the coming weeks and months? How much can we survive as individuals, even in quarantine, rather than as part of communities that care for all of us?
Western leaders who champion neoliberalism, as they are required to do nowadays, have two choices to cope with coronavirus – and both will require a great deal of misdirection if we are not to see through their hypocrisy and deceptions.
Our leaders can let us “take it on the chin”, as the British prime minister Boris Johnson has phrased it. In practice, that will mean allowing what is effectively a cull of many of the poor and elderly – one that will relieve governments of the financial burden of underfunded pension schemes and welfare payments.
Such leaders will claim they are powerless to intervene or to ameliorate the crisis. Confronted with the contradictions inherent in their worldview, they will suddenly become fatalists, abandoning their belief in the efficacy and righteousness of the free market. They will say the virus was too contagious to contain, too robust for health services to cope, too lethal to save lives. They will evade all blame for the decades of health cuts and privatisations that made those services inefficient, inadequate, cumbersome and inflexible.
Or, by contrast, politicians will use their spin doctors and allies in the corporate media to obscure the fact that they are quietly and temporarily becoming socialists to deal with the emergency. They will change the welfare rules so that all those in the gig economy they created – employed on zero-hours contracts – do not spread the virus because they cannot afford to self-quarantine or take days’ off sick.
Or most likely our leaders will pursue both options.
If acknowledged at all, the conclusion to be draw from the crisis – that we all matter equally, that we need to look after one another, that we sink or swim together – will be treated as no more than an isolated, fleeting lesson specific to this crisis. Our leaders will refuse to draw more general lessons – ones that might highlight their own culpability – about how sane, humane societies should function all the time.
In fact, there is nothing unique about the coronavirus crisis. It is simply a heightened version of the less visible crisis we are now permanently mired in. As Britain sinks under floods each winter, as Australia burns each summer, as the southern states of the US are wrecked by hurricanes and its great plains become dustbowls, as the climate emergency becomes ever more tangible, we will learn this truth slowly and painfully.
Those deeply invested in the current system – and those so brainwashed they cannot see its flaws – will defend it to the bitter end. They will learn nothing from the virus. They will point to authoritarian states and warn that things could be far worse.
They will point a finger at Iran’s high death toll as confirmation that our profit-driven societies are better, while ignoring the terrible damage we have inflicted on Iran’s health services after years of sabotaging its economy through ferocious sanctions. We left Iran all the more vulnerable to coronavirus because we wanted to engineer “regime change” – to interfere under the pretence of “humanitarian” concern – as we have sought to do in other countries whose resources we wished to control, from Iraq to Syria and Libya.
Iran will be held responsible for a crisis we willed, that our politicians intended (even if the speed and means came as a surprise), to overthrow its leaders. Iran’s failures will be cited as proof of our superior way of life, as we wail self-righteously about the outrage of a “Russian interference” whose contours we can barely articulate.
Valuing the common good
Those who defend our system, even as its internal logic collapses in the face of coronavirus and a climate emergency, will tell us how lucky we are to live in free societies where some – Amazon executives, home delivery services, pharmacies, toilet-paper manufacturers – can still make a quick buck from our panic and fear. As long as someone is exploiting us, as long as someone is growing fat and rich, we will be told the system works – and works better than anything else imaginable.
But in fact, late-stage capitalist societies like the US and the UK will struggle to claim even the limited successes against coronavirus of authoritarian governments. Is Trump in the US or Johnson in the UK – exemplars of “the market knows best” capitalism – likely to do better than China at containing and dealing with the virus?
This lesson is not about authoritarian versus “free” societies. This is about societies that treasure the common wealth, that value the common good, above private greed and profit, above protecting the privileges of a wealth-elite.
In 2008, after decades of giving the banks what they wanted – free rein to make money by trading in hot air – the western economies all but imploded as an inflated bubble of empty liquidity burst. The banks and financial services were saved only by public bail-outs – taxpayers’ money. We were given no choice: the banks, we were told, were “too big to fail”.
We bought the banks with our common wealth. But because private wealth is our era’s guiding star, the public were not allowed to own the banks they bought. And once the banks had been bailed out by us – a perverse socialism for the rich – the banks went right back to making private money, enriching a tiny elite until the next crash.
Nowhere to fly to
The naive may think this was a one-off. But the failings of capitalism are inherent and structural, as the virus is already demonstrating and the climate emergency will drive home with alarming ferocity in the coming years.
The shut-down of borders means the airlines are quickly going bust. They didn’t put money away for a rainy day, of course. They didn’t save, they weren’t prudent. They are in a cut-throat world where they need to compete with rivals, to drive them out of business and make as much money as they can for shareholders.
Now there is nowhere for the airlines to fly to – and they will have no visible means to make money for months on end. Like the banks, they are too big to fail – and like the banks, they are demanding public money be spent to tide them over until they can once again rapaciously make profits for their shareholders. There will be many other corporations queuing up behind the airlines.
Sooner or later the public will be strong-armed once again to bail out these profit-driven corporations whose only efficiency is the central part they play in fuelling global warming and eradicating life on the planet. The airlines will be resuscitated until the inevitable next crisis arrives – one in which they are key players.
A boot stamping on a face
Capitalism is an efficient system for a tiny elite to make money at a terrible cost, and an increasingly untenable one, to wider society – and only until that system shows itself to be no longer efficient. Then wider society has to pick up the tab and assist the wealth-elite so the cycle can be begun all over again. Like a boot stamping on a human face – forever, as George Orwell warned long ago.
But it is not just that capitalism is economically self-destructive; it is morally vacant too. Again, we should study the exemplars of neoliberal orthodoxy: the UK and the US.
In Britain, the National Health Service – once the envy of the world – is in terminal decline after decades of privatising and outsourcing its services. Now the same Conservative party that began the cannibalising of the NHS is pleading with businesses such as car makers to address a severe shortage of ventilators, which will soon be needed to assist coronavirus patients.
Once, in an emergency, western governments would have been able to direct resources, both public and private, to save lives. Factories could have been repurposed for the common good. Today, the government behaves as if all it can do is incentivise business, pinning hopes on the profit motive and selfishness driving these firms to enter the ventilator market or to provide beds, in ways beneficial to public health.
The flaws in this approach should be glaring if we examine how a car manufacturer might respond to the request to adapt its factories to make ventilators.
If it is not persuaded that it can make easy money or if it thinks there are quicker or bigger profits to be made by continuing to make cars at a time when the public is frightened to use public transport, patients will die. If it holds back, waiting to see if there will be enough demand for ventilators to justify adapting its factories, patients will die. If it delays in the hope that ventilator shortages will drive up subsidies from a government fearful of the public backlash, patients will die. And if it makes ventilators on the cheap, to boost profits, without ensuring medical personnel oversee quality control, patients will die.
Survival rates will depend not on the common good, on our rallying to help those in need, on planning for the best outcome, but on the vagaries of the market. And not only on the market but on faulty, human perceptions of what constitute market forces.
Survival of the fittest
If this were not bad enough, Trump – in all his inflated vanity – is showing how that profit-motive can be extended from the business world he knows so intimately to the cynical political one he has been gradually mastering. According to reports, behind the scenes, he has been chasing after a silver bullet. He is speaking to international pharmaceutical companies to find one close to developing a vaccine so the United States can buy exclusive rights to it.
Reports suggest that he wants to offer the vaccine exclusively to the US public, in what would amount to the ultimate vote-winner in a re-election year. This would be the nadir of the dog-eat-dog philosophy – the survival of the fittest, the market decides worldview – we have been encouraged to worship over the past four decades. It is how people behave when they are denied a wider society to which they are responsible and which is responsible for them.
But even should Trump eventually deign to let other countries enjoy the benefits of his privatised vaccine, this will not be about helping mankind, about the greater good. It will be about Trump the businessman-president turning a tidy profit for the US on the back of other’s desperation and suffering, as well as marketing himself a political hero on the global stage.
Or, more likely, it will be yet another chance for the US to demonstrate its “humanitarian” credentials, rewarding “good” countries by giving them access to the vaccine, while denying “bad” countries like Russia the right to protect their citizens.
Obscenely stunted worldview
It will be a perfect illustration on the global stage – and in bold technicolour – of how the American way of marketing health works. This is what happens when health is treated not as a public good but as a commodity to be bought, as a privilege to incentivise the workforce, as a measure of who is successful and who is unsuccessful.
The US, by far the richest country on the planet, has a dysfunctional health care system not because it cannot afford a good one, but because its political worldview is so obscenely stunted by the worship of wealth that it refuses to acknowledge the communal good, to respect the common wealth of a healthy society.
The US health system is by far the most expensive in the world, but also the most inefficient. The vast bulk of “health spending” does not contribute to healing the sick but enriches a health industry of pharmaceutical corporations and health insurance companies.
Analysts describe a third of all US health spending – $765 billion a year – as “wasted”. But “waste” is a euphemism. In fact, it is money stuffed into the pockets of corporations calling themselves the health industry as they defraud the common wealth of US citizens. And the fraudulence is all the greater because despite this enormous expenditure more than one in 10 US citizens has no meaningful health cover.
As never before, coronavirus will bring into focus the depraved inefficiency of this system – the model of profit-driven health care, of market forces that look out for the short-term interests of business, not the long-term interests of us all.
There are alternatives. Right now, Americans are being offered a choice between a democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders, who champions health care as a right because it is a common good, and a Democratic party boss, Joe Biden, who champions the business lobbies he depends on for funding and his political success. One is being marginalised and vilified as a threat to the American way of life by a handful of corporations that own the US media, while the other is being propelled towards the Democratic nomination by those same corporations.
Coronavirus has an important, urgent lesson to teach us. The question is: are we ready yet to listen?
As much as Covid-19 is a circuit breaker, a time bomb and an actual weapon of mass destruction (WMD), a fierce debate is raging worldwide on the wisdom of mass quarantine applied to entire cities, states and nations.
Those against it argue Planet Lockdown not only is not stopping the spread of Covid-19 but also has landed the global economy into a cryogenic state – with unforeseen, dire consequences. Thus quarantine should apply essentially to the population with the greatest risk of death: the elderly.
With Planet Lockdown transfixed by heart-breaking reports from the Covid-19 frontline, there’s no question this is an incendiary assertion.
In parallel, a total corporate media takeover is implying that if the numbers do not substantially go down, Planet Lockdown – an euphemism for house arrest – remains, indefinitely.
Michael Levitt, 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry and Stanford biophysicist, was spot on when he calculated that China would get through the worst of Covid-19 way before throngs of health experts believed, and that “What we need is to control the panic”.
Let’s cross this over with some facts and dissident opinion, in the interest of fostering an informed debate.
The report Covid-19 – Navigating the Uncharted was co-authored by Dr. Anthony Fauci – the White House face of the fight –, H. Clifford Lane, and CDC director Robert R. Redfield. So it comes from the heart of the U.S. healthcare establishment.
The report explicitly states, “the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.”
On March 19, four days before Downing Street ordered the British lockdown, Covid-19 was downgraded from the status of “High Consequence Infectious Disease.”
John Lee, recently retired professor of pathology and former NHS consultant pathologist, has recently argued that, “the world’s 18,944 coronavirus deaths represent 0.14 per cent of the total. These figures might shoot up but they are, right now, lower than other infectious diseases that we live with (such as flu).”
He recommends, “a degree of social distancing should be maintained for a while, especially for the elderly and the immune-suppressed. But when drastic measures are introduced, they should be based on clear evidence. In the case of Covid-19, the evidence is not clear.”
That’s essentially the same point developed by a Russian military intel analyst.
Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi, Professor Emeritus of Medical Microbiology at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, has provoked immense controversy with his open letter to Chancellor Merkel, stressing the “truly unforeseeable consequences of the drastic containment measures which are currently being applied in large parts of Europe.”
Even New York governor Andrew Cuomo admitted on the record about the error of quarantining elderly people with illnesses alongside the fit young population.
The absolutely key issue is how the West was caught completely unprepared for the spread of Covid-19 – even after being provided a head start of two months by China, and having the time to study different successful strategies applied across Asia.
There are no secrets for the success of the South Korean model.
South Korea was producing test kits already in early January, and by March was testing 100,000 people a day, after establishing strict control of the whole population – to Western cries of “no protection of private life”. That was before the West embarked on Planet Lockdown mode.
South Korea was all about testing early, often and safely – in tandem with quick, thorough contact tracing, isolation and surveillance.
Covid-19 carriers are monitored with the help of video-surveillance cameras, credit card purchases, smartphone records. Add to it SMS sent to everyone when a new case is detected near them or their place of work. Those in self-isolation need an app to be constantly monitored; non-compliance means a fine to the equivalent of $2,800.
Controlled demolition in effect
In early March, the Chinese Journal of Infectious Diseases, hosted by the Shanghai Medical Association, pre-published an Expert Consensus on Comprehensive Treatment of Coronavirus in Shanghai. Treatment recommendations included, “large doses of vitamin C…injected intravenously at a dose of 100 to 200 mg / kg per day. The duration of continuous use is to significantly improve the oxygenation index.”
That’s the reason why 50 tons of Vitamin C was shipped to Hubei province in early February. It’s a stark example of a simple “mitigation” solution capable of minimizing economic catastrophe.
In contrast, it’s as if the brutally fast Chinese “people’s war” counterpunch against Covid-19 had caught Washington totally unprepared. Steady intel rumbles on the Chinese net point to Beijing having already studied all plausible leads towards the origin of the Sars-Cov-2 virus – vital information that will be certainly weaponized, Sun Tzu style, at the right time.
As it stands, the sustainability of the complex Eurasian integration project has not been substantially compromised. As the EU has provided the whole planet with a graphic demonstration of its cluelessness and helplessness, everyday the Russia-China strategic partnership gets stronger – increasingly investing in soft power and advancing a pan-Eurasia dialogue which includes, crucially, medical help.
Facing this process, the EU’s top diplomat, Joseph Borrell, sounds indeed so helpless: “There is a global battle of narratives going on in which timing is a crucial factor. […] China has brought down local new infections to single figures – and it is now sending equipment and doctors to Europe, as others do as well. China is aggressively pushing the message that, unlike the U.S., it is a responsible and reliable partner. In the battle of narratives we have also seen attempts to discredit the EU (…) We must be aware there is a geo-political component including a struggle for influence through spinning and the ‘politics of generosity’. Armed with facts, we need to defend Europe against its detractors.”
That takes us to really explosive territory. A critique of the Planet Lockdown strategy inevitably raises serious questions pointing to a controlled demolition of the global economy. What is already in stark effect are myriad declinations of martial law, severe social media policing in Ministry of Truth mode, and the return of strict border controls.
These are unequivocal markings of a massive social re-engineering project, complete with inbuilt full monitoring, population control and social distancing promoted as the new normal.
That would be taking to the limit Secretary of State Mike “we lie, we cheat, we steal” Pompeo’s assertion, on the record, that Covid-19 is a live military exercise: “This matter is going forward — we are in a live exercise here to get this right.”
All hail BlackRock
So as we face a New Great Depression, steps leading to a Brave New World are already discernable. It goes way beyond a mere Bretton Woods 2.0, in the manner that Pam and Russ Martens superbly deconstruct the recent $2 trillion, Capitol Hill-approved stimulus to the U.S. economy.
Essentially, the Fed will “leverage the bill’s $454 million bailout slush fund into $4.5 trillion”. And no questions are allowed on who gets the money, because the bill simply cancels the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the Fed.
The privileged private contractor for the slush fund is none other than BlackRock. Here’s the extremely short version of the whole, astonishing scheme, masterfully detailed here.
Wall Street has turned the Fed into a hedge fund. The Fed is going to own at least two thirds of all U.S. Treasury bills wallowing in the market before the end of the year.
The U.S. Treasury will be buying every security and loan in sight while the Fed will be the banker – financing the whole scheme.
So essentially this is a Fed/ Treasury merger. A behemoth dispensing loads of helicopter money – with BlackRock as the undisputable winner.
