Archive | May 11th, 2020

The Unbearable Lightness of China

Kishore Mahbubani’s new book argues that China’s rejuvenation is not driven by missionary impulse, a fact a flagging US refuses to see

By Pepe Escobar

As a living embodiment of how East and West shall meet, Mahbubani is immeasurably more capable to talk about Chinese-linked intricacies than shallow, self-described Western “experts” on Asia and China.

Especially now when demonization-heavy hybrid war 2.0 against China is practiced by most factions of the US government, the Deep State and the East Coast establishment.

Distinguished fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Asia Research Institute, former president of the UN Security Council (from 2001 to 2002) and the founding dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (2004-2017), Mahbubani is the quintessential Asian diplomat.

Ruffling feathers is not his business. On the contrary, he always deploys infinite patience – and insider knowledge – when trying to explain especially to Americans what makes the Chinese civilization-state tick.

All through a book elegantly argued and crammed with persuasive facts, it feels like Mahbubani is applying the Tao. Be like water. Let it flow. He floats like a butterfly reaching beyond his own “paradoxical conclusion”: “A major geopolitical contest between America and China is both inevitable and avoidable.” He centers on the paths towards the “avoidable.”

The contrast with the confrontational, stale and irrelevant Thucydides Trap mindset prevalent in the US could not be starker. It’s quite enlightening to observe the contrast between Mahbubani and Harvard University’s Graham Allison – who seem to admire each other – at a China Institute debate.

An important clue to his approach is when Mahbubani tells us how his Hindu mother used to take him to Hindu and Buddhist temples in Singapore – even as in the island-state most Buddhist monks were actually Chinese. Here we find encapsulated the key cultural/philosophical India-China crossover that defines “deep” East Asia, linking Confucianism, Buddhism and the Tao.

All about the US dollar 

For Asia hands, and for those, as in my case, who have actually lived in Singapore, it’s always fascinating to see how Mahbubani is the quintessential Lee Kuan Yew disciple, though without the haughtiness. As much as his effort to understand China from the inside, across the spectrum, for decades, is more than visible, he’s far from being a disciple of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).Will China Trigger Next Financial Tsunami?

And he stresses the point in myriad ways, showing how, in the party slogan, “Chinese” is way more important than “Communist”: “Unlike the Soviet Communist Party, [the CCP] is not riding on an ideological wave; it is riding the wave of a resurgent civilization … the strongest and most resilient civilization in history.”

Inescapably, Mahbubani outlines both Chinese and American geopolitical and geoeconomic challenges and shortcomings. And that leads us to arguably the key argument in the book: how he explains to Americans the recent erosion of global trust in the former “indispensable nation,” and how the US dollar is its Achilles’ heel.

So once again we have to wallow in the interminable mire of reserve currency status; its “exorbitant privilege,” the recent all-out weaponization of the US dollar and – inevitably – the counterpunch: those “influential voices” now working to stop using the US dollar as reserve currency.

Enter blockchain technology and the Chinese drive to set up an alternative currency based on blockchain. Mahbubani takes us to a China Finance 40 Forum in August last year, when the deputy director of the People’s Bank of China, Mu Changchun, said the PBOC was “close” to issuing its own cryptocurrency.

Two months later, President Xi announced that blockchain would become a “high priority” and a matter of long-term national strategy.  It’s happening now. The digital yuan – as in a “sovereign blockchain” – is imminent.

And that leads us to the role of the US dollar in financing global trade. Mahbubani correctly analyzes that once this is over, “the complex international system based on the US dollar could come tumbling down, rapidly or slowly.” China’s master plan is to accelerate the process by connecting its digital platforms – Alipay, WeChat Pay – into one global system.

Asian Century 

As Mahbubani carefully explains, “while Chinese leaders want to rejuvenate Chinese civilization, they have no missionary impulse to take over the world and make everyone Chinese.” And still, “America convinced itself that China has become an existential threat.”

The best and the brightest across Asia, Mahbubani included, never cease to be amazed at the American system’s total inability to “make strategic adjustments to this new phase in history.” Mahbubani dedicates a whole chapter – “Can America make U-turns?” – to the quandary.

In the appendix he even adds a text by Stephen Walt debunking “the myth of American exceptionalism.” There’s no evidence the Exceptionalistan ethos is being seriously contested.

A recent McKinsey report  analyzes whether the “next normal” will emerge from Asia, and some of its conclusions are inevitable: “The future global story starts in Asia.” It goes way beyond prosaic numbers stating that in 20 years, by 2040, “Asia is expected to represent 40% of global consumption and 52% of GDP.”

The report argues that, “we may look back on this pandemic as the tipping point when the Asian Century truly began.”

In 1997, during the same week when I was covering the Hong Kong handover, I published a book in Brazil whose translated title was 21st: The Asian Century (excerpts from a few chapters may be found here). By that time I had already lived in Asia for three years, and learned quite a few important lessons from Mahbubani’s Singapore.

China then was still a distant player on the new horizon. Now it’s a completely different ball game. The Asian Century – actually Eurasian Century – is already on, as Eurasia integration develops driven by hard-working acronyms (BRI, AIIB, SCO, EAEU) and the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Mahbubani’s book, capturing the elusive, unbearable lightness of China, is the latest illustration of this inexorable flow of history.

Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy (Kishore Mahbubani), published by Public Affairs (US$19.89).

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Trump is Igniting a Cold War With China to Try to Win Re-election


Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

“Go to China!”, a woman in Denver, Colorado, shouts at two hospital workers standing in front of her car to prevent her from taking part in a protest against the coronavirus lockdown. Her cry is a sign that President Trump is having some success in demonising China: he says that that he has a “high degree of confidence” that the deadly virus emanated from a laboratory in Wuhan, though he cannot reveal the source of his information.

The level of Trump’s mendacity is far grosser than that used to sell the Iraq War by claiming that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Then too there were stories of secret laboratories developing biological weapons. Though Trump is purging US intelligence chiefs and replacing them with Trump loyalists, even they could not stomach his latest conspiracy theory. “The intelligence also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the Covid-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified,” said a statement from the office of the director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell.

The purpose of Trump’s lies is not to convince by rational argument but to dominate the news agenda by outrageous allegations. This simple PR trick has previously worked well for him, but scapegoating China may not be enough to divert attention away from the price Americans have paid for his calamitous mishandling of the pandemic. The casualty figures tell their own grim story: in China there have been 84,373 cases of the illness and 4,643 deaths while in the US there have been just over 1.1 million cases and 64,460 deaths. Trump loyalists will claim that the Chinese are lying, but then they must also explain away the lower loss of life in South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.

The strategy is crude, but demonising China as “The Yellow Peril” might just work on election day. “Don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban – attack China,” says a 57-page memo sent out by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to Republican candidates, advising them on how to rebut criticism of the president’s actions. Joe Biden, the Democratic Party presidential candidate, is already being pilloried by the Republicans as “Beijing Biden”. In an epidemic, people are frightened and seek a scapegoat, foreigners at home and abroad being an obvious target. Probably only a hate-driven conspiracy theory can keep Trump in the White House when 30 million Americans are unemployed.

Many of those who used WMD to deliver a hot war against Iraq in 2003, are the same people who promote a cold war against China today. This approach requires an extraordinary degree of irresponsibility: Trump is launching his cold war against China just when a global medical and economic response is needed to counter a virus that has spread from Tajikistan to the upper Amazon and can only be suppressed or contained by international action.

It is surely disastrous historical bad luck that this unprecedented global threat is occurring just as independent nation states are re-emerging, in so far as they ever disappeared, as the essential players on the international stage at the expense of international institutions: the UN and EU were losing influence pre-epidemic and have been marginalised since in the last six months. Nation states are not only very much back in business, but they are increasingly run by far-right nativist populist leaders, of whom Trump is only one of the more crazed examples. Most of these are proving highly incompetent in dealing with the pandemic and none are likely to favour international cooperation.

The real problem here is the US: international organisations like the UN and agencies like the World Health Organisation only exerted real influence when backed by Washington. Often accused of being American puppets, they enjoyed a degree of autonomy and effectiveness because the US needed to outsource some of its power in order to maintain its global hegemony. Trump is abandoning this calculation.

The new cold war against China was already gathering momentum before the pandemic. Western political establishments have long been wobbling between opposing China as a rival superpower and cultivating it as an economic powerhouse whose explosive if debt-fuelled expansion helped drag the rest of the world out of the post-2008 recession.

The post-1945 Cold War was fought by the US and its allies against the Soviet Union until it collapsed in 1991; this coincided after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 with a cold war against Iran and Iraq which were alternately portrayed as the source of all evil. Trump is unlikely to demote Iran from its present demonic status but he is clearly intent on portraying China as equally evil. Many politically palatable reasons for this will be advanced in the coming months, but the real charge against China is one of effectiveness. It has shown itself more competent than other powerful states in dealing with two world crises: the 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic of 2019-20.

The decline of the US as a superpower is not total: it plays a hegemonic role in the world financial system. But its post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan showed that, despite vast expenditure, its armed forces could not deliver victory and the pandemic is demonstrating that its equally expensive health system is appallingly unequal and inadequate.

Trump is a symptom as well as a cause of the polarisation of the US political system, more divided now than at any time since the Civil War ended in 1865. Yet the decline of the US is much greater than the rise of China, significant though that may be, and it is naive to imagine that Beijing will simply displace Washington at the top table.

