Archive | May 3rd, 2020

Brazil: Bolsonaro Refuses to Comment on COVID-19 Death Toll

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro speaks to fans in Brasilia, Brazil, April 19, 2020.

To date, Brazil reports a total of 2,575 deaths and 40,581 infections.

“I am not a gravedigger,” Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro told the press on Monday when asked about the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 in the South American country.

RELATED: Brazil’s Bolsonaro Wants Borders Reopened, Says Worth Risk

The controversial response was given at the entrance of the Alvorada Palace, the official residence of the Presidency, according to local media.

The press question came after the Brazilian Health Ministry corrected an error in the death figures released on Monday.

It had reported 383 deaths in the last day, which were later reduced to 113. According to the Ministry, the change was due to a “fingering error.  

Radio Uno 650 AM@UNO650AM

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BRASIL | El presidente Jair Bolsonaro, se negó a comentar el número de muertes por el nuevo #Coronavirus “Yo no soy sepulturero”, contestó a un periodista que le preguntó por el balance de víctimas y contagiados. #650AM

AFP

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72:40 PM – Apr 21, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacySee Radio Uno 650 AM’s other Tweets“Brazil: President Jair Bolsonaro, refused to comment on the number of deaths from the new Coronavirus: ‘I am not an undertaker,’ he answered a journalist who asked him about the balance of victims and infected.”

The truth is that the number of deaths in the country continue to rise, while tensions between the administration of ultra-right-wing Jair Bolsonaro and the governors grow.

Despite the death toll, Bolsonaro is once again questioning the social isolation measures unilaterally applied by the governors. 

“There is no point in the population wanting to flee from COVID-19, if 70% of them will contract the disease anyway,” the president said.

Bolsonaro continues to blame the press for maximizing the effects of the pandemic to increase fear and bewilderment. 

To date, Brazil reports a total of 2,575 deaths and 40,581 infections.

Posted in BrazilComments Off on Brazil: Bolsonaro Refuses to Comment on COVID-19 Death Toll

U.S. Citizens Demand Trump to Halt Sanctions Against Venezuela

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

People express their solidarity with Venezuela in Northampton, Massachusetts April 20, 2020.

The Latin America Solidarity Coalition and the Resistance Center for Peace & Justice summoned a rally in Northampton, Massachusetts.

U.S. human rights defenders and citizens Monday organized a car rally in Northampton, Massachusetts to demand that President Donald Trump stop his attacks and sanctions against Venezuela, Cuba, and other peoples of the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Caribbean Organizations Unite Against US Attacks, Support Caricom

“End the U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, and North Korea; and allow Cuban medical staff and medicine to enter our country to help fight the coronavirus pandemic and save lives,” the Resistance Center for Peace and Justice members demanded.

“End the blockade of Gaza; bailout people, not corporations; and fund Medicare for all, not endless wars and the military-industrial complex,” they added.

The rally was organized by the Latin America Solidarity Coalition and the Resistance Center for Peace & Justice. It was co-sponsored by Code Pink and Arise for Social Justice.​​​​​​​

CODEPINK@codepink

Elliott Abrams, a major architect of the #Iraq War, the #Iran Contra Scandal & the crisis in #Venezuela, left his own event at @SAISHopkins after CODEPINK disrupted his talk with questions regarding his involvement in Venezuela’s US- manufactured humanitarian crisis.1,4104:58 PM – Mar 10, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy1,507 people are talking about this

The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice is an independent organization that tracks the activity of military recruiters and weapons manufacturers across Western Massachusetts.

It also organizes migrant justice efforts in both community and courtroom, conducts non-violent action training, and run an immersive and action-based youth internship program.​​​​​​​

On April 16, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza confirmed that the arbitrary sanctions imposed by the United States against his country are still in force.

“The Trump Administration continues to lie… Our country’s resources are blocked. Banks and providers do not work with Venezuela for fear of sanctions,” Arreaza tweeted.

In this way, he rejected a U.S. State Department publication according to which Trump would have ordered to suspend certain sanctions against the Venezuelan people.

Posted in USA, VenezuelaComments Off on U.S. Citizens Demand Trump to Halt Sanctions Against Venezuela

Corbyn, the Hindu far-right and Israel’s partisans

The Ideological Link Between BJP India and Zionist Israel – THE ...
This article was written just before the UK elections. While it did not predict a Tory landslide, it did indicate, correctly, that the BJP’s campaign for Johnson was not likely to have much impact in Harrow, Brent North , Southall and in Leicester East  which are key areas with Gujarati populations. In each case, MPs from the same party as before were returned.

However the Leicester East election where ex-Labour MP Keith Vaz’s seat was being contested was a remarkable struggle. (Vaz had been forced to resign to avoid suspension, not for his notorious corruption, but for having purchased cocaine from sex workers). Corbyn ally, Claudia Webbe, a black woman whose family live in the area,  won despite a  vicious and well-funded campaign of lies and anti-Black racism against her by Bhupen Dave the Tory candidate who had the full support of Hindutva forces. Her victory was a ray of sunshine in the depressing days following the election.

ISRAEL is rarely mentioned openly in the context of interventions into the British elections. It is the elephant in the room which has now been joined by one of its followers – Modi’s ‘New India’. Significantly, the links between the two in the UK have been forged after Corbyn became the leader of the Labour Party by Hindu Far-Right groups in the UK, Israel’s supporters in this country and the Tory party.

On the face of it, the events which have unfolded over the last six weeks or so appear spontaneous: First  Whats App messages started circulating urging UK’s Hindus to vote Tory because the Labour Party Conference’s Emergency Motion had criticised Modi’s policies in Kashmir, and hence  Labour is anti-Indian. Then in the Gujarati Hindu heartlands of Leicester, Harrow and Brent there were leaflets through people’s doors pressing this message home. Then finally, with just over two weeks left till election day, a spokesperson for the Hindu Council made a statement in support of Rabbi Mirvis’ claim that Labour Party is anti-Semitic adding that it is ‘anti-Hindu’ too.

None of this, however, is spontaneous. The ground was fertile, because over decades the Hindu Far-Right in this country had systematically spread the Islamophobic, upper caste, misogynistic and militaristic political ideology known as Hindutva .

These organisations include the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh ( HSS), the overseas wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an organisation modelled on Mussolini’s Blackshirts  (which in India is the driving force behind the lynchings and rapes of Muslims, Christians and Dalits); charities like Sewa International,  which together with the HSS was found to have channelled millions of pounds raised from the British public to RSS front organisations in India; the Hindu Forum of Britain; the National Council for Hindu Temples (NCHT), and linked to these organisations, a large number of  cultural groups from Hindu faith schools  to meditation centres to Yoga clubs.

In the community the Hindu Far-Right forces claim to be ‘traditional’, but in  the world of finance and business they are represented by suave, westernised men, like Manoj Ladwa, Narendra Modi’s chief strategist,  himself a HSS member, and Alpesh Shah, hedge fund manager and columnist for the pro-Modi Asian Voice newspaper. Shah recently wrote,  an open letter to Narendra Modi urging him to follow Israel’s example:  “the first determinant of your relations with any foreign government should be their treatment of their Hindu population within their borders. It has to be the business of this [India’s] government how Hindus are treated worldwide…This doctrine is not novel in International Relations. The people of Israel provide protection for Jews wherever they are in the world, of whichever nationality. We shall extend no less protection to Hindus”.  

***

While in Britain the Islamophobia of the Hindutva forces has been normalised and invisiblised by the anti-Muslim racism of the state, their caste-based discrimination and abuse has been constantly confronted within the community.  Dalit organisations have, since 2000, campaigned for a law against caste-based discrimination, with the support of Jeremy Corbyn, then a backbench MP. In 2010, such a law was effectively passed by the outgoing Labour government and eventually the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 imposed a ‘duty’ on the government to make caste an aspect of race in the Equality Act of 2010. This ‘duty’ has not yet been met and the Tories have all but scuppered the law in response to the Hindu Far-Right’s claim that it would stigmatise the Hindu community. However, the struggle to end caste- based discrimination continues and so does the Hindu Far-Right’s angry opposition to it. In a recent BBC film by YouTuber Parle Patel, blatant caste-based exclusion was exposed, but Satish Sharma, the Chair of NCHT,  claimed on camera that it does not happen and said that even the word caste should not be mentioned  ‘it is as toxic for us’ as the n-word.

Despite the tensions over caste, until 2015, the Hindutva groups had continued to hedge their bets and tried to cosy up to both Blairite Labour as well as the Tories, with  Manoj Ladwa organising receptions for the Labour Friends of India, and gushing about the ‘deep relationship’ between the Labour Party and India…  A veritable ‘Labour of Love we should all feel proud of. This love faded away, however, after Jeremy Corbyn was elected  leader and the Hindu Far-Right began to strengthen their links to Israel’s partisans in Britain.

Remarkably, it was in the context of caste, in 2018, that these links first surfaced. At a meeting in the House of Commons about the Caste law, attended among others by Satish Sharma and Conservative Party donor Lord Jitesh Gadhia.  Bob Blackman (the rabidly pro-Hindutva Tory MP from Harrow East) welcomed Gideon Falter the CEO of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA). Falter responded by assuring the meeting that he and his supporters would do all they could to help eradicate the ‘duty’ on the government to make Caste an aspect of race in the Equality Act of 2010. Lord Jitesh Gadhia and Bob Blackman then called for the need to learn from the way the CAA had got the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism passed in the Labour Party. The IHRA definition  is worded in such a way that people who want to criticise the behaviour of Israel against the Palestinians would be classed as anti-Semitic. Clearly Blackman and Gadhia were seeking something similar to prevent criticism of the BJP government in Britain.

***

However, the Hindu Far-Right’s support for the Tories must also be seen against the reality of India under the BJP with its on-going Tsunami of hate and violence against  Muslims, Christians and Dalits and attacks and assassinations of human rights activists, journalists, lawyers and dissenter who are so-often dubbed ‘Urban Naxals’. Through all this the Hindutva forces have continued to glorify Modi in the communities of Indian origin in Britain and justify everything he did

The violence against minorities and critics of the regime in India has gone hand in hand with a politics of extreme neoliberalism which is selling India to corporate robber barons, particularly Modi’s cronies and nurturing a hatred for the Left expressed by Modi’s acolytes, on social media and in public spaces in the virulent language of fascism. This too has been echoed in Britain with Modi’s supporters viciously abusing critics of the Modi regime in Britain.

As for Israel, Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the country. He has engaged in a series of massive arms deals. India is now the world’s largest purchaser of Israeli weapons accounting for some 50% of Israel’s arms sales and providing a huge boost to the Israeli economy. These weapons which are projected as ‘tried and tested’ (on Palestinians) include Heron surveillance aircraft, a variety of missile systems, drones modified (by Elbit) for use in Kashmir’s climate, and much more. In addition, India copies Israeli strategies of occupation and land grab. It may even attempt to  build Israelis style settlements in the Kashmir valley.  These developments too are projected in the Indian communities in the UK as entirely positive and peaceful moves, essential for the defence of India on the one hand, and signs of the friendship between Indians and Israelis. In fact they reflect a growing similarity between the ideologies of Zionism and Hindutva. Perhaps only faintly separated by the BJP leaders’ misogynistic and patriarchal rhetoric in India of finally allowing Indian men to go to Kashmir to marry light-skinned Kashmiris after they revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.

Modi has now strengthened himself within a circle of repressive far-right regimes. His closeness to Trump was demonstrated most recently by Trump’s attendance of the Howdy Modi event in Houston, Texas and  Jair Bolsonaro  is to be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations in January. Boris Johnson, who has declared recently that he would partner Modi in building ‘New India’, would clearly fit comfortably into this club.

The BJP’s  influence on the Conservatives government has also increased in recent years. In 2016, Priti Patel, Modi’s ardent admirer was appointed International Development Secretary by Theresa May. Patel has been close to the RSS for a considerable time; in September 2014, as MP for Witham, she  congratulated the HSS for inviting RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabale to the UK to attend an event titled ‘RSS, a vision in action – a new dawn’.

Although she was forced to resign over a secret visit to Israel with a lobbyist to meet Israeli officials, Patel is back as Home Secretary and has now been joined in government by a new admirer of Modi, Rishi Sunak the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Sunak is  the son-in-law of Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy –  who warmly backed Modi for his second term.

The BJP want the Tories to remain in power, to ensure, if nothing else, that there are no criticisms from the UK on the future actions it is planning. These are likely to include not only further repression in Kashmir but the imposition of second class citizenship and possible ethnic cleansing of Muslims through a National Register of Citizens and Citizenship Amendment laws. The changes of law will be part of the process of tearing up of  India’s secular Constitution to turn the country into a fascistic Hindu state , something RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat has already said is ‘non-negotiable’.

Will the Hindu far-right’s interventions in the election actually succeed? It is not the first time they have supported the Tories. In the run up to the 2017 election too, the NCHT was eulogising Theresa May and condemning the Labour Party as ‘grandees… determined to foist Caste labels upon British Hindus’.  May was welcomed to the Swaminarayan Temple in Neasden by representatives of a range of Hindu Far-Right organisations including the HSS. Manoj Ladwa was quoted saying ‘Labour has lost its way to the point that the relationship between Labour and the British Indian community often feels adversarial’.

Will the Whats App campaign, which has been used to sway the vote in the Indian elections, have an impact in the UK elections too? As Satpal Muman of Caste Watch UK, Britain’s largest Dalit organisations explains ‘We know how the Hindutva groups have campaigned over caste to shore up the power of the so-called upper-castes,  now Kashmir is the latest drum they want to beat because Labour has stood up to them! But it is not really going to make much difference, the well-off upper caste Hindu businessmen always voted Conservative anyway. One in four Hindus are Dalits and the vast majority of them are likely to vote Labour.’

