Archive | May 22nd, 2020

Mission Imperative: Come November, Trump Must Go

In case you needed a reminder, the pandemic reveals everything rancid about this presidency.

by: Michael Winship

President Donald Trump appears at a rally on the eve before the South Carolina primary on February 28, 2020 in North Charleston, South Carolina. The Trump administration is coming under increased criticism from democrats for not doing enough to prepare America for the Coronavirus. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump appears at a rally on the eve before the South Carolina primary on February 28, 2020 in North Charleston, South Carolina. The Trump administration is coming under increased criticism from democrats for not doing enough to prepare America for the Coronavirus. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

There must be one mission above all, one goal supreme: Vote this monster out of the White House. And along with him, tow to the nearest dump the clown car of malefactors who gave him license to cripple our republic.

Donald Trump’s defeat and the defeat of those in Congress who have enabled him with nary a word of protest are Priorities Number 1 through 100. Focus. Don’t be diverted by ideological hairsplitting and intraparty squabbling. Drive this creature and his army of creeps, leeches and miscreants back to the wet market from which they came.

“The thuggery has to stop. Donald Trump and his Republican accomplices must be voted out. Drop everything else and help make it happen.”

Little else matters until this goal is accomplished in November. And even after that, there could be trouble, because come Inauguration Day he may have to be dragged out like Saddam Hussein from his spider hole, screaming fraud and persecution all the way.

So now that I have your attention…

Yes, it is imperative that we emerge from our current catastrophe battered but unbowed. We must debate healthcare and racial, gender and wealth inequality. We desperately need to take action on climate change, infrastructure, education and student debt, immigration, right-wing extremism, privacy, the right to choose and much more. Plus, progressives have plenty to criticize in the Democratic Party, lots that has to change about a hidebound institution that too often ignores the working class and diverse base that traditionally brought it success.

But right now, failure is not an option. Four more years of this—a president, cabinet and Republican Party bent on nihilistic destruction in the name of greed, power and corruption—and there will be an ash heap where a democracy used to stand. It’s like the old joke my mother used to tell about bananas – you throw away the skin and the bone and there’s nothing left.

The pandemic tragedy has crystalized much of what’s wrong with this White House and the Republican Party.  As death and disease have devastated the United States and the world, they woefully have mishandled the crisis with a calamitous mix of ignorance, incompetence, blindness to reality, and the careless and dangerous rhetoric that always have characterized this administration and its minions in Congress, states and towns. Add to all this a willingness to sacrifice lives in the name of the economy; this last insult solely to advance the reelection of themselves and the toddler-at-the-top who would rather tweet and rage maniacally than truly be our president.

In Rolling StoneTim Dickinson notes, “Academic research from Imperial College in London, modeling the U.S. response, estimates that up to 90 percent of COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented had the U.S. moved to shut down by March 2nd. Instead, administration leaders dragged their feet for another two weeks, as the virus continued a silent, exponential assault.”

To which Donald Trump replies, “These models have been so wrong from day one, both on the low side and the upside. They’ve been so wrong; they’ve been so out of whack. And they keep making new models, new models and they’re wrong.”

And: “If we did very little testing, [America] wouldn’t have the most cases. So, in a way, by doing all of this testing, we make ourselves look bad.”

And: “I feel about vaccines like I feel about tests. This is going to go away without a vaccine. It’s going to go away and it’s, we’re not going to see it again, hopefully, after a period of time.”

And: “If people want to get tested, they get tested. But for the most part, they shouldn’t want to get tested.”

Now he says, when it comes to testing, “We have met the moment and have prevailed.” What?

In the midst of this disingenuous verbal jabberwocky, countless stories continue to appear of bickering among White House staff and medical experts, the blocking of evidence and health recommendations, massive shortfalls in testing and the delivery of needed supplies, attempts to make a fast buck off the suffering of others. All of these media reports have emerged despite Trump’s attempts to suppress or distract from the truth.  Meanwhile, we quickly approach 100,000 dead in these United States.

Further, Trump pushes coronavirus conspiracy theories and miracle cures, contravenes his own government’s guidelines as he encourages states to reopen prematurely — setting them up to take the blame if it all goes wrong —  and eggs on protesters who storm statehouses and beaches demanding their right to party on.

This is the “transition to greatness” that’s his new mantra, the current iteration of saying anything, no matter how bat soup crazy, to hold onto his phony baloney job.

“It will work for some people, but he can’t get over the fact that many, many people are dying — and they’re dying on his watch,” political scientist Max Skidmore, author of Presidents, Pandemics and Politics, told The Washington Post. “Too many people are dying, and that’s the fact that he can’t cover up however much he tries.”

With the news that COVID-19 has now crept into the corridors of the White House itself, and that staffers have been ordered to wear masks (expect for the Cheeto-in-Chief, of course), I’ve tried to restrain my inclination toward schadenfreude. But it’s very near impossible, when on top of all its other pandemic-related malfeasance, this administration continues on a multitude of fronts to cynically use the disease as cover for its ongoing subversion of the general welfare of the people and destruction of constitutional government – whether it’s the 98 environmental rules being reversed, according to The New York Times, the trashing of the US Postal Service or Attorney General William Barr’s undermining of the Justice Department and an independent judiciary, all on Trump’s behalf.

Last week’s dismissal of charges against former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn – despite his guilty plea for lying to the FBI – is the latest manifestation of Barr’s sabotage of the rule of law, part of the continuing effort to erase all evidence of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, including the findings of the Mueller report — even though those efforts on the part of the former Soviet Union on Trump’s behalf continue into this year’s 2020 campaign.

Now Trump, with Barr ever his faithful sidekick, is cooking up a smear of Barack Obama, ramping up accusations of Obama illegally trying to use the Russia interference probe to frame Trump. Although the president seems uncertain as to what the scandal is exactly, this “OBAMAGATE!” mongering may be to distract us from his mismanagement of COVID, or to damage Joe Biden, Obama’s vice president, or to retaliate for Obama’s weekend description of Trump’s handling of the COVID crisis as an “absolute chaotic disaster,” or maybe just the never-ending petty resentment and jealousy of the popular African-American who preceded him that drive Trump mad.  Could be all of the above. Whatever the reasons, this is ugly, sleazy stuff.

Many, myself included, have been fond of comparing Trump to Al Capone and other notorious gangsters. Certainly, throughout his career, Trump has tried to act like a wise guy, paying off hoodlums, manhandling foes and bragging about his street smarts, albeit with varying degrees of success.

But now, congratulations, pal. Donald Trump, you’ve outdone Capone and all the rest. There’s more blood on your hands than the mob itself could imagine – more, as you would say, Mr. President, than anyone has ever seen.

The thuggery has to stop. Donald Trump and his Republican accomplices must be voted out. Drop everything else and help make it happen. Then we can talk about a true transition to greatness.

Posted in USA0 Comments

A Perfectly Legal Lynching in Georgia?

Killings of black men by whites are 8.5 times more likely to be ruled “justified.”

by: Brett Wilkins

White people who kill black men in the United States often face no legal consequences.  (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

White people who kill black men in the United States often face no legal consequences.  (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

The South Georgia prosecutor who advised police that there was insufficient evidence to arrest two white men involved in the fatal shooting of black runner Ahmaud Arbery called the killing “an act of justifiable homicide.”

The Glynn County Police Department released a statement on Saturday regarding its investigation into the death of Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old black man who was jogging in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia on February 23 when he was confronted by 34-year-old Travis McMichael and his father Gregory McMichael, 64, before being shot dead by Travis. According to the statement, Waycross District Attorney George E. Barnhill “advised detectives before noon on February 24 that the act was justifiable homicide and for detectives to continue their investigation.”

A Perfectly Legal Lynching? 

In an April 2 memo, Barnhill wrote that the McMichaels and a third man, Bryan Williams, “were in hot pursuit…  of a burglary suspect, with solid, first-hand probable cause” and that “their intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived.” Barnhill added that “under Georgia law, this is perfectly legal.” Georgia’s “stand your ground” law, passed in 2006, states that a person using force in self-defense has “no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground.” 

According to the initial police report in the case, Gregory McMichael told officers that he pursued Arbery because “there have been several break-ins in the neighborhood.” However, the Brunswick News reported that police records showed there had been only one burglary reported in Satilla Shores in 2020—the theft of a handgun from a pickup truck parked outside Travis McMichael’s home on January 1.

On the day of the fatal shooting, emergency dispatchers received two calls about a black man running in Satilla Shores. Video later emerged of Arbery entering an open property under construction, remaining there for three minutes and then jogging down the street. One of the 911 callers mentioned this. Neither caller mentioned any criminal activity, leading one dispatcher to ask, “I just need to know what he’s doing wrong.”

Cellphone video footage recorded by Bryan from his vehicle shows Arbery jogging down the street as the McMichaels approach and confront him in their pickup truck. Travis was driving; Gregory is seen riding in the truck bed. A struggle ensues after Travis exits the pickup with a shotgun and confronts Arbery. Three shots are then heard as Travis shoots Arbery to death in what some, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, have called a “lynching.”

Good Ole Boys (and Gals) 

In his April 2 memo, Barnhill wrote that “Arbery initiated the fight,” and that “under Georgia law, McMichael was allowed to use deadly force to protect himself” before blaming the victim, whose “mental health records and prior convictions help explain his apparent aggressive nature and his possible thought pattern to attack an armed man.” 

Barnhill was the second district attorney in charge of the case, having taken over after Brunswick District Attorney Jackie L. Johnson, who had long employed Gregory McMichael — a former Glynn County police officer—as in investigator in her office until his retirement last year, recused herself from the case. According to two Glynn County commissioners, Johnson intervened to protect the McMichaels from arrest.

“The police at the scene went to her, saying they were ready to arrest both of them,” Commissioner Allen Booker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “These were the police at the scene who had done the investigation. She shut them down to protect her friend McMichael.”

Commissioner Peter Murphy added that Glynn County police told him that although officers at the scene determined that they had probable cause to arrest the McMichaels, “they were told not to make the arrest” by “representatives of the DA’s office.”

Johnson responded by accusing Booker and Murphy of making “false accusations” against her  “in an attempt to make excuses and ignore the problems at the Glynn County Police Department.” According to the New York Times, “Glynn County police officers have been accused of covering up allegations of misconduct, tampering with a crime scene, interfering in an investigation of a police shooting and retaliating against fellow officers who cooperated with outside investigators.” Days after Abery’s killing, Police Chief John Powell, who had been hired to clean up the department, was indicted on charges related to the alleged cover-up of an officer’s sexual relationship with an informant.

Long Road to Justice

According to the Glynn County police statement, Arbery’s family requested that Barnhill be removed from the case because his son formerly worked alongside Gregory McMichael in the Brunswick district attorney’s office and had personally handled a felony probation revocation case involving Arbery, who was convicted of shoplifting and violating probation in 2018.