In reality, nobody is going to replace the US, but there will be a rush of other countries moving to fill the vacuum left by its absence. Much of this would have happened anyway as US economic and political primacy eroded. But the process by which this is happening has been speeded up by two wild cards that nobody even knew were in the pack: the election of Trump as president in 2016 and the Covid-19 pandemic. The world is currently full of nation states, and not just China, who see threats and opportunities all around them. The result will be ever-increasing turmoil.

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Four Dead in Ohio: Remembering Kent State


Photograph Source: David Wilson – CC BY 2.0

If you are old enough, you will recognize that snippet from a song by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  If not, I am here to tell you that on May 4, 1970, four students were shot to death by members of the Ohio National Guard on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio.  Nine others were wounded.

The students weren’t doing anything wrong. Actually, they were doing something right. They were peacefully assembled to protest the U.S. war on Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia.  They were part of an eruption of nationwide campus protests that followed President Nixon’s announcement that the United States had launched a bombing offensive of Cambodia.

I was myself a draft resister and a war protester at the time. But I wasn’t at Kent State or any other campus. I was not even in the United States. I was in a tiny village just south of Hanoi in northern Viet Nam.  I was a member of a four-person delegation of peace activists.

Starting in 1965, people-to-people-diplomacy groups went routinely to see for ourselves what the war looked like from the “other side.”  From 1965 until the war ended in 1975, about 200 Americans joined such delegations.

Of course, there were those who branded us traitors and accused us of siding with the enemy.  I never felt that way.  I was against the war because, among other things, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that the Vietnamese were my enemy.

To this day, I remember the troubled and sad demeanor of our Vietnamese hosts when they informed us of the Kent State killings.  In a very powerful way, it brought home the truth that the Vietnamese held no animosity toward the U.S. people.

They were the invaded country being massively assaulted with chemical weapons and the biggest bombing campaign in history. And, yet,  despite everything the U.S. war machinery was doing to dehumanize them,  they mostly did not respond in kind.

I have thought many times about that somber moment in that village over the years.  Looking back, it seemed that the Vietnamese understood better than our group how the Kent State murders would prove to be a turning point.  They were right.  When I got back home, many people I had previously known as fence sitters had become adamantly opposed to the war.

Sadly, many who participated in antiwar activities have since developed an inferiority complex about our huge and important movement.

At a 2017 Ann Arbor screening preview of his upcoming PBS series about the war, filmmaker Ken Burns asked the soldiers in the audience who had served to stand and be acknowledged.  They did so, to considerable applause.

Ever the troublemaker, I then stood up and shouted as loud as I could that I was a proud veteran of the antiwar movement. An embarrassed silence ensued from Mr. Burns and the audience.

That’s not surprising. The celebration of war and aggression is deeply rooted in our history and culture. And the fourth branch of the government, the Pentagon, together with its allies remain engaged in a decades-long effort to belittle the broad and deep opposition to the war on Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia.

Their campaign hasn’t worked on me. I am as opposed to U.S. militarism as I ever was. So, of course, every May 4th is a sad day.

But those memories also provide a potent and inspiring call to action: Our nation once gave birth to a peace movement so powerful that even white protestors were shot in an effort to stop it.

If our nonviolent movement was that strong once, it can be so again.

It won’t be easy.  Building peace is difficult anyplace but especially so in the United States.  Before Viet Nam and since Viet Nam the U.S. military has invaded many counties and killed millions of people with little opposition.  Clearly the struggle against the Viet Nam invasion was an historical aberration.

Ours is a warrior nation.  Always has been.  We are taught from an early age to take pride in the revolutionary war that created our country in the first place.  Our first General was our first President.

We learn the stories about how the Winchester rifle wielding pioneers won the West.  Our Civil War killed as many as one million souls.  And left us with deep animosity that persists to this day.

Throughout our culture,  from Civil War reenactors to movies and sporting events,  we venerate war and military service.  Of course, we worship guns too.  I had to smile recently when I saw the early Covid 19 pictures of people lined up at gun stores.

Well,  of course,  I thought.  We have been trained for centuries to think that whether it is Native people,  civil rights activists,  elementary school students and teachers,  antiwar protestors or even presidents (Lincoln,  Garfield,  McKinley,  Kennedy)—there is no problem that can’t be shot to death.  (For most anything else,  we have an abiding faith that there can be a pill or an injection.)

War is also our national go-to metaphor.  War on poverty.  War on Drugs.  War on Coronavirus.  War on everything except,  of course,  war itself.

It’s obvious that if you love war,  you also have to love the whole idea of having enemies. We do very well at that too.  That’s one reason sixty-three million people are so loyal to Donald Trump who wallows in enemy creation.  No enemy in sight?  No problem.  Invent one or several.

Historically,  enemies,  both foreign and domestic,  are preferably people of  color.  Which is part of what made the Kent State shootings such a shock.  Later in the month of May,  1970 two black students were killed and others wounded on the campus of Jackson State college in Jackson,  Mississippi.  In August of 1970, four Chicanos were killed and others wounded at a huge protest in Los Angles.

To this day,  Kent State gets far more attention than either Jackson State or the deaths at the Chicano march.  Same as it ever was.  White lives matter more.

White lives mattering more was a big factor in my opposition to the war as being racist in the first place.  Many observed that the casualty rate in Viet Nam was disproportionality higher for soldiers of color.

Far fewer took note of the significance of slaughtering people of color because they were “communists,”  while having a cold war against “communists” who were white.  Equally important,  this extended a pattern that went back to the very origins of the United States.

Here’s how I put it in an essay published in 1969.

The settling of the West did not stop at the Pacific Ocean, but continued on to Hawaii, the Philippines, Samoa (still called American Samoa), Japan, China and ultimately Viet Nam. Many of the same generals who fought to the Pacific also fought in the early Pacific campaigns. And although the reasons for expansion changed as the nation became industrialized, the process of expansion is so inexorable that the United Stated has never had any “foreign policy” whatsoever, at least regarding the Pacific.

United States Pacific and Asian involvement is, perhaps more obviously than is usually the case, simply an extension of domestic policy. In this sense, the United States is in Viet Nam because it is in California.

(Emphasis added. THE NEW LEFT—A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS,  Priscilla Long Editor,  Porter Sargent Publisher, p 130 )

I would not write that exactly the same way today.  But the essential idea of the US as perpetual conquistadors certainly remains the same.  Clearly, however,  that perspective remains a minority point of view.  Those of us who share it have failed,  so far at any rate,  to prevail in “the marketplace of ideas.”

The resistance to the expansionist/imperialist analysis has two big components.  One is that the white way of thinking is designed to organize everything in fragments.  The connecting of dots is discouraged.  Any flaw,  deviation or imperfection in foreign or domestic policy is always happening for the first time.  Or even if it has happened before,  it’s portrayed as the result of discreet factors of that time and circumstance.

The second factor is that any acknowledgement of the role of settler colonialism or the importance of slavery as the foundation of the Republic is frowned upon.

Property owning white men (who control the country today no less than was the case in 1776) understand that virtually any systemic analysis or critique could easily lead to demands for systemic change.  They don’t want that.  For various reasons, neither do large numbers of ordinary citizens.

Media,  politics, and educational institutions work to confine efforts for change within narrow boundaries.  What’s allowed is mostly ritualized conflict between those who support the status quo and those who advocate for incremental and piecemeal reforms.

(By way of example,  I submitted shorter and somewhat different versions of this article to the At War section of the New York Times and several other “mainstream” publications.  All of them rejected it.)

Reforms,  even when they are achieved,  are virtually never permanent or “settled” questions.  I call this regression-to-the-mean.  For example, by any metric,  the Pentagon is stronger in 2020 than it was in 1975 when the Vietnamese successfully reclaimed their country from the U.S. invaders.  As much as the antiwar movement exposed the role of the CIA,  at least since 9/11 they have expanded not just the vast use of torture but the entire scope of their worldwide operations.

Of course the current granddaddy of all regression-to-the-mean examples is the ongoing overthrow of the presidency of Barrack Obama.  I fault myself as among those who should have should have better anticipated and prepared for that.

It is seriously sad that having had more than 50 years since Viet Nam to work on it,  so many are reduced to the pathetic spectacle of accepting Joe Biden as the best we can do.

Fortunately,  that is not the whole story.  Let’s look back to the distinction the Vietnamese made between the U.S. government and the people.  Just as was the case in the early 1960’s,  there is a giant antiwar sleeper cell within the population.  Then as now, it is waiting for the alarm clock to go off.

Despite the all war,  all violence,  all world domination never ending drumbeat from the most sophisticated propaganda machine in the history of the world—millions upon millions do genuinely long for peace.

How do we know?  It’s simple.  We can tell from how much effort the thoroughly bipartisan pro war forces put into repressing any discussion whatsoever of what are euphemistically called “national security” issues.  The topic is essentially off limits in Presidential debates.  It is off limits in the mainstream media.  It is off limits in discussion of the national budget.  It is not permitted to talk about much trouble the military has in meeting its recruitment goals.  Genuine discussion of militarism is the most taboo topic of them all.

That very fact makes every day is a good day to celebrate the almost miraculous existence of the Vietnam antiwar movement,  as well as to evaluate its failures and limitations.

May 4,  however, is an especially appropriate day to focus on what we have learned and still need to learn fifty years later.

Most of all,  every May 4,  is a good day to ring the bell for peace.

Starting at 3 PM on May 9, he will participate in a webinar marking Peace and Civil Rights 50thanniversaries.  Register here to join the Webinar:

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Trump’s Threat to Iran Has a Hollow, Angsty Ring


Image Source: muffinn – CC BY 2.0

tweet by the U.S. President Donald Trump on April 22 said, “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.” Trump seems to be talking the language of war while indulging in politics by other means. Like his ban on immigration, Trump is resorting to distractions to turn attention away from his incompetence in tackling the COVID-19 crisis in the United States.