Anjona Roy, the founder of Dostiyo (an Asian women’s organisation which  seeks to relieve social isolation and has three different centres  in Northampton and Wellingborough, serving several hundred women) tells me ‘Many of the women at Dostiyo are Gujarati, they have seen the Hindu-Right’s propaganda. But when they come to the centres and meet others like themselves who have been affected by benefits sanctions – women being sanctioned for 52 weeks for missing an appointment – they understand the stark reality of a Tory government. So I am optimistic about Labour’s chances.’

There are also communities of Indian origin in places like Southall, where the Labour vote is likely to be as solid as it has always been. At the same time many Labour policies have a particular appeal for Indians like the pledge to end the ‘rip off’ visa fees, the fair taxation structure, the end to tuition fees, the plans to discuss colonialism in school curricula and much more, and many young people, particularly, inspired by Labour’s radical manifesto are rejecting the Whats App messages received by their parents and are eager to vote Labour on 12 December.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Campaigns, India, UKComments Off on Corbyn, the Hindu far-right and Israel’s partisans

Roaming Charges: Killing Yourself to Live

by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

Gloves under lockdown, Portland, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ Neoliberalism: an ideology of austerity, which contends that economics is a science and epidemiology is soothsaying.

+ One of the eternal axioms of American politics: When you don’t know anything claim that you’re right about everything and wrong about nothing.

+ This strategy pays off, time and time again. Consider that 3.5 years into the Trump administration, where the President averages 30 lies big & small a day, and 4 months into a pandemic he did nothing to prepare for, stop, or even slow the spread of: 44% of Americans, according to the latest Morning Consult poll, have either a “high” or “moderate” level of trust in the information coming out of his mouth.

+ Trump claimed that new COVID-19 infections had peaked on April 4 and used this clearly specious date to demand that states begin reopening, which several have to their own (and ours, eventually) peril. Today, there were 38,470+ new recorded Coronavirus cases, the highest to date. The pandemic hasn’t peaked. The estimate of 60,000 COVID deaths that Trump was patting himself on the back about only last week will probably be eclipsed on Tuesday. There are still 760,000 active cases. If new cases stopped today (which they won’t), it’s likely that there will be at least another 40,000 deaths in the US and probably far more, since the virus shows no signs of slowing down and social distancing is breaking down (or being broken down)….

+ My brain is hanging upside down…

+ You heard it here first: Within two weeks, Trump will replace Fauci with Ammon Bundy.

+ The USA is proving day after day that it’s the stupidest nation on earth and that we’re extremely proud of our singular achievement.

+ It’s indicative of our current predicament that the only mobs angry enough to take to the streets are the one’s who believe that Trump’s ruthless incompetence hasn’t killed enough people…

+ Here’s an assessment of what’s at stake by Philip Pullman, author of the great His Dark Materials series: “It’s all got to change. If we come out of this crisis with all the rickety, fly-blown, worm-eaten old structures still intact, the same vain and indolent public schoolboys in charge, the same hedge fund managers stuffing their overloaded pockets with greasy fingers, our descendants will not forgive us. Nor should they. We must burn out the old corruption and establish a better way of living together.”

+ The Madness of the King of the Ventilators…

+ The “Invisible Enemy” is same one it’s always been: the Hand.

+ Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp: “We will allow gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, aestheticians, their respective schools, and massage therapists to reopen their doors this Friday, April the 24th.”

+ SoulCycle will soon take on an entirely new meaning after they re-open the gyms in Georgia…

+ Only in the funhouse of Trumpworld can the people who want to “reopen America” propose “suspending all immigration” at the same time…

+ Dan Patrick, the Lt. Gov. of Texas, went on FoxNews this week to call for the reopening of American businesses, saying:  “There are more important things than living…”

+ Join our death cult, it’s the best of all the death cults. Pick your flavor of K00l-Aid.

+ The Lt. Gov. of Texas is staunchly pro-life…until birth. Then you’re expendable.

+ Like most hardscrabble Texas politicians, Patrick is from … Maryland.

+ Here’s the Wisconsin GOP treasurer sheepishly asking members of his own party to “please leave Confederate flags and/or AR15s, AK47s, or any other long guns at home” when attending the rally Friday in Madison to “try to control the optics.” It came as news to me that Wisconsin Republican Party saw itself as a supporter of the Confederacy during the War Against Northern Aggression…

+ It’s okay, Brian, the Stars & Stripes has become the new battle flag of the Confederacy.

+ Public Citizen: “Remember when they shot Tamir Rice for holding a toy gun?”

Miguel Marquez@miguelmarquez

Contingent of heavily armed individuals in back of an old military vehicle just showed up. They said they’re all independent. No affiliation.9,8106:55 PM – Apr 20, 2020 · Pennsylvania State CapitolTwitter Ads info and privacy10.8K people are talking about this

+ Why the GOP wants to Reopen America…The latest analysis of available state and local data by the Associated Press shows that nearly one-third of those who have died are African American, with black people representing about 14% of the population in the areas covered in the analysis.

+ What “reopening” Georgia means to Georgia’s black population. Five of the top 10 counties with the highest per capita death rates in the U.S. are in Georgia. Black people are the largest racial group in all five of these counties in Georgia (and 7 of the top 10 counties nationwide)…

1. Randolph (GA). 240. 61.5% Black
2. Terrell (GA). 203. 60.4% Black
3. St. John the Baptist (LA). 131. 57.8% Black
4. Nassau (NY). 130. 59.3% White
5. NYC. 126. 32.1% White
6. Toole (MT). 121. 86.2% White
7. Dougherty (GA). 116. 70.9% Black
8. Early (GA). 116. 51.4% Black
9. Essex (NJ). 107. 41.9% Black
10. Mitchell (GA). 103. 48.1% Black

+ Atlanta’s mayor Keisha Bottoms: “I just received our new numbers, and our numbers are up 28.8% in positive tests since last week and deaths are up 37.23% since last week. We aren’t trending downwards. There’s no science or data that supports opening up our state.”

+ This protest brought to you by the same “peope” who want to mandate English as the official language of the USA…

+ These mortality statistics represent a pretty accurate portrait of the health conditions of the American electorate and the afflicted are precisely the people Cornyn and his gang of ghouls want to cut adrift from health care to die at the whims of the market. Yet how many of these preexisting conditions (which these callous political goons now treat as a death sentence) are the direct consequence of the type of cutthroat economic, environmental, energy and food safety policies Cornyn and cronies have forced on the people of this country?

+ The COVID-19 virus was detected in the US and in South Korea on the same day. Yet…

Number of coronavirus deaths in South Korea: 240
Number of coronavirus deaths in the United States: 49,769

+ At least, Dr. Kervorkian only euthanized people who wanted to die. He didn’t simply consign entire segments of the population with health problems to death for the sake of a few points on the NASDQ.

+ 400+ COVID19 deaths in Veterans’ Administration hospitals, more than the totals in 33 states.

+ Ken Klippenstein: “Pretty cool to see everyone who demanded Terri Schiavo stay plugged into a feeding tube forever decide it’s fine for hundreds of thousands to die so hedge fund managers can afford to keep vacationing in private islands.”

+ They can take our guns, our daughters, and our ventilators, but, by God, they’ll never take away our capacity for cognitive dissonance: Build the wall! End immigration!! Reopen America!!!

+ Corporations are people born without bootstraps to pull themselves up with when they fall. So they must be helped…

+ Axios, which enjoys $30 million in venture capital financing, has received a $5 million PPP loan intended for ailing small businesses. Access journalism pays!

+ As CounterPuncher Ken Klippenstein reports for The Nation that Trump’s Iran sanctions contributed to the largest COVID-19 outbreak among US troops “anywhere in the world“…

+ They can take our guns, our daughters, and our ventilators, but, by God, they’ll never take away our capacity for cognitive dissonance: Build the wall! End immigration!! Reopen America!

+ HHS’s Dr. Rick Bright on why he was removed from his position as Deputy Ass. Secretary overseeing vaccine development: “Specifically, and contrary to misguided directives, I limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the Administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit. While I am prepared to look at all options and to think ‘outside the box’ for effective treatments, I rightly resisted efforts to provide an unproven drug on demand to the American public. I insisted that these drugs be provided only to hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 while under the supervision of a physician. These drugs have potentially serious risks associated with them, including increased mortality observed in some recent studies in patients with COVID-19.” Bright said just filed a whistleblower complaint…

+ Bright was locked out of his email and only learned about the reassignment when his name was deleted from the BARDA website over the weekend.

+ Bright was right to be skeptical. In a widespread analysis of hydroxychloroquine use in U.S. veterans hospitals, the malaria drug repeatedly touted by Trump for treating the coronavirus showed no benefit. In fact, there were more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine versus those under standard care.

+ Only the best people at HHS now: Alex Azar tasked Brian Harrison, an aide who joined Health and Human Services after running a dog-breeding business for six years, with leading the agency’s day-to-day response to COVID-19. Harrison’s personal financial disclosure forms show that from 2012 until 2018 he ran a company called Dallas Labradoodles. Part poodle, part laboratory? Still, Harrison’s advice probably couldn’t be any worse than what Trump was hearing from the firm of Navarro, Kudlow and Kushner…

+ Remember when George W. Bush named the former head of the Arabian Horse Association as director of FEMA? And Brownie, did a heckuva job, didn’t he? So, maybe the Labradoodle guy running the COVID response team at HHS will turn out okay after all…

+ Derek Lowe of Science magazine: Derek Lowe: “Dead bodies are piling up, the economy is at a standstill, we are in a public health crisis the likes of which none of us have ever experienced, and the administration is making sure to take funding decisions out of the hands of career scientists so that cash can be steered to well-connected snake oil artists?”

+ Trump (aka, Dr. Big Sleep) on Thursday suggesting that people might consider shooting up with Lysol or Chlorox: “The disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. It gets in the lungs.”

Acyn Torabi@Acyn

The President inquires about injecting disinfectant?21.4K11:18 PM – Apr 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy13.5K people are talking about this

+ Perhaps Trump is getting his medical advice from prison guards. In Fort Dix federal prison, when an inmate collapsed while waiting for a temperature check, a guard sprayed him down with Lysol as he lay on the floor.

+ After suggesting “injecting disinfectants” as a treatment for COVID-19 took a few questions…

REPORTER: “People tuning in are looking for information and guidance, not rumors.”

TRUMP: “I’m the president, and you’re fake news.”

+ Trump will become the first president to de-criminalize edible Tide Pods…Top that, Creepy Joe!

+ Question that needs to be asked by White House press corps at tomorrow’s Trump Show: “Mr President, if people don’t have any fish pond disinfectant in the house, is bongwater an acceptable substitute? Does it need to be injected? Or will an enema suffice?”

+ Since the Post Office may not be around much longer, orders for injectable Chlorox will be delivered by the 20 Mule Team from Borax…MAGA that.

+ Who owns the most stock in an injectable bleach company, Jared Kushner or the senator with Farrah Fawcett hair from Georgia? Place your bets…

+ So Trump was listening to Lou Reed this afternoon and that got him thinking. And he thunk and he thunk and thunk. And finally he got an idea, a bright idea, an idea unlike anyone had ever had before, and 20 minutes later he turned Dr. Birx told her, “I would like you to speak to the medical doctors to see if there’s any way that you can apply light and heat to cure [coronavirus].” Cause…

White light, Aww white light it lighten up my eyes
White light, don’t you know it fills me up with surprise
White light, Aww white heat tickle me down to my toes
White light, Aww white light I tell you now goodness knows, now work it

Aaron Rupar@atrupar · Apr 23, 2020Replying to @atrupar

“It is interesting that the states are in trouble do happen to be blue. It is interesting” — Trump suggests Democrats are responsible for the financial troubles of blue states

Aaron Rupar@atrupar

Get a load of Dr. Birx’s demeanor after Trump tells her, “I would like you to speak to the medical doctors to see if there’s any way that you can apply light and heat to cure [coronavirus].”12.5K11:46 PM – Apr 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy7,229 people are talking about this

+ This tweet should probably be posted on the door of all NYTs offices.

+ Still waiting on the Times to delete all of Judith Miller’s stories on Iraq’s “WMDs”…

+ This NYT tweet is a hilarious example of what Cockburn dubbed the Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum stylesheet of journalism, where there are always two sides to every story, even when there’s really only one…or perhaps (especially in politics) three.

+ To paraphrase Kissinger on Bill Clinton, Trump doesn’t have the moral fibre to be compared to Jim Jones. He won’t drink his own Kool-Aid.

+ A panel of experts convened by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recommends against doctors using Trump’s magic elixir, a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin for the treatment of COVID-19 patients citing potential toxicities. “The combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin was associated with QTc prolongation in patients with COVID-19,” the panel said. QTc prolongation increases the risk of sudden cardiac death.

+ Can the lupus patients get their drugs back from the hoarders now…for free?

+ Out with hydroxychloroquine, in with Lysol, Chlorox and … tobacco?

+ Is Jared Kushner’s Facebook Ad Hoc Coronavirus group looking into to this? How soon before Trump summons tobacco executives to the Rose Garden? Corners the market on unfiltered Camels…Or, is American tobacco too toxic, and we’ll all have to start smoking Gauloises, as I did for a few years after reading Camus, Sartre and Robbe-Grillet…

+ Sarah Smarsh: “If you’ve ever made fun of rural poverty you don’t get to flee the city with your good insurance and seek pandemic refuge near their only hospital.”

+ In over two months, the US has managed to test only 1 percent of the population and are now doing a mere 144,000 tests a day. To get 60% of the working population tested in the next 9 days would mean ramping testing up to 20 million a day–16 million more than the US has tested altogether in 60 days. Who would invest their money with a financial institution this pathologically stupid, a bank which has survived only because every time they fuck up, they get bailed out… and the bigger the catastrophe the bigger the bail out.