This isn’t the first time Barnhill has courted controversy over an issue regarding race. In 2016, he charged Olivia Pearson, a civil rights activist and the first black woman ever elected to the Douglas City Commission, with felony voter fraud and threatened to imprison her for 15 years after she helped a first-time voter use an electronic voting machine. Pearson’s lawyers called her prosecution “racially motivated.” It took a jury 20 minutes to find her not guilty.

Under fire to explain why it waited to release information about the Arbery shooting case to the public, the Glynn County Police Department claimed that while it “has sought justice,” it did not want to “impact future prosecution.” Some critics claim that the story never would have received national and global attention if it were not for the release of the cell phone video footage of the shooting two and a half months later. It took 74 days for Travis and Gregory McMichael to be arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and charged with murder and aggravated assault. “Had we not seen that video I don’t think [the McMichaels] would have been charged,” Bottoms told CNN on Sunday.

On May 11, the US Justice Department announced it is considering a request from Georgia Attorney General Christopher M. Carr to determine whether federal hate crime charges should be pursued against the McMichaels. President Donald Trump on Monday said he was “disturbed” by the case, calling Arbery’s death “a horrible thing.” Mayor Bottoms, however, accused the president of playing a role in racist violence. “With the rhetoric we hear coming out of the White House in so many ways, I think that many who are prone to being racist are given permission to do it in an overt way we otherwise would not see in 2020,” she told CNN.

Fitting the Pattern

Barnhill’s premature presumption of “justifiable” killing in the Arbery case fits a troubling pattern. White people who kill black men in the United States often face no legal consequences. According to a 2017 study by the Marshall Project, a nonprofit journalism organization focusing on criminal justice issues, killings of black men by white people are 8.5 times more likely to be ruled “justifiable” than homicides involving other racial combinations. The study examined 400,000 US homicides in the years 1980-2014 and found significant local disparities. In Houston and Los Angeles, the killing of a black person by a white person is 12.5 times more likely to be ruled “justifiable,” while the figure is 3 times in San Francisco and 2.5 times in Portland, Oregon.

The study noted that a “reasonable belief” that a person posed a threat was often sufficient to find killing them “justifiable.” Police, prosecutors and juries “may be apt to give killers the benefit of the doubt,” even in cases in which a killer’s fear may have been irrational.

Posted in USA, Human Rights0 Comments

Murderer in Chief: Donald Trump and the Tens of Thousands Coronavirus Dead

Many argue that the U.S. president has blood on his hands. The question remains: just how much?

by: Kenneth Peres

A supporter of US President Donald Trump holds an election poster as he participates in a "Freedom Rally" protest in support of opening Florida in South Beach in Miami, on May 10, 2020. (Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)

A supporter of US President Donald Trump holds an election poster as he participates in a “Freedom Rally” protest in support of opening Florida in South Beach in Miami, on May 10, 2020. (Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)

On March 30th, the Boston Globe editorial board published a statement that concluded, “The months the administration wasted with prevarication about the [coronavirus] threat and its subsequent missteps will amount to exponentially more COVID-19 cases than were necessary. In other words, the president has blood on his hands.” This article will attempt to quantify the number of people this “blood” actually represents. Providing a concrete figure for the number of preventable deaths will illustrate the extent, severity and seriousness of the administration’s policy choices. These are deaths that could have been prevented. Trump is culpable. The question is how to hold him accountable.   

Preventable Deaths that have Already Occurred: Up to 72,900

According to the latest data available for this article, there were 81,001 official COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. as of May 11, 2020. The question is how to quantify the number of these deaths that could have been prevented. An April 2020 analysis by epidemiologists Britta Jewell and Nicholas Jewell (referred to as the Jewell analysis) provided the following estimates for the range of preventable deaths.

“…an estimated 90 percent of the cumulative deaths in the United States from COVID-19, at least from the first wave of the epidemic, might have been prevented by putting social distancing policies into effect two weeks earlier, on March 2, when there were only 11 deaths in the entire country. The effect would have been substantial had the policies been imposed even one week earlier, on March 9, resulting in approximately a 60 percent reduction in deaths.”

The 60-90% range for preventable deaths is corroborated by other sources. Dr. Tom Frieden (former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and New York City’s health commissioner from 2002 to 2009) estimated that deaths might have been reduced by 50 percent to 80 percent in the city if social distancing had been widely adopted a week or two earlier. The Jewell analysis also is supported by the experience of other countries. Germany’s deaths/million is 63% lower than the U.S. while South Korea’s is 98% lower. As will be discussed later, these two countries had to confront a number of obstacles that were similar to the U.S. But, unlike the U.S., they both addressed the pandemic with coordinated, comprehensive responses. Using data reported by RealClearPolitics, as of May 11th, the United States had 247.6 official COVID-19 deaths per million; Germany had 91.3; and South Korea experienced just 4.9 deaths per million.   

“The scale of the preventable deaths resulting from Trump’s policies is astounding. Imagine that the population of the city of Daytona Beach, FL or Davis, CA suddenly disappeared—that is equivalent to the 72,900 preventable COVID-19 deaths that have already occurred.”The number of preventable deaths in the U.S. can be estimated by taking the official number of total COVID-19 deaths and applying the 60%-90% range for preventable deaths presented in the Jewell analysis.  Of the 81,001 official COVID-19 deaths registered in the U.S., the number of preventable deaths that have already occurred ranges from 48,600 (60%) to 72,900 (90%). 

Cumulative Preventable Deaths for the Duration of the Pandemic: Up to 216,000 to 720,000 Depending on the Model

Estimating the total number of deaths for the entire pandemic depends upon the models used. President Trump cited estimates of total fatalities ranging from 100,000 to 240,000 though he did not cite any particular studies, specify the timeline for the estimates or identify the underlying assumptions. The number of preventable deaths ranges up to 216,000. This figure is calculated by applying the 90% figure cited in the Jewell analysis to Trump’s higher projection of 240,000 total deaths. Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, has projected the possibility of 800,000 U.S. deaths over the next eighteen months which range up to an astounding 720,000 (90%) preventable deaths.

Trump is Culpable

The lack of any timely, comprehensive and coordinated response to the pandemic—and the lack of any ongoing plan from the federal government—has resulted in tens of thousands of preventable deaths. U.S. leadership at both the federal and state levels has been inadequate. 

Two months elapsed between the time the president received the first warnings about the pandemic and his declaration of a national emergency. In an eloquently written Atlantic op-ed, David Frum crystallized Trump’s culpability in just two sentences, “That the pandemic occurred is not Trump’s fault. The utter unpreparedness of the United States for a pandemic is Trump’s fault.” And to make matters even worse, Trump still refuses to implement a national, coordinated response to the pandemic even though such programs have proven to reduce deaths. Here are two examples

  • Both Germany and the U.S. have decentralized federal-state systems. Both got late starts addressing the pandemic. However, German Chancellor Merkel provided strong leadership by insisting that all pandemic measures be carefully coordinated between the powerful states and the federal government. Germany has provided a potential template for how countries can adapt to the coronavirus threat and blunt its impact. In contrast to Germany, Trump refused to institute a comprehensive and coordinated federal-state response to the pandemic; instead, he has forced governors to fend for themselves. There would have been 51,100 fewer U.S. fatalities if we had the same rate of deaths/million as Germany
  • South Korea and the U.S. officially learned about their first coronavirus case on the same day. From that point on, the two countries diverged in their responses. The South Korean government met with private sector manufacturers, streamlined procedures and implemented a program for the mass production, distribution and utilization of tests. An April 2020 analysis by Vox states, “South Korea… tested more than 66,000 people within a week of the first transmission within its borders. By comparison, the U.S. took roughly three weeks to complete that many tests…” The Trump administration still refuses to institute or coordinate any massive testing program. There would have been 79,400 fewer U.S. fatalities if we had the same rate of deaths/million as South Korea.

Trump even refuses to adopt U.S.-based proposals for a comprehensive nationwide, coordinated effort for testing and contact tracing. In April 2020, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security issued “A National Plan to Enable Comprehensive COVID-19 Case Finding and Contact Tracing in the U.S…” The Rockefeller Foundation published “A National COVID-19 Testing Action Plan” in the same month. Both plans relied on the input of experts and the experience of other countries. Each proposal concluded that a national, coordinated effort led by the federal government but involving states, communities and the private sector is required.  

“The bottom-line question remains: can a president do anything—even causing the preventable deaths of tens of thousands of people across America—and escape any form of accountability?”

The Issue of Accountability

The scale of the preventable deaths resulting from Trump’s policies is astounding. Imagine that the population of the city of Daytona Beach, FL or Davis, CA suddenly disappeared—that is equivalent to the 72,900 preventable COVID-19 deaths that have already occurred. Or that the population of the city of Birmingham, AL or Salt Lake City, UT evaporated—equivalent to the cumulative 216,000 preventable COVID-19 deaths based on Trump’s own projections for total deaths. Or imagine that all the residents of the city of Boston, Washington DC, or Denver had to be buried—equivalent to the 720,000 preventable COVID-19 deaths that could occur when using the previously cited University of Minnesota projections for total deaths. And the human toll does not only include these specific deaths but also the effects felt by their families, friends and communities. The tragedy is not just the scale of the deaths—but that these deaths could have been prevented.

At a January 23, 2016 campaign stop in Sioux City, Trump stated, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible.” It would be even more incredible for Trump not to lose votes after being culpable in the preventable deaths of 72,900 people already—with thousands more being added to this tragic list every week.

There are at least three steps that can be taken to hold Trump accountable for these preventable deaths.

  • At the very least, the public, the media, and Trump should be constantly reminded of and confronted with his role in causing thousands of preventable deaths. Every public appearance, press conference, and social media post offers an opportunity to declare his culpability.
  • Trump should be voted out of office for his role in these deaths. If not, then Trump will have proven that he – and any subsequent president – can do anything without consequences.
  • Trump could be charged with a crime after leaving office. There is a range of opinion about the viability of such an approach. Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor and former head of the Washington, DC homicide section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, stated that Trump could be prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter once he exits the presidency. In an April 2nd interview on The Intercept’s Deconstructed podcast, Kirschner explained, “There are three things, what we call elements . . . that we have to prove in order to hold somebody accountable for involuntary manslaughter…One, that a person acted in a grossly negligent way or importantly for our purposes, failed to act and that failure was a product of gross negligence… Number two, their conduct was reasonably likely to involve serious bodily injury or death to another as a product of that grossly negligent act or failure to act. And three, that they thereby caused the death of another.” Kirschner contends that Trump satisfies all three elements for criminal liability. He also predicted that Trump would face civil suits in “each jurisdiction in which people have died as a result of his gross negligence.”