The Time report while referring to the tweet said, “The White House had no immediate comment. The U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet referred questions about the tweet to the Pentagon, and the Pentagon referred questions to the White House.”

Meanwhile, Tehran is plainly dismissive. The spokesman for the Iranian armed forces Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi said disdainfully, “Instead of bullying others today, Americans should put their efforts into saving their forces, who have contracted coronavirus.”

Trump was ostensibly reacting to an allegation by the U.S. Navy on April 15 that 11 Iranian vessels had “repeatedly conducted dangerous and harassing approaches against multiple U.S. naval ships operating in international waters.” Speedboats belonging to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy (IRGCN) apparently came too close to a squadron of U.S. warships sailing close to Iranian waters.

These warships included the expeditionary mobile base vessel Lewis B. Puller—a ship designed to serve as a platform for a U.S. invasion—the Paul Hamilton, a guided-missile destroyer, two coastal patrol boats and two Coast Guard ships.

The U.S. Navy statement said, “The IRGCN’s dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision… and were not in accordance with the obligation under international law to act with due regard for the safety of other vessels in the area.”

The Iranians have since released a video on April 19 that showed the IRGCN warning off a flotilla of U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf as they tried to approach the Iranian territorial waters. Following the Iranian warning, the U.S. ships apparently moved away.

Such incidents are not uncommon and the two sides know how to de-escalate. Trump had no reason to meddle. He must be really out of his mind to kickstart a military conflict in the Middle East over such incidents at this point when the U.S.’s Gulf allies are preoccupied with COVID-19.

In fact, the specter of an ever-widening spread of the coronavirus among American sailors haunts the U.S. Navy too. The U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt is detained in the Pacific Island of Guam, its crew was quarantined after hundreds of its sailors tested positive.

Three other aircraft carriers, the Nimitz, the Ronald Reagan, and the Carl Vinson, are also being docked in ports because of sailors testing positive, while a fourth, the Truman, is being kept at sea for fear that its crew will become infected if it comes into port.

A former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who held the post from 2009 to 2017, said, “I think what they need to do is bring every ship in… Offload most of the crew… leave a very skeletal force on board, sanitize the ship, quarantine people for two weeks, make sure nobody’s got COVID.” After that, he added, crews would have to be kept on the ships indefinitely until the pandemic is mitigated.

Arguably, Iran is not spoiling for a fight, either, as it emerges out of the pandemic. The struggle took a heavy toll; over 6,000 people died. In reality, what unnerves Washington is that Iran weathered the storm despite the U.S.’s “maximum pressure” approach.

The Trump administration even obstructed an Iranian request for a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to fight COVID-19, although Iran was the regional epicenter of the pandemic and dozens of frontline health workers and health care professionals died due to non-availability of personal protective equipment, and shortages of medicines and medical devices, including respirators.

The UN, the European Union, Russia, and China have called on the U.S. to ease sanctions. Even within the U.S., Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden joined members of Congress in urging the Trump administration to suspend sanctions on Iran. But all that fell on a stony heart. The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo kept advancing the ridiculous argument that Iran will divert IMF funds away from coronavirus relief and toward weapons of mass destruction programs.

Thus, the Trump administration watched with shock and awe when on April 22, a three-stage Qased rocket lifted off from the Markazi Desert in central Iran and successfully delivered a military reconnaissance satellite to orbit 425 km above earth’s surface. By doing so, Iran joined an elite club of superpowers with the capability to launch a military satellite using combined fuel in satellite carriers.

The Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Hossein Salami said, “Today, we can visualize the world from space, and this means extending the strategic intelligence of the powerful defense force, the IRGC.” All parts of the satellite, including the carrier and satellite, have been produced by the Iranian scientists and the message behind this important achievement is that sanctions are not an obstacle in the way of Iran’s progress.

Clearly, Trump has run out of options. Looking back, he made a ghastly mistake to order the murder of the Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani in January. The months since the incident took place go to show that Trump’s decision turned out to be a strategic blunder.

Soleimani’s murder has not exactly strengthened Trump’s prospects in the presidential election in November; it has not weakened Iran’s resolve in leading the “axis of resistance” in Syria and Iraq; but, it has weakened the U.S.’s standing in Iraq. Most importantly, Iran’s attitude toward the Trump administration has hardened.

Iranian diplomacy, which was low key in the last couple of months, has shifted gear as the country emerges out of the COVID-19 crisis. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif paid a visit to Damascus on April 20; Soleimani’s successor Esmail Ghaani was in Baghdad. During his meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Zarif said that Iran’s “path in support of the resistance” remains unwavering.

Meanwhile, Tehran has switched to a proactive policy toward Afghanistan. Tehran’s key interlocutor and veteran Afghan hand, Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian visited Kabul on April 20. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi on this occasion said in Tehran:

“Iran’s efforts are independent and within the framework of the interests of the Afghan government and nation. We hope that our efforts would yield results, an inclusive government would be formed in Afghanistan, stability and calm would return to Afghanistan, and then intra-Afghan talks would be held.”

Tehran so far allowed a free hand to Washington but is now stepping in to try to consolidate the forces of Afghan nationalism who are incensed over the U.S.’s prescriptive approach. From April 12 to April 15, Zarif held consultations regarding Afghanistan with his counterparts in KabulAnkaraBeijingNew DelhiMoscow, and Doha.

Tehran is determined to challenge Washington’s self-appointed role to navigate an Afghan settlement. The eviction of U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has become top priority in Tehran’s regional strategies.

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Visions of a Post-Covid-19 World


Photograph Source: Isengardt – CC BY 2.0

While most of us sit at home, the planet continues to warm – polar ice melts, oceans acidify, glaciers disappear, and seas rise. Plants, animals, and humans continue to be displaced from their accustomed habitats. Life in our climatological greenhouse goes on, but now, one of a trillion microbial species has our attention.

Zoonotic infections, exacerbated by urban development pushing ever further into the remaining wildlands of the world, where fauna and humanity newly comingle, are symptomatically allied to global warming. The Covid-19 pandemic is a late manifestation of ‘The Great Acceleration’, the era of unprecedented human expansion that was initiated post-WWII and has continued into this century – fueled by new technologies and a vastly expanded utilization of fossil energy. Infections are now rapidly disseminated – as the spawn of globalization – on airliners burning kerosene, and cruise ships and freighters burning diesel fuel, across global trade and tourism routes.

Accustomed to fire, flood, drought, extreme temperatures, crop failures, desertification, and the increased incidence of hurricanes and storm surges, either through direct experience or, more often, through the media, the link between the burning of fossil fuels and global warming has effectively infiltrated human consciousness – even as it continues to be fiercely denied by some. This consciousness must now expand to include these connections between fossil fuels and viral pandemics.

Since the mid-1970s, with the advent of computerized climate models, it has been scientifically irrefutable that increased CO2 levels are warming the world in life-threatening ways.  For that almost fifty-year span, we, as individuals, communities, nations and international organizations have sat on our collective hands. Action, in the form of remediation, has been characterized by its absence – the void only breached by broken promises, betrayals, futile bureaucratic machinations, and outright denials of the foundational premise for its necessity.

This spring, a plot twist unfolded in this dispiriting and stultifying saga. While we, perforce, sit at home, inured to many decades of sleep-walking towards the climate apocalypse, the skies cleared, the price of oil dropped to negative $40 a barrel (rebounding to just short of positive $20 at the time of writing) and a global reduction in carbon emissions of nearly 8% is forecast for the year. We are living the dream of effectively confronting our egregious consumption of fossil fuels. From a global warming perspective, our social isolation has been highly efficacious – the pernicious, growth-driven habits of exploitation, extraction and habitat destruction have been put on hold. A window has opened to a less polluted, less traveled, less rapidly warming, and healthier world, albeit one in which the enduring human susceptibility to viral disease has again been exposed.

While the global pandemic has put everyone at risk, the most vulnerable are the elderly, the ill, the obese, the economically distressed, the inadequately housed and the homeless, minorities, the institutionalized and all those who occupy lands governed by the inept and the venal. Across the globe, the frontline communities which suffer the ‘first and worst’ impacts of global warming are similarly devastated by Covid-19.  Yet, at a biological level, the SARS-CoV-2 virus practices rigorous non-discriminatory levels of infection.  Wealth and circumstance can only confer certain levels of protection, to which the daily obituaries attest – none of us is safe. Despite those many exposed to extreme levels of risk by the inequities of their lives, our common humanity is emphasized by our shared vulnerability to this mutated bat virus.

To recapitulate: societal response to the pandemic has slowed the frantic pace of economic activity, largely driven by the one-time energy bonus of unearthed fossil biomass, first realized in the mid nineteenth century but risen to an unprecedented frenzy since the 1950’s. This respite has moderated the climatological blow-back of a carbon-laden atmosphere. The wealth generated by fossil capital has been distributed with extreme prejudice. It has accrued to the rich (made wealthy in former times by land, inheritance, and, in the U.S. and its trading partners, by slavery) and has exacerbated those gross inequalities of power, resources and well-being originally institutionalized in feudal societies and then spread around the world through the process of colonization and conquest.