+ Countries (not comprehensive) with more per capita testing than the USA…

Aruba
Bermuda
Belgium
Canada
Russia
Singapore
Czechia
Hong Kong
Australia
Denmark
Channel Islands
New Zealand
Spain
Greenland
Germany
Latvia
Slovenia
Andorra
Austria
Ireland
Liechtenstein
Italy
Qatar…

+ Why does it take Little Steven to say what Biden and Pelosi ought to be saying and doing…?

+ Perhaps because Biden is getting his economic advice, not from his new pal Bernard Sanders, but Lawrence Summers, the Democrats’ version of Arthur “the Curve” Laffer. Summers is a chief architect of globalized neoliberalism, who wanted to solve the US’s toxic waste problem by dumping it in poor “under-polluted” African countries, saying the “economic logic was impeccable. As president of Harvard Summers asserted that men outperform women in math and the sciences because of genetic factors…not socialization or gender bias. In other words, he’ll fit right in.

+ Larry Summers to Ron Suskind in 2009: “One of the reasons that inequality has probably gone up in our society is that people are being treated closer to the way they’re supposed to be treated.”

(from Listen, Liberal by Thomas Frank)

+ Deep in his resume of villainy, we find that Summers was also a fanatical proponent of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

+ Andrew Cuomo, Il Duce of the liberals, was asked on Weds. what he’d say to people who are angry because they can’t work, they are running out of money and the government isn’t helping them fast enough, if at all. Cuomo’s acidic answer: they should go get a jobs as essential workers.

+ In New York City, more transit workers (84) have been killed by coronavirus in the past month than all of the NYPD police shot and killed in the past 40 YEARS…

+ When public bus drivers were finally given masks to wear on the job:

Apri 8: Denver, Columbus
April 10: Atlanta
April 11: Seattle
April 13: Milwaukee

+ HCA hospitals, owned by private equity giant KKR, are restricting the use of N95 masks for health care workers and not allowing workers to bring PPE from home…

+ It’s one thing to be stupid. It’s another to be vile and stupid.

Mrs. Betty Bowers@BettyBowers

“Go to China!” yells the American trying to kill Americans at the American trying to save Americans.

Propaganda is a drug that lasts longer than meth. 40K3:55 AM – Apr 20, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy12K people are talking about this

+ Preliminary data (already subject to some withering criticism) shows about 13.9 percent of the population of New York state — about 2.7 million people — have at some point been infected with coronavirus. But do they know who they are and whether any of them are immune? Stay alive, then stay tuned.

+ The Commissioned Corps of the US Public Health Service was set up to stop the spread of infectious diseases at the US. Yet, it’s more than 6,500 medical trained medical officers were never used at airports to deal with the pandemic.

+ So Mississippi plans to sue China for damages from the coronavirus. Has Mississippi ever picked a fight it’s won? There’s rarely been a state so proud of being on the wrong side of history, morality and epidemiology…

+ Trump on Sunday: “When I did the ban on China, they say a lot of the people that didn’t come in here went to Italy. You’ve heard that. That’s why Italy was hit so hard.” In point of fact, Italy’s ban on flights from China took effect three days before Trump’s restrictions (not a ban) on China travel.

+ The Financial Times UK death model suggests that by 22 April there have been roughly 43,100 excess deaths linked to coronavirus, more than double of the official county. If a similar trend is playing out here, and there are many indications it is, then the real death count in the USA is already more than 100,000…

+ Andrew Noymer, an Associate Professor of Population Health and Disease Prevention at UC Irvine, who specializes in health demographics and epidemiology has bee doing similar calculations on the true extent of the COVID-19 crisis in the US. Here are some of his most recent calculations…

+ At least, 101 countries now have a lower coronavirus mortality rate than the U.S.

+ Total U.S. coronavirus tally at the end of each Friday. As Andrew Yang would say: MATH…

• Jan 17 — 0
• Jan 24 — 2
• Jan 31 — 7
• Feb 7 — 12
• Feb 14 — 15
• Feb 21 — 30
• Feb 28 — 65
• Mar 6 — 310
• Mar 13 — 2,224
• Mar 20 — 17,962
• Mar 27 —  102,636
• April 3 —   275,000
• April 10 — 504,000
• April 17 — 707,000
• April 24 – 923,470 and counting…

+ Anybody checked the futures market to see which is a better buy today, West Texas crude or Hydroxychloroquine?

+ Prankster (let’s hope) infiltrates death cult protest in Nashville. Death cult stands by message, Sacrifice the Weak…!

+ You can usually tell the prankster signs by the spelling.

+ Tell Rumsfeld we found finally the WMDs…standing on a street corner in Huntington Beach.

+ License to Kill: The White House is working on a liability waiver that would exempt businesses of legal responsibility from employees who contract the coronavirus after being forced back to work…

+ Owing to the lag time in weekend reporting, Tuesday’s have set new daily mortality records each of the last four weeks…

Tues 4/21: 2,674 deaths
Tues 4/14: 2,299 deaths
Tues 4/7: 1,926 deaths
Tues 3/31: 820 deaths

+ What does Pence do with his hands? Only Mother knows for sure…

+ Jack Shafer: “If UV reliably kills coronavirus it’s safe to say that Trump’s face is absolutely coronavirus-free.”

+ On the 10 year anniversary of Deepwater Horizon, this…

+ Not sure whether that includes the price of the barrel itself, which should at least have some value on the scrap metal market.

+ Just five weeks ago Trump ordered the purchase of some 77 million barrels for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to take advantage of the “super-low” $31/barrel price of oil? How bad of a deal was that?

+ Mad Man with nukes vows to shoot down flying gunboats…

+ U.S. oil prices jumped 27% after Trump threatened to “shoot down” Iranian gunboats, which was probably the point of the TweetThreat…

+ Forget for a moment the question of who “Jack Kenny” is and ask yourself what the hell John Kerry is talking about regarding Ronald Reagan…When did Reagan take responsibility for anything? Reagan ignored the AIDS crisis for years, then blamed the victims. If I read the CDC stats correctly, the death rate from AIDS/HIV under Reagan was 95.5 percent with more than 50,000 people dying of the disease during his 8 years in office. The fed government he was in charge of simply had no interest in finding a vaccine or treatments.

+ Trump may be more like Reagan, pitchman for Borax, than Kerry thinks…

+ 88: the number of times Reagan answered “I can’t recall” or “I have no recollection” during his deposition for the Iran/contra trial of his National Security Advisor John Poindexter.

+ The Democrats are almost all Reagan Democrats now…

+ The latest bailout bill to emerge from the senate represents another total capitulation by Democrats: Nothing for states or cities, nothing for election protection or the post office, no oversight, no limits on fossil fuel bailouts, no food stamps. They got some additional testing but no contact tracing.

+ “Democrats caved” must be one of the most well-worn phrases in the history of American politics.

+ Today in 1653 Oliver Cromwell burst into Parliament and dissolved it, saying, “Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? In the name of God, go!” Where is Old Ironsides when you really need him?

+ D.C. now releases covid-19 fatality data by location. As of Monday, one death in Ward 2, the richest, versus 22 deaths in Ward 8, the poorest. Nearly half the deaths are from wards 5, 7, 8. Seven people without homes among the dead.

+ According to Edwyn Lyman at the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Nuclear Energy Institute is arguing that the NRC should change its security rules to allow for the possibility that new nuclear reactors should have NO armed security responders to protect against terrorist sabotage attacks.

+ Pompeo Maximus was asked about the US government’s views toward Israel’s plan to annex the West Bank. Pompeo replied that it was “Israel’s decision to make.” Sounds like a green light for an invasion to me.

+ According to the Colombian think tank Indepaz, at least 71 indigenous leaders were killed during the first three months of 2020; at least another dozen have been killed since Colombia’s national quarantine began. All by US-backed paramilitaries in the name of coca eradication.

+ ICE is now deporting infected migrants back to vulnerable countries as governments struggle to respond…Legal? Probably not. But who’s going to stop them?

+ Here’s NPR resurrecting the disgusting “welfare queen” shibboleth from the Reagan era against poor people trying to get by on a mere $600 a week during a pandemic. Why the GOP wants to cut their funding is a mystery to me…

NPR@NPR

The government is now offering $600, the equivalent of $15 an hour, or double the federal minimum wage, to people who’ve lost their jobs because of the coronavirus. A Kentucky cafe owner says she’s had to close because her workers make more staying home. https://trib.al/cK3wN4X Bitter Taste For Coffee Shop Owner, As New $600 Jobless Benefit Drove Her To CloseThe new federal benefit is designed to cushion the blow of the pandemic. But some businesses that want to stay open say it’s hard to do so when employees can make more money by staying home.npr.org3,1602:29 PM – Apr 21, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy5,006 people are talking about this

+ NPR is now officially to the right of Voice of America…

+  Using COVID-19 as an excuse, corporations across the country are suspending or stopping entirely their contributions to their employees’ 401(ks). Recall that Joe Biden voted four times to cut Social Security in favor of employer-matched 401(k)s.

+ U.S. airstrikes hit all-time high as the novel coronavirus spreads in Somalia, 39 strikes this year, more than during all 8 years of the Obama administration.

+ Violent attacks by month on Palestinians by Israeli settlers before and after lockdown...

Jan: 11
Feb: 12
Mar: 23 (11 after quarantine began)
April: 23 (in first 3 weeks, all in quarantine)

+ I guess Highsmith was fortunate to have expired before she got the Ken Loach treatment for speaking honestly about Israel and Palestine…

+ Peter Thiel’s Palantir has been tasked by the Trump administration to collect the data on the spread of coronavirus. It’s info is informing the positions of the TOP officials, including Dr. Birx and Trump…

Paris by the numbers since the lockdown started:

+ 24% less residents
+ 32% less trash
+ 72% of shops closed
+ 90% of hotels closed
+ Metro activity down by 95%
+ Transportation, schools & rentals mostly organised around health care workers & their families

+ Before the pandemic, farm debt hit a record $425 billion. Now, supply chain disruptions and demand shifts have pushed down commodity prices, and farmers are starting to lose off-farm jobs. “It’s hard to see anything but a bloodbath coming in American agriculture.”

+ With slaughterhouses closing, farmers don’t have a market for their animals. Hog are dropping, prompting some industrial farms to mass euthanize their pigs …

+ Meanwhile, the Trump Administration is granting waivers to suspend poultry line speed of 140 kills per minute (up to 175 per minute) despite safety hazard and COVID-19 risk. Earlier this year, they terminated altogether the line speed for the slaughter of pigs. 175 kills per minute: I couldn’t do that for 2 minutes, never mind 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

+ 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute, 175 kills a minute…

+ The OED is charting the use of “key words & phrases” in the English language. In March, the top 20 “key words” all had something to do with COVID-19 crisis…

+ At least 18 Walmart workers have died from Covid-19 “We didn’t sign up to be heroes, and we certainly didn’t sign up to be martyrs,” said one grocery worker.

+ So the people running COVID response in Oregon are covering up COVID cases and exposures inside their own agency. Comforting…

+ Meanwhile, Oregon’s Portland-based medical school, OHSU, announced on Thursday that it was slashing salaries by 10 percent and expecting to “lose” more than $1.7 billion in “revenue” over the next year and a half, blaming it COVID. Apparently, they’re anticipating fewer “elective” surgeries and treatments, many of which may not have been all that necessary to begin with. This dire financial warning from a for-profit medical school/hospital may have prompted Oregon’s Governor-in-Hiding, Kate Brown, to issue her risky back to work order for elective medical procedures.

+ Only about a third of the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes have ready access to tests that can help isolate the sick and stop the spread. And homes that do manage to get a hold of tests often rely on luck and contacts…

+ 7 out of 10 of the largest clusters of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are in jails and prisons, according to new data collected by the New York Times…

+ Since January 1, 2020, at least 270 people have been shot and killed by police in the US, 98 of them since the country went into coronavirus sequestration.

+ Isn’t it time for cops to work from home?

+ Stuart Newman: “Folks may not have heard about the newly identified strain of coronavirus – the MAGAvirus. MAGA viruses were already in the US before the end of January, or were brought in subsequently by anyone but Chinese people. They are not communicable, so don’t require social distancing.”

+ In Florida, just 14.2% of the more than 668,000 unemployment claims filed since 15 March have been paid.

+ And this will only get worse in Florida as Disney stops paying 100,000 workers, roughly half its workforce–– even as the company moves to protect executive bonuses and  dole a $1.5 billion dividend payment due to shareholders in July….

+ Burgerville, the PNW’s version of In-and-Out Burger, but with halibut strips, huckleberry shakes and sweet onion rings, announced this week it is laying off nearly half its workforce…

+ A group of real estate investors furloughed their employees, paid themselves $2mm in dividends while winning the largest share ($46mm) of “small business” loans in the country. They are big Trump & GOP donors, naturally…

+ It’s just what they do….Ten of the world’s largest banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, have been sued for allegedly conspiring over nearly 14 years to rig prices in the $9.6 trillion U.S. corporate bond market, costing ordinary investors billions of dollars. Don’t expect any prosecutions, from Trump, Biden or Cuomo…

+ This week Trump’s company demanded a bailout from the UK government for his failing Scottish golf courses. What pressures will he apply this time?

+ Raccoons are prowling the aisles of our shuttered libraries, conducting deep research on how to foil the Plot to Reopen America.

+ The Chris Cuomo family’s routine under COVID quarantine: Clorox baths, vitamin drips at home in the Hamptons, and a body charger that transfers energy, breaks up, and pulls out the low frequency while replacing with a higher rate.”