Bill Blum, a former administrative law judge and death penalty defense attorney, believes that such a case would be very difficult to prove. In an April 11th Common Dreams article, he stated, “It will take a particularly strong case with particularly provable links to Trump’s refusal to dispatch medical equipment or test kits to hot spots in places like New York City or Detroit to bring Trump personally to justice, either criminally or civilly. That will be a tough sell, as they say in litigation circles, even before open-minded judges and juries.” 

In an April 21st op-ed in The Hill, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, stated that Trump cannot be criminally charged for his handling of the pandemic. Turley explains, “If Trump could be prosecuted for allegedly not prioritizing assistance, then every president could be prosecuted by their rivals as murderers. No case exists to support a claim that a president can be charged for mishandling a crisis.”  

The bottom-line question remains: can a president do anything—even causing the preventable deaths of tens of thousands of people across America—and escape any form of accountability? The answer depends on us.

Posted in USA, Health0 Comments

After Trump Vetoed the Iran War Powers Resolution, Congress Must Continue to Act

The bipartisan majority that has come together on this issue should not stop working to enact legislation to reclaim its war powers and block Trump from taking us to war with Iran.

by: Erica Fein

Congress must, at a minimum, make a concerted effort to block Trump from starting a war because we’re in danger of foreclosing diplomacy with Iran for future presidents. (Photo: bakdc / Shutterstock.com)

Congress must, at a minimum, make a concerted effort to block Trump from starting a war because we’re in danger of foreclosing diplomacy with Iran for future presidents. (Photo: bakdc / Shutterstock.com)

On April 22, President Trump took to Twitter and threatened to attack Iran, instructing the Navy to “shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.” The tweet was both alarming and cringeworthy — boats don’t fly. But it was also commonplace. Trump has threatened to start a war with Iran so many times that it almost feels banal.

It would be a mistake to let Trump’s threats toward Iran become normal. Taken together with his withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reimposition of debilitating sanctions, and attempts to kill the JCPOA once and for all, Trump’s maximum pressure approach to Iran is deadly serious. Fortunately, a majority of Congress sees it that way, too.

Last week, Congress tried and came up short of enacting a War Powers Resolution (WPR) to block Trump’s march to war with Iran. Unable to muster a two-thirds majority to override Trump’s veto, some may be asking whether it’s futile for Congress to keep legislating on this. But continued congressional action and oversight is crucial for an administration hell-bent on circumventing the constitution, pursuing regime change in Iran no matter the consequences for ordinary Iranians, and tying the hands of future presidents to limit their ability to change course.

The constitution exclusively grants Congress the power to decide whether to put U.S. servicemembers in harm’s way.

Congressional action matters for several reasons. First, it’s a counterweight to Trump’s supercharged anti-Iran bully pulpit. While starting a new war with Iran is unpopular—a University of Maryland poll found that 76 percent of Americans want to use tools short of war to confront Iran—Iran also remains deeply unpopular within the United States. That leaves room for Trump and his powerful Iran hawk backers to sway public opinion in favor of war. According to Gallup polling, from 2018 to 2020, the percentage of Americans who believe Iran represented the greatest threat to the United States jumped from seven to 19 percent.

Rightly understanding that the public is vulnerable to propaganda, Congress did the right thing by passing the WPR, even if they knew would be vetoed. As Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the measure’s lead sponsor, explained of the bipartisan legislative push, “The president doesn’t really care about Congress, but he does care deeply about voters… We think …it will make the president realize just how unpopular a rush into another war would be.”

Second, Congress must keep acting because the rule of law should still matter in the United States. Trump’s increasingly successful efforts to turn this country into an autocracy isn’t just affecting the Justice Department and Supreme Court, but also congressional powers. The constitution exclusively grants Congress the power to decide whether to put U.S. servicemembers in harm’s way. Yet in Trump’s veto message, he arguably went the furthest he has ever gone to make the case that his war powers exceed those of Congress’s, effectively claiming that the president is unrestrained in his ability to wage war. This is simply not true. Unfortunately, Congress has not done itself any favors to be in a position to reclaim its war powers, having long ceded much of its authority to the executive by failing to repeal the post-9/11 use of force authorization and the Iraq war authorization. With seven out of seven Trump vetoes being about congressional national security powers and two out of seven specifically about war authority, pushing forward with the war powers vote despite the threat of veto helps demonstrate that Congress is willing to fight for its prerogatives.

Finally, Congress must, at a minimum, make a concerted effort to block Trump from starting a war because we’re in danger of foreclosing diplomacy with Iran for future presidents. As others have argued, whether it’s trying to box in a future president (say, Biden) from removing devastating sanctions on Iran or seeking to create a crisis by triggering the collapse of the JCPOA, Iran regime change supporters are working to make diplomacy with Iran significantly more difficult should President Trump lose the next election. In addition, congressional support for diplomacy with Iran is decidedly mixed in the Trump era. A number of progressive Democrats signed a problematic letter that could be used by Iran hawks to undermine the JCPOA. Given this reality, Congress must be crystal clear that starting a war (as opposed to responding to Iranian aggression) is off the table. In so doing, it signals to moderate voices in Iran that not all of the United States is hostile and eager for conflict, and keeps some space open for a new president to restart good faith negotiations.

There should be little doubt that Trump will once again threaten Iran before the 2020 election. All threats should be met with the same seriousness that Congress has displayed thus far. In addition to the tools it has under the War Powers Act to bring expedited bills to the floor, the Democratic House majority has passed bills invoking its constitutionally-given power of the purse and repealing the Iraq War authorization to close off other avenues to war. As this Congress winds down and must-pass legislation moves to the floor, the bipartisan majority that has come together on this issue should not stop working to enact legislation to reclaim its war powers and block Trump from taking us to war with Iran.

Posted in USA, Iran0 Comments

Nicaragua Requests OAS Lift Sanctions Due to COVID Crisis

Luis Alvarado, Nicaragua representative to OAS

The Nicaragua representative affirmed that the hostile policies only lead to conflict and interferes with the nation’s self-determination, security, and freedom.

Nicaragua’s representative to the Organization of American States (OAS)  demanded on May 11 that sanctions cease against Cuba, Venezuela, and his nation. 

RELATED: Nicaragua: VP Rosario Murillo Grateful for UNICEF Donation

Nicaraguan diplomat Luis Alvarado participated in the first session of the Weekly Forum on the Challenges Facing Inter-American Law in the Time of the Coronavirus.  He referred to COVID-19’s social and economic worldwide impact. Alvarado stated solidarity and cooperation are paramount to cope with sequels of this health crisis.

The Nicaragua representative affirmed that the hostile policies only lead to conflict and interferes with the nation’s self-determination, security, and freedom. Alvarado also affirmed all states have legal equality. 

“It is unacceptable that in these times of pandemic the wrongly imposed sanctions, economic blockades, and protectionist practices and human rights violations remain against peoples and nations of the world by the great powers,” he insisted.

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Alvarado called for Inter-American Law principles’ respect in public policies. Besides, he stressed these strategies should aim for people’s life, health, security, and integrity preservation.

“Respect for the principles and norms of international law is unavoidable, while at the same time international peace and security are endangered, which is why these acts of aggression and breaches of the peace must be eliminated once and for all,”  he demanded.

The OAS, headquartered in Washington, has imposed hostile policies towards Cuba, which is the only Latin American state excluded from its membership. Furthermore, the organization supported Juan Guaido’s self-proclamation as Venezuela president against Nicolas Maduro’s constitutional presidency and have imposed economic sanctions on Nicaragua. 

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Coronavirus and Dodgy Death Numbers

By F. William Engdahl

Global Research
Url of this article:
https://www.globalresearch.ca/coronavirus-death-numbers/5712605
Not only are the coronavirus models being used by WHO and the most national health agencies based on highly dubious methodologies, and not only are the tests being used of wildly different quality, that only indire- ctly confirm antibodies of a possible COVID-19 illness. Now the actual designations of deaths related to coronavirus are being revealed to be equally problematic for a variety of reasons. It gives alarming food for thought as to the wisdom of deliberately putting most of the world’s people–and with it the world economy–into Gulag-style lockdown on the argument it is necessary to contain deaths and prevent overloading of hospital emergency services.

When we take a closer look at the definitions used in various countries for “death related to COVID-19” we get a far different picture of what is claimed to be the deadliest plague to threaten mankind since the 1918 “ Spanish Flu.”

The USA and CDC definitions

Right now the USA is said to be the nation with far the largest number of COVID-19 deaths, as of this writing, with media reporting some 68,000 “ Covid-19” deaths. Here is where it gets very dodgy. The Government agency responsible for making the cause of death tally for the country, the CDC, is making huge changes in how they count so-called novel coronavirus deaths.

As of May 5, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the central agency recording cause of death nationwide, reported 39,910 COVID-19 deaths. A footnote defines this as “Deaths with confirmed or presumed COVID-19.” How a doctor makes the “presumed” judgment leaves huge latitude to the hospital and health professionals. Although the coronavirus tests are known to be subject to false results, CDC states that even where no tests have been made a doctor can “presume” COVID-19. Useful to note for perspective is the number of USA deaths recorded from all causes in the same period of February 1 through May 2, that was 751,953.

Now it gets more murky. The CDC posted this notice: “ As of April 14, 2020, CDC case counts and death counts include both confirmed and probable cases and deaths.” From that time the number of so-called COVID-19 deaths in USA has exploded in an alarming manner it would appear. On that day, April 14, New York City’s coronavirus death toll was revised with a major 3,700 fatalities added, with the provision that the count now included “people who had never tested positive for the virus but were presumed to have it.” The CDC now defines confirmed as “confirmatory laboratory evidence for COVID-19,” which as we noted elsewhere included tests of dubious precision, but at least tests. Then they define “probable” as “with no confirmatory laboratory testing performed for COVID-19.” Just a guess of the doctor in charge.

Now leaving aside the major discrepancy between the CDC headline COVID-19 deaths as of May 5 of 68,279 and their detailed total of 39,910 deaths for the same period, we find another problem. Hospitals and doctors are being told to list COVID-19 as cause of death even if, say, a patient age 83 with pre-existing diabetes or cardiac issues or pneum- onia dies with or without COVID-19 tests. The CDC advises, “In cases where a definite diagnosis of COVID cannot be made but is suspected or likely (e.g. the circumstances are compelling with a reasonable degree of certainty) it is acceptable to report COVID-19 on a death certificate as ‘probable’ or ‘presumed.’” This opens the door ridiculously wide for abuse of coronavirus death numbers in the United States.

A Big Money Incentive

A provision in the March 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act, gives a major incentive for hospitals in the US, most all of them private for-profit concerns, to deem newly-admitted patients as “presumed COVID-19.” By this simple method the hospital then qualifies for a substantially larger payment from the government Medicare insurance, the national insurance for those over 65. The word “presumed” is not scientific, not at all precise but very tempting for hospitals concerned about their income in this crisis.

Dr Summer McGhee, Dean of the School of Health Sciences at the Univ- ersity of New Haven, notes that,

“The CARES Act authorized a temporary 20 percent increase in reimbursements from Medicare for COVID-19 patients…” He added that, as a result, “hospitals that get a lot of COVID-19 patients also get extra money from the government.”