The subtext of global warming is thus exposed as the ever-widening gulf between the world’s obscenely rich and its metastasizing poor. The recent microbial intervention is revealed as a potential inflexion point in both global warming and wealth disparity.  Still wrapped in the cocoon of social isolation and stunned by the sudden freeze of economic activity, we can now ponder the form society will assume upon its emergence from these unprecedented changes of state. Jason Moore in, Capitalism in the Web of Life, 2015, writes, “Civilizations do not form through Big Bang events. They emerge from cascading transformations and bifurcation of human activity…” He suggests that capitalism “…emerged from the chaos that followed the epochal crisis of feudal civilization after the Black Death, (1347-1353).” What will emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic?

Broadly, there appear to be two competing visions. One favors a return to the status quo ante, a restoration of the old evils for the continued benefit of a tiny minority confident in their ability to ride out the coming climate cataclysm and escape the coming plagues. The other sees the potential for ‘cascading transformations’ that might lead to greater equality, opportunity and increased well-being for the majority in a world that eschews fossil fuels, moderates the escalating impacts of global warming and pulls back from rapacious habitat destruction and its concomitant exposure to novel zoonotic diseases. Recent history suggests the former vision, with little or no consideration of the latter, will prevail. The moment of clarity, expressed in climate and consciousness, will pass and progressives will resume their regular, but now carefully washed, handwringing.

The bank bailouts of 2008, after the financial crash initiated by the mortgage derivatives melt-down, will likely provide the template for the U.S. and other first-world countries re-starting their economies. Old fossil-fuel dependent heavy industries will be revived, airlines resurrected, factory-farming jump-started, the auto industry saved from bankruptcy, the oil industry revivified, and a new era of deregulation birthed – all justified by the economic crisis.

George Monbiot in his weekly Environment column for the U.K. Guardian suggests,

“This is our second chance to do things differently. It could be our last. The first in 2008, was spectacularly squandered. Vast amounts of public money were spent reassembling the filthy old economy, while ensuring that wealth remained in the hands of the rich. Today, many governments seem determined to repeat the catastrophic mistake.”

In the U.S. we can be sure that Trump will promote the feeding of the zombie economy with massive quantities of public monies and celebrate its every flicker of life as it slowly lumbers back to its accustomed habits of growth, pollution and the advertising propaganda that fuels our  search for identity and social meaning through consumption. The Club of Rome, the distinguished international think-tank that published its seminal report, The Limits to Growth, in 1972, suggests an alternative,

“Covid-19 has shown us that overnight transformational change is possible. A different world, a different economy is suddenly dawning. This is an unprecedented opportunity to move away from unmitigated growth at all costs and the old fossil fuel economy, and deliver a lasting balance between people, prosperity and our planetary boundaries.”

In the Netherlands, more than seventy academics have co-signed, Five Proposals for a Post-Covid-19 Development Model.  Leiden University’s web site, where this document originated, has, for the moment gone off-line, perhaps hacked or over-loaded. Its first proposal call for a move away from development focused on aggregate GDP, suggesting that degrowth should be applied to extractive industries and advertising, while growth is encouraged in the health, education and clean energy sectors. Its second recommends a universal basic income funded from progressive taxation, along with job-sharing and a reduced work week. Its third proposes a regenerative transformation of agriculture, local food production and fair wages for farm workers. Its fourth focuses on the need to reduce travel and heedless consumption, and its fifth suggests debt forgiveness for students, workers, small business owners and impoverished nations in the Global South.

This standard wish-list of a progressive agenda would indeed fulfill the Club of Rome’s call for ‘a lasting balance between people, prosperity and our planetary boundaries.’ Endless growth can only end in tears, yet our leaders are addicted to an expansionary economic model that continues to be fossil-fuel dependent. The extraordinary circumstances of a global stand-down as SARS-CoV-2 careens across the planet, has given us, amidst the appalling realities of viral sickness and death, a momentary vision of a saner, healthier, and a cooler world.

Posted in HealthComments Off on Visions of a Post-Covid-19 World

This is Not a Conspiracy, It is a Terrifying Opportunity


“To create an event is thus to reject whatever is now nothing more than a ‘thirdworlding of human societies’, representing a shift from the EXOCOLONISATION of erstwhile empires to the ENDOCOLONISATION of the terminal empire”.

– Paul Virilio, City of Panic, 2005

“There will be in the next generation or so a method of making people love their servitude and producing dictatorship without tears so to speak. Producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda, or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.”

– Aldous Huxley, From a speech for the Tavistock Group, California Medical School, 1961

Every catastrophe and crisis are followed by a litany of conspiracy theories. The Covid-19 pandemic has proved no exception. From tales concerning transmission of some lethal agent through 5G infrastructure, to grand theories concerning a mastermind plot to destabilise the world, the fantastical and the absurd have spread almost as quickly as the virus. While the early culprits ranged from the Bill Gates to the Iranians, George Soros to the Eco-fascists, it’s becoming more and more common to suggest either some orchestrated Chinese plot or a planned pandemic (yes, the Plandemic) to begin a massive vaccination program.

Plandemonium, along with the alleged death of Kim Jong-un which had socialists the world over speculating about the prospect of a feminine authoritarian (as if Thatcher never walked the earth) aside, Steve Bannon and then even President Trump got in on the act, peddling narratives about a Chinese lab experiment, despite the absence of any evidence and even contradicting his own “intelligence” agencies.

Conspiracies actually work to the benefit of established forms of power. We only need to remind ourselves here of the ways the United States government was active in the peddling of UFO conspiracies in Nevada during the 1980’s, in order to hide its testing of advanced military technologies.

Nevada in fact provides a perfectly apt analogy for the world we find ourselves in today. Whilst Donald Trump would learn that every crisis is an opportunity to use socialism for capitalist ends in the apocalyptic landscapes of 1970s New York, it would be in Las Vegas where he learnt best the art of distraction, and what the avid watcher Guy Debord noted to be the power of the spectacle.

Whilst early visitors in the 1950’s took part in Atomic tourism with its own novel lightshow experience, watching bombs explode in the desert and doing untold damage to their physical health, by the 1990’s this fake Oasis became globally appealing for its glitzy spectacles, made all the more alluring by semi-naked bodies, walking amongst the simulacrum of the neon-strip. But behind the lights the violence and exploitation were all too real. Everybody knew about it. Some people felt it. But most preferred not to question it, preferring instead to gaze upon the shadows of the electric lights, which radiated as much as the already polluted and toxic atmosphere.

The same is true for what’s happening in the world today. Do we honestly think that when Trump asks his medical adviser about the possibility of injecting bleach, he doesn’t know what he doing? So, while his critics are aghast at the very proposition, pointing incredulously to the idiocy of those who followed such an idiotic claim, only to be further enraged by the fact Trump tells us we can no longer even believe what we saw or be sure what we know we heard, the spectacle is working exactly as it was intended. The Vegas showman is at home.

Conspiracies used to be presented as the counter-truth to state propaganda. And state propaganda used to be the that term we once gave to what is now called “fake news”. Some things are consistent. However, what the forces on the right have effectively orchestrated over the past decade is the complete appropriation of narratives of resistance, from the language of rights, notions of victimhood, onto the idea that they are the true revolutionary force in the world.

The aim of any conspiracy is to sow the seeds of an unprovable doubt. It is uttered therefore it is true. That Trump would also harness the conspiratorial is not unexpected. It would be a further indicator of the inversion of so many logics in this wonderland we now find ourselves, where nothing is certain and nothing clear, except for the fact that the world and its inhabitants are now truly dangerous.

Such inversions are central to any understanding of politics in the current moment. The world in which we inhabit might at the personal level feel like its slowed down to almost a standstill. This is an illusion. For the mechanisms of power have been speeding up in ways that would have been unimaginable only a few months ago. This is not a rupture or lockdown, it’s an acceleration.

Very few understood the importance of speed as a political concept better than the late French philosopher Paul Virilio. Recognising that speed had conquered space, Virilio was ever mindful of the emerging power of technology and its effects on our both our sense of place and our emotional states. As he wrote in one of his later books, The Futurism of the Instant:

“Just like the elementary particle at the heart of Geneva’s Great Accelerator – the large Haidron Collider – we will then not only be ‘filed’, but tracked, making knowing where we permanently reside completely pointless… The pathological sequelae of this are unknown. The myth of some happy, beneficial neo-nomadism wont long survive the experience of being locked down in a closed circuit, within the now relative non-expanse of this life-bearing star of ours”.

Crucially for Virilio, such endo-colonisation was not about the world “catching up”, it was an accelerating regression. A world where technological advance was synonymous with borderland conditions:

“So, let’s not be under any illusions! What is happening in Africa and Asia, with the 50 million people qualified by the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees as ‘victims of forced displacement’, is no more than a clinical symptom of the domiciliary emancipation, the freeing up of settled living currently underway that will in turn hit Europe and the Americas and the rest of the developed world”.

Virilo forces us to confront contradictions, which beneath the surface are not contradictory whatsoever. It is possible to accelerate while regress, support life while destroying existences.

Long before this lockdown occurred, the physical separations between people were already becoming far more entrenched. As the wall around the West was being violently policed from refugees and other undesirables, the United States and United Kingdom demanded ever greater restrictions to mobility and entry into its sovereign domains. This was never about “sovereignty” however, but a reorganisation in the nature of global capitalism. A system that did very well in times of crisis and continues to do so for the disaster capitalists. But what we have today is no longer simply the lock-down of Nations. Every city, every street, every park, and every home has become a border. We also know these measures are not going to be temporary; they will be part of the new normal. But do we really want to live in a world where such segregations are acceptable, where we feel ashamed for getting too close, where the very idea of physical presence and touch become social taboo, and where we have to request permission to cross whatever imaginary border is placed upon the conduct of life?