BlackRock is widely known as the biggest money manager on the planet. Their tentacles are everywhere. They own 5% of Apple, 5% of Exxon Mobil, 6% of Google, second largest shareholder of AT&T (Turner, HBO, CNN, Warner Brothers) – these are just a few examples.
They will buy all these securities and manage those dodgy special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) on behalf of the Treasury.
BlackRock not only is the top investor in Goldman Sachs. Better yet: Blackrock is bigger than Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank combined. BlackRock is a serious Trump donor. Now, for all practical purposes, it will be the operating system – the Chrome, Firefox, Safari – of Fed/Treasury.
This represents the definitive Wall Street-ization of the Fed – with no evidence whatsoever it will lead to any improvement in the lives of the average American.
Western corporate media, en masse, have virtually ignored the myriad, devastating economic consequences of Planet Lockdown. Wall to wall coverage barely mentions the astonishing economic human wreckage already in effect – especially for the masses barely surviving, so far, in the informal economy.
For all practical purposes, the Global War on Terror (GWOT) has been replaced by the Global War on Virus (GWOV). But what is not being seriously analyzed is the Perfect Toxic Storm: a totally shattered economy; The Mother of All Financial Crashes – barely masked by the trillions in helicopter money from the Fed and the ECB; the tens of millions of unemployed engendered by the New Great Depression; the millions of small businesses that will simply disappear; a widespread, global mental health crisis. Not to mention the masses of elderly, especially in the U.S., that will be issued an unspoken “drop dead” notice.
Beyond any rhetoric about “decoupling”, the global economy is already, de facto, split in two. On one side, we have Eurasia, Africa and swathes of Latin America – what China will be painstakingly connecting and reconnecting via the New Silk Roads. On the other side, we have North America and selected Western vassals. A puzzled Europe lies in the middle.
A cryogenically induced global economy certainly facilitates a reboot. Trumpism is the New Exceptionalism – so that means an isolationist MAGA on steroids. In contrast, China will painstakingly reboot its market base along the New Silk Roads – Africa and Latin America included – to replace the 20% of trade/exports to be lost with the U.S.
The meager $1,200 checks promised to Americans are a de facto precursor of the much touted Universal Basic Income (UBI). They may become permanent as tens of millions of people will be permanently unemployed. That will facilitate the transition towards a totally automated, 24/7 economy run by AI – thus the importance of 5G.
And that’s where ID2020 comes in.
AI and ID2020
The European Commission is involved in a crucial but virtually unknown project, CREMA (Cloud Based Rapid Elastic Manufacturing) which aims to facilitate the widest possible implementation of AI in conjunction to the advent of a cashless One-World system.
The end of cash necessarily implies a One-World government capable of dispensing – and controlling – UBI; a de facto full accomplishment of Foucault’s studies on biopolitics. Anyone is liable to be erased from the system if an algorithm equals this individual with dissent.
It gets even sexier when absolute social control is promoted as an innocent vaccine.
ID2020 is self-described as a benign alliance of “public-private partners”. Essentially, it is an electronic ID platform based on generalized vaccination. And its starts at birth; newborns will be provided with a “portable and persistent biometrically-linked digital identity.”
GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, pledges to “protect people’s health “ and provide “immunization for all”. Top partners and sponsors, apart from the WHO, include, predictably, Big Pharma.
At the ID2020 Alliance summit last September in New York, it was decided that the “Rising to the Good ID Challenge” program would be launched in 2020. That was confirmed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) this past January in Davos. The digital identity will be tested with the government of Bangladesh.
That poses a serious question: was ID2020 timed to coincide with what a crucial sponsor, the WHO, qualified as a pandemic? Or was a pandemic absolutely crucial to justify the launch of ID2020?
As game-changing trial runs go, nothing of course beats Event 201, which took place less than a month after ID2020.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in partnership with, once again, the WEF, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, described Event 201 as “a high-level pandemic exercise”. The exercise “illustrated areas where public/private partnerships will be necessary during the response to a severe pandemic in order to diminish large-scale economic and societal consequences.”
With Covid-19 in effect as a pandemic, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health was forced to issue a statement basically saying they just “modeled a fictional coronavirus pandemic, but we explicitly stated that it was not a prediction”.
There’s no question “a severe pandemic, which becomes ‘Event 201’ would require reliable cooperation among several industries, national governments, and key international institutions”, as spun by the sponsors. Covid-19 is eliciting exactly this kind of “cooperation”. Whether it’s “reliable” is open to endless debate.
The fact is that, all over Planet Lockdown, a groundswell of public opinion is leaning towards defining the current state of affairs as a global psyop: a deliberate global meltdown – the New Great Depression – imposed on unsuspecting citizens by design.
The powers that be, taking their cue from the tried and tested, decades-old CIA playbook, of course are breathlessly calling it a “conspiracy theory”. Yet what vast swathes of global public opinion observe is a – dangerous – virus being used as cover for the advent of a new, digital financial system, complete with a forced vaccine cum nanochip creating a full, individual, digital identity.
The most plausible scenario for our immediate future reads like clusters of smart cities linked by AI, with people monitored full time and duly micro-chipped doing what they need with a unified digital currency, in an atmosphere of Bentham’s and Foucault’s Panopticum on overdrive.
So if this is really our future, the existing world-system has to go. This is a test, this is only a test.
Though I detest both Trump and Obama, because they’re liars, I constantly investigate the propaganda about them (which includes most of the ‘news’ that’s published about them in the the U.S. and allied countries), the propaganda for and against both of these American Presidents; and I came across the New York Times best-seller by two Washington Post reporters — extremely anti-Trump like their employer Jeff Bezos is — because that book turns out to have been the original source for a certain damning quotation by Trump (and not because that book is the best-selling anti-Trump book).
The book is titled: A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America.
I happened, right away when considering this book, to go straight to Chapter 15, “Congratulating Putin.” On the second page of that Chapter (p. 226) is:
“Success awaits us!” Putin told reporters. Together, we will get to work on a great, massive scale, in the name of Russia.” The boisterous crowd responded with chants of “Russia! Russia!” Unsaid was the fact that the Russian election was anything but fair. The most popular opposition leader challenging Putin, Alexei Navalny, had been barred from the ballot.
So, I looked online for documentation of that allegation. Right away, I came to the article in the English language version of Germany’s national broadcaster Deutsche Welle headlined “Alexei Navalny: Most Russians don’t care about his work, poll shows” and it reported that (and I quote here):
Only 9% of Russians have a positive view of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s work, Russian media reported on Tuesday. A poll conducted by the reputable Levada Center revealed that one in four Russians even have a negative view of Navalny’s endeavors. The center quizzed over 1,600 Russian adults in both rural and urban environments in late October, according to the Interfax news agency. … Only 18% believe that the government is attempting to suppress independent anti-corruption scrutiny. … Last week, a Moscow court ordered him, his foundation and his ally Lyubov Sobol to pay 29 million rubles (€410,840, $457,000) each for libeling the Moscow Schoolchild company. Previously, Navalny’s group claimed the catering company had provided subquality food to pupils.
People I know who live in Russia have told me that it’s a Western lie that Navalny has ever had any significant political support inside the country, and that he is widely considered to be just a front for the U.S. and allied governments and their mainstream fake ‘news’-media in order to stir a movement in Russia to overthrow Putin, who is widely respected by Russians. I don’t know whether that’s true, but certainly any ‘journalists’ who allege — without documentation — that “The most popular opposition leader challenging Putin, Alexei Navalny,” is an example of fake ‘news’-media that are trying to stir support of their own population for action (sanctions, etc.) against Russia. In other words: they’re propagandists.
So far as I have been able to determine, the idea that Russia still remains a dictatorship after the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, is a propagandistic lie by fake ‘news’-media, many of which are the mainstream ones in the United States, such as the Washington Post — the media that are owned or controlled by U.S. billionaires.
To allege, falsely, that Navalny was “The most popular opposition leader challenging Putin,” and to imply, while providing no evidence, that he had been removed from the ballot in that election for that reason, is just about as vicious a lie as can be imagined; and I doubt that this is the only lie in that book. I don’t have the time to fact-check every allegation in the book, but I did fact-check that one, because I wanted to know more about Trump’s “Congratulating Putin” and about whether or not any such “congratulation” was scandalous (as the writers of this trashy book allege).
So, I want to warn the readers here, that this book has at least that very severe false and undocumented allegation in it. To me, it disqualifies the book, because it proves the dishonesty of the persons who wrote it. Of course, each reader can make that determination for themselves, but my review here is simply that warning — a warning which comes with documentation, instead of (like I see in that book) undocumented false allegations.
The coronavirus pandemic is lethal, but could there be a silver lining beyond the pain? Social media is awash with how the newly cleaned environment is hosting wildlife not seen for years. Dolphins are swimming in Venetian canals: except they aren’t, they’re really near Sardinia as usual. Swans? Yes, but they’ve always been there. The canals may be cleaner but the story’s fake.
Facts matter less than our ache for an unpolluted globe. We yearn for a lost world of childhood innocence, and so project our hope onto juvenile activists. But there clearly are benefits in the reduced use of fossil fuels as flights are cancelled and car journeys shrink to levels last seen on distant Sundays when the shops were shut. Some are reporting easier breathing during an epidemic which attacks the lungs.
Surely this will strengthen the current insistence to turn thirty, even fifty, percent of the globe into “protected areas” (PAs)? We’re told this is the answer to climate chaos and protecting biodiversity – no people, no pollution, problem solved?
I’m afraid not: doubling PAs won’t lessen climate change, it’ll make things worse. Like dolphins in the Grand Canal, this so-called “New Deal for Nature” is fiction. PAs in places like Africa and Asia are often disastrous. They evict people from their traditional lands and deprive them of their self-sufficiency, forcing them into city slums and a hostile money economy. People are beaten and killed if they try to return to their land, even to collect firewood. Their resentment grows. Where they’re tough enough, they cut fences and fight back. It’s happening now in Kenya where conservation is seen as a colonial land grab, enriching outsiders and NGOs but ratcheting up local hostility.
Gangs of armed rangers won’t be enough to protect this colonial “fortress conservation”. Those promoting it preach sustainability, but themselves pursue an unsustainable model because there won’t be any PAs left in Africa in a generation, they’ll be overrun by angry and hungry Africans.
Evicting people is both criminal and tragic because the same local people, usually indigenous to the area, are the best stewards of their environments. If they weren’t, they’d never have thrived in lands which we see as wild. Our concept of “wilderness” has roots in European folklore but also in white supremacist ignorance: the apparent wildernesses were in fact shaped by humans over thousands of years.
The myth echoes the Biblical Eden, dyed with Stygian hue. Often called “ecofascism,” it asserts that some people, “foreigners”, are expendable if it makes the world cleaner and purer. An extreme expression can be read in the manifestos of racist terrorists like the Christchurch shooter, but the same undercurrent drives social media mobs baying for “poachers” to be summarily killed – never mind that some of them are locals trying to feed their families. There’s an ecofascist tone in a joke from former WWF president, Prince Philip, who wanted to reincarnate as a virus to curb overpopulation! We’re now told the real virus is humanity itself, although billions of people consume very little. And we’ve all seen the wildlife films where Africa is mysteriously devoid of Africans.
That omission is contrived, but some of the emptiness is real: millions of indigenous people have already been “disappeared” to make room for PAs. Doubling these areas would entail the theft of the lands and resources of hundreds of millions more. It’s a mad, bad idea which would finish conservation. It’s time to clean ecofascism out of environmentalism.
The conservation industry should instead be offering its huge resources to local people who actually ask for projects on their land under their own control. Eighty percent of Earth’s biodiversity is already in indigenous territories and it’s proven that local people can achieve better conservation at a fraction of the cost of alternatives. We must reject ecofascism and bring human diversity into the centre of conservation. We have to do it now because those who live most differently to us have some of the best answers about how to live at all.
The United States has been at war almost continuously since the founding of the nation in 1783. Some of the wars were undeclared like the centuries-long eradication of the native Americans, while others – the Mexican and Spanish-American wars – were glorified by including the names of the countries defeated by Washington’s war machine. America’s bloodiest war actually has multiple names, including the Civil War, the War Between the States, The War of the Rebellion and the War of Northern Aggression, allowing one to pick and choose reflecting one’s own political preferences.
More recently wars in Korea and Vietnam were named in straightforward fashion, though current conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan do not really have names. In fact, it has become somewhat politically incorrect to name a war after an ethnic group or a country in the old fashion way. But this shortage of wars has been somewhat made up for by an increase in the number of metaphorical wars to include a war on drugs, a war on poverty and a war on terror. Now Americans are confronting what might some day be called the War on Coronavirus. President Donald J. Trump has already declared himself to be a “wartime president” and he is preparing to prime the economy’s pump with $2.2 trillion, much of which will go to the salivating profiteers that are already lining up as well as to the greedy corporate constituencies who will do their best to use the cash to increase their value for potential shareholders.
That $2.2 trillion is considerably more than the Vietnam War cost in today’s dollars ($1 trillion) though it does not yet come close to the $5-7 trillion in borrowed dollars that the going-on-twenty-years engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq has cost. But for those who worry about being number one, Trump has promised additional tranches of more trillions, which means that the war on the coronavirus might well wind up being the most expensive conflict in American history. Plus, that is only the direct cost to the federal government with state and local jurisdictions also spending billions. The coronavirus will also have a devastating impact on the economy and actually threatens to directly damage entire communities and even states, something that has not occurred in the U.S. since the Civil War. And, of course, the money the White House winds up spending is all borrowed and someday will have to be repaid.
Along with the bottom line, there are already signs of the other American contribution to warfare, which is “intelligence failure.” In a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine, contributor Micah Zenko states that “The Coronavirus Is the Worst Intelligence Failure in U.S. History: It’s more glaring than Pearl Harbor and 9/11.” He also observes that “it’s all the fault of Donald Trump’s leadership.”
Zenko’s argument is basically that the intelligence agencies were warning about information derived from medical sources in China that suggested viruses were developing that might become a pandemic, but the politicians, most particularly those in the White House, chose to take no action. He writes that “…the Trump administration has cumulatively failed, both in taking seriously the specific, repeated intelligence community warnings about a coronavirus outbreak and in vigorously pursuing the nationwide response initiatives commensurate with the predicted threat. The federal government alone has the resources and authorities to lead the relevant public and private stakeholders to confront the foreseeable harms posed by the virus. Unfortunately, Trump officials made a series of judgments (minimizing the hazards of COVID-19) and decisions (refusing to act with the urgency required) that have needlessly made Americans far less safe.”
The article cites evidence that the intelligence community was collecting disturbing information on possibly developing pathogens in China and was, as early as January, preparing analytical reports that detailed just what was happening while also providing insights into how devastating the global proliferation of a highly contagious and potential lethal virus might be. One might say that the intel guys called it right, but were ignored by the White House, which, per Zenko, acted with “unprecedented indifference, even willful negligence.”
Trump responded to the warnings in his characteristic fashion by praising his own efforts and dismissing the “fake news.” On January 22nd, he claimed that “We have it [the virus] totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” The perception on Trump’s part that coronavirus did not pose a real threat unfortunately shaped the government response as senior officials scrambled to line up their positions on the virus with that of the president. The initial decision to reject the advice being given by the government’s health care officials came from Trump alone and it was backed up by the threat that anyone who did not toe the line might well be fired. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has recently been particularly targeted because he has several times contradicted the erroneous information being promoted by the president.
To be sure, Donald Trump is certainly not the first president to be at odds with his intelligence chiefs, and he certainly has good reasons to be suspicious of anything originating at CIA that might come across his desk. Bill Clinton notoriously had almost nothing to do with his own Agency Director James Woolsey, the two having met only once in two years. But Clinton, for all his faults, did have his staff reviewing and reacting to intelligence community (IC) reports and analysis, something that appears to be lacking in the current administration.