Then, according to a Minnesota medical doctor, Scott Jensen, also a State Senator, if that COVID-19 designated patient is put on a ventilator, even if only presumed to have COVID-19, the hospital can get reimbursed three times the sum from the Medicare. Dr Jensen told a national TV intervi- ewer,

“Right now Medicare is determining that if you have a COVID-19 admission to the hospital you get $13,000. If that COVID-19 patient goes on a ventilator you get $39,000, three times as much.”

Little wonder that states such as Massachusetts suddenly began backd- ating cause of death totals back to March 30, significantly inflating COVID death numbers, or that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo began demanding 30,000 ventilators and emergency equipment around the same early April time, equipment that was not needed.

In short, the COVID-19 death statistics in the USA are highly dubious for a variety of reasons, not least huge financial incentives to hospital administrators who had been told to cancel all other operations to make extra room for a predicted flood of coronavirus ill. That rising death toll said to be “COVID-19 or presumed” impacts the decisions to lock down the economy and in effect create an economic pandemic of unparalleled dimension.

Italy COVID deaths?

Not only are USA COVID-19 death numbers open to serious question. If we look closely most major countries have equally dubious data. Until recently one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the EU was Italy where outbreaks have been concentrated in the Lombardy and adjacent regions of the industrial north. Here again the definition of cause of death has been fuzzy. A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association by a group of Italian doctors who analyzed the alarming high covid-19 figures pointed out that when state medical authorities made detailed case examination of a sample of 355 covid-19 “presumed” deaths, they found that the mean age was 79.5 years. “In this sample, 117 patients (30%) had ischemic heart disease, 126 (35.5%) had diabetes, 72 (20.3%) had active cancer, 87 (24.5%) had atrial fibrillation, 24 (6.8%) had dementia, and 34 (9.6%) had a history of stroke. The mean number of preexisting diseases was 2.7. Overall, only 3 patients (0.8%) had no  diseases.” That means that of the sample 99.2% had other serious illnesses.

In Italy, the persons who tested positive for COVID-19, regardless of preexisting serious illness, were listed as COVID-19 fatalities. Italy has the EU’S oldest population on average and the worst air pollution in the EU, especially in the Lombardy region. From the first case in early February until 6 May Italy has declared 29,315 COVID-19 deaths. This is more than the total of deaths in 2017 attributed to influenza and/or pneumonia which was reported 25,000.

The reason for the apparent spike should be seriously investigated, but reports of panic among hospital workers over the shutdown declaration by the Conte government, with thousands reportedly fleeing Italy for their home countries in Poland or elsewhere, might have also played a role. On March 31 a report from northern Italy stated, “In recent weeks, most of the Eastern European nurses who worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week supporting people in need of care in Italy have left the country in a hurry. This is not least because of the panic-mongering and the curfews and border closures threatened by the ‘emergency governments.’“

In many countries the picture is one of a predominately mild influenza like infection with comparable death rates. The lack of uniformly agreed tests and the inaccuracies of many tests used, as well as the extremely doubtful criteria for declaring a cause of death as being “from” COVID-19 suggest that it is well past time to reexamine the unprecedented lockdown measures, social distancing, possible mandatory vaccines of unproven effect, all of which are creating what is becoming the worst economic depression since the 1930’s.

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Catholic Clergy on COVID-19: Three Cardinals Join Global Appeal Decrying Crackdown on Basic Freedoms Over Coronavirus

The signatories assert the right of the Church to offer public worship

By Paul Smeaton

UPDATE (May 8, 9:00AM EST): Archbishop Viganò, who gathered the signatures and communicated with Cardinal Sarah about the initiative, has now issued a timeline of his communications with Sarah. Read full report here.

UPDATE (May 7, 8:00PM EST): This story originally indicated, based on information from the organizers, that Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, had joined the appeal. But the cardinal has now written on Twitter that he did not sign. “From a personal point of view, I may share some questions or preoccupations raised regarding restrictions on fundamental freedom but I didn’t sign that petition,” he wrote.

A Note from Global Research:

This a powerful statement for all humanity. It upholds fundamental values. It rejects “global governance”. It upholds the sovereignty of nations. It points to the irresponsibility of national governments which pay lip service to a global public health concern while adopting economic and policies which impoverish their citizens. Politicians in high office have become the lackeys of powerful financial interests.

The facts have shown that, under the pretext of the Covid-19 epidemic, the inalienable rights of citizens have in many cases been violated and their fundamental freedoms, including the exercise of freedom of worship, expression and movement, have been disproportionately and unjustifiably restricted. Public health must not, and cannot, become an alibi for infringing on the rights of millions of people around the world… (read statement in full below)

The rights to income and employment are denied. Social engineering is imposed leading to a de facto police state. Increasingly, there is evidence that the data pertaining to the COVID-19 has been deliberately manipulated with a view to sustaining the fear campaign led by the corporate media.

The Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) supports the substance of this important endeavor of the catholic clergy. This message should spread Worldwide.

Michel Chossudovsky, May 11, 2020

***

Catholic clergy led by former papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and Cardinals Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, Joseph Zen, and Janis Pujats have joined an appeal “for the Church and the world” that warns that the COVID-19 pandemic is being used as a “pretext” by world leaders to “control” people, strip them of their fundamental rights, while providing a “disturbing prelude to the realization of a world government beyond all control” (read full text below).

In the face of restrictions around the world on the public celebration of the sacraments, the signatories assert the right of the Church to offer public worship, unimpeded by State interventions.

Finally, as Pastors responsible for the flock of Christ, let us remember that the Church firmly asserts her autonomy to govern, worship, and teach. This autonomy and freedom are an innate right that Our Lord Jesus Christ has given her for the pursuit of her proper ends. For this reason, as Pastors we firmly assert the right to decide autonomously on the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments, just as we claim absolute autonomy in matters falling within our immediate jurisdiction, such as liturgical norms and ways of administering Communion and the Sacraments. The State has no right to interfere, for any reason whatsoever, in the sovereignty of the Church.

The signatories ask that “restrictions on the celebration of public ceremonies be removed.”

Along with the 4 cardinals signing the appeal are 8 bishops, 3 priests, 21 journalists, 11 medical doctors, 13 lawyers, 18 teachers and professionals, and 12 various groups and associations.

SIGN Appeal for the Church and the World here

In reference to coronavirus lockdown measures around the world and the reduction of individuals’ civil liberties, the signatories say that they believe there are powers at work in society “interested in creating panic among the world’s population with the sole aim of permanently imposing unacceptable forms of restriction on freedoms, of controlling people and of tracking their movements.”

“The imposition of these illiberal measures is a disturbing prelude to the realization of a world government beyond all control,” they state.

Arguing that widespread closures of shops and businesses has in some instances “precipitated a crisis that has brought down entire sectors of the economy,” the signatories continue to raise concerns about potential radical changes to the geopolitical landscape. They stated that such weakened economies “encourages interference by foreign powers and has serious social and political repercussions.”

“Those with governmental responsibility must stop these forms of social engineering, by taking measures to protect their citizens whom they represent, and in whose interests they have a serious obligation to act,” the letter states.

The letter also directly addresses several questions related to medical treatments for Covid-19.

In the first instance, the letter implores governments and international bodies not to allow “shady business interests” to influence their responses to the coronavirus.

“It is unreasonable to penalize those remedies that have proved to be effective, and are often inexpensive, just because one wishes to give priority to treatments or vaccines that are not as good, but which guarantee pharmaceutical companies far greater profits, and exacerbate public health expenditures,” the signatories write.

On the question of potential coronavirus vaccines, the signatories say that “for Catholics it is morally unacceptable to develop or use vaccines derived from material from aborted fetuses.” They insist too that individuals must be free to reject such vaccines without any penalties being imposed on them.

The letter also calls on governments not to adopt attempts to control people through “tracking systems or any other form of location-finding,” or for the crisis to be used as an excuse for increasing levels of media censorship and the de-platforming of dissenting voices.

“Let us not allow centuries of Christian civilization to be erased under the pretext of a virus, and an odious technological tyranny to be established, in which nameless and faceless people can decide the fate of the world by confining us to a virtual reality,” the letter urges.

The signatories stress that in the face of the current crisis, followers of God must try to understand the current situation in the light of the Gospels.

“This means taking a stand: either with Christ or against Christ. Let us not be intimidated or frightened by those who would have us believe that we are a minority: Good is much more widespread and powerful than the world would have us believe.”

“With faith, let us beseech the Lord to protect the Church and the world. May the Blessed Virgin, Help of Christians, crush the head of the ancient Serpent and defeat the plans of the children of darkness,” the appeal concludes.

***

APPEAL FOR THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD

To Catholics and all people of good will

Veritas liberabit vos. Jn 8:32

In this time of great crisis, we Pastors of the Catholic Church, by virtue of our mandate, consider it our sacred duty to make an Appeal to our Brothers in the Episcopate, to the Clergy, to Religious, to the holy People of God and to all men and women of good will. This Appeal has also been undersigned by intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, journalists and professionals who agree with its content, and may be undersigned by those who wish to make it their own.

The facts have shown that, under the pretext of the Covid-19 epidemic, the inalienable rights of citizens have in many cases been violated and their fundamental freedoms, including the exercise of freedom of worship, expression and movement, have been disproportionately and unjustifiably restricted. Public health must not, and cannot, become an alibi for infringing on the rights of millions of people around the world, let alone for depriving the civil authority of its duty to act wisely for the common good. This is particularly true as growing doubts emerge from several quarters about the actual contagiousness, danger and resistance of the virus. Many authoritative voices in the world of science and medicine confirm that the media’s alarmism about Covid-19 appears to be absolutely unjustified.

We have reason to believe, on the basis of official data on the incidence of the epidemic as related to the number of deaths, that there are powers interested in creating panic among the world’s population with the sole aim of permanently imposing unacceptable forms of restriction on freedoms, of controlling people and of tracking their movements. The imposition of these illiberal measures is a disturbing prelude to the realization of a world government beyond all control.

We also believe that in some situations the containment measures that were adopted, including the closure of shops and businesses, have precipitated a crisis that has brought down entire sectors of the economy. This encourages interference by foreign powers and has serious social and political repercussions. Those with governmental responsibility must stop these forms of social engineering, by taking measures to protect their citizens whom they represent, and in whose interests they have a serious obligation to act. Likewise, let them help the family, the cell of society, by not unreasonably penalizing the weak and elderly, forcing them into a painful separation from their loved ones. The criminalization of personal and social relationships must likewise be judged as an unacceptable part of the plan of those who advocate isolating individuals in order to better manipulate and control them.