+ Here’s Cristina Cuomo’s recipe to scrub your liver clean:

I made a liver-cleansing beverage with one raw garlic clove, one orange, one lemon, a tablespoon of cayenne pepper, a spoonful of olive oil, a crunch of ginger and a piece of turmeric.

+ How could you possibly refer to that concoction as a “beverage”? Who even says “beverage”, aside from K Street lobbyists for the “beverage” industry? Someone said, that’s not a drink that’s salad dressing.

+ Caution Gangster Govt. at Work: “The chief executive of a MA hospital, outbid for PPE by the feds multiple times, cut a deal, paid extra, hired the trucks — and then was interrogated by the FBI and had to get his Congressperson to intervene to keep DHS from heisting the shipment….”

+ Norman O. Brown: “The dynamic of capitalism is the postponement of enjoyment to the constantly postponed future.”

+ Leon Cannizzaro, the DA in New Orleans, sends fake subpoenas to force witnesses to testify and illegally jailed people who refused to cooperate with his investigations. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled just ruled that a lawsuit against him over his horrific prosecutorial practices can go forward.

+ New poll shows Biden up by 16 points over Trump in New Jersey…Unfortunately, the population of likely NJ Democratic voters may be 18 percent lower by the time the elections are held, if they’re held.

+ The Democrats have picked as their nominee one of the few people (living or dead) in America who could lose the “trust” factor to Donald Trump…

Trust more to handle…

The economy:
Trump 47% (+9)
Biden 38%

Jobs:
Trump 46% (+7)
Biden 39%

Economic recovery following the coronavirus:
Trump 44% (+5)
Biden 39%

National security:
Trump 43 (+2)
Biden 41

Immigration:
Trump 43 (+1)
Biden 42

@MorningConsult/@politico 4/18-19

+ Michael Caputo, the new spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services hand-picked by Trump because he doesn’t trust Alex Azar (with good reason, perhaps), recently deleted a swath of Tweets that say, among other things, that Chinese people “suck the blood out of rabid bats as an appetizer and eat the ass out of anteaters.”

+ The Jerusalem Telegraph reported on Thursday that Caputo had also tweeted that George Soros and the Rothschild family were secretly manipulating the COVID pandemic to maximize their political and economic power. Caputo called David Rothschild (apparently conflating him with the European banking family) “an inbred elitist sphincter whose family craves control.”

+ As my friend Sanho Tree quipped, “Caputo doesn’t like Jews or Chinese food.”

+ Caputo also seems to have an anal fixation. Someone might want to check his basement and garage. He may be the guy holding all the nation’s toilet paper.

+ Too bad Lee Atwater is dead. He could be scripting xenophobic ads for the Biden campaign.

Andrew Bates@AndrewBatesNC

New ad: Trump praised China’s coronavirus response while refusing to mount the one we needed at home. Now the outbreak is the worst public health and economic crisis of our lifetimes. Joe Biden warned him not to take their word. (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/coronavirus-trump-china-biden-ad_n_5e9b2159c5b63639081f5d15 …) 1,2797:56 PM – Apr 18, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy796 people are talking about this

+ Barbara Ehrenreich: “I promised the grand-dots I would hold my nose and vote for Biden but since his China-bashing ad I’m just gagging and choking.”

+ This could only be described as “weird” by someone who has apparently paid no attention to American politics since the day Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton…

+ So AOC has officially endorsed Biden. Looks like the Revolution© won’t be televised after all, but you may be able to find reenactments of what it might have looked like on a public access channel in Oakland …

+ Latest numbers indicate the lives and livelihoods of 265 million people in low and middle-income countries will be under severe threat of “acute hunger” unless swift action is taken to tackle the pandemic, up from a current 135 million…

+ COVID-19 is exacerbating an already frightening food crisis on tribal lands in the Southwest. Adae Romero-Briones of the First Nations Development Institute:

“A neighboring Pueblo is probably going to be the next hotspot. They just had two cases yesterday and they’re going to have to shut down. They don’t have any test kits, so the only way they can tell if they have positive tests is to isolate the entire community and see how many people get sick. And in the meantime, we have to figure out how to feed the community when they’re in isolation, without government intervention. Once they become a hot spot, they’ll be eligible for government food assistance. Until then, what do we do?”

+ The Navajo Nation alone has lost more people to COVID-19 than 13 states

+ Rudy Giuliani was on FoxNews wearing his new “Smart Look” glasses (endorsed by Sarah Palin and Rick Perry) where he attempted to set Laura Ingraham straight on the commie-medicine concept of “contact tracing,” which he effectively disparaged by noting, correctly, that if it was so important why didn’t they do it for cancer, obesity and heart disease. (He left out toenail fungus and restless leg syndrome.)

Andrew Lawrence@ndrew_lawrence

Rudy Giuliani mocks contact tracing by asking why we don’t also do it for cancer, obesity and heart disease10.2K3:49 AM – Apr 24, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy10K people are talking about this

+ It’s seems improbable, but has FoxNews gotten dumber and more dangerous since Roger Ailes got canned?

+ Looks like we’re all about to be drafted into Space Force, as Trump confidante Stephen Moore (a card-carrying member of CRAP-the Committee to Reopen America Prematurely) suggest that the economy can be revived to sending people back to work in “space outfits.

+ The Trump administration awarded a $55 million contract for N95 masks to a company with no experience producing medical supplies and whose parent company filed for bankruptcy protection last year. Surprise: the masks were never manufactured. Remember the histrionics from the Republicans over the bankruptcy of Solyndra during the Obama years?

+ Halledor Energy, a coal company with a market cap of $21 million and Scott Pruitt as its lobbyist, just got a $10 million “small business” loan…Under Trump, the Swamp is more like an open-pit mine.

+ The Bronx Zoo confirms that 8 cats have tested positive for Covid-19: 5 tigers, 3 lions.

+ Just days after announcing record gains in its imperiled population, federal officials ordered the killings of four highly endangered Mexican wolves.

+ Methane emissions from the Permian basin are far higher than federal estimates, a new study warns. The amount of the climate pollutant leaked or vented into the atmosphere, it says, is enough to meet the natural gas needs of 7 million homes.

+ According to the latest assessment from NOAA, 2020 could well become the warmest year on record and is almost certain to rank among the five warmest years on record.

+Trump says he’s asked that federal funds be made available to oil companies, which is like paying reparations to professional serial killers.

+ Right now the US government could buy a 51% controlling stake in every major fossil fuel company for $350 billion. We could buy them all outright for $700 billion.

+ The latest research casts a dire forecast for the Arctic, predicting that it will become “ice-free” even if the Paris Accord goals are met: “Alarmingly the models repeatedly show the potential for ice-free summers in the Arctic Ocean before 2050, almost irrespective of the measures taken to mitigate the effects of climate change,” said Ed Blockley, who leads the UK Met Office’s polar climate programme and was one of the team behind the new research. “The signal is there in all possible futures. This was unexpected and is extremely worrying.”

+ It’s a stark sign of just how much the 9th Circuit Court has deteriorated when the Roberts Court has to strike down one of its rulings to defend an environmental law than Trump wanted to gut…

+ Bald eagles have been photographed nesting in a saguaro cactus in the Arizona desert for the first time since 1937…

+ I just finished Woody Allen’s memoir, Apropos of Nothing, which will probably land me on some pervert list kept by the same people who dismissed Tara Reade’s claim she was sexually assaulted by Biden. It could have benefited from sharper editing (if publishers still employ editors) but it’s very funny, stuffed with salacious and at times creepy gossip and is not as vindictive as it might have been, though I don’t think anyone one of us would have relished being adopted by Mia Farrow. Woody got his start selling jokes like this one (which only makes sense, if you’ve read the novel) to columnists in the NY tabloids: “How will they ever make a film of Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint? They’ll have to use a handheld camera.”

+ X marks the Spot(ify)…when the LA punk band dropped “Alphabetland,” their first studio album as a quartet in 35 years. You can listen to it for free or buy the damn thing here on Bandcamp.

+ The last time I saw X perform, my friend Jeff Baker and I were milling around at one of their “X-mas shows” at the venerable Roseland in Portland and I was grumbling pretty loudly about how awful one of the opening acts was when somebody tapped me sharply on the shoulder and snapped, “Hey, buddy, I choose that band and I think they’re just wonderful” and then sauntered back to the bar. Exene…

+ Billy Zoom, X’s guitarist, on how to tell if a punk band has sold out: “Selling out is when you get a bunch of money. If you didn’t get a bunch of money, you didn’t sell out.”

+ I wouldn’t call it selling out, eXactly, but in my search for late night entertainment I stumbled across a very campy LA noir called Slam Dance, directed by Wayne Wang, where John Doe (far right) shows up in more than a bit part as a kind of hip gangster…

Slam Dance (c) Island Pictures.

+ A Doberman, a Poodle, and an Australian Shepherd died and are standing in front of God at the entrance to the kingdom of heaven. God asks all three what they believe in.

The Doberman says: “I believe in discipline, training, and loyalty to my owner.”

“Good,” says God, “Take a seat on my right side.”

“Poodle, what do you believe in?” inquires God.

The Poodle answers: “I believe in loving and caring for my owner, as well as peace in the world.”

“Ah,” God says. “You can take a seat to my left side.”

Then He looks at the Aussie, skeptically. “And what do you believe in, sheepdog?”

The Aussie looked at God and replies:

“I believe you’re sitting in my seat!”

(Glad you made it to the other side, Boomer, and are assuming command. We were worried you might have taken the wrong exit.)

Boomer the Aussie, who died two years ago this week, on the cliffs of Horsethief Canyon.

+ I’ve listened to Lee Konitz’s music since the first time I found Birth of the Cool, hidden in the stacks between the Sinatra and Nat King Cole in my father’s record collection, probably in 1972 or 73. But in reviewing his recorded output since Subconscious-Lee in 1950 (one of the best debuts in all of jazz) I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. This morning I’m playing two records I hadn’t heard before, Peacemeal (recorded during the depths of the Vietnam slaughter in 1970) and Yes, Yes Nonet in (1979). Among other things, Konitz loved punning, in both his solos and his record titles, such as Lunasea (1992), which was appropriated as the name of our favorite seafood joint on the West Coast, under the shadow of Cape Perpetua in beautiful downtown Yachats, Oregon…I sure hope it can do what Lee couldn’t: survive COVID-19…

You Work Your Life Away and What Do They Give?

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

The Green New Deal and Beyond
Stan Cox
(City Lights)

Set the Night on Fire: LA in the Sixties
Mike Davis and Jon Weiner
(Verso)

Swinger! A Jazz Girl’s Adventures From Hollywood to Harlem
Judy Carmichael
(CreateSpace)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Mabern Plays Mabern
Harold Mabern
(Smoke Sessions)

The Common Task
Horse Lords
(Northern Spy)

Walking Proof
Lilly Hiatt
(New West)

Crossing the Dark Lake

“I lay ill through several weeks, and the usual tenor of my life became like an old remembrance. But this was not the effect of time, so much as of the change in all my habits, made by the helplessness and inaction of a sick-room. Before I had been confined to it many days, everything else seemed to have retired into a remote distance, where there was little or no separation between the various stages of my life which had been really divided by years. In falling ill, I seemed to have crossed a dark lake, and to have left all my experiences, mingled together by the great distance, on the healthy shore… I had never known before how short life really was, and into how small a space the mind could put it.” (Charles Dickens, Bleak House)

Posted in USAComments Off on Roaming Charges: Killing Yourself to Live

Smithfield and Our Troubled Future

by LOUIS PROYECT

Photograph Source: William James Topley – Public Domain

On April 15th, Smithfield closed down its pork factory in Sioux Falls, South Dakota after 640 employees became sick from COVID-19. They constitute 44 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the state, making it the epicenter of the pandemic locally.

Joseph W. Luter founded the company in 1936. Like most industrial meat-producing companies, Smithfield became infamous for CAFO, the initials for concentrated animal feeding operation. Poultry farms were the first to convert operations to CAFO in the 1950s, followed by beef and pork in the ensuing decades. Smithfield’s flagship operation was Tar Heel, North Carolina, which processed 32,000 pigs a day. Given the highly concentrated nature of this mode of production, disposing of waste products is a chore for management. Pig excrement tends to follow the path of least resistance, however. It flows directly into the rivers and lakes of the states that house CAFO-type operations.

In 2019, Hurricane Florence struck North Carolina. In Duplin County, CAFOs produce twice as much pig urine and feces as all the toilets in New York City. Most of it ends up in hog “lagoons”, the open-air pits clustered in the area hardest hit by Hurricane Florence. It caused overflows that carried E. coli, salmonella, cryptosporidium, and other harmful bacteria into North Carolina waters. Even when there are no hurricanes, there is still extensive water pollution since the lagoons seep into groundwater that then pollutes rivers and lakes.

Unclean conditions within CAFOs have led to COVID-19. For people living close to such toxic operations, the outcome is just as devastating. Rich white people would not go near Smithfield’s plants, but those with meager incomes have no choice, just as the people living in poor neighborhoods in Queens have no choice when it comes to taking the subway to work in the morning.

A Duke University study revealed that people living in communities with the highest density of hog operations experienced 30 percent greater fatalities. People died from kidney disease, as well as 50 percent more deaths from anemia. There were 130 percent more deaths from sepsis, as compared to people in not near such big hog operations.