We already lived in a world where financial power was dominated by the tech-giants who had amassed such wealth it was comparable to the Gilded Age. Operating in the post-political clouds far removed from democratic oversight (aside from the occasional theatrical performance to assure us the invisible have nothing to hide), they had a vision for a networked society, where globalisation wasn’t about us traveling around the world; it was about the world coming to us, in the confines of our homes. It is no coincidence that corporations such as Amazon and Facebook are the most to profit from these times. We now have no option but to live virtual lives. There is no opting out of this social morphology, which now governs most planetary life. But do we really want however to live a screened existence, where the office and the home, the public and the private are truly indistinguishable? An existence where it actually becomes an exception to venture out into some unknown place, somewhere off the map, somewhere that might be unexpected and unchartered, and enjoy the “real world”?

The Wars on Terror had already put forward the idea of some ominous invisible enemy, lurking with devastating intent, waiting for the right moment to indiscriminately strike us down. This made us appreciate that our societies, our lives, our futures, were fundamentally insecure. But the War on Terror framework has proved to be limited and its language exhausted. The very doctrine in fact has evaporated into the discursive ether. Was it still really happening? Nobody knew. While some were critical of its pervasiveness however, as far as private security firms were concerned, the doctrine simply did not go far enough in terms of exhausting its potential. So, while the problem still remains invisible today, there is one fundamental difference: everyone is now truly the source of potential endangerment. That doesn’t mean to say we are all in this together. That is also an illusion. What it does mean is tried and tested drones that were experimented upon populations in the “global South” can be let loose over democratic skies. But do we really want to live under the continued presence of such atmospheric devices, which will at some point undoubtedly become armed and lethal?

Our privacy rights have been under-attack for some considerable time. This had less to do with militarised police on the streets, though certainly that still mattered in areas of social exclusion and depravation, than the well-documented use of eavesdropping and invasive technologies, feeding into complex digital algorithmic systems for the surveillance and manipulation of all human habits, opinions and desires. And yet despite our encouraged willing to broadcast some of the most intimate details of our lives into the public domain, we largely kept our health a closely guarded secret. What’s terrifying today is the speed in which tracking apps to record, monitor and assay the entire health of nations has entered into the public discourse, without any serious critique as to their political implications beyond the mere notion that “ethics” have been considered. By whom exactly? Do we really want to live in a world in which every breath, sweat and tear is monitored? A world where our health is yet another complex dataset, not only fed into the system, but proving of our health credentials and right to move around every social sphere, every public space, every virtual landscape?

There is nothing inevitable to the way societies choose to respond to a crisis such as this pandemic. What we do however learn in our response is precisely what is valued in a society and what is less so. While there has been a managed politics at work between the dominant forces of power and the fading liberal left, behind the scenes there is a notable decimation of the arts and culture taking place outside of the corporate cultural institutions. If radical and independent presses are fighting for their lives, so it is also the case that critical cultural producers, who already occupied the margins, are being pushed into the abyss. Liberals have been complicit in this with their instance that the bio-politics of health trumps all other considerations. Critical forms of culture have never simply been a “past-time”. Speaking truth to power through their own grammatical interventions, they encourage more compassion, empathy and dignity in human affairs. We know the history of modern societies has resulted in the triumph of technical forms of thinking over the more poetic understanding of life. But do we really want to live in a world where art and culture are reduced to a virtual gallery visit, which feeding more about our aesthetic preferences into the invisible system are stripped of any political claim and given over to the power of technocratic reason?

What’s is also striking across much of the so-called “Western world” right now (which truly resembles a new technological Frontierland where all barriers are removed) is the attitude to education. Prior to the pandemic, there was already a concerted attack upon the arts, humanities and social sciences across all educational sectors, most notably within the University. With bailouts and resources primarily given to large businesses, technology firms, along with health and medical research, the already precarious nature of these areas for study have increased exponentially. Very few academics in these sectors right now feel any sense of “job security”, with announced layoffs already taking place in many “developed” countries. But such critical subjects are much more than some vocational let alone economic measure; they are critical to any viable notion of democracy and the need to create actively engaged citizens who can hold power to account and have the confidence to rethink and imagine alternative visions for the world. Do we really want to live in a society where the very subjects and pursuits which encourage people to speak truth to power and imagine better futures are the preserve of the very select elite who have a vested interest in the status quo?

There is no doubt this virus has been devastating to vulnerable people and families who have lost loved ones. And there is no doubt it continues to terrorise some people, who are locked in their homes and concerned with their lives, fearing what contagion might actually mean for them. But we now also need to be vigilant about the coming catastrophe, which is also potentially terrifying. It is fine to recognise the need to support the temporary introduction socially responsible distancing measures to protect the most vulnerable, while also asking serious questions about how we might use the crisis to rethink those conditions which make people vulnerable in the first place. This should not however be the pretext for the acceleration of those very dynamics, which create a false humanity that ends up being permanently segregated, isolated and quarantined ever fearful of venturing into the deserts of the real.

Viruses don’t wage war. Humans do. Whilst we should therefore be concerned for the health of the vulnerable, we should also be terrified by the prospect that the whole world has become a giant experimental playground for pharmaceutical companies, who can now override any medical ethics on the basis that cures needs to be found, now and into the future. We should also be terrified by the great acceleration in surveillance tracking, which is revealing a techno-pharma-militarism without rival. We should also be terrified by the eviscerating of all the viable centres for educative and cultured critique, which could hold this system of power to account for its actions. We should also be terrified by armed militia emboldened in places like the United States, looking like some monstrous white supremacist adaptation of the village people thrown into a Mad Max plot, while presenting themselves as libertarians. We should also be terrified by the fact that anybody who now criticises the techno-pharma-militaristic matrix is thrown into the same camp as the Alt-right, often by puritanical liberals who are just as pious and self-flagellating than any orthodox religion we have seen. And we should also be terrified by the claim that technology is the only thing that might save us.

They say that reality is often stranger than fiction. The lines between the two in fact are never so clear. Sometimes, the future being prepared can be even more terrifying still. The world doesn’t need another conspiracy. It needs a critical understanding of the road ahead and the crashes which are already in the making. Or as Frantz Kafka might say: “Far from here – that’s my aim”.

Posted in Health, Politics, WorldComments Off on This is Not a Conspiracy, It is a Terrifying Opportunity

Roaming Charges: Ain’t Living Long Like This


The Triumph of Death (detail) by Pieter Breugel the Elder.

James Baldwin: “When you try to stand up and look the world in the face like you had a right to be here, you have attacked the entire power structure of the western world.”

You’re going for a run the way you usually do. You’re a good runner, a star athlete in high school. You’re 25 and you run almost every day to stay in shape and because you like running. It’s a sunny day. Warm for February. The route is familiar, 2.23 miles weaving through suburban roads. You notice you’re being following by two men in a truck. They’re yelling at you. They have guns. You’re scared now. You are black. The two men are white. This is southern Georgia. You try to explain. They aren’t listening. You take off, running for your life. Then you hear the shot.

This is how Ahmaud Arbery died. Shot down in the street in cold blood. Let’s not call it vigilantism. Vigilante justice implies that a crime had been committed and people had taken the punishment into their own hands. Arbery was merely jogging while black when he was spotted by two violent racists. He was lynched by gunfire in broad daylight.

Arbery was killed in February. One of his killers, Gregory McMichael, is a retired police detective. The other killer is McMichael’s son, Travis. One had a handgun, the other a shotgun. For more than two months, no charges were filed, despite the pleas from Arbery’s family. McMichael told his friends in the cop shop that he believed Arbery was a suspect in a string of robberies in the neighborhood in Brunswick. But police records show there’d only been one reported burglary in the past month. No charges were filed. The prosecutor, searching for an excuse, said the McMichaels had the right to detain Arbery under Georgia’s archaic “citizen’s arrest” law. And to shoot him when he ran away.

Then, earlier this week, a cellphone video of the shooting surfaced, showing that Arbery was shot within mere seconds of being accosted by the McMichaels.

Finally, on Thursday night charges were finally filed against the McMichaels. Only international pressure forced them to file charges. Keep the pressure on. In fact, turn it up…

+ The lynching of Ahmad Aubery is just the latest sickening instance in a continuum of state-sanctioned violence against black youth that Kevin Alexander Gray, JoAnn Wypijewski and I chronicled in our book, Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence. A book which I would gladly see go out of date and out of print. Alas…

+ Disgusting, revolting, predictable: Wanda Cooper, Arbery’s mother, told CNN on Sunday, that when police notified her of her son’s death, she was told her son was involved in a burglary and that there was a confrontation between her son and the homeowner and a struggle over a gun.”

+ The DA in this case, who cynically, if not criminally, used Georgia’s ludicrous “citizen’s arrest” law as an excuse not to prosecute Aubery’s killers  is a conspirator after-the-fact in a lynching.

+ The DA who charged a black woman for felony voter fraud and took her to trial TWICE is the same DA that chose NOT to arrest the McMichaels for murdering Ahmaud Arbery.

+ At least 330 people have been shot and killed by police since January 1, 2020, including 3 people in Indianapolis in an 8-hour span.

+ 40 people have been arrested (many of them roughed up) by the NYPD for violating social distancing rules. 35 of them are black.

+ Frank Wilhoit: “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition. There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.”

+ The choice that confronts us: two serial molesters, both old enough to know who Donna Reed is…

+ The detestable rationalizations liberals make for sticking with Biden despite Tara Reade’s convincing story can’t come as any surprise. It’s the same ritual contortions they’ve made about the Iraq war, fracking, abortion, the drug war, Anita Hill, social security, segregation, climate change, health care, deportations, a living wage, student debt, the Patriot Act, pipelines, the Libyan coup, climate change. To be a Democrat is to live in a constant state of denial, self-contradiction and moral hypocrisy.