We ask the scientific community to be vigilant, so that cures for Covid-19 are offered in honesty for the common good. Every effort must be made to ensure that shady business interests do not influence the choices made by government leaders and international bodies. It is unreasonable to penalize those remedies that have proved to be effective, and are often inexpensive, just because one wishes to give priority to treatments or vaccines that are not as good, but which guarantee pharmaceutical companies far greater profits, and exacerbate public health expenditures. Let us also remember, as Pastors, that for Catholics it is morally unacceptable to develop or use vaccines derived from material from aborted fetuses.

We also ask government leaders to ensure that forms of control over people, whether through tracking systems or any other form of location-finding, are rigorously avoided. The fight against Covid-19, however serious, must not be the pretext for supporting the hidden intentions of supranational bodies that have very strong commercial and political interests in this plan. In particular, citizens must be given the opportunity to refuse these restrictions on personal freedom, without any penalty whatsoever being imposed on those who do not wish to use vaccines, contact tracking or any other similar tool. Let us also consider the blatant contradiction of those who pursue policies of drastic population control and at the same time present themselves as the savior of humanity, without any political or social legitimacy. Finally, the political responsibility of those who represent the people can in no way be left to “experts” who can indeed claim a kind of immunity from prosecution, which is disturbing to say the least.

We strongly urge those in the media to commit themselves to providing accurate information and not penalizing dissent by resorting to forms of censorship, as is happening widely on social media, in the press and on television. Providing accurate information requires that room be given to voices that are not aligned with a single way of thinking. This allows citizens to consciously assess the facts, without being heavily influenced by partisan interventions. A democratic and honest debate is the best antidote to the risk of imposing subtle forms of dictatorship, presumably worse than those our society has seen rise and fall in the recent past.

Finally, as Pastors responsible for the flock of Christ, let us remember that the Church firmly asserts her autonomy to govern, worship, and teach. This autonomy and freedom are an innate right that Our Lord Jesus Christ has given her for the pursuit of her proper ends. For this reason, as Pastors we firmly assert the right to decide autonomously on the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments, just as we claim absolute autonomy in matters falling within our immediate jurisdiction, such as liturgical norms and ways of administering Communion and the Sacraments. The State has no right to interfere, for any reason whatsoever, in the sovereignty of the Church. Ecclesiastical authorities have never refused to collaborate with the State, but such collaboration does not authorize civil authorities to impose any sort of ban or restriction on public worship or the exercise of priestly ministry. The rights of God and of the faithful are the supreme law of the Church, which she neither intends to, nor can, abdicate. We ask that restrictions on the celebration of public ceremonies be removed.

We should like to invite all people of good will not to shirk their duty to cooperate for the common good, each according to his or her own state and possibilities and in a spirit of fraternal charity. The Church desires such cooperation, but this cannot disregard either a respect for natural law or a guarantee of individual freedoms. The civil duties to which citizens are bound imply the State’s recognition of their rights.

We are all called to assess the current situation in a way consistent with the teaching of the Gospel. This means taking a stand: either with Christ or against Christ. Let us not be intimidated or frightened by those who would have us believe that we are a minority: Good is much more widespread and powerful than the world would have us believe. We are fighting against an invisible enemy that seeks to divide citizens, to separate children from their parents, grandchildren from their grandparents, the faithful from their pastors, students from teachers, and customers from vendors. Let us not allow centuries of Christian civilization to be erased under the pretext of a virus, and an odious technological tyranny to be established, in which nameless and faceless people can decide the fate of the world by confining us to a virtual reality. If this is the plan to which the powers of this earth intend to make us yield, know that Jesus Christ, King and Lord of History, has promised that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail” (Mt 16:18).

Let us entrust government leaders and all those who rule over the fate of nations to Almighty God, that He may enlighten and guide them in this time of great crisis. May they remember that, just as the Lord will judge us Pastors for the flock which he has entrusted to us, so will He also judge government leaders for the peoples whom they have the duty to defend and govern.

With faith, let us beseech the Lord to protect the Church and the world. May the Blessed Virgin, Help of Christians, crush the head of the ancient Serpent and defeat the plans of the children of darkness.

8 May 2020

Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii

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Under cover of Covid-19, US launches another failed coup in Venezuela

Captured Americans mercenaries have confessed to their schemes to seize an airport and facilitate further invasion forces.

Proletarian TV

Last Monday (4 May), the Venezuelan government reported that it had arrested two US citizens among 13 detained ‘mercenaries’ on the coast of La Gaira, a coastal town just half an hour from the capital, Caracas.

In a presidential address to the Venezuelan people, Nicolás Maduro showed passports and badges belonging to the two US detainees, saying:

“They were captured in this raid, the Americans Airan Berry Sack, a professional mercenary of the United States confessed, a security member of Donald Trump, and Mr Luke Alexander Denman, also a member of Donald Trump’s security. They have already confessed, and all the terrorist group, they are already testifying …

“The government of the United States of America is fully and completely involved in this raid, defeated by the solid civic-military-police union of Venezuela.”

An article on the Red Revolution website reported that Venezuelan police had seized “ten rifles, two machine guns which had been stolen in 2019, six trucks and a boat from the group on Sunday. The Venezuelan government alleged that the illegal speedboat incursion was part of a plan that would evolve into acts of terrorism and eventually an attempted coup.

“Responsibility was reportedly claimed for the operation by American military veteran Jordan Goudreau, who leads Florida-based security company Silvercorp, as he said on Monday that he was working with the two US men to detain Maduro and ‘liberate’ Venezuela.” (Venezuela’s Maduro says two US mercenaries captured in failed Bay of Pigs style plot, Red Revolution Media, 5 May 2020)

Based on these claims and on previous information about manoeuvres by the US and its European allies involving imperialist military forces massing close to Venezuela’s borders, this attempted covert operation was only the beginning of what was planned to be a protracted assault on the country.

The video above features one of the captured Americans freely confessing to his mission, which he says was to capture the capital and secure an airport in order to facilitate further invasion forces. (Telesur, 7 May 2020)

Details have now been published of the contract signed between Goudreau and the US-backed would-be-president Juan Guaidó, a notorious embezzler of funds who has apparently upset his contracted killers by reneging on his commitment to pay them.

According to an article published by Covert Action: “Goudreau’s company, Silvercorp, is a private entity, but could not do what it does across Latin America without the aid of the United States. In recent decades, the practice of regime change has been outsourced from the government itself to semi-private corporations, giving the White House some form of plausible deniability to its operations.

“National Endowment for Democracy founder Allen Weinstein helpfully explained to The Washington Post what his organisation’s role was: ‘A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,’ he said.” (Operation Gideon: New details emerge linking US to latest coup attempt in Venezuela by Alan Macleod, 5 May 2020)

While we cannot consider the threat to Venezuela to be at an end, it is certainly very good news that the country’s military police, in full cooperation with the popular government, have captured imperialism’s hired thugs and blown the lid off the scandalous cooperation of the US government with private mercenaries.

It is probably because these people were contract killers that they spilled the beans so willingly. If you want to do a dirty job, better dirty your own hands, Mr Trump!

Posted in USA, C.I.A, Venezuela0 Comments

The economic crisis and coronavirus

In fighting capitalist exploitation and the war danger, workers will ultimately seek a way out through socialist revolution.

Ella Rule

As is abundantly obvious, the coronavirus pandemic is wreaking untold damage on the world economy, and on the national economies of every country on the planet.

What the coronavirus has done is to act as the catalyst for the re-emergence with even greater force of the 2008 capitalist crisis of overproduction. The world was already teetering on the brink of economic collapse, and the coronavirus has given it the kick that has sent it spiralling into the abyss.

As Eric Toussaint pointed out in a recent article aptly entitled No, the coronavirus is not responsible for the fall of stock prices:

“Over the past two years, there has been a very significant slowdown in productive sectors. In several major economies such as Germany, Japan (last quarter 2019), France (last quarter 2019) and Italy, industrial production has declined or slowed down sharply (China and the United States).

“Some industrial sectors that had recovered after the 2007-09 crisis, such as the automobile industry, entered into a very strong crisis during the years 2018-19 with a very significant drop in sales and production.

“Production in Germany, the world’s largest car manufacturer, fell by 14 percent between October 2018 and October 2019. Automobile production in the United States and China also fell in 2019, as it did in India. Automobile production will fall sharply in France in 2020.

“The output of another flagship of the German economy, the machinery and equipment producing sector, fell by 4.4 percent in October 2019 alone. This is also the case for the production of machine tools and other industrial equipment.

“International trade has stagnated. Over a longer period of time, the rate of profit has declined or stagnated in material production, and productivity gains have also declined.” (Monthly Review, 4 March 2020)

The reason for this economic slowdown is the crisis of overproduction. There is no point in producing goods that cannot be sold, because goods have already been overproduced to such an extent that the markets are glutted.

“The enormous expansive force of modern industry, compared with which that of gases is mere child’s play, appears to us now as a necessity for expansion, both qualitative and quantitative, that laughs at all resistance.

“Such resistance is offered by consumption, by sales, by the markets for the products of modern industry. But the capacity for extension, extensive and intensive, of the markets is primarily governed by quite different laws that work much less energetically.

“The extension of the markets cannot keep pace with the extension of production. The collision becomes inevitable, and as this cannot produce any real solution so long as it does not break in pieces the capitalist mode of production, the collisions become periodic …

“As a matter of fact, since 1825, when the first general crisis broke out, the whole industrial and commercial world, production and exchange among all civilised peoples and their more or less barbaric hangers-on, are thrown out of joint about once every ten years.

“Commerce is at a standstill, the markets are glutted, products accumulate, as multitudinous as they are unsaleable, hard cash disappears, credit vanishes, factories are closed, the mass of the workers are in want of the means of subsistence, because they have produced too much of the means of subsistence; bankruptcy follows upon bankruptcy, execution upon execution.

“The stagnation lasts for years; productive forces and products are wasted and destroyed wholesale, until the accumulated mass of commodities finally filters off, more or less depreciated in value, until production and exchange gradually begin to move again.

“Little by little the pace quickens. It becomes a trot. The industrial trot breaks into a canter, the canter in turn grows into the headlong gallop of a perfect steeplechase of industry, commercial credit and speculation, which finally, after breakneck leaps, ends where it began – in the ditch of a crisis. And so over and over again.” (F Engels, Anti-Dühring, 1877, part 3, chapter 2)

In modern times, the crisis of overproduction expresses itself as a financial crisis, and we have seen over the last two years various bourgeois governments desperately trying to control the economic situation by managing interest levels on government debt.

The canary in the mine of the world economy took the form as far back as last summer of the yield inversion on US treasuries. The US treasury issues two-year bonds (ie, it borrows at interest on the basis that the loan is locked in for two years) as well as ten-year bonds. The interest rate offered on ten-year bonds is normally higher than is paid for short-term loans because it is expected that over time inflation will eat into the value of the holding and higher rates of interest are offered in order to make up for this.