You can find a trail of articles about places like Smithfield going back nearly 20 years in CounterPunch, including one by its Hoosier editor Jeffrey St. Clair with his characteristically personal touch. He starts off by reminiscing about his grandfather’s farm, where he spent many idyllic days growing up despite the rank smell. In the early 70s, his grandfather and another codger were the only hold-outs who had not become part of the Smithfield empire, which he describes as follows ):

Pig factories are the foulest outposts in American agriculture. A single hog excretes nearly 3 gallons of waste per day, or 2.5 times the average human’s daily total. A 6,000-sow hog factory will generate approximately 50 tons of raw manure a day. An operation the size of Premium Standard Farms in northern Missouri, with more than 2 million pigs and sows in 1995, will generate five times as much sewage as the entire city of Indianapolis. But hog farms aren’t required to treat the waste. Generally, the stream of fecal waste is simply sluiced into giant holding lagoons, where it can spill into creeks or leach into ground water. Increasingly, hog operations are disposing of their manure by spraying it on fields as fertilizer, with vile consequences for the environment and the general ambience of the neighborhood.

In addition to rendering drinking water more harmful than those near fracking wells, CAFOs excel at generating viruses that can kill human beings most efficiently. In 2009, there were suspicions that a Smithfield plant in Perote, Mexico might have triggered the Swine Flu epidemic. It was small potatoes compared to COVID-19. Only 1000 people were infected, with 68 deaths. The Mexico City newspaper La Jornada quoted health officials who concluded that the original carrier was in the “clouds of flies” that thrived in Smithfield’s manure lagoons.

Among scientists warning over the connections between industrial meat production and pandemics, none has more authority than Rob Wallace, the author of “Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatches on Infectious Disease, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science” and a fellow of the Institute for Global Studies at the University of Minnesota. In a Monthly Review article titled “COVID-19 and Circuits of Capital” that he co-wrote with three other scientists, Wallace addresses both the failure of governments to respond adequately as well as the role of industrial farming in spawning pandemics. Although I strongly urge you to read the entire article, this paragraph is key:

However unintended, the entirety of the production line is organized around practices that accelerate the evolution of pathogen virulence and subsequent transmission. Growing genetic monocultures—food animals and plants with nearly identical genomes—removes immune firebreaks that in more diverse populations slow down transmission. Pathogens now can just quickly evolve around the commonplace host immune genotypes. Meanwhile, crowded conditions depress immune response. Larger farm animal population sizes and densities of factory farms facilitate greater transmission and recurrent infection. High throughput, a part of any industrial production, provides a continually renewed supply of susceptibles at barn, farm, and regional levels, removing the cap on the evolution of pathogen deadliness. Housing a lot of animals together rewards those strains that can burn through them best. Decreasing the age of slaughter—to six weeks in chickens—is likely to select for pathogens able to survive more robust immune systems. Lengthening the geographic extent of live animal trade and export has increased the diversity of genomic segments that their associated pathogens exchange, increasing the rate at which disease agents explore their evolutionary possibilities.

Both capitalist parties have politicized the question of China’s role in the pandemic. The Trump administration has made China a scapegoat, insisting on calling the disease the “Chinese flu”. With Joe Biden showing himself fully capable of mud-slinging, his campaign released an ad this week that described Trump as “soft on China.” The ad featured Trump’s compliments to the Chinese early on in the hopes that voters will rise to the bait. With Russiagate having little impact on opinion polls, it is difficult to understand why baiting the Chinese will work. That, of course, is much more consistent with the Democratic Party’s agenda than, for example, pressing for Medicare for All or providing income to families whose bread-winners have lost their job.

However, you don’t have to be a Sinophobe to comment on China’s role in the Smithfield trail of tears. In 2013, the WH Group purchased Smithfield for $4.72 billion. That price was the largest Chinese investors ever paid for an American company. It now made them the producer of one out of five pieces of pork consumed globally. In addition to seeing Smithfield as a highly profitable operation, the new management hoped to satisfy the insatiable appetite for pork in China.

One of the hottest debates taking place on the left is whether China is imperialist or not. Some see its role in Africa as mostly progressive even if most of its investments have been in mineral and agricultural commodity extraction. If the goal is to keep water pollution to a minimum, there is a logic to the Smithfield take-over. Hailed by some environmentalists for moving away from fossil fuels, others point out that China is heavily involved with coal. Edward Cunningham, a Harvard University professor who follows Chinese economic development, told NPR  that China is building or planning more than 300 coal plants in places as widely spread as Turkey, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Egypt and the Philippines.

Wan Long is the long-time CEO of the WH Group. Although not a member of the Communist Party, he is a delegate to the National People’s Congress, the highest decision-making body in the nation. For the Chinese, the need to keep its nearly 1.5 billion people fed is of the highest priority.

As part of the breakneck drive to keep the masses satisfied, the agricultural sector paid little attention to environmental costs. In keeping with the “Green Revolution,” farmers soaked the soil with chemicals. China became synonymous with tainted food, from mercury-laden rice to melamine-infused milk powder.

Was there any way for China to produce enough safe food for its growing population if they all start eating like Americans? In keeping with the challenge posed by de-growth advocates, including me, the simple answer is that it can’t. It takes about one acre to feed the average U.S. consumer, but China only has about 0.2 acres of arable land per citizen, including polluted fields. For government planners, the future looks bleak in light of reports that almost 20 percent of China’s remaining arable land is contaminated.

That is one of the main reasons that China roams the planet looking for pig farms to buy or arable land to grow soybeans and other commodities necessary for home consumption. Recently Donald Trump shocked liberals for cutting off funds for the WHO. To a large extent, he singled out its leader Tedros Adhanom for making the same kind of flattering comments about China’s response to the Wuhan outbreak.

Adhanom, an Ethiopian, might have had good reasons to go easy on the Chinese. China is the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) source in Ethiopia, accounting for about 60 percent of the newly approved foreign projects in the East African country during 2019. In addition to staking out claims in the country’s farming regions, China has also helped the country set up industrial zones that will be of more long-term value.

Looking down at Earth from some distant planet, a space alien might wonder where all this was going. Pandemics caused by industrial farming? Industrial farming a product of hunger for meat that has questionable nutritional value? Polluted waters from CAFOs? Where does it all end? In “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” Klaatu came to Earth in order to call us to order. Our nuclear weapons were a threat to other civilizations on other planets. Unfortunately for us, there are no distant planets that can rescue us. It is up to us to carry out that mission. As Walt Kelly’s Pogo once put it, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Posted in USAComments Off on Smithfield and Our Troubled Future

Militarization in a Time of Pandemic Crisis

by HENRY GIROUX – OURANIA FILIPPAKOU

Photograph Source: U.S. Navy – Public Domain

We live at a time when the terrors of life suggests the world has descended into darkness. The COVID-19 crisis has created a dystopian nightmare which floods our screens and media with images of fear. Bodies, doorknobs, cardboard packages, plastic bags, and the breath we exhale and anything else that offers the virus a resting place is comparable to a bomb ready to explode resulting in massive suffering and untold deaths. We can no longer shake hands, embrace our friends, use public transportation, sit in a coffee shop, or walk down the street without experiencing real anxiety and fear. We are told by politicians, media pundits, and others that everyday life has taken on the character of a war zone.

The metaphor of war has a deep sense of urgency and has a long rhetorical history in times of crisis. Militarization has become a central feature of the pandemic age and points to the dominance of warlike values in society. More specifically, Michael Geyer defines it as the ‘contradictory and tense social process in which civil society organizes itself for the production of violence’ (Geyer, 1989: 9). Geyer was writing about the militarization of Europe between 1914-1945, but his description seems even more relevant today. This is clear in the way right-wing politicians such as Trump promote the increasing militarization of language, public spaces, and bodies. Terms such as ‘war footing’, ‘mounting an assault’, and ‘rallying the troops’ have been normalized in the face of the pandemic crisis. At the same time, the language of war privileges the proliferation of surveillance capitalism, the defense of borders, and the suspension of civil liberties.

As the virus brings the engines of capitalism to a halt, the discourse of war takes on a new significance as a medical term that highlights the struggles to grapple with underfunded public health care systems, the lack of resources for testing, the surge towards downward mobility, expanding unemployment and the ongoing, heart-wrenching, efforts to provide protective essentials for front line and emergency workers. At the heart of this epic tragedy is an understated political struggle to reverse and amend decades of a war waged by neoliberal capitalism against the welfare state, essential social provisions, public goods, and the social contract. The failure of this oppressive death-dealing form of casino capitalism can be heard as Arundhati Roy observes in:

the stories of overwhelmed hospitals in the US, of underpaid, overworked nurses having to make masks out of garbage bin liners and old raincoats, risking everything to bring succor to the sick. About states being forced to bid against each other for ventilators, about doctors’ dilemmas over which patient should get one and which left to die.

The language of war is used by the mandarins of power to both address the indiscriminate viral pandemic that has brought capitalism to its knees and to reinforce and expand the political formations and global financial system that are incapable of dealing with the pandemic. Rather than using rage, emotion, and fear to sharpen our understanding of the conditions that abetted this global plague and what it might mean to address it and prevent it in the future, the ruling elite in a number of right wing countries such as the U.S. and Brazil use the discourse of war either to remove such questions from public debate or dismisses them as acts of bad faith in a time of crisis. Amartya Sen is right in arguing that ‘[o]vercoming a pandemic may look like fighting a war, but the real need is far from that’.

Instead the language of war creates an echo chamber produced in both the highest circles of power and the right-wing cultural apparatuses that serve to turn trauma, exhaustion, and mourning into a fog of conspiracy theories, state repression, and a deepening abyss of darkness that ‘serves the ends of those in power’. Edward Snowden is right in warning that governments will use the pandemic crisis to expand their attack on civil liberties, roll back constitutional rights, repress dissent and create what he calls an ‘architecture of oppression’.  He writes:

As authoritarianism spreads, as emergency laws proliferate, as we sacrifice our rights, we also sacrifice our capability to arrest the slide into a less liberal and less free world. Do you truly believe that when the first wave, this second wave, the 16th wave of the coronavirus is a long-forgotten memory, that these capabilities will not be kept? That these datasets will not be kept? No matter how it is being used, what’ is being built is the architecture of oppression.

There is no doubt that the Covid-19 crisis will test the limits of democracy worldwide. Right-wing movements, neo-Nazis, authoritarian politicians, religious fundamentalists and a host of other extremists are energized by what Slavoj Zizek calls the ‘ideological viruses… [lying] dormant in our societies’. These include closing of borders, the quarantining of so-called enemies, the claim that undocumented immigrants spread the virus, the demand for increased police power, and the rush by religious fundamentalists to relegate women to the home to assume their ‘traditional’ gendered role.

On the economic level and under the cover of fear, the U.S. in particular, is transferring what Jonathan Cook refers to as:

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.

This constitutes a politics of ‘opportunistic authoritarianism’ and is already in play in a number of countries that are using the cover of enforcing public health measures to enforce a range of anti-democratic policies and wave of repression. The pandemic has made clear that market mechanisms cannot address the depth and scope of the current crisis. The failure of neoliberalism not only reveals a profound sense of despair and moral void at the heart of casino capitalism, but also makes clear that the spell of neoliberalism is broken and as such is in the midst of a legitimation crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has both made clear that the neoliberal notion that all problems are a matter of individual responsibility and that each of us are defined exclusively by our self-interest has completely broken down as the effects of neoliberalism’s failure to deal with the pandemic unfold in shortages in crucial medical equipment, lack of testing, and failed public health services, largely due to austerity measures.

One consequence the failed neoliberal state is an uptake in levels of oppression in order to prevent the emergence of massive protests movements and radical forms of collective resistance. The suspension of civil rights, repression of dissent, upending of constitutional liberties, and the massive use of state surveillance in the service of anti-democratic ends has become normalized.  Many of the countries driven by austerity policies and a culture of cruelty are using the pandemic crisis as a way shaping their modes of governance by drawing from what activist Ejeris Dixon calls elements of a ‘fascist emergency playbook’. These include:

Use the emergency to restrict civil liberties — particularly rights regarding movement, protest, freedom of the press, a right to a trial and freedom to gather. Use the emergency to suspend governmental institutions, consolidate power, reduce institutional checks and balances, and reduce access to elections and other forms of participatory governance. Promote a sense of fear and individual helplessness, particularly in relationship to the state, to reduce outcry and to create a culture where people consent to the power of the fascist state; Replace democratic institutions with autocratic institutions using the emergency as justification. Create scapegoats for the emergency, such as immigrants, people of color, disabled people, ethnic and religious minorities, to distract public attention away from the failures of the state and the loss of civil liberties .

The evidence for the spread of this ideological virus and its apparatuses and polices of repression are no longer simply dormant fears of those fearful of the rise of authoritarian movements and modes of governance. For instance, Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister passed a bill that gave him ‘sweeping emergency powers for an indefinite period of time….The measures were invoked as part of the government’s response to the global pandemic’. What is becoming obvious is that the pandemic crisis produces mass anxiety that enables governments to turn a medical crisis into a political opportunity for leaders across the globe to push through dictatorial powers with little resistance.

For instance, as Selam Gebrekidan observes: ‘In Britain, ministers have what a critic called ‘eye-watering’ power to detain people and close borders. Israel’s prime minister has shut down courts and begun an intrusive surveillance of citizens. Chile has sent the military to public squares once occupied by protesters. Bolivia has postponed elections’. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte, who has flagrantly violated civil rights in the past, was given emergency powers by the congress. Under the cloak of invoking public health measures because of the threat posed by the coronavirus plague, China has broken up protests in Hong Kong and arrested many of its leaders. In the United States, Trump’s Justice Department has asked Congress ‘for the ability to ask chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies—part of a push for new powers that comes as the coronavirus spreads through the United States’.