+ Tara Reade says she will take a polygraph if Joe Biden takes one. She points out that her being the only one to take one sets a bad precedent, that only the survivor is questioned, which sounds entirely reasonable to me.

+ Linda Hirshman wrote an oped in the NYT saying that she believes Tara Reade but is voting for Biden none-the-less. I guess that’s a wrap…for #Metoo feminism.

+ Now Dianne Feinstein has joined in the trashing of Tara Reade, dismissing her story by using the old rubric, “Where has she been all these years?

+ Who’s writing DiFi’s lines now, Lindsey Graham?

+ In fact, new court documents from Reade’s divorce show that she told her ex-husband about Biden’s harassment in … 1996.

+ The Democrats have herded themselves into such a tight corner with Biden that they can’t credibly bleat out an objection to this infuriating move by Cruella DeVos to gut Title IX and require college women who have been raped to be cross-examined on their claims …

+ The hallowed “middle” of the Democratic Party, which Biden habitually migrates to, only moves inexorably to the right, year after year, election after election…

+ Biden is part of the same DLC wrecking crew that reconstructed the Democratic Party into a corporate friendly habitat after the loss of Mondale. He’s right at the core, even if he remains one of the least articulate of the Apostles of neoliberalism…

+ I admire Noam Chomsky more than almost any other American intellectual. Yet his position on lesser-of-2-evil voting is repudiated by the last 40 years of American history, where both parties have lurched farther and farther to the right. That Chomsky, of all people, can rationalize to himself voting for a politician who backed the Iraq War is one reason the Democrats keep nominating politicians who backed the Iraq War. Ralph Nader may not be as “radical” as Chomsky, but he has never wavered on this vital point: lesser evil politics only serves to propagate more evil.

+ For Chomsky it seems to come down to nuclear war. He believes the Republicans are more likely to ignite one. Yet, the Democrats were the ones who actually dropped nuclear weapons on civilian cities, twice, brought us to the brink of nuclear conflict again in 1962, and have spent the last 3.5 years hyping a new cold war with nuclear Russia. Now Biden is running rabid ads against nuclear China.

+ Biden treated Jesse Helms, a truly evil man who used to whistle Dixie every time Carole Moseley Braun walked by him in the Senate, with more respect and courtesy than young climate and health care activists…

+ These three headlines, collected by David Sirota, pretty much tell the whole political story…

+ Pelosi and Schumer say they are coming up with a “Rooseveltian” COVID-19 recovery plan. If they were serious (they aren’t), they’d have designated Bernie Sanders to write it.

+ Would Roosevelt have bailed out K Street lobbyists, as Pelosi wants to do?

+ At least 20.5 million people were jobless in April. The unemployment rate has hit 14.7 percent, the highest since the Great Depression. And the Dow was up 1.6 percent. Capitalism kills, then loots everything you left behind, except your debts which it relentless pursues your relatives to pay off, at endlessly compounding interest.

+ Trump speaks nonsense. But he speaks it forcefully, which is why he still stands a good chance of defeating the cowering, timid Biden, even under these dismal and deteriorating circumstances…

+ With news that one of Trump’s valets tested positive for COVID-19, the president will now be tested more frequently. But the test that is being used on Trump has a false-negative rate of 14.8 percent, according to a Cleveland Clinic study…

+ Momma Mia! The latest Pence staffer to test positive for COVID-19 is Katie Miller, wife of Stephen the Xenophobe, who has spent the last 3 years looking for a way to block immigrants from entering the USA on the specious grounds that they carry infectious diseases. Recall that it was Katie Miller, who sent Mother out to defend Pence for not wearing a mask at the Mayo Clinic, then sought to retaliate against the reporter (VOA’s Steve Herman) who exposed Mother’s lie that Mikey didn’t know about the rules by publishing the memo from Katie or her staff warning reporters of Mayo’s strict rules about wearing masks.

+ If Stephen Miller doesn’t have COVID-19 are we to assume the marriage was never consummated? And who could blame her?

+ Trump: “Katie, she tested very good for a long period of time and then all of the sudden today she tested positive… This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily great.”

+ Meanwhile, at least 11 members of the Secret Service have contracted COVID-19 and Trump didn’t want people around him wearing masks because he thought it made them (and him) “look weak.

+ Joshua Potash: “There have been more new cases of COVID in the White House over the last 24 hours than the entire country of New Zealand.”

+ TRUMP: “I feel about vaccines like I feel about tests. This is going to go away without a vaccine, it’s gonna go away, and we’re not going to see it again, hopefully.”

+ Give Trump some credit. He was half-right for once: the coronavirus didn’t disappear, but it appears the task force did.

+ Pence says that the White House plans to wind down the operation by the end of May and it’s not clear whether any other group might replace it. Of course, doing nothing will almost certainly cause less harm than what they’ve been doing. (A day later, Trump undercut Pence again, saying the task force will continue “indefinitely.” Whatever that means.)

+ According to CBS News, at the very moment Pence was telling reporters his goal is to wind down the coronavirus task force by Memorial Day, Dr. Anthony Fauci was on the phone with reporter Paula Reid saying he’d heard no such thing …

+ Ok, kids, adjust your Zoom and look closely at these two graphs. Can anyone spot the Failed State?

+ How many travelers have been infected with COVID by TSA agents? 500 TSA screeners have tested positive, but TSA did not require them to wear masks until … yesterday.

+ Trump says of the elderly veterans he was with on Friday without wearing a mask: “They’re so pure, it will never happen, alright? They’ve lived a great life.” Has he checked the COVID-19 death count inside VA hospitals lately (831)? Of course, what he means is that it will never happen after being in His presence. He’s reenacting the medieval myth of the King’s Touch, which was supposed to cure mysterious diseases like the King’s Evil (Scrofula).

+ Trump likes veterans who don’t get sick.

+ FEMA is providing D.C. with six, 53-foot trailers to hold bodies because there have been so many COVID-19 deaths in the city — 285 as of Thursday. You can see why Trump fears DC (not to mention Puerto Rico) becoming a state

+ Two weeks after a mob of Covidiots gathered together on the steps of the Capitol building in Olympia without masks Washington state saw its single highest daily increase in new cases since early April….

+ A Your Money or Your Life Health Care System: An influential drug pricing group has calculated the experimental coronavirus treatment drug Remdesivir is worth up to $4,500 per patient.

+ REPORTER: Are you concerned that deaths are projected to rise because states are relaxing guidelines too early?

TRUMP: No … the fact that we’re letting people go and go to their jobs — they have to do it … between drug abuse, suicide — there’s no great win one way or the other…

+ Death toll undercount: According to a report on Frontline, at least 66,081 more people in the United States have died than expected since January 1. More than 32,300 of the excess deaths have not been attributed to COVID-19…

+ Wisconsin’s Republican chief justice, Patience Roggensack, dismissed a coronavirus flare up this week because it only impacted people who work in meat packing plants and not “the regular folks.” Immigrants be damned…

+ Texas restarted the cow killing business with predictable results: COVID-19 has spread inside a Tyson beef processing facility in Amarillo, marking the latest apparent outbreak of the virus at a Texas meatpacking facility.

+ Block the meat pipelines, before meat blocks yours!

+ Kroger will be eliminating the $2 per hour ‘hero pay’ for grocery workers on May 17, according to the UFCW. So we’re going to see these small hazard pay premiums start to vanish soon. The hazard of the virus will still be there, the pay for being a “warrior” (as Trump says) on the frontlines won’t…

+ Jared Kushner’s Coronavirus task force screwed up almost every thing they tried to do (on those rare occasions when they tried to do something)…

+ his team followed leads from “Fox & Friends” on where to find PPE.
+ took 30% of national stockpile for drive-through testing site plan that failed.
+ had no experience in health care, procurement, supply chain etc.

What did you expect from a Slumlord?

+ Trump was so fixated on hydroxychloroquine that he got a Mar-a-Lago friend and vitamins executive to call California Governor Gavin Newsom on his cell to pitch a deal for California to buy the drug from an Indian manufacture. Newsom declined.

+ The Trump administration is suing the Sacred Heart ORPHANAGE for the right to survey its property, in preparation to build Trump’s border wall, during a global pandemic…

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

• Jan 17 — 0
• Jan 24 — 2
• Jan 31 — 7
• Feb 7 — 12
• Feb 14 — 15
• Feb 21 — 30
• Feb 28 — 65
• Mar 6 — 310
• Mar 13 — 2,224
• Mar 20 — 17,962
• Mar 27 —  102,636
• April 3 —   275,000
• April 10 — 504,000
• April 17 — 707,000
• April 24 – 923,470
• May 1 –     1,130,786
• May 8 –    1,321,707

+ Nobody understands & reveres the Constitution like Trump, who says he will only submit to GOP oversight of his administration.

+ In the Oval Office hosting the Governor of Iowa, who was at the White House celebrating the reopening of the Hawkeye State even though she’d never closed it, Trump says “in a way by doing all this testing we make ourselves look bad… we’re going to have more cases” of COVID because of more testing.

+ Despite the high fives in the Oval Office, Iowa’s testing falls short of what is recommended before opening up commercial businesses. The state averages 3,119 tests per day — much lower than estimated minimum needed by May 15. In the past week, 16.3% of tests have come back positive, exceeding the recommended rate of 10% or lower…

Jay Rosen: “The plan is to have no plan, let thousands of daily deaths become normal, and create massive confusion about who is responsible, in part by fighting with the press when it shows up to be briefed or to ask questions. Don’t say “spin.” It is way beyond spin.”