What does it mean when interest rates for short-term bonds become higher than for long-term ones? It indicates that there is an unprecedented rush to acquire long-term bonds because they are seen as a relatively safe form of investment in turbulent times, so it is possible for the government to borrow long-term despite offering relatively low rates of interest.

This only happens when the investors of the world are running so scared that they think their money will be safer in long-term government bonds, despite inflationary depreciation, than it will be anywhere else. This is why:

“When ten-year money is cheaper than two-year money, history is clear: in the US, on every occasion it has prefigured a recession … in the UK a recession has followed on most occasions. Yesterday the two-year yield dropped below the ten-year yield for the first time since 2007 in the US and for the first time since 2008 in the UK.

“It came on the same day that official data showed that Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, had shrunk, and as industrial output in China, the world’s second-largest economy, fell to its lowest rate in 17 years. A reasonable analysis is that the global economy is stuttering, or worse.” (Ominous economic conditions may be harbingers of another global recession by Philip Aldrick, The Times, 15 August 2019)

But why were investors running so scared that they caused the yield curve to invert? It was because those who make it their business to study what is happening in the world market very closely could see that there was trouble ahead.

The income that arises from investments comes, in the final analysis, from the profits that are generated by production. If the investor has purchased shares in a company engaged in production, then the return on the shares is directly a share of the profits that company makes. If the investor instead relies on lending money to receive interest, that interest too comes from the surplus value generated in the course of production, but is treated by the producer as a cost of production that reduces his profit, rather than as part of that profit.

Where there is a crisis of overproduction, as a result of which such a glut of products arises that they cannot be sold, then this will result in there being no profit and maybe not even any ability to realise the surplus value created by the exploitation of labour-power. In these circumstances, enterprises are not only unable to pay returns to their investors but may well be forced into insolvency, threatening the investor not only with loss of income but also loss of capital.

It is entirely understandable why investors will run for cover in such situations. And the investors had not failed to notice the economic downturns in Germany and China mentioned by Philip Aldrick above, which were but a small part of the bad news.

A very comprehensive indicator of the downturn in world economic activity was that freight volumes had slumped in Asia and Europe: “The 17.3 percent fall in Singapore’s exports last month [June 2019] was stunning. Shipments are now falling within the US as well.

“The Cass Freight Index dropped to minus 5.3 percent in June. Cass said the breadth of the data indicates ‘the beginning of an economic contraction’.” (Donald Trump’s ballooning fiscal deficit is taking its toll – the government is running out of money by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph Economic Intelligence, 23 July 2019)

Even more directly: “We learned late last week that corporate profits have been sliding for much longer than supposed. The latest data revision by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis is a bombshell.

“Earnings were revised down 8.3 percent ($188bn) for last year, and 4.4 percent for the year before. We now know that they peaked in 2014 and never recovered. The last leg of America’s equity boom has been built on a statistical mirage.

“Profits are falling again. Blended earnings for the S&P 500 in the second quarter are running at -1.9 percent (year-on-year). Smaller companies in the Russell 2000 have been hit much harder.” (A tantrum awaits if the Fed opts for no more than a ‘one-and-done’ rate cut by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph Economic Intelligence, 2019)

Of course, once stock prices fall they do attract speculative buyers, which causes a rebound leading to stock exchange gains. This does not, however, reflect the underlying economic activity but is purely based on the ‘irrational exuberance’ of buyers who have nowhere profitable to place their investments and thus inflate a bubble, the fate of which is sooner or later inevitably to burst.

“Bubbles burst when the gap between realised value and promised value becomes too great, and some speculators understand that promises of profitable liquidation cannot be honoured for all. In other words, when financial gains can never be realised for lack of sufficient capital gains in production.” (La baudruche du capital fictif, lecture du capital fictif de Cédric Durand by Jean-Marie Harribey, Les Possibles, No 6, Spring 2015)

The coronavirus pandemic, then, has merely accelerated and aggravated a crisis that was happening already.

As a result of the lockdowns the pandemic has necessitated, overproduction, which had already gone beyond the bounds of what could be managed by bourgeois governments through their economic manipulations, has simply burgeoned into a monstrous giant, causing millions of businesses all over the world to come crashing down and generating millions of unemployed.

In poorer countries, these unemployed people, the vast majority of them extremely poor to start with, have been left to starve. Even in a rich country like Britain:

“Just three weeks into the lockdown, the Food Foundation said that 1.5 million Britons reported not eating for a whole day because they had no money or access to food. Some 3 million people in total were in households where someone had been forced to skip some meals. More than 1 million people reported losing all their income because of the pandemic.” (UK hunger crisis: 1.5m people go whole day without food by Felicity Lawrence, The Guardian, 11 April 2020).

Damage to the world economy

Insofar as could be ascertained, the situation of Britain’s economy is as follows:

“The broad results, taking aggregated sectors of the economy, are that the percentage of output lost during the lockdown will be 14 percent in agriculture, 60 percent in mining and quarrying, 69 percent in manufacturing, 10 percent in electricity and gas supply, zero in water and sewerage, 50 percent in construction, 58 percent in wholesale and retail, 39 percent in transport, 79 percent in accommodation and food services, 7 percent in information and communication, 18 percent in finance and insurance, 20 percent in real estate, 10 percent in professional and scientific activities, 46 percent in education and 81 percent in arts, entertainment and education.

“Adding all these up, and weighting by sector, produces the result that the economy is suffering a 31 percent loss of output, and is thus operating at 69 percent of normal levels.” (Despatches from an economy at two-thirds of normal by David Smith, Sunday Times, 5 April 2020)

As far as the rest of the world is concerned, “Data firm IHS Markit said on Tuesday that its flash US Composite Output Index, which tracks the manufacturing and services sectors, dropped to a reading of 40.5 this month. That was an all-time low and followed a reading of 49.6 in February.

“Last month’s decline in the index, which is seen as a good measure of economic health, was the largest in the series’ history. A reading below 50 indicates contraction in business activity. The survey underscored the rapidly deteriorating economy, highlighted last week by a government report showing the biggest rise since 2012 in the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits during the week ended 14 March.

“Economists are predicting claims will accelerate to a record 1.5 million or more when data for last week is published on Thursday [26 March].

“The message was equally grim from the 19 countries that use the euro. IHS Markit’s flash composite PMI for the eurozone plummeted to a record low of 31.4 in March.

“That was by far the biggest one-month fall since the survey began in mid-1998, and below all forecasts in a Reuters poll that gave a median prediction of 38.8.

“In France, services activity fell to a record low, and manufacturing saw its steepest drop since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.

“A PMI for the services sector in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, showed a record contraction in activity, while sister surveys showed Britain’s economy shrinking at a record pace.

“IHS Markit said the March figures suggested that the eurozone economy was shrinking at a quarterly rate of around 2 percent, and the escalation of measures to contain the virus could steepen the downturn.” (Coronavirus pandemic battering global economy by Leigh Thomas and Lucia Mutikani, Reuters, 24 March 2020)

For the working class, this means: “Unemployment in Britain and the US could surpass the levels reached during the 1930s Great Depression within months as the coronavirus crisis crushes the global economy, a former Bank of England official has warned.

“In a stark forecast as job losses mount around the world, David Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth College in the US and a member of the bank’s interest rate-setting monetary policy committee during the 2008 financial crisis, said unemployment was rising at the fastest rate in living memory.

“Writing in the Guardian, the economist said UK unemployment could rapidly rise to more than 6 million people, around 21 percent of the entire workforce, based on analysis of US job market figures that suggest unemployment across the Atlantic could reach 52.8 million, around 32 percent of the workforce.” (Unemployment in US and UK ‘may be worse than in Great Depression’ by Richard Partington, The Guardian, 3 April 2020)

And: “Given the large fall in output, unemployment is expected to rise sharply even though many countries have adopted job retention programmes to keep employees attached to their places of work. As a result, incomes per person are expected to fall in nine in 10 of the IMF’s 189 member countries.

“In the US, unemployment is expected to rise from 3.7 percent in 2019 to 10.4 percent this year and only dip to 9.1 percent in 2021. There is likely to be a smaller rise in the eurozone from 7.6 percent last year to 10.4 percent this year and 8.9 percent in 2021” (World economy set for heaviest blow since Great Depression by Chris Giles, Financial Times, 14 April 2020)

The situation in poor countries that cannot afford to support the unemployed very much, if at all, is of course far worse:

“African economies are already facing an impending global economic downturn, plummeting oil and commodity prices and an imploding tourism sector …

“Under what the AU researchers deemed their realistic scenario, Africa’s economy will shrink 0.8 percent, while the pessimistic scenario said there would be a 1.1 percent dip …

“The impact on employment will be dramatic.

“‘Nearly 20 million jobs, both in the formal and informal sectors, are threatened with destruction on the continent if the situation continues,’ the analysis said …

“African governments could lose up to 20 to 30 percent of their fiscal revenue, estimated at $500bn in 2019, it found.

“Exports and imports are meanwhile projected to drop at least 35 percent from 2019 levels, incurring a loss in the value of trade of around $270bn. This at a time when the fight against the virus’s spread will lead to an increase in public spending of at least $130bn.

“Africa’s oil producers, which have seen the value of their crude exports plunge in past weeks, will be among the worst hit.

“Sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest oil producers Nigeria and Angola alone could lose $65bn in income. African oil exporters are expected to see their budget deficits double this year while their economies shrink 3 percent on average …

“African tourist destinations will also suffer.

“Africa has in recent years been among the fastest growing regions in the world for tourism. But with borders now closed to prevent the disease’s spread and entire airlines grounded, the sector has been almost entirely shut down.

“Countries where tourism constitutes a large part of GDP will see their economies contract by an average of 3.3 percent this year. However, Africa’s major tourism spots Seychelles, Cape Verde, Mauritius and Gambia will shrink at least 7 percent.” (Some 20 million jobs in Africa at risk from coronavirus impact, study shows, France 24, 5 April 2020)

In Africa, as in India, where the poor were suffering food insecurity even before the coronavirus lockdowns, the problems of obtaining food when having no wages while prices are rising will clearly intensify, and are bound to cause more deaths than does the virus.

It is because of the capitalist system that the pandemic is so devastating

It might be thought that a virus is no respecter of economic systems and that it would attack capitalism and socialism alike – but that is not so. The ongoing destructive contradiction in capitalist societies is that while production is social, appropriation is private, and it is precisely this contradiction that is leaving society without strong defences against pandemic.

It must be pointed out that the eventual outbreak of a pandemic had been foreseen for years.

“The Times can reveal that the Cabinet Office first identified that a pandemic would lead to a ‘pinch point’ in the availability of PPE for doctors more than a decade ago.

“Simulations of flu-like pandemics were carried out by trusts in 2007-08 to help them plan for the possibility of new outbreaks across the country. Health service resilience chiefs were instructed by the Cabinet Office to factor access issues with protective kit in to their planning assumptions.