George W. Bush, a friend of the IC, also fumbled the ball like Trump in his administration’s failure to anticipate 9/11 in spite of the fact that “the system was blinking red” for the analysts at Langley in connection with a possible terrorist attack employing hijacked airplanes. However, the Bush failure consisted of a systemic inability to share information and connect the dots rather than unwillingness to respond to intelligence.
Zenko concludes with “The White House detachment and nonchalance during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak will be among the most costly decisions of any modern presidency. These officials were presented with a clear progression of warnings and crucial decision points far enough in advance that the country could have been far better prepared. But the way that they squandered the gifts of foresight and time should never be forgotten, nor should the reason they were squandered: Trump was initially wrong, so his inner circle promoted that wrongness rhetorically and with inadequate policies for far too long, and even today. Americans will now pay the price for decades.”
So, an already heavily indebted federal government will now go even deeper down a fiscal hole, possibly beyond the point of any real recovery. And we now know that there was plenty of warning from the intelligence community regarding what might be coming, but the information was deliberately ignored. As a side note relating to both money and intelligence warnings, a classified briefing on the coronavirus was provided to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on January 24th. The Senators were so convinced by what they heard that a number of them proceeded to dump vulnerable shares in the stock market before it began its precipitous slide when the threat posed by the coronavirus eventually became too big a story to hide. Some have interpreted the sell-off, which involved both Democratic and Republican Senators, as insider trading, which is a felony. That the three leading Republican Senators involved were too intimidated by the White House that they were unwilling to go to the president and tell him that something had to be done is revealing, as is the fact that they acted secretly to protect themselves.
Coronavirus disinformation is the hot topic of the day, with pressure mounting on social media platforms to censor incorrect information about the virus and mainstream news outlets blaring dire warnings every day about the threat posed by the circulation of false claims about the pandemic.
“As fast as the coronavirus has raced around the globe, it has been outpaced by a blinding avalanche of social media sorcery and propaganda related to the pathogen, much of it apparently originating in Russia,” the Washington Post editorial board . “As always when it comes to its relations with the West, Moscow’s main currency is disinformation, and it spends lavishly.”
This would be the same Washington Post who falsely assured us that the Bush administration had provided “irrefutable” proof that the government of Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The same Washington Post who falsely assured us that Russian hackers had penetrated the US electricity grid to cut off heat during the winter, and who circulated a McCarthyite blacklist of alternative media outlets designated “Russian propaganda” compiled by a group of anonymous internet trolls. The same Washington Post whose sole owner is a literal CIA contractor yet never discloses this brazen conflict of interest when reporting on the US intelligence community as per standard journalistic protocol.
If outlets like The Washington Post had done a better job of consolidating their reputation as a reliable news source instead of constantly deceiving their readers about very important matters, people would believe them instead of believing a “blinding avalanche of social media sorcery” (and web wizardry and internet incantations and electronic enchantments and net necromancy).
Funny, this is exactly what the US is doing to China, Iran, Venezuela & Cuba to deflect from its own abysmal failures that turned America into the world’s largest corporate sacrifice zone https://t.co/yIXGZoZp9L
— Abby Martin (@AbbyMartin) March 28, 2020
We’re seeing these urgent warnings about coronavirus disinformation and misinformation from mainstream outlets who’ve sold the public lies about war after war, election after election, status quo-supporting narrative after status quo-supporting narrative.
“Here’s How to Fight Coronavirus Misinformation” reads a headline by The Atlantic, whose editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg once assured us that “the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality,” and whose star writer is David “Axis of Evil” Frum.
“China and Russia have seized on the coronavirus outbreak to wage disinformation campaigns that seek to undermine the U.S. and its handling of the crisis, rather than addressing public criticism of their own struggles with the pandemic,” warns The New York Times, who played a leading role in the disinformation campaign to build support for the Iraq invasion and who aggressively pushed crazy-making Russia hysteria (including famously retracting its bogus “17 intelligence agencies” claim).
So it is understandable that people are suspicious and looking to alternate sources for answers. The outlets which are warning them about the dangers of this virus and defending massive, unprecedented changes which have an immense impact on the lives of ordinary people have an extensive and well-documented history of lying about very important things. People are aware of this, in their own ways and to varying degrees, and it doesn’t help that all the usual suspects are behaving in a way that feels uncomfortably familiar.
“This pandemic will be more consequential than 9/11. It probably already is. People just don’t realize it, because they still think — still feel — that once this is all over we’ll go back to the way things used to be. We won’t,” says The Bulwark, founder Bill Kristol was also the founder of the wildly influential think tank Project for a New American Century (PNAC). PNAC famously argued a year before the 9/11 attacks that the massive worldwide increase in US military interventionism they were promoting at the time would not be possible without “some catastrophic and catalysing event — like a new Pearl Harbor”. All of which miraculously came to pass.
“This pandemic will be more consequential than 9/11. It probably already is. People just don’t realize it, because they still think—still feel—that once this is all over we’ll go back to the way things used to be. We won’t.” https://t.co/WzorDyXIYR
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) March 30, 2020
I personally believe there’s enough evidence that this virus is sufficiently dangerous to justify many of the significant precautions nations have been taking (though of course we must oppose and be vigilant against government overstepping into authoritarianism). The statistics are still very blurry and unreliable, but the mountains of testimonies by rank-and-file medical staff pouring in from areas where the outbreak is bad constitute enough anecdotal evidence for me to believe that this virus can very easily overwhelm our healthcare systems if we don’t collectively take drastic measures to contain it.
That said, I certainly can’t cast blame on people who believe the threat the virus poses is being greatly exaggerated. Not because I think they’re right, but because you don’t blame a population who’s been constantly lied to for their disbelief in what they’re being told by the very political/media class which has been lying to them. It’s not the fault of the rank-and-file public that they’re believing conspiratorial narratives, erroneous Facebook memes, right-wing pundits and the US president over the mainstream press; it is the fault of the mainstream press themselves.
I’ve taken a lot of flack in conspiracy circles lately for my relatively normie stance on Covid-19, but I also can’t really take it personally because it isn’t really their fault. Not everyone has the time and the resources to independently comb through many disparate bits of information about a single topic and synthesize a lucid understanding of what’s going on; that’s meant to be the job of the press, but since they’ve neglected to do their job time and time again they lack the credibility to demand that people believe what they’re reporting.
So I never join in the loud finger-wagging and aggressive demonization of those who express doubt in what’s really going on with this thing. I’ll leave that to those of a more mainstream bent, since they seem to enjoy it so much. As for myself, I will continue pointing out that the reason misinformation is so readily believed is the same as the reason Trump’s criticisms of the mainstream press are so readily believed: they have absolutely earned their garbage reputation.
The whole reason the world is the way it is right now is because people have been manipulated by the media-controlling class into accepting an absolutely insane status quo as normal. That’s the only reason anyone believes it makes sense for so few to have so much while so many have so little, for trillions of dollars to be poured into military expansionism and wars which benefit no one but the rich and powerful, for the environment to be destroyed to make a few more millionaires into billionaires, for a demented right-wing racist warmonger to be running against another demented right-wing racist warmonger for the most powerful elected office on the planet.
The big lies happen once in a while, but these little lies of normalizing our insane status quo happen every single day. On some level everyone is aware, however dimly, that our society is crazy and needs to change drastically, and so they are also aware that this is the opposite of the message they receive every day from the “authoritative” narrative-makers. The crazier things get, the more this awareness will necessarily grow, and the less people will trust the billionaire media whose only purpose is to maintain the status quo upon which its owners have built their respective kingdoms.
You can’t blame people for being distrustful when you make them that way. The people screaming the loudest about disinformation right now are the ones most responsible for it.
Stereotypes exist for a reason, the positive ones and the negative ones. and for generations the stereotype of Sub-Saharan Africa was poor, hungry and primitive. Before WWII and for centuries this meant it was free to be civilized/exploited/colonized in the subconscious of Europeans. Now, that Western assuredness of its own superiority now reflects itself in pity for the “untercontinent” it is always the #1 target for “relief” and philanthropy. But does this really make sense, is Africa really that poor and helpless that it needs eternal adoptive parents from London, Paris and Washington in order to survive?
From the materialist standpoint of Victorian England or 1950’s Atomic America it was probably very reasonable to consider Africa “poor”. Even as recently as 2000 the Economist called Africa “The Hopeless Continent”, implying that even with the help of the almighty West it is doomed to an eternity of geopolitical irrelevance and struggle for survival. This however at the start of the third decade of the new centuries is becoming an obsolete opinion.
Shockingly CNN’s series “Marketplace Africa” presents a version of the Heartland of the Global South in a light similar to what you hear from people who were actually born there, i.e. things are actually changing and developing. Obviously there is a very good chance that the motivation to do such a project by CNN is probably a form of White Man’s Guilt, cherry picking stories to make the region look nice. But since there is now plenty of real economic news to take from Africa no overinflating stories is necessary. Africa now is a real “marketplace” that has growing value and here are some reasons why.
Photo: Taking a virtual tour of Africa via Google Maps shows areas that are far from dirt poor like downtown Kigali, Rwanda.
Winning the Numbers Game
The United Nations projects that Global Population growth is beginning to slow down except for Sub-Saharan Africa which may further explode 20th century style.
Stereotypically we associate China and India with being the largest humanity producers on Earth with their billion+ populations, but this is simply no longer true as many regions of these two major civilizations have European birth rates. India and China are levelling off with even a real possibility of a gentle decline.
Numbers create markets, it is that simple. China is so big and so wealthy that Hollywood is now very concerned with not offending it. Fragmented post-Soviet Russia simply does not have the numbers to shape global media and thus envy Chinese sway. Africa however, although very diverse between languages and borders, as a whole may, start to be treated like China – too big to be ignored or offended.
Why is Africa growing? Well, if there is one thing that modern Liberalism is good at doing it is killing off the ability for people to have children and Africa remains very untouched from it. Pioneers leave with arrows in their backs and the Europeans who dabbled in Individualism and Free Markets first may be swept away from relevance by those who will do so last. Old school attitudes produce children, and despite the occasional Youtube video about crazy African pastors the continent has the right attitude towards human production.
The 20th and 21st century are showing that economics is a numbers game and Africa’s numbers will be the last to grow explosively. Numbers create big markets and big markets create wealth opportunities.
China will make Africa Great Again
The Chinese have been moving into Africa and rather than just taking the resources by hook or economic crook (like the Europeans of old) they have been leaving infrastructure as payment. Forbes is very paranoid about this asking “What China Is Really Up To In Africa” in one of their headlines. What they are really up to is fairly obvious. One solution to Africa’s corruption problem is being paid in buildings and roads, which are harder to make vanish into government servants’ pockets. The Chinese need African resources which they can pay for with cheap but decent infrastructure.
Every culture has its own nuances, and furthermore Africa is not mentally monolithic but for many places below the Sahara it is becoming understood that resources for cash results in nothing, but resources for infrastructure builds a future.
Russians often ask themselves why Silicon Valley didn’t happen in Moscow. Russian sources show that the Soviets were very capable of making revolutionary technology, the problem was getting it to the masses under a sluggish system. On a grander scale the question is, why didn’t Silicon Valley happen in Iceland, Caracas, Manila or anywhere else?
Because the human and physical infrastructure that was needed to make it happen was lacking. Silicon Valley came about due to like minded individuals moving to or being born in California with the excess resources of their WWII generation parents at their disposal to use on projects in garages. Shipping and tech in general were simply way better in the U.S. at the time and all these factors created the lightning in a jar that is the reason today Mac products say “Designed in California” on them.
So in that spirit it seems sad on the surface that only four in ten Africans have access the internet, but then again if the population of the continent rises to a billion (as projected) that means they will have an internet using market of 400 million people, spread over many major cities, which means Africa will have the critical mass needed to become a serious economic force.
Furthermore, it is hard to imagine that this 40% internet access will stay frozen in the upcoming decades as China’s massive 10,000 Villages program is spreading digital cable TV across many nations and will probably lay the groundwork for better internet penetration. If Africa gets to seven or eight internet users out of ten then it will be very much thanks to Chinese Communism and will put amazing economic opportunity on the table.
Photo: Although governments can hide their secrets Kigali, Rwanda looks like any major city from up high.
An AU to compete with the EU
More often than not Africa is written about by the same people who write about every region of the world never making contact with anyone from any of them. But if you ever get the chance to speak with people from Rwanda you’d be surprised how happy they are with the growth of their country and their hope that it may become the epicenter of regional integration (or atleast a not poor country).
Photo: At least for now Rwandan President Paul Kagame is transforming the genocidal nightmare zone of the 1990’s into the envy of many African nations.
Besides going from genocidal madhouse to attempting to become “Africa’s Singapore” the country has also created a regional block called the East African Community that is going to attempt to play the regional integration game in a similar way that the EU and the Eurasian Union are doing. Visa free travel, (i.e. open borders for members who share similar cultural and linguistic tendencies) is a key feature and has really created opportunities for tiny Rwanda to work with its neighbors.
With the floundering EU losing its first member, and Russia’s attempts at integration being ultimately stale (or purely economic) we shouldn’t be over optimistic that a giant East African Empire will form around Kigali… but it could. The six nations currently in the Community are vastly more valuable and influential as a whole than as tiny parts and would demand much more respect and attention. At least Kigali gets an A for effort in countries that stereotypically are not known for putting much effort into anything.
African needs reconsideration
Obviously we can still hear crazy stories of poverty coming from Africa, like how away from the big successes of urban Nigeria, gasoline generators are still being used to charge cell phones as big business in villages or how new employees in Uganda simply vanish after a few months because they made enough money “to get by for a while”, and how the nightmarish levels of racism and violence in Zimbabwe and South Africa have destroyed these countries’ futures. This is all terrible and real, but there is major change going on. That is why it is time to “rethink” Africa because perhaps it may be different, then again the more things change the more they stay the same.
In the U.S., the abandonment of the poor and downtrodden to their fate has forged not a society worth living in, but a growing dystopia to be escaped, writes John Wight.
In his 1948 classic novel “The Plague,” which tells the story of the fictional outbreak of a rat-borne plague in the Algerian port city of Oran under French colonialism, French writer and thinker Albert Camus explores the way the plague and ensuing crisis taps into the very best and worst of the human condition.
The current coronavirus crisis, which certainly is not fictional, is doing the same in our time — only not when it comes to the actions of people in response but instead when it comes to the actions or inaction or indeed base cruelty of national governments.
In this respect, if cruelty and barbarity were Olympic sports Washington would be the permanent holder of the gold medal. Because what does it tell us when even in the midst of a global pandemic this neocon infested administration and hegemonic political order refuses to agree to sanctions relief for Iran — a country that is among the hardest hit by the virus — in response to pleas from Tehran to do so?
“Hitherto the plague had found far more victims in the more thickly populated and less well-appointed outer districts than in the heart of the town. Quite suddenly, however, it launched a new attack and established itself in the business center.”
Ohio Poor People’s Campaign, 2018. (Becker1999, Flickr)
The proper measure of a state or nation’s health in any given time is how said state or nation treats its poorest and most vulnerable citizens. And by this metric the most powerful and richest country there has ever been is also a contender for the most barbaric, despite the ocean of propaganda to the contrary.Using the above as an analogy, let us imagine Iran as our “less well-appointed outer district” and the U.S. as the world’s “business center.” Do so and we grasp the fact that just like Camus’ fictional plague in Iran, coronavirus is no respecter of borders, cultures, religion, ideology or geopolitical agendas. In other words, if President Donald Trump and the clutch of fanatical neocons surrounding him believe that condemning the Iranian people — not its government, its people — to suffering and death is coterminous with anything other than the depraved actions of a debased and diseased culture, they are even sicker than originally thought.
I’m writing here as a non-American who spent a number of years living there and who came away politically radicalized by the experience. Because in America the abandonment of the poor and downtrodden to their fate has forged not a society worth living in, but a growing dystopia to be escaped, one in which the entrenchment of cruelty as a virtue rather than a vice has long been complete.
The brutal actions of Washington on the global stage when it comes to its engagement with poorer countries and regions merely reflects the brutality meted out to its poorest and most vulnerable at home. And as Malcolm X sagely once put it, “You can’t understand what’s going on in Mississippi if you don’t understand what’s going on in the Congo.”