In the U.S. Trump blames the media for spreading fake news about the virus, attacks reporters who ask critical questions, packs the courts with federal sycophants, dehumanizes undocumented immigrants by labeling them as carriers of the virus, and claims that he has ‘total authority’ to reopen the economy, however dangerous the policy, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. In this instance, Trump markets fear to endorse elements of white supremacy, ultra-nationalism, and social cleansing while unleashing the mobilizing passions of fascism. He supports voter suppression and has publicly stated that making it easier to vote for many Americans such as blacks and other minorities of color would mean ‘you would never have a Republican elected in this country again’.   In the midst of economic hardships and widespread suffering due to the raging pandemic, Trump has tapped into a combination of fear and a cathartic cruelty while emboldening a savage lawlessness aimed at the most vulnerable populations. How else to explain his calling the coronavirus the ‘Chinese virus’, regardless of the violence it enables by right wingers against Asian-Americans, or his call to reopen the economy to hastily knowing that thousands could die as a result, mostly the elderly, poor, and other vulnerable.

Militarizing the Media and the Politics of Pandemic Pedagogy

In the age of the pandemic, culture has been militarized. Donald Trump and the right-wing media in the United States have both politicized and weaponized the coronavirus pandemic. They have weaponized it by using a state of emergency to promote Trump’s political attacks on critics, the press, journalists, and politicians who have questioned his bungling response to the pandemic crisis. They have politicized it by introducing a series of policies under the rubric of a state of exception that diverts bailout money to the ruling elite, militarizes public space, increases the power of the police, wages attacks on undocumented immigrants as a public health threat, and promotes voter suppression. In addition Trump has further strengthened the surveillance state, fired public servants for participating in the impeachment process, and initially claimed that the virus was a hoax perpetuated by the media and Democrats who were trying to undermine Trump’s re-election.

Trump’s language of dehumanization coupled with his appalling ignorance and toxic incompetence appears as a perfect fit for the media spectacle that he has made a central feature of his presidency. Trump’s ‘anti-intellectualism has been simmering in the United States for decades and has now fully boiled over’ and when incorporated as a central feature of the right-wing social media becomes ‘a tremendously successful tool of hegemonic control, manipulation, and false consciousness’. Trump’s apocalyptic rhetoric appears to match the tenor of the moment as there is a surge in right-wing extremism, anti-Semitism, explosive racism, and a culture of lies, immediacy, and cruelty. What we are witnessing as the pandemic intensifies in the United States, and in some other countries across the globe, is the increasing threat of authoritarian regimes that both use the media to normalize their actions and wage war against dissidents and others struggling to preserve democratic ideas and principles.

Given his experience in the realms of Reality TV and celebrity culture, Trump is driven by mutually reinforcing registers of spectacular fits of self-promotion, joy in producing troves of Orwellian doublespeak, and the ratings his media coverage receives. One of the insults he throws out at reporters in his coronavirus briefings is that their networks have low ratings as if that is a measure of the relevance of the question being asked. Unlike any other president, Trump has used the mainstream media and social media to mobilize his followers, attack his enemies, and produce a twitter universe of misinformation, lies, and civic illiteracy. He has championed the right-wing media by both echoing their positions on a number of issues and using them to air his own. The conservative media such as Fox News has been enormously complicitous in justifying Trump’s call for the Justice Department to dig up dirt on his political rivals, including the impeachable offense of extorting the Ukrainian government through the promise to withhold military aid if they did not launch an investigation into his political rival, Joe Biden.  Moreover, they have supported his instigation of armed rebellions via his tweets urging his followers to liberate Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia by refusing to comply with stay-at-home orders and social distancing restrictions. Ironically, he is urging anti-social distancing protests that violate his own federal guidelines.

Trump has used the police powers of the state, especially ICE to round up children and separate them from their parents at the border. Placing loyalty above expertise, he surrounds himself with incompetent sycophants, and makes policy decisions from his gut, often in opposition to the advice of public health experts. All of this is echoed and supported by the conservative and right wing eco-system, especially Fox News, Breitbart News, and what appears to be a legion of right wing commentators such as Rush Limbaugh, who falsely claimed the virus is a common cold and Laura Ingraham, who deceitfully compared Covid-19 to the flu. Fox News not only produced conspiracy theories such as the claim the virus was the product of the ‘deep state’ and was being used by Democrats  to prevent Trump from being re-elected, it also produced misinformation about the virus and represented what 74 journalism professors and leading journalists described as ‘a danger to public health’.  Like most authoritarians, Trump does everything to control the truth by flooding the media with lies, denouncing scientific evidence, and critical judgment as fake news.  The latter is a direct attack on the free press, critical journalists, and the notion that the search for the truth is crucial to any valid and shared notion of citizenship.

The crisis of politics is now matched by a mainstream and corporate controlled digital media and screen culture that revels in political theater, embraces ignorance, fractured narratives, and racial hysteria (cf. Butsch, 2019). In addition, it authorizes and produces a culture of sensationalism designed to increase ratings and profits at the expense of truth. As a disimagination machine and form of pandemic pedagogy, it undermines a complex rendering of social problems and suppresses a culture of dissent and informed judgments. This pandemic pedagogy functions so as to shape human agency, desire, and modes of identification both in the logic of consumerism while privileging a hyper form of masculinity and legitimating a friend/enemy distinction.   We live in an age in which theater and the spectacle of performance empty politics of any moral substance and contribute to the revival of an updated version of fascist politics. Thoughtlessness has become a national ideal as the corporate controlled media mirror the Trump administration demand that reality be echoed rather than be analyzed, interrogated and critically comprehended.  Politics is now leaden with bombast, words strung together to shock, numb the mind, and images overwrought with self-serving sense of riotousness and anger. Trump shamelessly reinforces such a politics by showing propaganda videos at presidential news conferences.

What is distinct about this historical period, especially under the Trump regime, is what Susan Sontag has called a form of aesthetic fascism with its contempt of ‘all that is reflective, critical, and pluralistic’. One distinctive element of the current moment is the rise of what we call hard and soft disimagination machines. The hard disimagination machines, such as Fox News, conservative talk radio, and Breitbart media, function as overt and unapologetic propaganda machines that trade in nativism, misrepresentations, and racist hysteria, all wrapped in the cloak of a regressive view of patriotism.

As Joel Bleifuss points outFox News, in particular, is ‘blatant in its contempt for the truth, and engages nightly in the ‘ritual of burying the truth in ‘memory holes’ and spinning a new version of reality [that keeps] the spirit of 1984… alive and well…. This, the most-watched cable news network, functions in its fealty to Trump like a real-world Ministry of Truth from George Orwell’s 1984, where bureaucrats ‘rectify’ the historical record to conform to Big Brother’s decrees’. Trump’s fascist politics and fantasies of racial purity could not succeed without the disimagination machines, pedagogical apparatuses, and the practitioners needed to make his ‘vision not merely real but grotesquely normal’. What Trump makes clear is that the weaponization of language into a discourse of racism and hate is deeply indebted to a politics of forgetting and is a crucial tool in the battle to undermine historical consciousness and memory itself.

The soft disimagination machines or liberal mainstream media such as NBC Nightly News, MSNBC, and the established press function largely to cater to Trump’s Twitter universe, celebrity culture, and the cut throat ethos of the market, all the while isolating social issues, individualizing social problems, and making the workings of power superficially visible. This is obvious in their mainstream’s continuous coverage of his daily press briefings, which as Oscar Zambrano puts it ‘is like watching a disease in progress that is infecting us all: a parallel to coronavirus’ (Zambrano, 2020). Unfortunately, high ratings are more important than refusing to participate in Trump disinformation spectacles. Politics as a spectacle saturates the senses with noise, cheap melodrama, lies, and buffoonery. This is not to suggest that the spectacle that now shapes politics as pure theater is meant merely to entertain and distract.

On the contrary, the current spectacle, most recently evident in the midst of the coronavirus crisis functions as a war machine, functioning largely to nurture the notion of war as a permanent social relation, the primary organizing principle of society and politics merely one of its means or guises. War has now become the operative and defining feature of language and the matrix for all relations of power.

The militarization of the media, and culture itself, now function as a form of social and historical amnesia. That is, in both form and content it separates the past from a politics that in its current form has turned deadly in its attack on the values and institutions crucial to a functioning democracy. In this instance, echoes of a fascist past remain hidden, invisible beneath the histrionic shouting and disinformation campaigns that rail against alleged ‘enemies of the state’ and ‘fake news’, which is a euphemism for dissent, holding power accountable, and an oppositional media.  A flair for the overly dramatic eliminates the distinction between fact and fiction, lies and the truth.

Under such circumstances, the spectacle of militarization functions as part of a culture of distraction, division, and fragmentation, all the while refusing to pose the question of how the United States shares elements of a fascist politics that connects it to a number of other authoritarian countries such as Brazil, Turkey, Hungary, and Poland.  All of these countries in the midst of the pandemic have embraced a form of fascist aesthetics and politics that combines a cruel culture of neoliberal austerity with the discourses of hate, nativism, and state repression. The militarization of culture and the media in its current forms can only appeal to the state of exception, death, and war. Under such circumstances, the relationship between civil liberties and democracy, politics and death, and justice and injustice is lost. War should be a source of alarm, not pride, and its linguistic repositories should be actively demilitarized.

Conclusion

Under the Trump regime, historical amnesia is used as a weapon of (mis)education, politics, and power and is waged primarily through the militarization and weaponization of the media. This constitutes a form of pandemic pedagogy—a pedagogical virus that erodes the modes of agency, values, and civic institutions central to a robust democracy.  The notion that the past is a burden that must be forgotten is a center piece of authoritarian regimes, one that allows public memory to wither and the threads of fascism to become normalized. While some critics eschew the comparison of Trump with the Nazi era, it is crucial to recognize the alarming signs in this administration that echo a fascist politics of the past. As Jonathan Freedland points out, ‘the signs are there, if only we can bear to look’. Rejecting the Trump-Nazi comparison makes it easier to believe that we have nothing to learn from history and to take comfort in the assumption that it cannot happen once again. Democracy cannot survive if it ignores the lessons of the past, reduces education to mass conformity, celebrates civic illiteracy, and makes consumerism the only obligation of citizenship. Max Horkheimer added a more specific register to the relationship between fascism and capitalism in his comment ‘If you don’t want to talk about capitalism then you had better keep quiet about fascism.’

The lessons to be learned from the pandemic crisis have to exceed making visible the lies, misinformation, and corruption at the heart of the Trump regime.  Such an approach fails to address the most serious of Trump’s crimes. Moreover, it fails to examine a number of political threads that together constitute elements common to a global crisis in the age of the pandemic. The global response to the pandemic crisis by a number of authoritarian states when viewed as part of a broader crisis of democracy needs to be analyzed  by connecting ideological, economic, and cultural threads that weave through often isolated issues such as white nationalism, the rise of a Republican Party dominated by right-wing extremists, the collapse of the two party system, and the ascent of a corporate controlled media as a disimagination machine and the proliferation of corrosive systems of power and dehumanization.

Crucial to any politics of resistance is the necessity to take seriously the notion that education is central to politics itself, and that social problems have to be critically understood before people can act as a force for empowerment and liberation. This suggests analyzing Trump’s use of politics as a militarized spectacle not in isolation from the larger social totality—as simply one of incompetence, for instance- but as   part of a more comprehensive political project in which updated forms of authoritarianism and contemporary versions of fascism are being mobilized and gaining traction both in the United States and across the globe. Federico Mayor, the former director general of UNESCO once stated that ‘You cannot expect anything from uneducated citizens except unstable democracy’. In the current historical moment and age of Trump, it might be more appropriate to say that what can be expected from a society in which ignorance is a virtue and civic literacy and education are viewed as a liability, one cannot expect anything but fascism.

The pandemic crisis should be a rallying cry to create massive collective resistance against both the Republican and Democratic Parties and the naked brutality of the political and economic system they have supported since the 1970s. That is, the criminogenic response to the crisis on the part of the Trump administration should become a call to arms, if not a model on a global level, for a massive protest movement that moves beyond the ritual of trying Trump and other authoritarian politicians for an abuse of power. Instead, such a movement should become a call to  put on trial a capitalist system while fighting for structural and ideological reforms that will usher in a radical and socialist democracy worthy of the struggle.

What is crucial to remember is no democracy cannot survive without an informed citizenry. Moreover, solidarity among individuals cannot be assumed and must fought for as part of a wider struggle to break down the walls ideological and material repression that isolate, depoliticize, and pit individuals and groups against each other. Community and a robust public sphere cannot be built on the bonds of shared fears, isolation, and oppression. Authoritarian governments will work to contain both any semblance of democratic politics and any attempts at large scale transformations of society.  Power lies in more than understanding and the ability to disrupt, it also lies in a vision of a future that does not imitate the present and the courage to collectively struggle to bring a radical democratic socialist vision into fruition.

References.

Butsch, R. (2019). Screen Culture: A Global History. London: Polity.

Geyer, M. (1989). ‘The Militarization of Europe, 1914-1945’, in J. R. Gillis (ed) Militarization of the Western World. New Brunswick: NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Zambrano. O. (2020). Personal correspondence. March 20.

Posted in USAComments Off on Militarization in a Time of Pandemic Crisis

May Day, Mayday!

by PAUL STREET

Image Source: Harpers, The Haymarket Affair – Public Domain

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

* Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 1848

If the United States were not plagued by Orwellian, capital-induced amnesia regarding its own labor and sociopolitical history, much of the nation would have recoiled in historical disgust when Donald Trump designated May First – May Day – as the date for the premature “re-opening of America.”

It’s terrible that Trump wants to send tens of millions of Americans back to work before COVID-19 has ceased to pose grave health risks within and beyond workplaces and shopping centers.

Red May Day

Unbeknownst to Trump (in all likelihood), picking May First as his target added rich historical insult to injury. May Day has been the real international and American Labor and Working-Class holiday ever since the great U.S. Eight Hour strikes and marches of May 1st, 1886. Headquartered in industrial Chicago, the Eight Hour Movement was dedicated to the notion that working people need and deserve enough leisure beyond the supervision of their capitalist bosses to enjoy balanced and healthy lives and to participate meaningfully in the nation’s much ballyhooed “democracy.” The Eight Hour struggle’s leaders were radical militants who shared young Karl Marx and Frederick Engels’ idea that the capitalist profits system would either between overthrown and replaced with socialism by the proletariat or give rise to the “common ruin” of all.