+ The number of people you know who have died from COVID-19 is a pretty good indicator of your degrees of separation from black America.

+ The New Orleans City Council just unanimously voted to support Medicare for all.

+ And we’re supposed to insulate these jerks from any liability for their outrageous, if not lethal, demands placed upon their low-paid workers?

+At a single Walmart in Worcester, Massachusetts, 61 workers have tested positive for Covid-19…

+ As in most states, in Oregon the risks of rapidly reopening the economy will fall most heavily on the very people who have already been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 shutdown: blue collar workers who without a college education or any money stashed away in the bank.

+ Amount in “small business” relief funds claimed by Sidwell Friends, the elite DC prep school: $5 million. Endowment: $52 million. Annual tuition: $45,000.

+ Tonight’s match-up features superpower USA v. the underdog Denmark. Let’s go to the scoreboard…Unemployment:United States 14.7%Denmark 4.9% McDonald’s hourly wage:United States $9Denmark $22 Weeks of paid vacation:United States 0Denmark 5 COVID19 deaths per million:United States 231Flag of Denmark 87 COVID19 tests per 1,000:United States 24Denmark 49

+ Curzio Malaparte: ‘Italy never ended a war on the same side on which she started.’ I don’t know where this leaves them in the war on COVID-19.

+ The first person to die from COVID-19 in ICE detention, a 57-year-old man from El Salvador named Carlos Ernesto Escobar-Mejia, was denied bond on April 15th, reportedly because the judge wtanted to know more about a charge against him which had been dropped (the arrest was due to mistaken identity).

+ William Sobczyk died from COVID-19 complications on Monday after spending 16 months awaiting trial in the Cook County Jail. He was already being treated for aggressively spreading cancer in his liver, lung, bones and brain before the COVID19 pandemic. He was the 7th inmate to die of COVID-19 complications in the Cook County Jail.

+ New Mexico’s prison population: 6,500; Number of inmates in NM prisons tested for COVID-19: 5.

+ I used to write for the Texas Observer, when Mike King was the editor, and I’m very glad to see they continue to kick ass by breaking important stories like this one exposing how Texas official have undercounted COVID-19 cases by excluding many sick prisoners in a state where in at least nine counties the current prison cases make up more than 10 percent of the total COVID-19 cases in the county.

+ Boston Police William Gross Commissioner: “I could care less if they get sick in jail or not.”

+ Perhaps Melania will send the Commissioner one of her rain jackets…

+ Susan Farrell was the first woman to die of COVID in Michigan prison. She was 74. Served over 30 years for allegedly killing her husband, who sexually and physically abused her. Her bunkmate tried to alert prison guards to Farrell’s deteriorating condition and they put her in solitary for it.

+ The COVID-19 virus was first reported in South Korea and the USA within the same 24 hours. But since then…

Population of Seoul: 9+ million
Population of NYC: 8+ million
COVID-19 deaths in Seoul: 2
COVID-19 deaths in NYC: 19,00

+ A French-Algerian fishmonger, 42, showed up with COVID-19 at an ER in Paris on December 27, only two weeks after the first cases presented in hospitals in Wuhan. The man had not traveled overseas since a trip to Algeria in August.

+ No wonder the Trump administration seized all the respirators. Darth Vader needed to replenish his stockpile. (Of course, perhaps Team Trump should have watched the entire movie before modeling their campaign on the Death Star?)

+ Trump told FoxNews on Friday that he’s “learned a lot from Richard Nixon.” First the Death Star, now Nixon. He’s really going all in on trying to make a virtue of villainy.

+ Having listened to hour after hour of Nixon’s tapes, I’ve come to believe that assertions of his great intelligence have been vastly over-rated, usually by biographers, politicians and journalists who supported Nixon’s foreign policy and abandoned him during Watergate. Even so, his mind begins to look larger and larger with each Trump press conference and Tweet.

+ Finland’s 2-year experiment with providing a universal basic income, which ran in 2017 and 2018, paid 2,000 randomly selected unemployed people across the country a regular monthly income of €560, and with no obligation to seek a job and no reduction in payment if they accepted one. A new study finds that it improved mental well-being, confidence and life satisfaction of the recipients.

+ According to the International Council of Nurses (ICN), 90,000 health workers have tested positive for coronavirus and at least 260 nurses have died of the virus…

+ On the occasion of National Nurses day, President Shithead rebuked a nurse who said that while “PPE has been sporadic, but it’s been manageable.”

Trump: “Sporadic for you, but not sporadic for a lot of other people. That was fine, but I have heard we have a tremendous supply to almost all places.”

+ Who says heroism is dead in America?

Joshua 4 Congress@Joshua4Congress

A company decided to stop paying its drivers, so one of them parked his truck on the owners Ferrari & left it there.

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+ Mao said that “a revolution is not a dinner party,” which must have come as a shock to Leonard and Felicia Bernstein. But it turns out that’s a good thing, because under the Plague House Rules of social distancing we’d never get around to having one…

+ The writer Jill Nelson (Straight No Chaser, Volunteer Slavery, Sexual Healing) was arrested, handcuffed and jailed for writing “Trump = Plague” on a wall in NYC with pink chalk. Chalk!…Jill is 67.

Deflating news regarding one of the three best museums in the US, along with the Field Museum in Chicago and, of course, the best of all the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles….”The American Museum of Natural History said on Wednesday that it would cut its full-time staff by about 200 people, amounting to dozens of layoffs. 250 other full-time employees will be put on on indefinite furlough, officials said.”

+ Very Good People Alert, Oklahoma Edition…Customers at an Oklahoma City McDonalds shot two employees who told them they couldn’t sit inside to eat their meals. Freedom fries!

+ Move over Guattari and Deleuze. It looks like you’ve been replaced on college syllabuses by…checks notes…Garcetti and De Blasio?

+ We can at least credit Jim Jordan for following Gilles Deleuze’s dictum that we should all “bring something incomprehensible into the world.”

+ I see a red wall and I want it painted black…Trump has told aides to move forward with his plan to paint the border wall black.

+ The cost of painting Trump’s border wall black: 153,000 ventilators ($500 million)…

+ According to a Pro Publica investigation, TSA officials stockpiled a huge shipment of N95 masks they knew they didn’t need even after two agency officials asked to donate them. Airport traffic fell 95 percent, and the masks have sat unused as hospitals searched desperately for them…

+ While the U.S. coal industry was collapsing, vocal Trump supporter and Murray Energy founder and CEO Bob Murray were paid at least $70 million and potentially as much as $100 million in excessive compensation based on an analysis of their peers. On the day Murray Energy filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring, Robert Murray’s base cash salary for his role as the chairman of the board was $12 million, an amount 33 times higher than the average of chairpersons at comparable coal companies, the creditors said.

+ The COVID-19 pandemic will likely result in the biggest surge in bankruptcies that the US court system has ever experienced. “Without an immediate increase in judicial capacity to manage the coming flood of cases, an even larger economic disaster awaits.”

+ Here’s a very useful, and very incriminating, timeline of the first 100 days of the CoronaCrisis put together by the Project on Government Oversight…

+ Lamar Alexander better beef up his security before the Committee to Reopen America Prematurely (CRAP) shows up with a team of professional long-distance spitters on his lawn…

+ Very Good People Alert, Ohio Edition…Anti-Jewish protestors have been showing up outside the home of Ohio Department of Health’s director Dr. Amy Acton, apparently spurred on by Ohio State Rep. Nino Vitale (R) who smeared Dr. Acton as a “globalist.”

+ Can’t go to work, can’t afford to stay home…

Stimulus check: $1,200
Average U.S. rent: $1,231
Average COBRA premium: $569

+ Ted Rall: “My dead mother received a $442 Trump stimulus payment. How is she going to live on that?”

+ The Snitch Economy: 1,200 people in Ohio who stayed home have already been “turned in” for not returning to work in unsafe conditions…

+ Just get off your ass and lead by example, Big Fella…

+ If Hegseth wants to get infected he could join one of the Superspreader Death Cult parties in Walla Walla, where people are trying to “spread their disease”….

+ The people waving the Don’t Tread on Me flags are treading COVID-19 three other unsuspecting people. We are all externalities of their right to infect themselves…

+ From this day forth, these women will represent America to me..

+ Very Good People Alert, Louisiana Edition: Asked about another round of stimulus checks, Sen John Kennedy said, “Well, people in hell want ice water too.

+ IHME, Trump’s favorite model, which earlier predicted 60,000 deaths by August, finally updated their mortality charts, and showed a sharp increase in the number of projected deaths to 134,475.

+ A study by the Wharton School of Business (where Trump snoozed through marketing classes) estimates that reopening the economy will result in an additional 233,000 deaths by July. Still, they conclude it will be worth the price for corporate America.

+ This number is squarely within the new range projected by the CDC of 3,000 deaths a day by June.

+ Anticipating the growing body count, FEMA has order more than 100,000 body bags and has placed bids for an additional 200 cold trailers to store bodies.

+ The Lummi Nation, on Puget Sound, had  been a model of COVID-19 response with widespread coordinated community testing; strict stay-at-home rules, free telemedicine for all. There were no reported cases in weeks. Then kids started playing together again and COVID-19 struck the reservation hard…

+ Here’s a dispatch from Indian Country by CounterPuncher Ruth Hopkins, a lawyer and tribal judge:

“My Tribe, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (Sioux) now have the most Covid cases out of the 9 Tribes within South Dakota’s borders. Elders were taken by ambulance last night, a boy from my old neighborhood is on a vent. And no $ for relief from the federal government yet. We are all doing what we can. Yesterday my aunt was live-streamed with other praying & singing in Dakota to encourage our people. I’m helping make meals for quarantine security & law enforcement personnel. Still running errands for others housebound, too. We are strong.”