Albert Camus. (Dietrich Liao, Flickr)
What’s going on in “Mississippi” — in other words the U.S. — today is that millions continue to exist without healthcare and who in the midst of this global pandemic find themselves reduced to the human equivalent of skittles in a bowling alley waiting in trepidation for a coronavirus ball to come hurtling in their direction.
Compare and contrast the barbarism of Washington in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic with the international solidarity demonstrated by the likes of China, Cuba and Russia.
China, where the outbreak of the virus originated, already has it under control and contained and is now sending medical aid and experts to Italy, Iran and South Korea. Cuba, meanwhile, has likewise sent a team of doctors to Italy along with supplies of Interferon Alpha 2B, a powerful antiviral developed by the Cuban pharmaceutical industry that has proved effective in treating coronavirus. Finally, as for Russia, Moscow is sending Iran 50,000 testing kits.
Based on the this, if there is one positive thing to take from the current crisis it’s the reaffirmation of internationalism as the acme of human solidarity and progress. For there is no national solution to pandemics only international, with the current crisis proving that nationalism begins where human connectedness ends. Precisely here is where Washington’s engagement with the rest of the world is to be understood.
Putting it bluntly, America is home to a culture and political order so removed from reality it no longer knows its land of the free arse from its home of the brave elbow — to the point where the self-appointed leader of the free world is the leader of nothing and nowhere.
Returning to Camus:
‘“However, you think, like Paneloux, that the plague has its good side; it opens men’s eyes and forces them to take thought?” The doctor tossed his head impatiently. “So does every ill that flesh is heir to. What’s true of all the evils of the world is true of plague as well. It helps men to rise above themselves. All the same, when you see the misery it brings, you’d need to be a madman, or a coward, or stone blind, to give in tamely to the plague.”’
Our world is suffering less from a coronavirus crisis and more from an America crisis.
Medium via consortiumnews.com
Dozens of U.S. government-chartered flights have begun to airlift vital medical equipment and supplies from China to the U.S. as the latter becomes the world’s biggest case load of infections from the novel coronavirus. There are grim forecasts for the number of deaths in the U.S. as the pandemic is weeks from peaking there.
China is cooperating with the U.S. in organizing the massive medical transfer, naturally of course, given the humanitarian crisis. You would think therefore that a little reciprocation would be in order from Washington. After all, China is one of those foreign countries that the U.S. has imposed sanctions on over alleged human rights violations. Would it not behove the U.S. to show a bit of solidarity and gratitude by dropping its sanctions regime against China?
And not just China. There are are some 30 countries and territories that currently sit on a U.S. sanctions list, mostly due to Washington’s accusations of human rights violations. Some of the targeted nations have been under sanctions for decades, such as Cuba, North Korea and Iran. Others have joined the dubious club more recently, such as Russia, Yemen and Venezuela.
Surely at this unprecedented time of a global pandemic threatening millions of human beings regardless of nationality, it is time to show genuine solidarity and compassion for others. The very idea of imposing sanctions on other countries is not only anachronistic. It is utterly barbaric.
In any case, U.S. sanctions imposed unilaterally without the mandate of the UN Security Council are arguably illegal. Even before the coronavirus outbreak and its accompanying disease, Covid-19, the American deployment of embargoes to disrupt commerce and trade of other countries could be seen as reprehensible. Such measures are rightly judged to be collective punishment of civilians which violates international law and the UN Charter.
But now as countries battle against an existential threat posed by the virus, the existing U.S. sanctions can be seen as an abomination.
Iran is a particularly poignant case. It has one of the highest infection rates in the world with thousands of deaths in a matter of weeks. Yet the Trump administration sees fit to not only maintain harsh sanctions on Tehran, it has actually added three more rounds of sanctions against Iran since the epidemic occurred. The deaths in Iran are being multiplied by American policy.
The Trump administration cynically claims that U.S. sanctions do not impede humanitarian aid to Iran. The claim is beneath contempt. The crippling sanctions imposed by Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy virtually precludes Iran from making international financial transactions, including for medicines. Moreover, the effect of “secondary sanctions” means that many countries are intimidated from doing business with Iran out of fear of U.S. reprisals.
Washington has blood on its hands where any country is finding the fight against Covid-19 in any way more difficult. It already had blood on its hands from its illegal sanctions. But what we have now is the grotesque picture of a ghoulish, sadistic American government shamelessly showing its ugly face at a time of global suffering.
At the G20 summit last week – held by teleconference to avoid spreading coronavirus infection – Russian President Vladimir Putin called on the world to drop sanctions at this critical juncture. He said it was imperative for all nations to have access to medicines and equipment without financial restrictions. “It is a question of whether people live or die,” he added.
Putin’s call for discarding sanctions was backed by UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres and other world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In the end, however, the G20 final joint statement omitted any unanimous mention of sanctions. One suspects that the U.S. – the world’s number-one serial abuser of sanctions – pulled strings behind the scenes to pre-empt any move to banish such measures of financial coercion. Not surprisingly, because financial coercion (less politely, “terrorism”) is an instrumental weapon for U.S. foreign policy, as much as its military intimidation of other nations is.
Instead, what came out of the G20 conference was a joint statement of vapid, disingenuous rhetoric.
It opined: “Global action, solidarity and international cooperation are more than ever necessary to address this pandemic. We are confident that, working closely together, we will overcome this. We will protect
human life, restore global economic stability, and lay out solid foundations for strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth.”
Just how does “global solidarity” and “working closer together to protect human life” translate into practical remedial action when Washington continues to wield a veto over some of the poorest and weakest nations gaining life-saving supplies?
If there were any compassion or morality in Washington, it would immediately rescind all its sanctions against other nations in recognition of common humanity. But the hard-heartedness of Washington is unrelenting even at a time of crisis and death. It is based on a self-righteousness that is frightening in the scale of its hubris and hypocrisy.
A certain natural “correction” is due for this endemic criminal mentality of America’s ruling class. And one senses that the correction for its systematic evildoing against fellow human beings is not going to pass lightly.
As 2020 gets crazier and crazier, emotional self-care is getting more and more important. A lot of people, especially the “plugged-in” types who like to pay close attention to what’s going on in the world, are getting into some looping stress patterns over the Covid-19 pandemic that are unnecessary, unhealthy, and unhelpful.
It’s an understandable web to get tangled in; there are all these alarming news stories and statistics pouring in every single day, many of which speak of dangers which may pose a direct threat to the lives and livelihoods of ourselves and our loved ones. Some people spend hours online combing through all the latest information they can find about this thing, and as they’re doing this a tremendous amount of stress builds up in the background of their experience, ultimately culminating in depression, panic attacks, angry outbursts, substance abuse or other unpleasantness.
You see strategies for coping with this increasingly common problem everywhere online, from common healthy stress management techniques like deep breathing and meditation, to escapist claims that the virus doesn’t pose any real danger, to many people simply unplugging from their news feeds altogether. What people aren’t talking about nearly enough, in my opinion, is the simple yet highly effective practice of consciously feeling your feelings.
You wouldn’t think “feel your feelings” is something that needs to be said; it sounds not just like common sense, but like something that happens automatically without your intention or permission. We’ve all experienced emotions we’d prefer not to experience if given the choice, so we assume emotion arises unbidden like a force of nature.
While that can certainly be true, a tremendous range of our emotional spectrum is often blotted out by a basic lack of emotional attentiveness. Our culture tends to encourage us to put all but our loudest emotions on the back burner and focus on other matters, and Covid-19 happens to feed into that dynamic especially well by giving us a bunch of sparkly news headlines and statistics to focus on while this low-level background anxiety slowly builds unnoticed.
Feelings need to be felt. Not acted out on other people, but felt. They’re like small children; if you just give them a cuddle, let them cry and listen to their grievances they feel better in a few minutes, but if you deprive them of attention they’ll start acting out to get it.
At some point between childhood and adulthood, most of us consciously created strategies to stop our feelings from coming up unbidden. At some point, crying in front of your peers became embarrassing and you learned how to stop it from happening. Most of us never thought to take down those defences after they were installed. Some of us have never even re-learned how to cry again. Letting your feelings flow again will take a conscious effort from most of us.
No matter how much mantra repetition, deep breathing or positive affirmations you do, unless you’ve felt those feelings all the way through you’re just wallpapering over the actual issue. A huge percentage of the anxiety that people are currently experiencing is just a big backlog of feelings that need to be felt.
For some of you, just reminding you of that will be enough. Put down the phone and quietly meditate on it until it bubbles up. Hold your feelings like they’re a little baby newborn. Let them happen until they’re all the way done.
Others might need to try out some different strategies. Here are some of mine.
First, I always check in with my body. Am I clenching anything? Hands, bum, tummy, forehead, jaw? What else is happening? Is there background nausea, or a lump in my throat, or is my heart thumping too hard? I investigate. Close your eyes now and try it with me. Scan around for a few minutes.
Try tapping around with the tips of your fingers on one hand of the areas that you identified are tight. You’ll find spots that are a little bit sore. They feel like a light bruise. Tap on those spots for a little longer until they release. Once you’ve done that, let your fingers tap round your body and find other tight spots. Do this for at least a few minutes.
As you’re doing this, the loud buzz of anxiety releases and the actual root feelings become more clear. Sometimes all you have to do is feel them. You will probably feel embarrassed to feel them. That’s just one of the layers of defence you put in all those years ago. If it feels stuck, use your theater improv skills to exaggerate and try some feelings on until you find the source feeling. Feel them all the way through. Sometimes they feel their way to the other side, oftentimes they end abruptly with a burp, the shakes, a yawn or some other release.
If that doesn’t work, I usually hop up and do a very easy qi gong sequence a dear friend of mine taught me years ago. I think any kind of repetitive energy movement would do though. Basically I do the same movement over and over again with my eyes closed. Once the energy is moving around the body I can sense areas of blockage. I just keep looking at them until I’ve fully seen all the parts of it and then it releases, usually by a big expression of feeling like a roar or something, that usually ends in dry retching.
I know I’m done when I’m at zero again. I don’t stop until I feel totally at peace. I think that’s important to note because some people really get off on having big feelings and having their big feelings all over everyone else. Sometimes people want other people to “own” their feelings. Rather than feeling them, they try to make other people feel them by proxy. They’re usually referred to as drama queens.
The point is to release the feelings so your natural peaceful zero point can shine through again. You are the sky, the feelings are weather. Identifying as the weather will mean you are invested in keeping the weather going. Identifying as the feeling will mean you will be invested in keeping the feeling going. Set the intention to let it speak to you, and then let it pass. That’s where health is.
A lot of people are saying that the fear of the coronavirus is more damaging than the virus itself. I think that’s true, but not in the way they mean it. They’re often trying to say that the coronavirus itself a nothingburger and the fear is being used to manipulate us. I think the virus is a real thing, and also our fear will be used by ourselves and others to manipulate us. We need to clear a path to inspiration by feeling through our feelings and getting back to zero as often as possible. This will help us in the big picture by seeing what’s happening and responding with grace, and in the micro by keeping our immune systems in full relaxed readiness and not tangled up, tripping over itself, fighting ghosts and in panic-mode.
Do the internal work and the external work will follow. This is how we save ourselves.
When humanity made the great transition from the countryside to the city, something priceless was arguably lost in the bargain. That was man’s prized independence, secured by the fruit of his physical labor under conditions that were oftentimes less than idyllic.
In times of plenty, when the global economy is running smoothly, few people will take the time to contemplate the advantages of an agrarian lifestyle. In fact, even when things go belly-up there still won’t be much reflection on the subject since most of us have little or no experience with life outside of the maddening metropolis. Thus, suffice it to say there won’t be any great migration for the countryside, even as our urban areas descend into cauldrons of rage and despair amid a global pandemic.
Yet where better to put into practice ‘social distancing’ then on a farm, where wide open spaces keeps neighbors, not to mention viral diseases, naturally at bay? And while we’re at it, just try and imagine a group of farmers inside of a supermarket resorting to fists over two-ply toilet paper or the last can of baked beans. Ironic how an attachment to the land creates a natural dignity and self-respect in people that so many ‘cultured’ urban dwellers seem to lack.
Thomas Jefferson, in ‘Notes on the State of Virginia’, wrote, perhaps with slight exaggeration, that “[T]hose who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.” Perhaps the more cynical truth of the matter is that when men and women are forced to produce their livelihood from the sweat and blood of their brow there is simply less time for mischief.
— Christine (@cmstevens06) March 28, 2020
Although this author has spent most of his life sequestered in big cities, I do have fond childhood memories of visiting a great uncle who lived on 100 acres of sprawling farmland in the backwoods of Blairsville, Pennsylvania. It was during those occasional visits when I came to the realization that there was a world far removed from the supermarkets and fast food franchises of modern society. In addition to farming, my uncle and his neighbors were able to sustain themselves through hunting, trapping and fishing. These ‘backwards’ country folk were also learned in the art of canning food and preserving meat for long-term storage. This was often done through the widespread use of root cellars, underground storage spaces popular with our grandparents whose experience from two world wars and one great depression made them acutely aware about the importance of being prepared for absolutely anything. Although farm life is no walk in the park, and requires tremendous toil, it can make the supermarket, hyper-stores and mega-malls resemble insane asylums at lunchtime by comparison.
Today, with the coronavirus pandemic threatening to uproot our lives far greater than even the attacks of 9/11, it would seem that the self-reliance and rugged individualism of our grandparents may come back into style with a vengeance. Even before our present emergency, there was increasing interest in homesteads, prepping, and rural ‘bug out locations’ (BOL), plots of land where people could retreat from the overcrowded cities in times of unrest.
Now, with governments attempting to exert greater security measures in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, life in the major urban areas may change in ways impossible to imagine at the moment. And as we already know, nothing is more permanent than the temporary. Under such circumstances, the idea of owning a small piece of land – a dacha, as the Russians call it – has never seemed more attractive and necessary. As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has shown, it would be a mistake to think that the supermarkets – vulnerable as they are to panicked crowds of hungry people – will always be able to feed everyone in times of crisis. It’s time to re-think our connection to the land and become at least somewhat emancipated from the corporate cornucopia before the next crisis becomes our last.
If Trump is skilled at anything it’s blaming others for America’s woes, but Covid-19 is putting even that to the test
Of course, Trump has had a history of alternately praising and blasting China for the way it has dealt with the virus. Thus it remains to be seen as to how long his flip will last before he flops again.
Trump’s liar-in-chief and top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has not yet pulled up his reins but continues to attack China and insist that Beijing has covered up the reality of the coronavirus crisis. He has singlehandedly blocked any attempt at forming international solidarity to fight the contagion by insisting on naming the “Wuhan virus” as the cause of the pandemic.
Pompeo has also been the point man for the Trump administration on driving the assertion that the US has been victimized by China’s coverup of the outbreak. Whether China actually covered up anything has become an increasingly harsh bone of contention between China and the US.
As I reported last week, Nature published a timeline of events related to the outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan and left no gaps that could have been the source of a communication blackout. There was perhaps a week to 10 days in early December when local officials wrestled to understand the sort of contagion they were facing and did not immediately file a report to Beijing.
No room for coverup
Had health officials in Wuhan known then what they learned later, the short interval of silence could have made a difference, but that pales in comparison with the months that followed. The entire world came to know about the looming pandemic, yet the Trump team sat on their hands and just worked on an orchestrated blame game.
This week, Asia-Review posted an even more detailed timeline. It said that on December 27, 2019, Dr Zhang Jixian, an ICU (intensive-care unit) doctor at Hubei Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine, filed a report to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission describing patients suffering from pneumonia of an unknown cause.
Three more patients entered the hospital the next day showing similar symptoms, and that set in motion the events reported in Nature and Asia-Review. Asia Review concluded: “China’s response to the outbreak of Covid-19 has been exceedingly transparent, swift, effective and life-saving.
“However, the narrative has been hijacked by a few Western media outlets to propagate a coverup using nitpicked events that were twisted to fit their narrative.”