The 1886 struggle ended with the Haymarket bomb, a giant wave of anti-union repression, and the brutal execution of four top radical leaders – the Haymarket Martyrs. May 1st been labor and the Left’s special historical day – celebrated by workers, radicals, and laborites the world over – ever since. It ought to be understood as deeply offensive for Trump to try to please his fellow right-wing capitalists and his deluded white-nationalist minions by trying to order millions of people back into hazardous working conditions on that day of the year.

Green May Day

But that’s not all. May Day has different and older, “green” roots in a time-honored pagan celebration of nature’s beauty and fertility amid spring’s full flowering in northern temperate zones. Dating to ancient Rome, this naturalist May Day is rooted in the seasonal rhythms of Mother Earth and agriculture. It reached across the Atlantic with the European conquest of what became known as the Americas. It is a day of leisure, to be spent outdoors, dancing and wearing flowers and soaking up the wind and sun. While rooted in custom, it was an official holiday in the British Tudor monarchy by at least the early 16th century. (The bourgeois-revolutionary Puritan Parliaments of 1649-1660 suspended the holiday, which was reinstated with the restoration of Charles II.)

Red and Green Common Ground

It is not hard to imagine the ancient green May Day merging with the modern red and proletarian May Day. “Eight Hours for What We Will,” union banners proclaimed in 1886. “For what we will” included time out of doors, in the free-flowing presence of nature, beyond the dirty, dangerous and depressing mills, mines and factories of Dickensian and Gilded Age capitalism—and away from the rigid “time-work discipline” (a term coined by British historian E.P. Thompson) imposed by despotic employers in what Marx called “the hidden abode of production.” It was an era when many, perhaps most, wage-earners retained connections to pre-industrial and more communalist and rural ways of life.

The workers’ movements of 19th century North America drew on the rolling, recurrently immigration-fed tension between the more naturally embedded and pre-industrial agricultural and artisanal ways of life on one hand and the authoritarian, speeded-up and nonstop “jungle” (detailed by American author Upton Sinclair) of industrial capitalist “modernity” on the other.

One delicious connection is that the eight-hour-day struggle in Chicago was particularly focused on the city’s McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. plant, manufacturer of a farm technology that famously displaced millions of laborers from agricultural work while helping industrialize the North American and global countryside.

Consistent with this melding of the red and green May Days, “modern” capitalism assaulted nature and created the wage-dependent proletariat at one and the same time through the long enclosure of “the commons.” The commons are the vast swaths of land, stream and forest in which pre-capitalist people found sustenance, insulating them from having to rent out their labor power to capitalists to garner the money required to purchase life’s necessities as commodities. As the brilliant left historian Peter Linebaugh notes in his book “Stop Thief!” “A single term, ‘the commons,’ expresses, first, that which the working class lost when subsistence resources were taken away, and, second, the idealized visions of liberté, egalité, fraternité,”

Rooted in a vast human history that long predated the ascendancy of “the commodity with its individualism and privatization,” the commons, Linebaugh writes, “is antithetical to capital.” The Protestant radical group known as Diggers and others with roots in the village commons who opposed capital’s rise to supremacy understood that “expropriation leads to exploitation, the Haves and the Have Nots.”

The Diggers, the first modern communists, were led by Gerrard Winstanley. They sought to pre-empt the coming new soulless wage, money and commodity slavery of the capitalist order (the bourgeois regime that Marx and Engels would justly accuse of “resolv[ing] personal worth into exchange value”) by claiming earth as “a common treasury for all.” Writing as England was becoming the first fully capitalist nation where most of the adult working-age population toiled for wages, Winstanley and his followers practiced what Linebaugh calls “commoning,” the merging of “labor” and “natural resources” in the spirit of “all for one and one for all.”

“The Most Dangerous Criminal in Human History”

Trump has insulted the green May Day as well the related red and proletarian one. His ruthless shredding of environmental regulations, recently escalated under the cover of COVID-19, is a frontal assault on livable ecology. The fossil-fuel-mad president of the United States seems hellbent on the doing everything he can to turn the planet to turn the planet into a giant Greenhouse Gas Chamber. In the name of economic recovery, Trump has granted American corporations an “open license to pollute.” As CBS reported three weeks ago, “The Trump administration introduced a sweeping relaxation of environmental laws and fines during the coronavirus pandemic. According to new guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), companies will largely be exempt from consequences for polluting the air or water during the outbreak.”

Last week, Trump’s EPA announced that it would weaken controls on the release of mercury and other toxic metals from oil and coal-powered plants.

It’s with Trump’s frankly ecocidal agenda in mind above all that our leading intellectual, Noam Chomsky has recently and properly identified Trump as “the most dangerous criminal in human history” – as a person wielding the most powerful office in world history to bring about the end of an decent and organized human existence. Adolph Hitler’s goal, Chomsky notes, “was to rid the German-run world of Jews, Roma, homosexuals and other ‘deviants,’ along with tens of millions of Slav ‘Untermenschen.’ But [unlike Trump,] Hitler was not dedicated with fervor to destroying the prospects of organized human life on Earth in the not-distant future [along with millions of other species.”

Mayday! Mayday!

The 20th Century brought a third meaning to the phrase “Mayday.” I am referring to what a pilot says into his radio as her plane plummets to earth: “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”

It is environmental “Mayday” indeed for humanity under the command of capital and far-right authoritarian lunatics like Trump and Jair Bolsonaro these days. “Spaceship Earth” is on exterminist path that is rapidly accelerating, as the latest findings on melting Arctic ice cover, rising global temperature, ocean acidification, species die-offs. and looming permafrost release regularly tell us. The capitalogenic COVID-19 crisis – a consequence of capital’s relentless quest for accumulation and profit – is just one among many eco-exterminist symptoms, many worse than even a virulent pandemic in the ever-shortening “long term.”

If the current environmental trajectory is not significantly reversed (and one silver lining in the COVID-19 nightmare is the drastic reduction of carbon emissions and other forms of capitalist pollution), the left’s long-standing struggle for equality and democracy is reduced to a debate over how to more equitably share a poisoned pie. Who wants to “turn the world upside down” (Winstanley’s phrase) only to find out that it is a steaming pile of overheated toxic and pathogen-ridden waste?

If the Earth celebrated by the Green May Day is irreversibly poisoned in a capital-imposed environmental and epidemiological Mayday!, then the radical social justice and democracy sought by friends of the Red May Day becomes sadly beside the point. The “common ruin of the contending classes” will have trumped the “revolutionary reconstitution of society-at-large,” rendering it obsolete.

Postscript

Here is one of the smartest calls to action I have ever read – from Cooperation Jackson last March 31st“A Call to Action: Toward a May 1st General Strike to End the COVID 19 Crisis and Create a New World.” Please read it and then act on its call:

“We must stop the worst most deadly version of this pandemic from becoming a reality, and we have to ensure that we never return to the society that enabled this pandemic to emerge and have the impact it is having in the first place. We must do everything that we can to create a new, just, equitable and ecologically regenerative economy. “

“The question is how? To fight back we have to use the greatest power we have at our disposal – our collective labor. We can shut the system down to break the power of the state and capitalist class. We must send a clear message that things cannot and will not go back to normal. In order to do this, we need to call for collective work and shopping stoppages, leading to a general strike that is centered around clear, comprehensive demands. We must make demands that will transform our broken and inequitable society, and build a new society run by and for us – the working class, poor, oppressed majority. “

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THE COVID-19 SCAM DECONSTRUCTED ‘VIDEO’

MEET THE PLAYERS

FROM A TO Z

As you know from the dozens of videos we’ve put out, the CoVid-19  scam has a lot of moving parts.

In this original program, I attempt bring together ALL the pieces of the puzzle.

In an ideal world, I’d have a team of crack team of researchers and editorial and production people to tie it up up into a nice package.

No such thing exists.

So I just have to content myself with scooping the people who have these things – by weeks, months, years, and sometimes forever.

It’s a long show. You might find it an interesting way to pass the time.

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If Trump is a Pathological Liar, What Type of Liar is Biden?

by BRUCE E. LEVINE

Photograph Source: Matt Johnson – CC BY 2.0

Bernie Sanders has routinely called Trump a “pathological liar.” The term pathological liar, a controversial one for psychiatrists, in common usage coveys someone who is an extraordinarily unrestrained liar. And so, Bernie knows that it is in no way radical to use this term to describe the unrelentingly self-serving Trump who unhesitatingly lies if he judges it to be in his self-interest. While Bernie’s diagnosis of Trump is a politically safe one, a more uncomfortable assessment for him would be: What type of liar is Joe Biden?

I’ll get to Biden—whose lies, not his gaffes, are what the Blue Team should worry most about. But first, some of what makes Trump an exceptional and extraordinary liar, even for a US president. Trump is obviously not the first politician to have zero allegiance to the truth, but he remains extraordinary—not merely in the sheer quantity of his lies but also in other ways.

The most obvious area of Trump’s extraordinariness as a liar is his staggering number of lies. “President Trump Made 16,241 False or Misleading Claims in His First Three Years” was the headline of the Washington Post in January 2020, which reports, “He averaged six such claims a day in 2017, nearly 16 a day in 2018 and more than 22 a day in 2019.” This was before his 2020 epidemic of false and misleading claims around COVID-19.

In addition to the sheer number of lies, what makes Trump extraordinary is his striking incapacity to gage how easily and quickly his lies will be detected. For some psychiatrists, assertions that are “easily verifiable to be untrue” indicate a pathological liar, but for me, it just means that Trump is a child-like liar. Trump is no different than the five-year old with chocolate cake smeared all over his face who, when confronted by his parents for eating his brother’s last piece of birthday chocolate cake, tells his parents that he has never had chocolate cake in his life.

One of many examples of this child-like lying occurred on March 7, 2020, when Trump stated about COVID-19 testing, “Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That’s what the bottom line is.” Even Trump supporters—who believe that all news that Trump doesn’t like is “fake news” —had themselves experienced or had heard from family and friends that Trump’s COVID-19 test availability assertion was false.

We can always count on Trump to have regard only for himself and to have no regard for the truth, but part of what makes him especially anxiety producing is that we can’t count on him to be smart enough to know what falsehood will in fact be self-serving. The Trump combination of being both an unrelentingly self-serving liar and a poor judge of what in fact is self-serving creates a unique kind of uncertainty.

What also distinguishes Trump as a liar compared to other liar US presidents is that Trump is unbothered by the consequences of being caught lying. Trump’s arrogance has been, in a perverse sense, justified. Trump is not extraordinary in the sense that he believes he is above the law—that’s par for the course for most US presidents—but he is extraordinary in his belief that there are no consequences for being caught lying. This makes Trump different than most of our well-known liar US presidents.

Lyndon Johnson lied constantly to the American people about how the United States was winning the Vietnam War. But once the highly-trusted Walter Cronkite told the American people that the war was unwinnable, Johnson knew that his lying was obvious, and he knew that he had lost credibility and did not run for re-election. Even the consummate liar Richard Nixon sensed that being caught lying was not a good thing. Not Trump.

This brings us to Joe Biden. Just what kind of liar is he? The following is a sampling of some—certainly not all—of Biden’s lies in a variety of areas.

Biden’s lies about his policy record are numerous and glaring. One of Biden’s most often repeated lies, widely reported as a lie even by CNN, is how he opposed the 2003 Iraq War from the very moment it began. Of course, not only was Biden instrumental to the launch of this war but supported it long after it began—this all painfully depicted in the Danny Glover narrated short documentary “Worth the Price?

The Iraq War lie is certainly not Biden’s only policy record lie. Regarding Social Security, Biden repeatedly lied in recent debates saying, “I didn’t propose a freeze,” when he had repeatedly argued for not only freezes but cuts in Social Security.

Beyond his lies about his policy record, Biden has repeatedly lied with the intent of making himself appear to be honorable. He has often lied about how “he got involved in the Civil Rights movement” and how “he marched in the Civil Rights movement,” despite videos of him admitting this to be untrue. Also to court African American voters, he has repeatedly lied about getting arrested in South Africa attempting to visit Nelson Mandela in prison, an assertion that he has now admitted is untrue.

Attempting to make himself appear intelligent, Biden has lied about his academic record and his grades, lying about graduating in the top half of his law school class when in fact he graduated 76th in a class of 85. Then there is his infamous plagiarism that derailed his campaign to win the Democratic nomination for president in 1988. His plagiarizing of then British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock brought attention to Biden’s previous plagiarism at Syracuse University College of Law.

One of the lesser-known Biden lies may not be as significant a lie for some journalists, but it is a lie that speaks loudly about Biden’s character—or lack thereof. Perhaps it is just me, but I find it especially pathetic when someone exploits family tragedy for political purposes with a lie that creates personal tragedy for someone else.

Specifically, it is Biden’s lie about the horrific traffic accident in 1972 that resulted in the tragic death of his first wife and his baby daughter, as well as resulting in severe injuries to his sons. The truth is that Biden’s then wife was hit by a truck after she drove into an intersection in which the truck had the right of way, and the police investigation cleared the truck’s driver from any blame. To gain greater sympathy for himself, Biden repeatedly lied to the public saying that the truck driver, Curtis Dunn, was a man who “drank his lunch instead of eating his lunch.” This falsehood of course deeply hurt Dunn. His family made many attempts to get Biden to correct it, and finally in 2009, after Curtis Dunn was dead, Biden called Dunn’s daughter to apologize.