“Russell King, a resilience manager in the NHS at the time, said: ‘The Cabinet Office had identified the availability and distribution of PPE as a pinch point in a pandemic … It was already part of the national assumption.’

“The fact that PPE availability issues were previously predicted is likely to raise questions over why more robust contingency plans were not put in place.” (Shortage of masks for NHS staff foreseen over a decade ago by Kat Lay and Lucy Fisher, The Times, 31 March 2020)

A damning report in the Sunday Times, whose thrust was to ask why Boris Johnson was generally absent at meetings early on in the crisis when important decisions needed to be made, also revealed the gross negligence on the part of British governments when the lack of preparedness for a pandemic was again made abundantly clear just four years ago:

“The last rehearsal for a pandemic was a 2016 exercise codenamed Cygnus, which predicted the health service would collapse and highlighted a long list of shortcomings – including, presciently, a lack of PPE and intensive care ventilators.

“An equally lengthy list of recommendations to address the deficiencies was never implemented …

“In the year leading up to the coronavirus outbreak key government committee meetings on pandemic planning were repeatedly ‘bumped’ off the diary to make way for discussions about more pressing issues such as the beds crisis in the NHS. Training for NHS staff with protective equipment and respirators was also neglected …

“Members of the government advisory group on pandemics are said to have felt powerless. ‘They would joke between themselves: “Ha-ha, let’s hope we don’t get a pandemic,” because there wasn’t a single area of practice that was being nurtured in order for us to meet basic requirements for a pandemic, never mind do it well,’ said a source.”

The question why nothing was done can only raise a hollow laugh. Everybody knows that the NHS has been grossly underfunded for decades, partly owing to Britain’s capitalist governments being reluctant to pay very much for it, and partly owing to the fact that the privatisation measures introduced piecemeal over the last 30 years have exposed the service to profiteering private companies, while the ‘internal markets’ introduced between various departments of the service by successive governments led to a proliferation of well-paid administrators, leaving less and less of the NHS’s income available for the provision of medical services.

Moreover, it was perfectly foreseeable that in the event of a pandemic there would be a terrible shortage of beds, including intensive care beds, yet the NHS was being forced to close ward after ward in the interests of economy – to such an extent that it was having trouble in coping with the annual influx of flu patients, and was obviously in no position to deal with a pandemic.

The failure to fund public services properly was of course aggravated by the austerity measures adopted by bourgeois governments all over the world to help capitalism recover from the 2008 financial crash. This saw huge government borrowing to save the banks from collapse followed by the same governments seeking to recover the cost by decimating public services and welfare provision.

The contradiction between social production and private appropriation

Naturally, if Britain had been a socialist country in which all major means of production were state-owned, and all major production and distribution of products was planned, along with planned decisions regarding what part of production should be held back for expansion and what part to cover serious emergencies, it would never have suffered a crisis of overproduction, which is purely a capitalist phenomenon, and would therefore never had to suffer the years of austerity – just as the Soviet Union in the 1930s was untouched by the economic crisis that was ravaging the economies of all capitalist countries but was instead able to expand its economy exponentially year after year.

If an exercise like Cygnus had highlighted shortcomings that needed to be addressed, addressed they would have been.

Moreover, to the extent that a pandemic would necessitate extra resources that had not been planned for, and require measures to make good the loss of production generated by any necessary lockdown, the government would not need to borrow from the moneybags but would simply make available what was necessary from its own resources.

In a capitalist economy, all the surplus production over and above what people consume belongs to private owners, the capitalists, whose only interest is to use that wealth to make more money, by expanded production if possible or if not by lending at interest or through speculation.

In a socialist society, that surplus stays in the hands of the proletarian state, which holds it exclusively for the benefit of the population – in other words, there is both social production and social appropriation and no toxic contradiction between the two.

As Josef Stalin explained:

“The basis, the cause, of economic crises of overproduction lies in the capitalist system of economy itself. The basis of the crisis lies in the contradiction between the social character of production and the capitalist form of appropriation of the results of production.

“An expression of this fundamental contradiction of capitalism is the contradiction between the colossal growth of capitalism’s potentialities of production, calculated to yield the maximum of capitalist profit, and the relative reduction of the effective demand of the vast masses of the working people, whose standard of living the capitalists always try to keep at the minimum level.

“To be successful in competition and to squeeze out the utmost profit, the capitalists are compelled to develop their technical equipment, to introduce rationalisation, to intensify the exploitation of the workers and to increase the production potentialities of their enterprises to the utmost limits. So as not to lag behind one another, all the capitalists are compelled, in one way or another, to take this path of furiously developing production potentialities.

“The home market and the foreign market, however, and the purchasing power of the vast masses of workers’ and peasants who, in the last analysis, constitute the bulk of the purchasers, remain on a low level. Hence overproduction crises.

“Hence the well-known results, recurring more or less periodically, as a consequence of which goods remain unsold, production is reduced, unemployment grows and wages are cut, and all this still further intensifies the contradiction between the level of production and the level of effective demand.

“Overproduction crises are a manifestation of this contradiction in turbulent and destructive forms.

“If capitalism could adapt production not to the obtaining of the utmost profit but to the systematic improvement of the material conditions of the masses of the people, and if it could turn profits not to the satisfaction of the whims of the parasitic classes, not to perfecting the methods of exploitation, not to the export of capital, but to the systematic improvement of the material conditions of the workers and peasants, then there would be no crises.

“But then capitalism would not be capitalism. To abolish crises it is necessary to abolish capitalism.” (Report to the 16th party congress, 1930)

Borrowing

As it is, the capitalist ‘solution’ to crisis – this crisis as much as any other – is to borrow from the moneybags and pay them back, with interest, at the expense of the working-class masses.

Since the government already has massive debts, and lacks the resources that the government of a socialist country would have at its disposal, it can only finance the extra resources needed to surmount the pandemic by borrowing.

It needs to borrow in order to ensure that furloughed workers deprived of wages will not starve. It needs to borrow to provide money to at least some businesses so that they will still exist to restart the economy once the crisis is over. It needs to borrow to acquire the equipment necessary to combat the virus – ventilators, PPE, testing kits.

And the sums involved have been enormous:

“The chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £350bn package of loans and grants to help Britain cope with the lockdown of large parts of the economy, as he warned the country was facing a threat to its prosperity unmatched in peacetime.

“Less than a week after pledging £12bn in his budget to soften the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the chancellor admitted that the measures were insufficient to tackle the savage blow to growth and stressed he would do ‘whatever it takes’ to see the UK through the crisis …

“The chancellor said the government would provide £330bn of loan guarantees – with more available if needed – to help businesses pay their bills during the crisis and top up the £12bn budget stimulus with a further £20bn of spending.

“Sunak said that every business in the hard-hit retail, leisure and hospitality sector would have a year-long holiday from paying business rates, with smaller companies also eligible for a cash grant of up to £25,000.

“On a day on which one analyst predicted the economy would shrink by 15 percent in the second quarter of 2020, the chancellor also announced cash grants of £10,000 for the UK’s 700,000 smallest companies, and a three-month moratorium on mortgage payments for homeowners in difficulty as a result of the coronavirus.” (‘Whatever it takes’: chancellor announces £350bn aid for UK businesses by Heather Stewart, The Guardian, 17 March 2020)

Following the announcement of the rescue package for business, the chancellor went even further, announcing relief for workers too:

“The government is to pay the wages of millions of workers across Britain to keep them in jobs as the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak escalates.

“In an unprecedented step for the British government, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said the state would pay grants covering up to 80 percent of the salary of workers if companies kept them on their payroll, rather than lay them off as the economy crashes. The extraordinary payments will be worth up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, just above the median income …

“The chancellor also announced measures to strengthen the benefits safety net for people out of work, increasing the value of universal credit and tax credits by £1,000 a year to help more than 4 million vulnerable households across the country, in a package worth £7bn.

“He also earmarked £1bn of extra support for renters, ramping up housing benefit and universal credit so the local housing allowance will cover at least 30 percent of market rents in a local area.” (UK government to pay 80 percent of wages for those not working in coronavirus crisis by Richard Partington, The Guardian, 20 March 2020)

A capitalist solution

Borrowing and printing money are the only ‘solutions’ available to a capitalist – ie, a market – economy in a situation of crisis – as we have seen in connection with both world wars as well as during the economic crises of the 1930s and of 2008.

The present crisis presents no exception:

The loans being contracted by capitalist governments to help them ride the tide of this crisis are breathtaking:

“The increase in borrowing by governments around the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic will be ‘massive’, the IMF said on Wednesday [15 April], forecasting that population lockdowns and economic contractions would push budget deficits to well above peak levels during the financial crisis.

“Globally, net public debt will rise from 69.4 percent of national income last year to 85.3 percent in 2020, the IMF said, raising concerns about the willingness of the private sector to finance governments with chequered records in servicing their borrowings.

“In its first attempt to quantify the scale of the damage caused to public finances by coronavirus, the fund provisionally forecast that global public deficits will climb by 6.2 percentage points this year to reach 9.9 percent of national income, topping levels seen in 2008-9 …

“In low-income developing countries, the average interest bill on government debt stood at 20 percent of tax revenues in 2019. The IMF expects this to rise to more than 30 percent of revenues this year, highlighting the financial squeeze many governments are facing.” (Governments face ‘massive’ rise in public debt, IMF warns by Chris Giles, Financial Times, 15 April 2020)

Specifically, “Britain’s national debt will jump from 85.4 percent of GDP to 95.8 percent by 2021 as borrowing quadruples to 8.3 percent of GDP this year to pay for the emergency.” (Tax rises and spending cuts must be on post-pandemic agenda, says IMF by Philip Aldrick, Financial Times, 15 April 2020)

“The fund forecast that deficits will rise sharply across the world. In the US, the public sector deficit will surge from 5.8 percent of national income in 2019 to 15.4 percent this year with net public debt rising from 84 percent of national income to 107 percent, it projected” (Chris Giles, op cit)

We have seen the crushing effects of the debt burdens generated by those crises, most recently by the years of austerity that followed the financial crisis of 2008, which disproportionately disadvantaged the poorest in society.

However, if the running up of debt represents a bleak future for the working class of relatively wealthy countries, for poorer countries the bleakness is now. It is hard for them to find lenders willing to risk lending to entities that show no prospect of being ever able to repay the debt. Largely because a huge proportion of their income is already earmarked to cover the servicing of existing debts:

“Several middle-income countries currently spend 20 percent or more of their revenues on debt service, which crowds out much-needed health, education, and infrastructure expenditures,” pointed out the Brookings Institute in a highly informative article (Africa needs debt relief to fight Covid-19 by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala et al, 9 April 2020)

It was reported last year that in Nigeria, debt servicing was consuming over half its revenue, “leaving little to build badly needed infrastructure and grow the economy”. (Anthony Osae-Brown and Tope Alake, Bloomberg, 28 August 2019).