China set about doing the genetic sequencing of the novel coronavirus on January 9 and shared its finding of the genetic sequence with an international database on January 11. Hardly the action of a coverup.
The New York Times et al seem to base their accusations of China’s lack of transparency on the first half of December when nothing was said, but at that time the medical workers in Wuhan did not know what they had on their hands.
Then the West lionized Dr Li Wenliang as the heroic whistleblower unfairly suppressed by the Chinese authorities. What actually happened was that the trained ophthalmologist thought he had observed cases of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and shared his concern with his chat group. Wuhan police called him in on December 31 and gave him a cautionary reprimand, and Dr Li went back to work the same day. The Wuhan authorities subsequently and posthumously apologized to Li’s family.
Distraction from own incompetence
A companion posting by Asia-Review appears to have hit the nail of this controversy on its head. The headline says it all, “How the US used ‘Chinese virus’ as a distraction from their own incompetence.”
Consistency has never been a virtue with Trump but his views on how he is controlling Covid-19 are surprisingly unwavering. On January 22, he said, “We have it totally under control.” A month later on February 25, Trump said, “I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away.… In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine.” On March 8, “We have a perfectly coordinated and fine-tuned plan at the White House for our attack on Coronavirus.”
But despite Trump’s optimism, cases of infection in the US suddenly surged to the top of the world, exceeding even Italy and China. As the situation grew dire, it became clear that his fine-tuned plan did not include having stockpiles of ventilators or masks and personal protective equipment. He has endangered America’s health and safety.
On the one hand, Trump continues to disparage and question the needs of the state governors. Since he can’t meet their needs, that’s all he can do. On the other hand, he sees that China has become a generous and active provider of masks, ventilators, test kits, protective suits and other medical equipment to many countries in need.
Trump is no dummy. He sees that making nice with China is definitely in his interest. Now.
Just last week, Trump finally used the Defense Production Act to compel General Motors to make ventilators. He could have done so many weeks earlier but apparently had hoped to coax GM without invoking the act. To invoke the act was to admit that the epidemic was slipping out of his control, a major flipflop of embarrassing proportions.
Peter Navarro to the rescue
On Friday, Trump announced the appointment of Peter Navarro, heretofore his disastrous China trade adviser, as the national Defense Production Act policy coordinator. Trump didn’t say much about Navarro’s duties but presumably getting GM to deliver ventilators in quantity and in a timely manner will be part of his mandate.
Navarro is known for his strong anti-China feelings and played a significant role in erecting the tariff barriers between the two countries. He is not known for success either as a politician or for management experience in the private sector. He is merely one of many Trump appointees without requisite qualifications.
This appears to be Navarro’s windfall dream job. He loves national TV exposure, any time he can get it. A day before his appointment, CNN had him on to explain the shortfall in ventilators. He started by praising Trump’s leadership to high heaven. Then he worked hard to cast blame on China. Finally, the exasperated CNN anchor cut him off by saying, “Peter, you are not answering the questions and wasting time.”
Despite the rude rebuff Navarro did not act offended but pleaded that he be given the time to talk and explain. His last-gasp remark before fading from the screen was that he would be pleased to come back any time to talk to CNN.
When governors of New York, California, Texas and other states begin screaming for ventilators not delivered, Peter will get a lot of airtime to squirm under the national limelight.
Trump is either unable or unwilling to face the explosion of the epidemic to come. He wants the country to go back to work, fill the subways, trains and buses, reopen the restaurants and forget about “social distancing” – and let’s not forget, regular church services by Easter. He thinks he is exempt from the laws of nature.
He will regret his decision to put the economy ahead of bringing the disease under control. He may understand the leverage of real-estate financing and the enhanced return by avoiding paying taxes, but he won’t have any place to turn when the exponential growth of infections overwhelms the hospitals.
When the number of the seriously ill exceeds the number of ventilators and beds in a hospital, the doctors will be forced to decide who gets to live and who will die.
The American public will demand answers and Trump will be ready: He’s “brilliant” and “capable” and it’s not his fault.
Not enough ventilators? Navarro will be the first to walk the plank. National public health in shambles? Vice-President Mike Pence must have screwed up. International prestige at a new low? Need to inject new blood as the secretary of state.
The pandemic will test Trump’s skill in spreading the blame. He is really good at it. Even his predecessor Barack Obama gets his share for not anticipating the coronavirus during his time in office. If Trump can sell that to the American voters, he will get four more years in the White House.
In 2015 Bill Gates gave a talk titled “We’re Not Ready for the Next Epidemic” in which, in a remarkable exhibition of understated and uncannily accurate prescience, he reflected on the outbreak of Ebola virus and forecast worse to come. This amazing man told us that “As awful as this epidemic has been, the next one could be much worse. The world is simply not prepared to deal with a disease — an especially virulent flu, for example — that infects large numbers of people very quickly. Of all the things that could kill 10 million people or more, by far the most likely is an epidemic. But I believe we can prevent such a catastrophe by building a global warning and response system for epidemics. It would apply the kind of planning that goes into national defence — systems for recruiting, training, and equipping health workers; investments in new tools; etc — to the effort to prevent and contain outbreaks.”
The world did nothing, with Trump, for example, claiming on March 20 that “nobody could have ever seen something like this coming,” and we are now suffering the ravages of a terrifying virus that threatens to kill countless millions of people if such heads of state as the criminally dithering Trump continue to wield influence on our destiny.
It is likely, however, that logic and science will overcome ignorance and political point-scoring, and that Trump and his ilk will fade away while the world limps to normality after a price in lives and suffering that nobody can estimate.
But there could be positive spin-offs that could make the world a better place, and one of them is movement towards rapprochement between the US and Russia and China, both of which Washington’s finest insist are “a greater threat than terrorism”, so that the world will be spared the debilitating effects of continuing confrontation.
One of the things that should be examined is refocusing of the Nato military alliance. Bill Gates had some good ideas about what could be done to prepare for the Covid-19 pandemic, and in his talk about likely future developments went so far as to say that the best lessons from the Ebola years were to get prepared as “we do for war” and expanded on this by noting that “We have reserves that can scale us up to large numbers. NATO has a mobile unit that can deploy very rapidly. NATO does a lot of war games to check, are people well trained? Do they understand about fuel and logistics and the same radio frequencies? So they are absolutely ready to go. So those are the kinds of things we need to deal with an epidemic.”
Nato is indeed well-prepared for medical emergencies and has a logistics system ideally suited to cope with the problems now facing European and other communities. According to Nato Headquarters its medical support embraces “medical general practice, force health protection before and during deployments, medical logistics and supply, medical intelligence and the medical dimension of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) warfare. Civilian-military cooperation in the medical area is very important during disaster relief, mass casualty situations and population movements, [and] military medical support may be involved in these missions too.”
Unfortunately, Nato is taking no action whatever on the medical front, but continues to concentrate on expansion, with its latest addition being North Macedonia, a country of two million people with armed forces of 8,000 whose contribution to international security — and combating Covid-19 — is trivial. But it seems that it’s the gesture, the symbolism, that counts with Nato, while practicalities — and international medical catastrophes — mean nothing when there’s an opportunity to show the world that yet another tiny country has joined the military alliance that has been expanded specifically to menace Russia. On 27 March Nato announced that “As Allied armed forces help save lives in the battle against the virus, NATO’s ability to conduct operations has not been undermined. Our forces remain ready, and our crucial work goes on, in the air, at sea, and in all other domains”.
While individual countries of Nato have committed their armed forces nationally and most effectively in their fight against Covid-19, Nato itself has not lifted a finger and concentrates on confronting Russia whenever and wherever it can. The latest charade involved Royal Navy warships which had supposedly been “shadowing seven Russian warships in the English Channel and North Sea [for] over a week.” The fact is that the Russian ships (two frigates, three corvettes and two landing ships) had grouped in the North Sea before sailing perfectly normally through the English Channel. This non-event was covered by some of the UK media in terms verging on the hysterical. The Daily Mail reported that “The Navy said ‘every movement’ of the Russian vessels was monitored, amid fears Vladimir Putin could try to exploit the turmoil over the spread of the killer virus. Concerns have also been raised that Russia is behind a wave of disinformation about the disease seemingly designed to foster panic among the public.”
The connection between the pandemic virus, President Putin, the Russian navy and the supposed “wave of disinformation” and “turmoil” are creatures of the West’s trash media.
Nato itself announced that “NATO navies shadowed seven Russian warships in the North Sea. While Russian navy ships generally transit through the English Channel on their way between the High North and the Mediterranean Sea, on this occasion they remained in the North Sea for several days.” Britain’s Ministry of Defence declared that “The Navy has completed a concentrated operation to shadow the Russian warships after unusually high levels of activity in the English Channel and North Sea.”
This was a nothing event. Nobody explained what the “high levels of activity” involved. The entire affair was a publicity fandango by Nato and its supporters.
Nato is desperate to justify its existence and it seems that Brussels will go to extraordinary lengths to maximise its profile, aided by media outlets such as the tabloid Mail, which is owned by the billionaire Lord Rothermere, who lives in France and “saves a fortune in tax each year on account of his ‘non-dom’ status.” Trash papers/websites like the Mail have enormous readerships, thus exercising great influence on the public, and the propaganda effect is enormous. So it is not surprising that Nato has achieved much support in the UK.
But this does not alter the fact that Nato is completely irrelevant, not only in the pandemic crisis, but in much wider terms. If Brussels, in essence the sub-office in Europe of the all-embracing Pentagon, had paid attention to the brilliant Mr Gates and heeded his advice to prepare for “the next epidemic” then the world would have been grateful beyond words for Nato’s foresight, expertise and assistance. As it stands, the Nato posturing about a few Russian ships in the North Sea and the addition of a totally unnecessary and valueless thirtieth member simply demonstrates its irrelevance in this virus-stricken world.
On March 27, as international efforts continued to counter the foul pandemic, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that “North Macedonia is now part of the NATO family, a family of thirty nations and almost one billion people. A family based on the certainty that, no matter what challenges we face, we are all stronger and safer together.” He declared that “a flag-raising ceremony for North Macedonia will take place at NATO Headquarters on March 30.”
And so Nato wobbles from irrelevance to absurd triviality. It would be amusing were it not so tragic.
The Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal have written an open letter to the Chinese government urging it to reverse its “damaging and reckless” decision to expel their reporters amid a spiraling COVID epidemic.
The letter makes all the usual points about a “free flow of reliable news and information” in the middle of a growing international emergency. And however clichéd, such sentiments are correct since access to the broadest possible sources of information is indeed essential if the world is to make it through the crisis.
But the letter would have been a lot more convincing if the three papers had spoken up on Mar. 2 when the Trump administration moved to expel sixty Chinese journalists working for five news organizations that the White House regards as little more than state propaganda outfits.
Moreover, they’d be on even firmer footing if they had not actively cheered on the most dangerous anti-media effort of all, the U.S. crackdown on the TV news service RT, formerly known as Russia Today, that began in November 2017.
The crackdown on RT was in some ways even worse than McCarthyism since the latter was at least about something real and important, which is to say a Communist movement that controlled roughly forty percent of the global population and was pressing in on capitalism from every side. If the ruling class seemed spooked, it was facing a challenge of unprecedented dimensions.
But the threat this time around was about something entirely made up, i.e. the belief that Russia had supposedly used various dark arts to trick Americans into voting for Trump. The nonsense began in January 2017 when the CIA, NSA, and FBI “assessed” that Vladimir Putin had interfered in the previous year’s election in order “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability” and, in the process, boost Trump. The report was entirely devoid of evidence, yet the press took it as gospel. Even worse, the intelligence report included a seven-page annex accusing RT of engaging in “criticism of U.S. and Western governments as well as the promotion of radical discontent,” running “numerous reports on alleged U.S. election fraud and voting machine vulnerabilities,” contending that U.S. election results cannot be trusted and do not reflect the popular will,” and hosting third-party candidates who contend that “the U.S. two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham.’”
Imagine – a foreign news service daring to suggest that U.S. politics were flawed! If papers like the Times or Post had the slightest inkling of self-respect, they would have laughed themselves silly over such hyper-sensitivity and told the CIA to grow a thicker skin. But they didn’t. Instead, they worked themselves up into ever greater levels of indignation. Within a few months, the New York Times was warning that “if there is any unifying character to RT, it is a deep skepticism of Western and American narratives of the world and a fundamental defensiveness about Russia and Mr. Putin” and that, thanks to snazzy graphics and snappy repartee, the network had put together “the most effective propaganda operation of the 21st century so far, one that thrives in the feverish political climates that have descended on many Western publics.”
Of course, one might observe that outlets like CNN and MSNBC are characterized by a deep skepticism of Russian narratives, so what’s the difference? But that wouldn’t be fair since everyone knows that America is right and Russia wrong and that any comparison between the two is automatically invalid, isn’t it?
Not to be outdone, the Washington Post – official slogan: “Democracy dies in darkness” – ran not one but two op-eds (here and here) calling on the federal government to require RT to register as a foreign agent, a step the Trump administration would dutifully take just two months later.
So the big two turned out to be more aggressive than the Trump administration in reducing journalistic diversity and using the power of the state to undermine a foreign competitor. Finally, just a month ago, the Times ran a front-page article declaring – queue the ominous music – that Radio Sputnik, RT’s sister outlet, had begun “broadcasting on three Kansas City-area radio stations during prime drive time.” Horror of horrors, the station was bombarding Missourians with Russki propaganda criticizing impeachment, the media, and the U.S. political system in general and informing that, in the words of one Sputnik host, that “the masses of poor and working people don’t have access to even the most essential things.”
Where did Radio Sputnik come up with such a notion? Doesn’t everyone know that perfect equality reigns in the United States and that anyone who says otherwise must be working for a foreign power?
In fact, while America never tires of touting its devotion to the First Amendment, it loses control when a foreign news service turns tables by engaging in journalism that is cheeky and irreverent. It wants a free press, which is to say one that is free to repeat over and over again how perfectly wonderful America really is. But it does not believe in a free press that allows foreigners to say the contrary.
I’m writing this at 585,000 worldwide active cases, 26,000 deaths, and with only China and Korea seemingly under some sort of control (using a social metric tool, Worldometer). The stimulus package announced by the U.S. government is at $2 trillion, but without job protections, rent freezes, or meaningful income support for most people. Where to reach for analogies to help us understand the moment? The AIDS crisis? The 2008 economic crisis? SARS?
Every analogy can capture a part of the story. On March 23, Trump floated the idea of sending everyone back to work within weeks, ignoring the advice of public health scientists. This echoed Jair Bolsonaro’s denialism in Brazil and Boris Johnson’s early talk of seeking “herd immunity” by “taking it on the chin,” which his ministers walked back a few days later. On this specific issue, the prioritizing of economic projections over scientific ones, there is one clear analogy with the last great empire: The British Empire, with its special penchant for the mass starvation of millions.
As the British Empire expanded in the 18th century, its intellectuals developed the perfect set of ideas for an empire: classical economics. Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations was published in 1776, after numerous genocidal wars against Indigenous peoples in the Americas and at the beginning of the Empire in India. David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, and John Stuart Mill all made their contributions to the classical theory. As soon as the imperialists consolidated their control, they dismantled local governmental systems for preventing mass starvation and the famines across India began. Shashi Tharoor listed them in his book, Inglorious Empire: starting with Bengal in 1770, and on to Madras, Delhi and Bombay through 1943. In the 20th century alone, 35 million people were killed by British-administered famine in India.
In the name of the same doctrines, the British also starved the Irish. The potato famine of 1845-9 fell in this period, and the Irish were victims of the same doctrines. Edward O’Boyle in 2006 linked classical economics to the Irish famine and identified the tenets of classical economics as: 1. the law of self-interest; 2. the law of free competition; 3. the law of population; 4. the law of demand and supply; 5. the iron law of wages; 6. the law of rent; and 7. the free trade doctrine. Taken together, these laws, as critic Karl Polanyi wrote of the self-adjusting market, “could not exist for any length of time without annihilating the human and natural substance of society; it would have physically destroyed man and transformed his surroundings into a wilderness.”