When I began researching this piece, I knew that Joe Biden told lies, but my expectation was that I would be able to make a clear distinction between Biden and Trump with respect to the type of liar each is. With the exceptions of the staggering amount of Trump falsehoods, and the fact that Biden has admitted to some of his lies, I can’t find much difference between them. Sorry, Blue Team.

Biden’s well-publicized record of lying should be well-known to those who pull the strings of the Democratic National Committee (DNC)—those who have been orchestrating Biden’s nomination. This compels several questions: Is the DNC so stupid so as to not realize what a gift a Biden candidacy is to Trump, who can easily use the facts of Biden’s lying to suppress the Blue Team vote? Is it not obvious that many Blue Team voters will stay home rather than vote to replace one liar with another? Or is the DNC and its masters so evil that they really don’t mind having Trump win again? So evil that opting for an alternative to Biden who could beat Trump but who is slightly less oligarchy-friendly than Biden was out of the question for them?

Considering these questions makes me think about George Orwell’s examination of the actions of the British ruling class with respect to the Spanish Civil War. In Orwell’s essay, “Looking Back on the Spanish War,” he observed that at the time of that war, “one did not need to be a clairvoyant to foresee that war between Britain and Germany was coming” yet the “the British ruling class did all they could to hand Spain over to Franco and the Nazis.” Orwell then tried to figure out why the British ruling class acted in such a manner: “Because they were pro-Fascist, was the obvious answer. Undoubtedly they were, and yet when it came to the final showdown they chose to stand up to Germany. . . .Whether the British ruling class are wicked or merely stupid is one of the most difficult questions of our time, and at certain moments a very important question.”

Wicked or merely stupid? It is not only the British ruling class that provokes that question.

Posted in USAComments Off on If Trump is a Pathological Liar, What Type of Liar is Biden?

So We’re All in This Together…Really? What About Big Oil?

by CHARLOTTE DENNETT

Oil fields of the Permian Basin, West Texas. Photograph by Roy Luck – CC BY 2.0

One thing I’ve learned over the years of investigating Big Oil and its hold over the futures of whole nations — including the US — is this: Never count on “straight talk” from its lobbyists, its PR people, and its protagonists in Congress and the White House

So what are we make of the fact that the price of oil tanked to below zero per barrel on April 22, the greatest drop in history? The price has gone up slightly since then, hovering around $16 a barrel on April 25th, but it is still severely depressed. Who will suffer from this? And perhaps more importantly, who will gain?

Predicting the future is difficult during this pandemic. Here are five questions that might yield answers.

What caused the precipitous drop in the price of oil?

In a word: coronavirus. No one can deny this. It is an inescapable fact, plainly portrayed by TV images of empty streets around the world. Sheltering at home has greatly reduced the consumption of gasoline. People are not driving their cars to work. Airlines — big consumers of gasoline — are cutting way back. A global over-supply of oil is not only driving down prices, it is causing havoc because there is no more storage space for tankers to unload their cargo.

By early March, the situation was becoming particularly acute in Asia, especially in Covid-19’s hardest hit countries — China and South Korea. A crisis was evident for oil producing nations. Anticipated state revenues from selling oil to Asia were suddenly falling far short of expectations

The Trump Administration began considering a bailout for the oil and gas industry in March if oil prices continuex to stay in the doldrums. But it remains to be seen how such a bill would pass a Democratic-controlled House given anger among Democrats over the industry’s contribution to climate change and pollution. One need only look at the skylines of the world’s largest cities to see how reduced consumption of oil and gasoline has cleared the air.

Why did Russia and Saudi Arabia react by starting an oil price war now– of all times!

Members of OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies, met in Vienna in early March to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on a declining demand for oil. Russia (though not a member of OPEC) joined the meetings, resulting in a pact called OPEC +. Representatives of OPEC’s 15 member countries (plus Russia) tried to hash out a deal that would curtail oil production enough to raise the price of oil. They failed. Why?

Saudi Arabia — the capo di tutti capi of oil producers — proposed cutting its oil production by 1 million barrels a day to prop up the price of oil, provided that Russia, another major leaguer, cut its production by 500,000 barrels a day. Russia balked. After all, Putin, ex-KGB guy that he is, is a master at playing the Great Game for Oil. Ever since the United States began exporting large quantities of shale oil and gas (much of it obtained through fracking) as cheap energy to Europe, he saw Russia’s market share in Europe threatened and revenues reduced. As the major supplier of oil and natural gas to Europe, Putin needed to compete with American shale oil producers and if possible, outcompete them with Russia’s own cheap oil.

But there was another factor at play, according to Bloomberg News: Russia’s economy was better prepared to take a hit because “five years of austerity and safeguarding assets against the threat of U.S. sanctions have left Russia in a stronger position than ever before to cope with lower oil prices…International sanctions forced Russia to strip back foreign borrowing in recent years, while stringent fiscal policies pared domestic spending to a minimum. The result is that Russia now boasts the fourth-biggest international reserves in the world, and some of the lowest debt levels.”

When Russia balked, Saudi Arabia did a turnaround, purportedly out of revenge, and on March 8 boosted output by 10 million barrels, further flooding the oil market and triggering the greatest reduction of its oil price in 30 years. What happened next was the beginning of the historic Saudi-Russian oil price war, with oil prices tumbling to $20 a barrel, the lowest, at the time, in 20 years (compared to $70 a barrel earlier this year), rattling oil investors –and communities — around the world.

Oil-dependent states like Oklahoma and Texas were reeling from the lower prices and lost earnings. “Texas, priding itself as the oil capital of the world, had already lost 20,000 jobs over the last year,” according to Todd Staplesof the Texas Oil and Gas Commission, and “that’s just the beginning of this phase.”Staples (accurately) predicted that by April 22, “it was going to get worse before it gets better, which is why the economy needs to get going again.” Gets one to wondering if the oil industry is partly behind the push by the Governor of Texas to “open up” its cities and get workers back on the job, despite the possibility of contagion through close contact.

Leave it to a vengeful virus to shake out some of the hidden detritus of one of the world’s most powerful industries. Even former US vice president and CEO of Halliburton, Dick Cheney, himself an ardent player in the Great Game in the Middle East and its endless wars, has been watching his huge Houston-based energy services company, with 50,000 employees in over 80 countries, take a nosedive in profitability. Last year at this time Halliburton had reported a net income of $152 million in its first quarter; this year, Haliburton had to report a $1 billion loss covering the same period.

Why did Trump put an end to the Saudi-Russian price war?”

President Trump, who made good on his campaign pledges to boost US energy production, has been a particularly ardent supporter of the US domestic shale oil and gas industry, which uses the controversial technique known as fracking to release underground oil or natural gas from layers of oil-bearing rock. Trump was a key speaker at last years’ ninth annual Shale Insight Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and boasted that shale production was “saving energy producers millions of dollars in compliance costs, while maintaining sterling environmental standards…We set an economic boom of truly historic proportions, bringing prosperity back to cities and towns all across America.”

Yet there were already signs of danger for the shale industry last fall. In their zeal to achieve record output, some shale oil producers began drilling wells too close to each other, and sweet spots” began to dry up. Then the coronavirus hit China, triggering a drop in demand for oil. By March, 2020, the Saudi-Russia oil price war was in full swing. The Washington Postreported on March 9 that President Trump was “strongly considering pushing federal assistance for oil and natural gas producers hit by plummeting oil prices,” having been told by alarmed industry executives that the shale oil producers were already deeply in debt, to the tune of $40 billion over the last year, and risked going out of business. (Some also warned “against the administration supporting any sweeping paid sick leave policy, according to a major GOP donor and a White House official familiar with the discussions.”)

One of the affected producers is Harold Hamm, a Trump supporter and advisor and a founder of Continental Resources, an Oklahoma based oil company and a proclaimed “leader in America’s energy renaissance.” On March 9th, the Post reported, Hamm told Trump that his company lost most of its market value, some $2 billion worth. He urged Trump to “ consider using laws on illegal dumping to prevent Russia and Saudi Arabia from slashing prices of oil sold in the United States.”

Trump took his cue, but adopted a different approach. On April 13, he helped broker a deal between the Russians and the Saudis that OPEC+ countries would cut oil production by 9.7 million barrels a day — even while he, Trump, refused to cut oil production in the US. The deal was due to go into effect in May. Trump tweeted triumphantly that “The big Oil Deal with OPEC Plus is done. This will save hundreds of thousands of energy jobs in the United States. I would like to thank and congratulate President Putin of Russia and King Salman of Saudi Arabia. I just spoke to them from the Oval Office. Great deal for all!”

Trump’s apparent victory was pyrrhic at best, however. Goldman Sachs, Fortune magazine reported, was already taking a hard look into its own crystal ball and warned that the euphoria was premature, calling the cuts in production “too little, too late.” It foresaw that Covid-19 would continue to run roughshod on oil producers as more and more populations around the world went into lockdown.

Who will be the biggest winners?

Meanwhile, one energy industry expert rather cynically predicted that in the end, the winners of the oil price plunge would be none other than Saudi Arabia and Russia. “On the face of it,” wrote Antoine Halff, “ the idea of Saudi Arabia and Russia starting an oil price war in the middle of a global pandemic is as dumb as it gets. From a game theory perspective, it is a masterstroke.

Game theory is well suited to “what makes Johnny run” under capitalism, namely, competition. As defined by Investopedia, “Game theory is a theoretical framework for conceiving social situations among competing players. In some respects, game theory is the science of strategy, or at least the optimal decision-making of independent and competing actors in a strategic setting.”

Certainly optimal decision-making is necessary in the intensely competitive and ever-volatile Great Game for Oil. According to Halff, the massive drop in oil prices “will hurt producers all around but will bring Riyadh and Moscow longer-term benefits. With their low costs and vast financial reserves, the two can withstand a loss of oil revenue better than most producers. Others are already teetering on the brink of collapse.” The biggest losers will be independent shale oil producers — mostly smaller oil and gas companies –called “the competing fringe” in this game theory analysis. They took huge risks (and expensive loans) to successfully compete for market share around the world, nudging up against such industry giants as Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, BP and Shell. Now they can’t repay their debts.

As I point out in my book about “the deadly politics of the Great Game for Oil,” Big Oil inevitably triumphs over smaller independents due to the scale, expertise, advanced machinery, access to Wall Street financing, and formidable foreign policy experience Big Oil has gained over a century of playing the game.

Big Oil companies, in short, are big enough to ride out crises that would sink their less-well-endowed competitors. I was therefore not surprised to read in Oilprice.com that Pioneer National Resources, one of the largest shale oil developers in the United States, warned that independents would go bankrupt during the plunge of oil prices in March. He “blamed ExxonMobil for blocking help from the American government for the U.S. shale industry.” As Pioneer’s Scott Sheffield explained, Exxon’s refusal to help “is because the oil major wants to kill smaller shale companies” That’s why “Pioneer and several independents are seeking a global settlement to look at really reducing production with all 26.” The independents got what they wanted with the Russia-Saudi agreement of April 13, but underestimated Covid-19’s relentless spread across the nation and the world.

On April 12, one of the larger shale oil producers, Whiting Petroleum, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. becoming the first major shale oil victim of the virus. And that was when oil was going at $20 a barrel. Other bankruptcies will surely follow as social distancing continues despite pressure from Republican governors to open up their states now.

Who are the biggest losers?

The impact on oil-industry-dependent communities in America’s west and southwest will likely be devastating, with major job loss already occurring as a result of the virus. Compounding the problem is the fact that the world is running out of places to store the vast surplus of oil that has resulted from greatly reduced demand. This is the situation facing Cushing, Oklahoma, the main storage hub for independent producers, which is likely to be “filled to the brim” by May. According to the New York Times, “hundreds of smaller producers rely on pipeline companies to transport their production, and to storage tanks in Cushing to hold onto it.”

Exxon and Chevron, which began to invest heavily in shale oil last year, at least have their own storage facilities.

Trump territory is reeling from the downturn in oil prices. Small oil companies that operated in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Montana flourished when oil prices went as high as $100 barrel, but now they are having trouble repaying loans to regional banks. The impact on local economies has been “disastrous, devastating,” according to Darlene Wallace, president of Columbus Oil, a small Oklahoma company. “I hate to sound like a little old lady, but it’s frightening.”

Now, even the majors are feeling the blow. S&P Global Ratings cut ExxonMobil’s credit rating in late March, and the oil giant may have difficulty paying its dividend. Occidental Petroleum has already cut its dividend and saw Moody Investors Service downgrade it rating. Chevron, also worried about maintaining its dividend, has scaled back on its spending by 20%, with the biggest cuts taking place in the Permian Basin in West Texaco and New Mexico.

Still, if anyone can weather the storm, it will be Big Oil. Which is why we should all be watching this sector of the US economy closely — as well as the Big Banks — to see how they will try to pull out of this crisis, as usual, ahead of the game.

Should we get ready for Big Bailouts? The Wall Street Journal reported on April 22 that the Trump Administrations was “weighing aid for the battered oil industry.” But, ironically, that trial balloon was poorly timed, landing with a thud on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, as Bill McKibbon, influential climate activist and founder of 350.0rg warned, “We must stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry that is wrecking this planet.” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said the same thing, noting in his Earth Day Speech that “climate disruption” is even more menacing than Covid-19, adding that “greenhouse gases, just like viruses, do not respect national boundaries.”

If the bailout doesn’t happen, there’s always another war in the Middle East to look toward. On April 23, President Trump threatened to destroy Iranian boats that harass the U.S. Navy in the Gulf, “boosting oil prices.” Such threats, reported the Wall Street Journal, “can lift crude because traders are very sensitive to tensions in the region that could disrupt the movement through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping channel for tankers.” Just think of what a major war with Iran could do for the price of oil?

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