** At a time when in the US and Europe banks were paying little or nothing on deposits, Nigeria and other oppressed countries were required to pay 10 percent interest on their debts, representing a massive flow of wealth from these countries to the centres of imperialism, leaving them unable to provide, among other things, anything like adequate medical services even before the pandemic struck.

It follows that these countries are going to be far less able to contain the spread of the virus since their existing facilities are abysmal and they will be unable to borrow in the way the governments of imperialist countries are being forced to do to protect their people and their enterprises.

Yet so long as the virus is rampaging unchecked over Africa it remains a threat to the rest of the world. As a result, even some bourgeois media have recognised that debt relief to poor countries will be an essential measure for combatting the virus: in calling for debt relief for Africa, the Brookings Institute (op.cit.) has recognised that “The global health system is only as strong as its weakest link: Success in combating the pandemic in any country will be short-lived until every country succeeds”. For what it’s worth, the Brookings Institute (op.cit.) has called for a two-year standstill on all African external debt repayments, both internal and external. It remains to be seen whether even this paltry concession will be made.

Socialist revolution is the only way out!

For any country that had had its socialist revolution and established a socialist planned economy, the pandemic would of course still have caused severe disruption. It would become difficult or impossible to fulfil the plan, and therefore difficult or impossible to deliver to the population the goods and benefits that the plan had envisaged them receiving, and difficult or impossible until the pandemic died down to expand the economy in order to be able to deliver greater benefits to the working population in the future. It would be a serious setback. What there would not be, however, is the expectation of years of deprivation after the crisis was over.

What would not be lost is gallons of milk or tons of farm produce that is destroyed rather than be distributed because this can only be done at a loss. Incredible but true is the fact that in rich capitalist Britain:

“Dairy farmers across the UK are having to dump tens of thousands of gallons of milk due to a massive slump in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“With restaurants and coffee shops closed the demand from the food service industry has plummeted by as much as 50 per cent.

“Dairy distributors have failed to turn up to collect supplies as their processing plants are full and they have reached their storage capacity.

“Industry experts believe as many as 300 farmers have had to dispose of milk as the produce can no longer be stored” (Chaos in the dairy industry by Paul Thompson, Daily Mail, 7 April 2020).

This is happening just as hundreds of thousands of British people are going hungry.

Meanwhile, it has been estimated that in the United States too some 40 percent of food produced is never eaten – and not because of any shortage of people who need to eat more and better but because there is no profit to be made (see Food Matters: Food Waste).

In a planned economy such absurdity and on such a vast scale could not happen in the absence of deliberate criminal sabotage (that would be promptly dealt with). But such absurdity is an unavoidable and permanent feature of the capitalist system, which only worsens as capitalism continues to degenerate.

In a planned economy, those workers who are no longer required for work in their regular place of work because of lockdown can readily be deployed to perform the extra tasks imposed on society because of the crisis – eg, from delivering supplies to the elderly, to tending to the sick, to planning and delivering the means of carrying on useful and satisfying activities for those marooned in their homes. Their human ingenuity is in no way hampered by any need to ‘turn a profit’.

Enterprises that have to be closed for the duration of the pandemic will all be able to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so, without any having succumbed to bankruptcy as a result of unpaid debts, since there will never be rent to be paid to landlords, and their raw materials are allocated under the state plan so no debt arises in respect of them.

Wages are taken care of by the state, which owns all the output of every enterprise and distributes it according to the state plan.

In socialist economies that are not market driven, there is no bar whatever for people getting back to work once the crisis is over, and they do so with great enthusiasm to rebuild the system that in normal times enables them to work successfully for the common good and improved living standards year after year.

The bourgeois media are apt sourly to proclaim that their success in rebuilding their economy is due to a lack of ‘democracy’, which allegedly enables socialist governments to achieve results simply by issuing orders that are instantly obeyed.

For the vast majority of people all over the world, however, there is nothing ‘democratic’ about starving because they are trapped in a dying economic system. There is nothing ‘democratic’ about being caught up in the wars that the capitalist system periodically and inevitably engenders.

There is nothing ‘democratic’ about having one’s health and wellbeing endangered by austerity drives or by capitalist ravages of the environment.

Socialism is genuinely democratic, in that it subjects nobody to the vagaries of market forces but mobilises everybody to participate in the decisions that affect the community as a whole through the Soviet system of participative democracy, which gives every citizen a genuine share of political power, not just a vote every five years for who is to represent the interests of capital in parliament.

Danger of war

It is important to remember that much as the coronavirus epidemic is in the forefront, the determining economic factor is in the background – ie, the growing economic crisis. And as Stalin said in connection with the economic crisis of the 1930s:

“There can be no doubt whatever that owing to the developing crisis, the struggle for markets, for raw materials and for the export of capital will grow more intense month by month and day by day. Means of struggle: tariff policy, cheap goods, cheap credits, regrouping of forces and new military-political alliances, growth of armaments and preparation for new imperialist wars, and finally – war.” (Report to the 16th party congress, August 1930)

And nine years later, war there was. In our day, the sabre-rattling against Russia and China is constantly getting louder, threatening another world war to add to the various local wars going on in various disparate countries, behind each of which stand imperialist interests.

Stalin went on to mention that there was one branch of industry that was not curtailed by the crisis, and that was the armaments industry, which was “growing continuously, notwithstanding the crisis.

“The bourgeois states are furiously arming and rearming. What for? Not for friendly chats, of course, but for war. And the imperialists need war, for it is the only means by which to redivide the world, to redivide markets, sources of raw materials and spheres for the investment of capital.”

Who can fail to have noticed that once again the crisis is leading the world in the same direction?

The way ahead

In the circumstances, we must insist, in the interests of humanity, on debt relief for households, for productive businesses and for governments – especially the governments of oppressed countries.

There is already far too much starvation and misery in a world capable of producing enough to meet everybody’s needs for it to be any way acceptable to allow its proliferation.

But we must never forget that the basic reason for this scourge is that humanity has not moved on to the next stage of its development – the socialist stage, when class divisions cease to exist, where exploitation of one person by another and one country by another is no longer tolerated, and humanity everywhere is able at all times to cooperate for mutual benefit.

Humanity is still suffering torments because it has not let go of the past; it has not embraced its future and is still in thrall to the interests of the powerful minority classes that continue to benefit from the obsolete exploitative economic system that is capitalism.

An important outcome that is much to be desired from this crisis, however, is that the masses everywhere will be left with the realisation they have no choice but to reach out for the only real solution to the major problems today facing humanity (hunger, war and ecological destruction), and follow the people of the former Soviet Union along the path of the October Revolution.

In the words of Stalin, the world economic crisis “means, lastly, that the proletariat, in fighting capitalist exploitation and the war danger, will seek a way out through revolution”.

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In London today, the police behaved disgracefully

Cops are enforcing the lockdown in a rude, arrogant and heavy-handed way.

By: BRENDAN O’NEILL

In London today, the police behaved disgracefully

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You heard them before you saw them. It sounded like a platoon of soldiers. The one in charge was barking orders to ‘move forward!’ and then came the trudge of their boots. Scores of them, making military manoeuvres, marching in a long, thin line through one of Britain’s prettiest parks: St James’s Park in London. This was the Metropolitan Police today, enforcing the lockdown, sweeping through parks and streets and issuing the same warning to everyone they came across, from young lovers to dads playing football with their kids to homeless people with nowhere else to go: ‘Move on.’ It’s one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen the police do.

Watching them stream through St James’s Park, looking for all the world like a line of soldiers conquering a small town, you’d think they were on their way to confront some serious organised crime. But of course their targets were sunbathers, those apparently selfish people demeaned in the media and now harassed by the cops. And a dad playing football with his toddler. ‘Aren’t we allowed to exercise?’, the dad asked. ‘For one hour’, came the reply. ‘How long have you been out?’ And young lovers and friends. I saw a copper on horseback shouting down at two young men as if they were in the process of committing some awful crime. I guess they were in the eyes of the lockdown fanatics: they were sitting under a tree.

A young Muslim mum sitting down and watching her two kids play with little tennis bats was confused, too. Can’t kids play outside? She was told she couldn’t sit still. She had to walk. ‘How about walking your kids around the park?’, said the spectacularly patronising cop. They even threw out homeless people. I saw them tell four individual homeless people (ie, not a group of homeless people) to move on. Where to? Must they also walk and walk, forever, and never sit down anywhere? The most despicable thing I saw was a policeman telling an elderly homeless gentleman to move on. Inarticulately, the man explained he had nowhere else to go. I stepped in and explained to the cop that there is no home for him to go to, and he has to be able to sit down somewhere on a hot day. ‘I don’t make the rules’, came the snivelling, officious reply.

The police’s reputation will have taken a severe beating in London today. Anyone who argued back — as two young women did, patiently explaining that they are from the same household and that they were metres away from everyone else — was patronised or even insulted. ‘You’re putting other people’s lives at risk’, the women were told, which is completely untrue — being outside and socially distanced on a very warm day carries virtually zero threat of infection. I heard an officer call someone an idiot. Another officer made fun of someone who asked about his right to be outside. It was staggeringly rude and even repugnant behaviour. A politician, or someone, needs to get a grip on these people.

All through central London there were police vans, packed with cops waiting to sweep through parks and greens and streets. The saddest sight I saw was on a small green on the South Bank where a woman of African descent was watching as her very young child, two years old at the most, kicked a football around. As five police officers on bikes approached the woman actually did that thing that I thought was just a meme: she started doing star jumps, hoping that her exercising might make the cops go away. No such luck. She was told that if she wasn’t really exercising, she had to go home. I’d seen enough by this point. I asked the cop if he really thought it was a good use of his time to send a mum and her very young child home. He called me a moron. PODCASTThe new class warSPIKED

I have not seen the police like this before. Sure, I’ve seen police heavy-handedness; I’ve actually encountered it, on demonstrations many years ago. I’ve seen police harassing homeless people for no good reason. I’ve seen the over-policing of certain streets and certain communities and seen how dispiriting people find it. But this arrogant, sneering barking of orders at sunbathers and mums and homeless people resting under trees on a warm day is completely new. It is lockdown fanaticism in action. This rude and heartless officiousness is the logical conclusion of the culture of hysteria our political and media elites have whipped up over Covid-19.

And the thing is, every single police intervention I saw today was unnecessary. Every one. That homeless gentleman was not near anyone else. The mum and her young kid playing football were the only people on that small green on the South Bank. (Until the police turned up.) It is only corona-hysteria that has turned these perfectly safe and good outdoor activities into dangerous things the police must clamp down on. What I saw today among the police was relish. They welcome these new powers. Their petty authoritarianism and contempt for ‘rule-breakers’ has been emboldened. They have shown themselves to be a force not for the people, but against us. Someone sensible in the police or in government should be thinking hard about how to repair the police’s reputation following their disgraceful and excessive behaviour during this lockdown.

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