During one of the many Indian famines (Southern India, 1876-78), the British viceroy Lord Lytton declared, “there is to be no interference of any kind on the part of government with the object of reducing the price of food.” Johann Hari tells the story of one British official, Sir Richard Temple, who, when he imported some food to give to the starving during another famine, was denounced by the Economist magazine for giving Indians the notion that “it is the duty of the Government to keep them alive.”
During that empire, classical economic theory and famine combined seamlessly with racism in a toxic brew. O’Boyle quotes an 1875 lecture by classical economist William Stanley Jevons: “a famine comes to be looked upon as a kind of natural event… war is… a normal state of things, in early societies. The North American Indians, for example, their only serious occupation, their only amusement, was war… the way the Irish live, especially, in some of our large towns and in some parts of their own country, makes it a priori probable that they die fast.”
The British had an empire of famine. We live in an empire of sanctions. As Iran, Venezuela, and Gaza crack under the simultaneous strain of pandemic and siege, diplomats beg the U.S. to suspend the sanctions until the current crisis passes. To no avail: remote-control mass murder is too solid a plank of U.S. policy to be suspended over something so small as a global pandemic.
To what extent has economics been refined over the centuries? To what extent has it become more rooted in evidence? An abundance of literature from scholars just outside of mainstream economics argues, “not very much.” Back in 2001, heterodox economist James Galbraith wrote an article listing five widely accepted propositions of today’s economics profession (“Inflation is… a monetary phenomenon”; “Full employment without inflation is impossible”; “Rising pay inequality stems from technological change”; “Rising minimum wages cause unemployment”; “Sustained growth cannot exceed 2.5 percent per year”), how each of them was discredited by the economic evidence, and how they continued to be held despite the evidence. The same year, Australian heterodox economist Steve Keen published Debunking Economics: The Naked Emperor of the Social Sciences, about the theoretical and empirical failures of mainstream orthodoxy. A decade later, in the book ECONned, Yves Smith collected a litany of the ways the assumptions on which economic models are built don’t hold up to the data (from market equilibrium to the demand curve). Similar works abound, as do interesting approaches to real economies that are rejected by the economics mainstream.
The mainstream is reported to be so closed off to alternative ideas that in universities, heterodox economists are sent to different types of programs like political economy at Stanford, or economics and policy studies at Notre Dame, which was split off from the Economics Department in 2003 and then closed in 2010. At the University of Manitoba, the conflict between orthodox and heterodox economics got so dramatic that the Canadian Association of University Teachers did an investigation of the department in 2015.
Science works differently. As Einstein put it, science is the refinement of everyday thinking. To me, science is the systematic use of the human quality of curiosity.
There are many scholars who think scientifically—who use transparent assumptions and a systematic approach to reasoning and drawing conclusions from evidence—about economies. But these scholars are excluded from the economics profession, and it is the economics profession—with its untenable assumptions and disdain for economic realities—that builds the models that set policy during disasters and pandemics.
Trump’s announcement that he wants businesses to open again in a few weeks prompted a discussion of whether to listen to the economists or the doctors. This isn’t a dispute between two sciences—only the doctors are doing science here.
Previous viruses and previous crises can only give us hints. The most meaningful data that we have about this crisis comes from the countries it hit worst early on—China, Korea, Italy, Iran. Any modeling we do has to start from this data, and any good ideas for how we could get through this must pass through the study of these examples.
Trump and the global right that follow him (Bolsonaro, Johnson, etc.) despise epidemiological science just as they despise climate science and for the same reasons: science is about realities that conflict with their ideologies and is disruptive to their propaganda. Science is clear that saving lives will involve some interruption in the march of the super-wealthy to the destruction of society and the environment. What science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson said a decade ago about climate science is true in this moment: “What’s been set up and is playing out now is a huge world historical battle between science and capitalism. Science is insisting more emphatically every day that this is a real and present danger. Capitalism is saying it isn’t, because if it were true it would mean more government control of economies, more social justice (as a climate stabilization technique) and so on.”
If we listen, science can help us through this moment. Following the economic models, on the other hand, will get people killed as certainly as it did a century ago.
Globetrotter via counterpunch.org
Relative to the claims of Trump-Russia collusion, or lone Russian government meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the debunked Russiagate hoax hasn’t stopped new efforts to demonize Russia with faulty innuendo. For those of you still believing the hustled Russiagate narratives, kindly provide direct counter replies to Daniel Lazare’s March 20 Strategic Culture Foundation article “Russiagate: The Great Unraveling“, Larry Johnson’s recent commentary “Why is Crowdstrike Confused on Eleven Key Details About the DNC Hack?” and Gareth Porter’s American Conservative piece “U.S. States: We Weren’t Hacked by Russians in 2016” of this past August 16.
The coronavirus pandemic has given Russia bashing a new twist. As was true beforehand, the latest edition of disparaging Russia is short on conclusive supporting facts.
The title of Thomas Rid’s March 16 New York Times article “Can Russia Use the Coronavirus to Sow Discord Among Americans?,” is a tell all, as is his take on (as he puts it) “Russia’s bumbling military spy agency, GRU. It was GRU that was caught red-handed in 2016 meddling in the presidential election.”
Rid’s article diverts to the issue (which he presents as fact) of the USSR and post-Soviet Russia looking to sow ethnic discord in the U.S. – something I partly addressed in my Strategic Culture Foundation article “Getting Real with the U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment Realists“, of this past August 21. Besides the example (in that article) of George Kent suggestively seeking to sow ethnic tension in Russia, I’ll add that the Cold War era U.S. government interacted favorably with the anti-Russian Captive Nations Committee, creating Captive Nations Week (an official U.S. holiday), which (as outlined in its program) portrayed Russia and Russians as a negatively exploitative grouping – something that understandably offended anti-Communist Russian Americans and some others having a sense of universal ethics. So there’s no misunderstanding, I don’t dispute that the USSR made propaganda out of ethnic intolerance in the U.S.
Rid doesn’t lay out how Russia can successfully subvert the U.S. relative to the coronavirus pandemic. He comes across as someone who might downplay instances like the U.S. government’s conducting of chemical experiments on the American population. Is that Soviet and/or Russian disinformation?
James Holmes’ March 20 National Interest article “Beware of Pandemic America“, starts off with this tabloid thought: “Note to China and Russia: despite appearances, the time of coronavirus may not be an opportune time for you to chisel away at America’s global standing.” With this take in mind, it’s somewhat ironic to see EU and NATO member Italy, seeking and getting Chinese and Russian assistance to combat the coronavirus.
Does Holmes prefer that Russia and China not assist others in addressing the coronavirus pandemic? China is just now starting to rebound from its bout with the coronavirus. Russia isn’t out of the woods on this challenging health issue. With these factors in place, it doesn’t seem likely that either of these two countries are in an especially improved condition to successfully thwart the U.S.
Holmes’ article references some past historical occurrences which don’t involve Russia or China. His piece ends with a bravado warning about what has happened to some of America’s prior adversaries. Before accepting Holmes’ article, one would think that a realist leaning venue like The National Interest, might ask him to offer examples of where Russia and China might “chisel away at America’s global standing“?
Holmes’ piece is a classic example of not attempting to acknowledge and understand the positions of others being targeted for mischievous behavior, while suggesting that virtue is completely on only one side. When left unchecked, this kind of thinking serves as a recipe for increasing the likelihood of a future conflict. An earnest American red, white and blue patriotism shouldn’t be confused with a rah, rah, red, white and bull skullduggery.
The U.S. remains quite militarily engaged in China’s near abroad, much unlike Beijing’s presence in the Western Hemisphere. With or without the coronavirus, like it or not, China appears destined to achieve greater worldwide influence. For American geo-strategists and some others, managing this likely reality in the peacefully best possible way, seems like the best case scenario.
In the post-Soviet era, Russia has a military position, which (much unlike the Soviet period) primarily concerns itself with its immediate periphery. Moscow’s activity beyond its near abroad is comparatively quite limited, when compared to the U.S. Given its size and geostrategic predicament, Russia’s annual defense expenditure is indicative of a country that’s not so interested in a traditional big power expansion. In military spending, Russia doesn’t rank among the top five nations.
Shifting gears, Isabelle Khurshudyan’s and Simon Denyer’s March 20 Washington Post (WaPo) article “Suspected Russian hackers struck the last Olympics. Tokyo worries it could be next.“, doesn’t conclusively prove that the Russian government has been involved with attempts to undermine the last and next Summer Olympics. The modus operandi of this article is along the lines of the Russiagate narrative. Politically partisan sources are uncritically referenced. Among them is the American sports legal politico, Travis Tygart, whose use of “despicable” is projection on his part. Tygart has repeatedly called for all Russian athletes to be banned from the next Olympics. He’s comparatively lax when it comes to being so heavy handed against others. It’s therefore not inaccurate to view his stance as bigoted.
Its government included, Russia at large embraces the Olympics, thereby making it suspect that there’s an underhandedly concerted effort by that country to ruin the Summer Olympics. Before the announced postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Russian affiliated sports organizations weren’t at the forefront in calling for that stoppage, when compared to a number of non-Russian sports bodies.
The WaPo article at issue makes reference to the attempt to formally ban Russia from the next Summer Olympics. It’s within reason for Russians en masse to oppose that endeavor. Linking that opposition to a Russian attempt to destroy the Olympics altogether is (put mildly) unproven and quite suspect.
Western mass media has generally continued to skew the particulars involved with trying to formally ban Russia from the next Summer Olympics. As an example, a March 12 BBC piece “Tokyo 2020: Maximum of 10 Russian Track and Field Athletes to Compete as Neutrals“, says without any challenge:
“It has also fined the Russian Athletics Federation $10m (£ 7.8m) for breaching anti-doping rules.
Athletes will be banned from Tokyo 2020 if half of that fine isn’t paid by 1 July.
In December, Russia was given a four year ban from all major sports events.”
A number of otherwise pertinent issues aren’t delved into. If the UK were substituted for Russia and with the same circumstances, one suspects that the above linked article would’ve been written much differently.
Why the collective guilt against athletes, if a fine by an organization isn’t paid? How are the athletes by default responsible? Is it because they’re Russian? That’s collective guilt bigotry. In other situations, it’s considered bigoted to collectively caricature a given ethnic and/or national group based on crime statistics, as I’ve previously noted.
Why only have ten Russian track and field athletes compete, if there’re more clean Russians whose performances qualify? In some other instances, quotas against an ethnic and/or national group have led to reasonable claims of discrimination. Shortly after the announced postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Sebastian Coe, the head of track and field’s governing body, said that more than ten Russians might be eligible to participate in that Olympiad’s rescheduled program. He stated this without acknowledging any wrongness on the initially stated quota of ten.
BTW, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), (which has generally exhibited a bias against Russia), that country in 2016 ranks sixth (behind among others) the U.S., France, Australia and Italy in drug related infractions. There doesn’t appear to be any indication that Russia’s sports doping situation has gotten worse since 2016.
The aforementioned BBC piece omits that Russia has appealed the faulty WADA recommendation (to formally ban Russia from the next Summer Olympics in Tokyo) to the CAS (Committee of Arbitration for Sport). This legal body doesn’t have a track record of always agreeing with a prior decision. Hence, it’s not etched in stone that Russia will be officially banned from the next Summer Olympics.
Prior to the worldwide effort to combat the coronavirus endemic, Russia has been formally represented at major sporting events – track and field (AKA athletics) being an exception. If the CAS rules in favor of Russia, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should make sure that competing Russian track and field competitors are officially represented as Russians at the next Summer Olympics.
This pandemic has been made worse and continues to be made worse by toxic nationalism, ironic considering the virus truly doesn’t give a shit about our borders, says Lee Camp, CN’s newest columnist.
Something every American takes for granted has made the coronavirus outbreak much worse. That thing sits ingrained in our minds since we could barely take two steps without a face full of carpet. But before I get to that, let’s set the scene.
I don’t have to tell you that things are bad. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, our economy (based almost completely on everyone buying things they don’t need at prices they can’t afford) has tanked, a record 3.3 million Americans just filed for unemployment, and perhaps scariest of all – World Wrestling Entertainment has continued performing some of their events despite the lack of an audience.
If you thought watching emotionally stunted men with oily saran-wrap skin pulsing with steroids grab each other in bear hugs while whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears was strange with a live audience of thousands screaming for blood, then you can’t imagine the level of bizarre it reaches without anyone there. It seems oddly romantic now. It feels like they’re about to share a deep tongue kiss at any moment. And I’m not sure the world doesn’t need that kind of passion right about now.
Although there’s also something reassuring about the fact that even in these stark times sweaty angry hugging men persist. I like to think that when the cockroaches reign supreme, weeds grow up through the remnants of the roads and playgrounds and shopping malls and hot stone massage parlors, the final humans live in underground bunkers dressed in gas-mask chic (mainly grays and blacks but still sporting a hint of color in the glasses rims or the neck tattoos or the homemade battle axe sheaths), and the economy is based on Gross Domestic Protein Pellets (the only remaining food source) – even THEN, the professional bulky men will continue to perform stunning aerial traumatic brain injuries for the joy and excitement of whoever’s left. (This would presuppose no one informed said men the TV cameras had been cannibalized for parts 10 years prior.)
Point is – things are bad right now. But you probably already know every last detail about Coronavirus, which is why I’m not going to give you those. Instead, I want to focus on a hidden story, a taboo topic your mainstream media anchors would sooner eat their own neck ties than discuss.
This pandemic has been made worse and continues to be made worse by toxic nationalism, ironic considering the virus truly doesn’t give a shit about our borders. It doesn’t care if you put up a fence or you speak a different language or you’re an immigrant from somewhere else or you got circumcised in a ceremony with a shaman and some bagpipes and a bucket of ripe mangoes.
The virus doesn’t care.
Yet again we’re letting our human delusions dictate our response to a physical world completely unaware of and unyielding to such fairy tales. Acting like nationalism matters when facing a killer disease is like trying to combat a phalanx of sword-wielding samurais with nothing but nostalgia.
When the Coronavirus was first talked about in the U.S., our government and media used it as a chance to disseminate anti-China rhetoric, widely known as the fuel for racism. Our nation’s best propaganda outlet, The New York Times (I mean that with all disrespect), put it this way – “To Tame Coronavirus, Mao-Style Social Control Blankets China.”
Oh, social control? They mean like – “Everyone stay six feet away from everyone else. No one go to a restaurant or bar or visit your grandparents or wave hi to an old person on a bus. Don’t travel anywhere. Thou shalt not interact with thy fellow human nor covet thy neighbor’s ass.” You mean like that kind of social control? You mean the restrictions we Americans now abide by?
I’m sorry, fearless Times writers, but racism is not your best bet against a raging disease. Very few “-isms” stop ultramicroscopic metabolically inert infectious agents. I myself have tried using buddhism, sadomasochism, feudalism, autoerotic asphyxiationism, and antidisestablishmentarianism. They’ve all let me down. Although the feudalism did show some promise against a slight case of rickets I had as a child.
Yet, our ruling elite continue to act as if this is an issue of nations. In fact our buffoon of a president continues to call it “The Chinese Virus” because he’s a very simple-minded man. He can only think in “bad” and “good.” He thinks “China bad.” So telling him that a virus doesn’t care about anyone’s nationality fails to compute for him. The two sickly hamsters neglecting to run around the wobbly wheels inside his cranium look at each other for a brief moment and then go back to licking their asses.
A Times 180
Our Salamander-in-Chief cannot comprehend that China has actually succeeded in slowing down this virus and their actions helped buy America valuable extra time before it spread to our shores. Even The New York Times, our Propaganda-in-Chief, finally admitted “China Bought the West Time. The West Squandered It.”
This is one of the Times’ patented come-to-Jesus moments when they suddenly pull a 180, tires squealing, and realize the truth that most people understood weeks if not months if not years before. They’ve performed this same maneuver with WMD in Iraq, the harms of climate change, the lack of harms of marijuana, police brutality, sexual harassment in the workplace, whether women must ride horses “side saddle,” and whether the Matrix is any good.
This latest about-face on China will not last, just as none of their various awakenings actually change the intent of the corporate media. It’s more of a, “Yeah, sorry about all that racist shit we printed a month ago. We’ve completely changed our ways… until a week from now when we’ll go back to pushing for white supremacist wars in which the American military excitedly blows up Arab people.”
I think the point I’m trying to make is that talking about how one country is better or worse or weaker or whatever during this pandemic is like if a herd of angry rhinos were stampeding toward you and you just kept yelling that you have on nicer shoes than the guy next to you.
Rhinos. Don’t. Care.
Right now – this moment – is a horrible and also crucial time. It’s showing us not just the incredibly ridiculous flaws in capitalism, but it’s also demonstrating our shared humanity. We must join together, fight this thing, and shed our toxic nationalism. But our sociopathic leaders won’t dare do that.
Mintpress along with other outlets is reporting that in the middle of the Coronavirus outbreak America has actually cranked up the heat on its hybrid war against Venezuela. Reporter Leonardo Flores wrote, “US sanctions on Venezuela have already forced the country to spend three times as much for testing kits as non-sanctioned countries.” On top of that, the Justice Department just put a $15 million bounty on President Nicolas Maduro’s head.
Iran has also suffered tremendously because of our sanctions on them. They can’t deal with the virus appropriately without the medical supplies – and two weeks ago Google pulled Iran’s official app meant to help their people deal with Coronavirus. Perhaps they did this specifically to harm Iranians; perhaps they were jealous Iran has an app to help fight the virus while all we seem to have is a squirt gun filled with Purell and a strict order against high-fives.
Basically, our government officials and the tech company execs lying sticky and prone in bed with them want to make sure as many people die from Coronavirus as possible – in Iran and Venezuela and North Korea and any other countries we don’t like because those countries refuse to freely cough up their oil or lithium or rare earth metals or independence.
But I can’t stress this enough: The virus doesn’t care where the fuck you’re from.
Outbreak in Iran, where US sanctions continue. (Wikipedia)
Some countries have figured this out, turning to other nations for help. A couple weeks ago Cuban and Chinese doctors showed up in Italy to aid their health officials. As Telesur reported Cuba has the interferon Alpha-2B, which is a powerful treatment for the virus, and China has shown the ability to overcome the infections.
But here’s something you won’t hear on your mainstream outlets and all your corporate assholets. Here’s something that’s forbidden: Maybe – just maybe – this pandemic shows us it’s time to evolve past the idea of NATIONS.
(I’ll give you a moment while your mind reels at the thought crime this author has committed. …Then, if you’re brave enough, please read on.)
We act like nations are a given – as if there’s no other way to organize our species, no other way to behave except to have your flag’s colors tattooed across your nipples and your national anthem burned into your soft mushy brain matter. But in fact, nations have not always been the way we humans have divided ourselves. The idea of nations isn’t even particularly old.
When we think of ideas or manners of behaving that have withstood the test of time so much so they seem to be common sense, we think of actions and beliefs that are thousands of years old. That list includes walking on two legs, carrying your infant around, having sex, defending yourself, building shelter, cooking food, and yanking excess hair off your body (mainly out of the nostrils) in order to score the previously mentioned sex. All of these things have been done by our species for eons.
But dividing ourselves into nations most certainly has not. Nation states didn’t really exist until the late 18th century. John Breuilly of the London School of Economics says, “Far from timeless, the nation-state is a recent phenomenon… Before the late 18th century, there were no real nation-states… neither passports nor borders as we know them existed.”
And even as nations began developing, they weren’t that important to a lot of people. He continues, “Many eastern European immigrants arriving in the US in the 19th century could say what village they came from, but not what country: it didn’t matter to them. …Ancient empires are coloured on modern maps as if they had firm borders, but they didn’t.”
So only a little over 200 years ago human categorization changed and nations became the hot new thing. “In 1800 almost nobody in France thought of themselves as French. By 1900 they all did.”
An idea that took hold 200 years ago has come to rule all of our minds, like a parasite. We can’t imagine being separated, delineated or categorized in other ways even as we acknowledge that internally we’re very fractured. Many African Americans may feel quite different from certain white Americans, yet we won’t hear media reports stating that globally black people are dealing with Coronavirus like this and white people like that.
In some cases separating us differently than by nation would make a lot of sense. Rich people are far more likely to survive Coronavirus than poor people. Wealthy people the world over are more likely to have access to testing, treatment, good doctors, ventilators, etc. Poor people all over the planet are more likely to try to “tough it out” at home because they don’t have a doctor or can’t afford one.
Freeing Our Minds
What if we decided there were no nations but instead the working people of the world were one group and the corporate owners of the world were another group. If humans were divvied up that way instead, the working people of China would be able to help the working people of Italy or America and vice versa without nationalistic propaganda. (Of course this raises other problems such as that the corporate owners would certainly hoard all the ventilators since they are generally sociopaths.)
But we are subliminally told by our mainstream media never to side with the people of another nation. First and foremost care about America. Yet in reality, if we free our minds beyond the mental prison of toxic nationalism, do any of us have anything against a shoe salesman in China or a garbage man in Cuba? I seriously doubt it. You’re not at war with that shoe salesman. You don’t have any reason to hate him or even wish him ill will. So truthfully the extremely rich of the world are at war with each other while 99% of the various populations are along for the ride – some knowingly and some blissfully unaware.
As we continue to do everything we must to stop this virus, keep in mind – our world is evolving. And that can be a good thing. The authors of the book “The Universe Next Door” from NewScientist state, “Most hierarchical systems tend to become top-heavy, expensive and incapable of responding to change.” Our current America fits all of these characteristics and then some. The American empire is exceedingly top heavy, expensive, and incapable of responding to change. In fact, the Democratic establishment have spent billions in these primaries to make absolutely sure they do not allow the change Bernie Sanders represents to infiltrate the system. Much like a massive battleship or Chris Christie, the American empire takes an overwhelmingly long time to change course even slightly. The current inertia is just too great.
When you end up with a top-heavy, expensive hierarchy that can’t adapt, it creates a lot of tension. Back to NewScientist – “The resulting tension may be released through partial collapse. …Collapse, say some, is the creative destruction that allows new structures to emerge.”
Well, I have news for you. We are definitely in the middle of a partial collapse. For Christ’s sake – Kentucky Fried Chicken is closed! KFC would stay open during a nuclear meltdown while charging extra for the green tinted mashed potatoes.
During this partial collapse, new structures could emerge if we break out of our antiquated thought prisons. Right now is not about nations or fences or political parties. It’s about you, and me, and our neighbors, and our friends, and our shared humanity.
As the lockdowns across Europe began to bite, the U.S. Establishment began its ‘wobble’. The more elegant amongst élite circles pointed to a dangerous mis-match in timelines: The medical advice has been: ‘lockdown until the virus begins to subside’, but that advice encompassed too, the possibility of Covid-19 returning later in the year in a Phase Two, thus requiring further personal distancing. Hands shot high in absolute horror amongst some business and Wall Street leaders: Could the U.S. economy sustain such a prospect? Might not a long shutdown inflict permanent damage? Would there even be an economy left – to resurrect – in the wake of ‘peak Coronavirus’?
The mis-match thesis then acquired a third strand: To immediate economic fears standing in contradistinction to longer term medical perspectives was added the third question: Are Americans culturally ‘built’ for lockdown (that is to say, will an individualistic, libertarian-minded – and armed society – acquiesce to being ordered to stay home over a long period)?
Not surprisingly, President Trump – with an advancing Election, and his colours pinned to the mast of sound economic management – hit on the formula that the ‘cure cannot be worse than the disease’: Let’s have the economy open by Easter (12 April – i.e. 15 days hence), he declared.
The issue of the virus is not manufactured, (though there are still many in the U.S., who regard it as an overblown scare), nor is the dilemma of the divergent timelines. Actually – a great deal hangs on how these timelines play out – our global economic and political prospects, no less.
Just about everyone and his dog now claims to have modelled Covid-19. But in truth, we still know very little on which to accurately predict the virus’ course. The ‘data’ is made unreliable: firstly, because not only does the virus have different mutations, but secondly, owing to it acting in two quite different modes: One is mild, or even asymptomatic (the 80%); and the second mode is serious (requiring hospitalisation) – and for a minority of the 20% – deadly.
But consequently, we simply do not know how much of the population is infected, or is still to be infected – precisely owing to its very mildness or, its asymptomatic characteristics amongst the 80 percent-ers. There hasn’t been enough testing – and anyway, given its mild or non-noticeable iteration, many people may have it, but don’t test.
So the data modelling is more ‘art’, than predictive, and therefore introduces economic uncertainty. The damage to the economy is obvious from the first, but the question least considered is the importance of the third strand: Is Trump right when he says that America ‘is not built for lockdown’?
He may be right, in one sense; but if he opts to prioritise a quick opening of the economy over the welfare of the American people, he may face incalculable consequences – should Covid-19 bite him in the backside: Either by mutating (as did the Spanish ‘flu in August 1918); or simply, by beginning a second phase through a resurgence of community infection later in the year.
Plainly, Trump is of the ‘fears are exaggerated’ school of thought, and seems poised to bet his Presidency on it. In this era, viral social media images of hospitals overwhelmed, and of patients fighting to breathe their last, unaided, and lying on the floor, jam-packed in corridors, or in converted gyms – can become politically toxic. The counter- response that the financial system is struggling for oxygen, under lockdown, too, may strike many people as a ‘little lacking’ in common humanity – perhaps?
The dilemma is cruel. And maybe the social timeline ‘strand’ has more substance, than is generally granted? Americans are libertarian in many ways (not least, in their determination to carry arms). This is reflected also, in their deliberate eschewing of a public health programme, and in the purposefully limited support provided to the hourly paid – who are laid off. It is the ethos of individualism, a work ethic and the consequence of a ‘libertarian’ constitution.
The St Louis Chair of the Fed has predicted 30% unemployment and 50% of the economy at standstill by the end of June. Is it sustainable to have these furloughed workers dying in the street, because they cannot afford America’s ‘boutique’ health-service for the wealthy? (we’ve seen videos of people unexpectedly falling down in the street, dying, as passers-by skirt the afflicted victim – from both China and Iran). Such videos would be inflammatory in the U.S.
What happens if ‘lockdown’ were extended, and the unemployed were to attack supermarkets for food they cannot afford; or because the supermarket shelves are empty (this has happened in Europe)? What would videos of the U.S. National Guard look like as they arrive, armed for war, to put down the ‘looters’? What happens if the rioters angry at their plight – and without money – use their right to bear weapons to fight against the National Guardsmen? Can the U.S. national fabric handle such strains? Might it not disintegrate?
Here, the U.S. differs from Europe. America has not, since the Civil War, had to experience the harsh circumstances in hospitals approximating to wartime, on its own soil.
So, is Trump right, then, to prioritise keeping the U.S. economy open? Well, firstly, the notion that bits of the economy can be opened where infection-rates are low, whilst other parts are locked down, seems odd: Covid-19 – we do know – is highly infectious. Those who show no symptoms – whether they are under 50 years, or under 40 years-old – would not preclude them from being silent ‘super-carriers’ of the disease. We have not heard there is a test for anti-bodies, which might signal that an individual enjoys immunity. But unless an area has no infections, putting even one carrier into a workplace, would be sufficient to trigger a localised community infection.
Perhaps then, Trump might be right that anything other than a short (and possibly ineffective) lockdown is not manageable in the U.S.: That it might tear apart an already polarised, armed and inegalitarian, social fabric. There is then, a substantial point here: How far, and for how long, can an U.S. or European society accept a ‘command’ or martial-law administration – before citizens rebel, and head to the beaches for summer? What then?
Is it possible that can Trump may emerge from these events as the ‘saviour of the U.S. economy’? Here, we touch on the key question of the adaptability of élites. Are the U.S. élite capable of true transformation of consciousness as circumstances alter? On the answer to this question will hang the geo-political future. It was the inability of the Soviet elites to give up on their corrupt and privileged status quo that led to the implosion of the USSR in 1987.
We are often told that Americans are great innovators and graspers of opportunity. But today, the U.S. élites are utterly intent on preserving a status quo – as the viability and even the reality of that status quo is being questioned by important insiders. For the élite majority, though, the mind-set is intransigent and adamant. The status quo suits them well. They do not wish to see to see it reformed or changed. They refuse to think differently.
Eventually, the coronavirus will subside; but what will America look like when it does? For the moment, the élites believe that America will look just as it did, in February, before the impact of the pandemic hit U.S. markets. So, we have had the Fed, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan all doing the same thing, over and over again, hoping that the economy will snap-back to ‘normal’. But it isn’t working.
The Fed fears a collapse in credit (with due reason), but ‘normality’ is not returning from the rush of liquidity hosed across credit markets. In the 2008 crisis, the Fed responded with all sorts of easing. This time the Fed is throwing the ‘kitchen sink’ at markets, offering ‘facilities’ for almost every asset class. At the present rate of growth, the Fed balance sheet will be $6 Trillion in days – and reach a total equivalent to almost 50% of the U.S. GDP by June. Another, unimaginable chunk of debt.
The problem is that the Fed’s measures will fail as stimulus – because it is not a problem of demand shortfall, but of supply-shock – as the globe implements ‘shut-down’ in order to slow infection. But, with recession or depression looming, asset prices are collapsing. Bloomberg has noted that core tenets such as what constitutes a safe asset, or the expectation of returns over the next decade, are all being thrown out of the window – as Central Banks strive to avert a global recession: The latter have unleashed a money tsunami, unlike anything seen before, and the fear of inflation is rising, together with a sense that all the old metrics of what constitutes safe investments are gone for good.
Meanwhile the U.S. Congress has passed a $2 trillion bill to counter the effects of Covid-19. It was well received for a while in the U.S. markets, before they fell again. The bill may help keep a part of the big business status quo alive, for now, but the bottom line is that these spending bills – as Jim Rickards notes – “provide spending but they do not provide stimulus”. And all that spending – like that of the Fed – essentially will be helicopter money: i.e. monetised debt.
The essential dilemma is that the Central Bankers’ Holy Grail – stimulus – depends on consumers, who constitute 70% of the U.S. economy; and on whether they decide consume – and to what extent. And that will depend upon their psychology in the post-Covid-19 era, and not on what the Fed does, or does not, do now.
If consumers get used – during lockdown – to doing without; to economising; they may well decide that increased savings and debt reduction, are the best ways to prepare for straitened times. 83% of U.S. businesses are small or medium sized companies. Some may survive and resume work, but others will not re-open after the lockdown. It will be a different atmosphere: a different economic era.
Of course, the élites want to go ‘back to normal’ as quickly as possible, but the ‘bottom line’ emerging from the Fed’s failure to staunch market paralysis is that that which the élites had thought to be ‘normal’ is proving not to have been normal at all. It is now apparent as having been a financialised bubble – and Covid-19 happens to have been the pin that popped it. This bubble was just the biggest, in a long line of Fed-blown bubbles (NASDAQ, sub-prime mortgages, etc.) – and now, the final ‘everything-bubble’ has burst. There’s nothing now left for the Fed to ‘bubble up’. It’s probably over.
Here’s the larger – global – point. Again, it revolves around psychology: Have these events been the ‘pin’ which also pops some sort of mass psychological bubble (a sealed Cartesian, mental retort)? Will public faith in the status quo crash, along with the financialised ‘everything-bubble’? Will a momentary flash of enlightenment to the house-of-cards reality that Americans had been living, cause them to start seeing their world afresh, and in its raw, hard reality? If so, the world order stands on the cusp of change.
For some time now, a general popular disquiet has been incubating. The question is whether, in the cold post-Covid-19 reality, Americans will begin to cease their acquiescence to – and their co-operation with – the status quo.
This might mean trouble as America and some European states try to manage the pandemic through invoking the necessity of a war-time command-governance. Will people accept such a command system, if they see its principal purpose being the return to a failed status quo ante?
Signs, especially in the United States, are that the post-coronavirus-plagued world will have even more inequality of wealth, within each nation, than existed prior to the plague. Billionaires are demanding to be included in the bailouts by their governments; and, because billionaires financed the careers of the successful politicians who won seats in their country’s legislature, those demands are almost certain to be complied with. Only the least-corrupt nations will be able to recover fully from the current plague.
In the United States, one Party, the Republicans, doesn’t even pretend to be concerned about the growth of wealth-inequality after 1980; but the other Party, the Democrats, do make that pretense; and so a deal is being worked out in the U.S. Congress that both Parties will tout as being a ‘balanced’ bailout bill, because it will bail out both the megacorporations that the billionaires own and control, and the public — their workers (especially the ones that those billionaires are now laying off). Because of the enormous give-aways to the billionaires, deficit-spending by the government will be soaring out of control, and ultimately paper money will plunge in value, which will bring on a global depression that will be even worse than 1929. Some governments will find ways to nationalize the wealth of billionaires and perhaps also of centi-millionaires in order to fund the continuing needs of the public, and there will be a scramble by many of those super-rich to relocate to countries where they still will be able to bribe enough government officials so as to provide safe haven for their accumulated wealth. Graduated exit-taxes will be instituted by any of the industrialized countries that aren’t totally corrupt, but the most extremely corrupt industrialized countries will experience massive capital-flight and a future as a “third world” nation, under extended martial law.
On March 22nd, Zero Hedge headlined “‘Stop The Coronavirus Corporate Coup’: Here Is A List Of Everyone Demanding A Bail Out” and Matt Stoller listed the many different categories of mega-corporate lobbyists who were urging the Senators and Representatives, whose campaigns they fund, to bail out their respective industries. The few other news-sites that republished or linked to that list were other alternative-news sites, not any of the mainstream ones. This was a major news-report, which deserved to become a top topic of public conversation, but that didn’t happen; and here is an example of what it said (and which the rest of the press were hiding):
Mitch McConnell wants big business to rule, so he’s playing a trick. He is refusing aid to workers. Democrats are negotiating with him to try to get unemployment assistance and social welfare. McConnell knows Dems won’t pay attention to corporate bailouts if he takes the public hostage, and Democrats know that they can hand out favors to big business if they just talk about how they got larger checks for workers.
So McConnell will put a bill down in front of Nancy Pelosi, with some good stuff like unemployment insurance, but also the really ugly stuff to hand over America to big business. The corporatists in the Democratic Party will tell her “Pass the corporate coup bill, after all we have to do something right now!” And because she doesn’t have the votes from within her own caucus because of these corporatists, and because she doesn’t particularly care if America is sold off to big business, she will do that.
It’s a song-and-dance routine, performed by the two “good cop, bad cop” political Parties, in order to satisfy not only the audience (the voters) but the producers (the billionaires).
On March 21st, I headlined “Triage Starts in Government Bailouts: Who will get the money?” at Strategic Culture, and submitted that news-report to all U.S. major news-media and most of the minor ones. 24 hours later, it was picked-up by only a few minor, very courageous, ones: The 21st Century, The Duran, Free World Economic Report, The Russophile, and Verity Weekly. The corruption is so pervasive that all of the news-media that 99.99% of the public rely upon for their ‘news’ were filtering out the news of the impending massive public subsidies to America’s billionaires by America’s ‘public representatives’ — shoveling the public’s money to the billionaires as bailouts.
Stoller was obviously correct that the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell, “is refusing aid to workers” and (though Stoller — being himself a Democrat — didn’t use nearly such direct language to say) the Democratic Party’s leader in the House was trying to wrangle enough of the desperately needed funds for the American public (all sorts of workers, and, here, especially the most important ones, such as nurses, police, etc.) so that congressional Democrats will be able to give the billionaires what they demand, while still getting enough aid out to everybody else in order for congressional Democrats to be able to hold their congressional seats after November 3rd. (In America, keeping the poor away from the voting-booths, and undercounting the votes that they do cast, are usually insufficient in themselves so as to prevent a Republican landslide, and so as to supply the bumper-sticker benefits to non-billionaires that will be needed if Congress isn’t to become 100% Republican.)
In a profoundly corrupt country, over 99% of the press will filter-out such basic details of the true extent of the corruption, because, otherwise, the revolution that results will be against the aristocracy, instead of against the public itself (and producing martial law), and a revolution like that could produce actual democracy, which the few people who fund politicians’ careers fear the most. They much prefer, if a revolution is coming, that it be clearly against the public (and result in martial law, which will protect only themselves), not against themselves. In fact, such a country has a government almost solely in order to protect the aristocrats from the public, and almost not at all in order to protect the public from the aristocracy.
Interestingly, the very next day, on March 22nd, my headlined news-report was “Coronavirus Cases Soaring Much Faster in U.S. Than in Other Countries” and even that report had no takers in America’s major ‘news’ media, despite its being merely a presentation of the statistical data, which discredited the U.S. Government in comparison with almost all of the other governments in the world. (Only Turkey and Luxembourg had even worse figures at that time, but they were just beginning to count their coronavirus cases.)
On March 25th, I headlined “Coronavirus: Why Russians Are Lucky to Be Led by Putin”, and wrote that “within just three more days, America will have the world’s largest total number of cases, if Italy won’t. And after yet another day, the U.S. will almost certainly have the world’s largest total number of cases.” Both statements came to pass. On March 26th, America’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation published their projection of the rise and subsiding of the coronavirus-19 in the U.S., and predicted that this country would end up with 460,000 cases and 81,114 deaths from the disease, and that America’s epidemic would virtually end by July 1st. I headlined about that, on March 28th, “Projection: U.S. Coronavirus Deaths to = China’s Total Coronavirus Cases”.
Though all of these news-reports are major, and deal with the news-event that is currently obsessing all of the world’s news-media — which is the coronavirus plague — the news-media that are owned or otherwise controlled by America’s billionaires rejected them all and are doing everything else that they possibly can to delay, if not to block entirely, the crucial information from reaching America’s voters, and this is happening during an election year. The Jeff-Bezos-owned liberal neoconservative Washington Post reliably reported on March 28th that “in private discussions, the president has been driven much more by economic concerns, according to people involved in internal debates or briefed on them. Trump has long viewed the stock market as a barometer for his own reelection hopes.” Safety of the American people is a secondary concern for him. That was being reported by a Democratic Party billionaire against Republican Party billionaires, but what it actually indicates is America’s being controlled by its billionares, of both Parties. The public, here, actually don’t count.
Under conditions such as this, one can easily understand — with this type of information, which is being hidden from the public — only politicians who satisfy the wants of the nation’s billionaires stand even so much as a chance to win seats in Congress or other high elective office. The public are so misinformed that they are like horses with blinders on and which are being driven by a master to whom they are expendable and replaceable, not objects of authentic and caring concern for their welfare. Everything has a price to such a master, who will grab at any chance to replace any of the public by a cheaper alternative, so long as “the job gets done” — to satisfy their own unlimited greed. The deception of the public is so extreme that America’s Establishment are so brazen as to blame China and Russia for the “disinformation” about the cornoavirus-19 pandemic. The U.S. regime is utterly shameless.
These bailouts of billionaires will destroy what little was left of a democratic future for America — and for any other nation that happens to be nearly as corrupt.
Is this to be the long-term impact of coronavirus-19? Is there an alternative likely scenario? Perhaps the coronavirus plague won’t spread as uncontrollably as is feared, but even if that is the case, what justification exists for bailing out any of the super-rich, in response to an emergency that is causing widespread suffering? And yet, America is doing that.
Eric S. MARGOLIS
The world is getting sick from the spreading COVID-19 virus. North Americans and Europeans are now as horrified as Chinese by the invisible killer that has put their hospitals under siege.
They are also getting a grim foretaste of what biological warfare would be like. Those not cowering in terror in their homes would likely be amazed to learn that some of their governments are still churning out highly toxic chemical and biological agents in hidden factories.
But surely our lily white democracies don’t stoop to making poison gas and germs?
Back in 1990-91, I was based in Baghdad covering the first of the Gulf Wars. The US was threatening to attack Iraq for daring to invade oil-rich Kuwait, which used to be part of Iraq until ‘detached’ by the British Empire. At the same time, the eight-year Iran-Iraq War had just ended in a bloody stalemate. The US and Britain had pressed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to invade Iran, seize its oil wealthy and overthrow the Islamic government in Tehran.
Facing a US-British invasion, Saddam Hussein ordered all foreigners in Iraq rounded up and confined to tourist hotels. Among the foreigners, I discovered four British scientific technicians who had been sent, or ‘seconded,’ to a newly built biowarfare chemical complex south of Baghdad at Salman Pak. They were then trucked to Baghdad as hostages against a US attack.
I managed to slip into the compound that held them and talked for hours over mugs of tea. The British tech team told me they had been secretly sent to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq by Britain’s Ministry of Defense and Britain’s MI6 Secret Intelligence Service to help Iraq’s military develop and deploy biological weapons for use against numerically superior Iranian forces on the Central Front, Al-Faw Peninsula, and again Kurdish rebels in the north.
The bio weapons included Anthrax, botulism, Q fever and tularemia that attacks the eyes, throat, skin and lymph nodes. Salman Pak also produced quantities of nerve and mustard gasses used against Iranian infantry formations.
Most raw materials for the germ and gas came from Europe. Feeder stocks for the germ/poison gas weapons came from the main UC chemical warfare plans at Ft. Detrick, Maryland.
A popular joke among western journalists in Baghdad went, ‘of course Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. We have the delivery receipts.’
The times Iraq deployed its chemical/bio weapons against Iran, the results were nightmarish: blinded soldiers choking to death, unable to unable to breathe; soldiers with their skin peeling off; dead mothers holding babies in their arms. Many of these attacks were targeted by US satellites positioned over Iraq. US Air Force officers worked closely with their military counterparts Iraq.
To this day, there remain tens of thousands of maimed, blinded, crippled Iraqi soldiers. It was Iraq’s version of World War I, cheerfully financed by the US, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Iraq’s once thriving economy is mostly in ruins. US and British bombing even destroyed most of Iraq’s sewage systems, water reserves, hospitals and bridges. Contaminated water alone killed 500,000 Iraqi children, according to the UN, a price ‘worth paying’ said US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
The moral of this terrible story, and the current worldwide epidemic, is to immediately ban all chemical and biological weapons everywhere. Destroy all chem/bio warfare plants everywhere, including the US, Russa, China, India and Israel.
The COVID-19 virus is merely a taste of what a real biological war would be like. Many around the world who bear us ill cannot help but take notice how the world’s richest, mightiest nation can be brought to its knees by some invisible bugs.
When President Trump fulminates against China over COVID-19, he should be advised that the anthrax and other germ weapons used against Iraq in 1990 originated at Fort Detrick, just 50 miles NW of the White House, a mere one hour drive if traffic is not too heavy.
Some global elites have been intrigued by the idea of a new plague.
History in truth never repeats, but it very often reverses itself. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bet heavily on repeating history when he tried to bankrupt Russia by opening the gates of unlimited oil production and exports: He will only ruin his own Kingdom of Saudi Arabia instead.
In the 1980s King Fahd of Saudi Arabia worked closely with the United States to drive down global oil prices and bankrupt the Soviet Union. At the same time Washington quietly encouraged Riyadh to pour unlimited funds and other support to the Mujahedin forces fighting the Red Army in Afghanistan. CIA-supplied Stinger missiles flowed to them as well.
Today, the opposite is happening, the Saudi high risk kamikaze strategy is targeting both Russia and U.S. oil production. The U.S. fracking industry appears to be its primary target. But in his usual wild and reckless way, Bin Salman does not appear to care about the risk he is presenting to Russia’s fundamental interests as well.
In fact, Russia is far better laced than either the United States or Riyadh to ride out a global financial crisis that is already careening out of control.
Bin Salman launched his oil price war before the coronavirus epidemic wave truly rose outside China. Now it is growing into tsunami proportions, especially in the United States. The global economy is going into a shut down and it is quite feasible that we shall not see the beginnings of any real recovery until July. By then the global oil industry will have melted down.
Russia at heart is financially sound, thanks to the cautious rebuilding policies of the Moscow government since the 2008-9 global financial crisis, But the same cannot be said of either Riyadh or Washington.
Bin Salman since seizing power after the death of his uncle, cautious, wise old King Abdullah has spent money like a drunken sailor. His merciless air war on the civilians of Yemen has cost tens of thousands of deaths and cost many fortunes. Bin Salman’s policies have pleased the giant U.S. arms contractors but no one else.
Washington too has continued its profligate way. President Barack Obama inherited the greatest financial deficit in history from dim George W. Bush. The revered Obama promptly doubled it. Under President Donald Trump for all his efforts to revive domestic U.S. industry, the federal deficit and government spending have soared again.
Right now, both Trump and Congress have joined hands in a bipartisan desperate effort to keep their economy afloat even while they forced by the coronavirus crisis to shut it down for an indefinite period.
Lord Correlli Barnett, the great historian of British imperial and industrial decline and fall, liked to talk about the Audit of Peace and the Audit of War. He was referring to the challenges that different conditions presented to a society and economy that had pursued false values with deluded policies for far too long.
Today, the liberal internationalist order that has impoverished the nations of the world for so long in the name of a fantastic and phantasm mythical “prosperity” faces the Audit of Pandemic. An order based on mindlessly open borders is forced grudgingly and far too slowly to close them simply to preserve the endangered lives of their own people. At the same time, the pandemic has triggered yet another financial and economic crisis:
Faced with this Audit of Pandemic, the U.S. economic system now confronts the famous, fearful Writing on the Wall in the mythical Biblical Book of Daniel, “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.” For Mohamed bin Salman’s oil price war spells doom for Wall Street – and for him too.
Financed on junk and Triple-B rated bonds, a collapse of the fracking industry will pull the entire U.S. economy into ruin and destroy President Trump’s reelection strategy.
The Saudis want to control the world oil market. They want to reclaim the swing position they enjoyed for more than 40 years after 1967. To achieve this, they want to knock out the marginal top U.S. oil producers: They want to bankrupt the U.S. fracking and shale oil industry producers.
The key breakeven sustainability oil price for domestic U.S. shale producers is usually put at $68 a barrel. The Saudis in their price cutting wars with Russia and the United States have now driven the Brent crude spot price down to around $45 a barrel. WTI crude is now running at around $31 a barrel. Oil prices have already plunged to their lowest level since 2003 and look certain to plunge further yet. Below $68 a barrel, the United States can no longer be a major oil exporter.
The rapid expansion of the domestic U.S. fracking industry was financed by junk bonds and triple B rated bonds on Wall Street, U.S. financial analyst and former London merchant banker Martin Hutchinson points out. When Michael Milken created junk bonds, he created a $100 billion market in them. But after 11 years of effectively zero percent prime interest rates, that junk market has now swelled to a colossal $1.2 trillion. These people all borrowed too much in the junk bond and triple-B-rated bond markets,
The triple B-rated bond market is even vaster and almost as unsound. It is now worth $3 trillion. And it is very wobbly, Hutchinson estimates. Therefore a collapse in oil prices threatens both those colossal bond speculative bubbles with collapse and ruin.
Once one junk or even triple B-rated bond issue goes, the rest will topple rapidly after them, like lemmings stampeding or falling off the edge of a cliff, Hutchinson warns. Once that happens, it will prove very difficult to recapitalize the fracking industry within the United States – especially as the big banks are now all run by fashionable environmentalists who are hostile to fracking and would not know how to finance and set up a serious fracking or other oil retrieval business even if they wanted to, the analyst concludes.
Bin Salman’s price war is failing against Russia but it is succeeding beyond even his expectation against the United States. However, now the Audit of Pandemic has been imposed on Riyadh as well as Washington and Wall Street. These are days to tremble.