+ Jared’s pirates seize PPE gear meant for former confederate stronghold of Loudon County, Virginia (and one of my ancestral homes)…How does the Federal Govt is Tyranny mob process this heavy-handed crackdown?

+ Very Good People Alert, Colorado Edition…The FBI arrested a pro-Trump anti-lockdown protester in Colorado after finding four pipe bombs in his basement.

+ I see a red wall and I want it painted black…Trump has told aides to move forward with his plan to paint the border wall black, and costs are projected to be at least 153,000 ventilators ($500 million)…

+ Joe Biden: “I want Donald Trump to look one of these essential workers in the eye… and tell them they don’t deserve a livable wage.”

Federal Minimum Wage under Obama/Biden 2009: $7.25 hour
Federal Minimum Wage under Trump/Pence 2020: $7.25 hour

+ Memo to Democrats: 49% of eligible voters despise your candidate….

+ When your candidate is on the wrong side of the Trust Gap with Donald Trump it’s a good sign that your campaign is doomed….
Trust more to handle…

The economy:
Trump 46% (+9)
Biden 37%

Trump 43% (+4)
Biden 39%

National security:
Trump 43% (+4)
Biden 39%

Trump 43% (+3)
Biden 40%

Gun policy:
Trump 40% (+1)
Biden 39%

@MorningConsult/@politico 5/2-3

+ The 11.5 million people now being thrown off their health insurance face the brutal reality of Obama/Bidencare in action. When you need it most, it’s not there for you…

+ Has anyone told Trump how low of a bar that is?

+ It’s the same story of racial disparities in COVID deaths in the UK: Black men and women are 4.2 and 4.3 times more likely to die from the coronavirus when compared to white men and women, according to the British statistics office…

+ Chris Giles, the economics editor of the Financial Times, estimates the real death count in the UK is 53,800, which may be the worst COVID-19 mortality rate in Europe…

+ Two-thirds of all Canadian COVID deaths have been in Quebec, their Premier, François Legault, has starting to lift social distancing restrictions — and is now is blocking release of information about outbreaks.

+ Trump: “The whole world is excited watching us, because we’re leading the world.” In deaths (77,000 and counting)…

+ Laurie Garrett to the NYT: “I’m quite certain that this is going to go in waves. It won’t be a tsunami that comes across America all at once and then retreats all at once. It will be micro-waves that shoot up in Des Moines and then in New Orleans and then in Houston and so on, and it’s going to affect how people think about all kinds of things.”

+ 23 of the top 25 largest health insurers haven’t clearly committed to waiving the cost of out-of-network COVID-19 care…

+ Carnival Cruise Line, coffers reloaded with US taxpayer bailout money even though they are registered offshore and don’t pay taxes here, announced that it will begin offering cruise trips in August. I wonder if they’ll offer free Burial at Sea services as an enticement?

+ Mississippi spent 10s of millions in welfare money on lobbyists, football tickets, religious concerts and fitness programs for state lawmakers…

+ After decades of fruitless searching in the tenements and public housing complexes of America, we finally found a real Welfare Queen: Brett Favre…

+ Trump has offered Putin assistance as COVID-19 cases continue to soar in Russia. With help like that, who needs nuclear weapons?

+ Pompeo Maximus on the failed Bay of Piglets invasion of Venezuela: “There was no US government, direct involvement, in this operation. If we’d have been involved it would have gone differently.” Note the qualifying tell: “direct involvement.”

+ The key word here, of course, is BRANSON…”Goudreau, a Canadian-born US citizen, first walked through the looking glass of the anti-Maduro world in February 2019, when he worked security at a Venezuelan aid concert on the Colombian border organized by British billionaire Richard Branson.”

+ Two or three years from now (if any of us make it that long), the unwelcome face Pompeo Maximus will be popping up on a YouTube ad before the music video you wanted to watch hawking a Master Class in How to Lie About Lying…

Pompeo on Weds: “We don’t have certainty about whether it began in the lab or whether it began someplace else.” This after he said there was “enormous evidence” that the novel coronavirus originated in the Wuhan lab over the weekend.

+ Pompeo Maximus, on being challenged by the BBC’s Barbara Plett, about his contradictory statements about the origins of Covid-19: “Barbara, Barbara, Barbara, Barbara, Barbara, Barbara, Barbara…”

+ The Pentagon has quietly released its annual civilian casualty report for its bombing raids in Afghanistan. They report admits to killing 132 Afghan civilians, an undercount worthy of Jared’s Coronavirus task force. But it does confess responsibility for an airstrike in Helmand Province that killed 15 civilians, all members of the same family.

+ Why couldn’t Trump withdraw from Afghanistan as fast as he did with all the women who consented to sleep with him (and those he slept with without consent)?

+ She’s back!

+ Five companies–Caterpillar, Black & Decker, Levis, Steelcase & World Wrestling Entertainment– paid a combined $700 million to shareholders while cutting jobs & closing plants.

+ As the nation approaches 20 percent unemployment, the percentage of likely American voters who support giving the Federal Reserve the ability to make direct payments to households grew from 31 percent in February to 45 percent in April , according to new polling released by Employ America

+ The Seattle Indian Health Board asked for COVID-19 medical supplies and protective gear. They got body bags instead…

+ Like Shakespeare and Joyce before him, Trump is redefining the dusty old rules of English grammar: “Now, the one thing that the pandemic has taught us is that I was right. You know, I had people say, ‘No, no, it’s good. You keep — you do this and that.’ Now those people are really agreeing with me. And that includes medicine and other things.”

+ Last month was statistically tied for the hottest April on record for our planet. Dramatic ‘warmth’ across northern Siberia once again. Maybe it will melt a mastodon corpse and release a new virus…

+ It’s probably a bad sign whenever “billions” and “inhospitable to life” show up in the same headline, as in: “Billions could face temperatures inhospitable to life in the next 50 years, study finds.” Tom Linton, one of the authors of the National Academy of Sciences study, said: “It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that we must be looking at hundreds of millions of people being triggered to migrate.”+ According to Interior Department’s IG, Secretary David Bernhardt has spent virtually nothing of $157 million in COVID aid Congress specifically gave to the Office of the Secretary to respond to the pandemic and keep people safe. But Bernhardt continues to keep national parks open….Here’s a link to the IG report.

+ A barrel of oil (including the price of the barrel) is going for less than the tab for a Cinnamon Dolce Latte at Starbucks, but the BLM is charging forward with plans to drill next to Chaco Canyon!

+ A recent study published in Science examined the last 10 years of research on tree mortality and concluded that forests are in big trouble if global warming continues at the present pace. Most trees alive today won’t be able to survive in the climate expected in 40 years…

+ In Colorado, new oil and gas permits fell 96% in April. Oil companies in the state have to apply to drill a well, but don’t have to inform anyone when they shut one down, as many companies are doing during the oil bust.

+ It’s a different story entirely in California. As oil prices plunged during COVID pandemic, new California oil permits rose 7.8% in 2020’s first quarter. The Newsom administration issued 1,623 permits in 3 months.

+ Great Britain has now gone the 19 days without generating any coal-fired power, the longest period of time since the Industrial Revolution (and still going). Meanwhile, Portugal has now gone 53 days without using coal-based electricity

+ Wild tigers in India are now dying of COVID…

+ Very Good People Alert, Idaho Edition…”Ammon Bundy Blames the Jews for Holocaust at Anti-Lockdown Rally.”

+ Relax. If the pandemic doesn’t kill you, the 100 environmental rollbacks probably will, including Rule 71 “that required braking system upgrades for “high hazard” trains hauling flammable liquids like oil and ethanol.” Drive, he said.

+ The Montana judge’s opinions slamming the BLM for its incompetence in offering oil and gas leases are getting snarkier and snarkier…”The Court does not fault BLM for providing a faulty analysis of cumulative impacts or impacts to groundwater, it largely faults BLM for failing to provide any analysis.”

+ I always dig reading reports from the University of Saskatchewan that aren’t about GM wheat or tar sands: “Bat ‘super immunity’ may explain how bats carry coronaviruses, study finds: Bat-virus adaptation may explain species spillover, researchers say.”

+ Chemical warfare over the fields of Gaza: According to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza, aerial herbicide spraying conducted by Israel in early April near Gaza’s perimeter fence damaged 145 acres of farmland in the Strip, harming the livelihoods of 93 local farmers.

+ As the country begins to re-open, we bring you this important message from the managers of Jurassic Park

+ Donald Trump claims he could have been a pro baseball player. Turns out he was a career .138 hitter in high school. (The so-called Mendoza Line, named after weak-hitting shortstop Mario Mendoza, long considered the cut-off point for batting incompetence was: .200.) And, no, Trump didn’t go to a tryout with Willie McCovey, who’d been in the majors for five years when Trump was in high school.

+ You know it’s getting weird outside when the Secretary of the Treasury attacks the patriotism of Axl Rose and then piously signs off with the flag of…Liberia. (Now deleted.)

+ I take it Mnuchin wasn’t a fan of Axl’s Chinese Democracy album?

+ The live music scene is struggling to find creative ways to stay afloat during the lockdown and their not getting much, if any, help from the government. “I am trying to get Bloodshot classified as a cruise ship or an airline,” said Rob Miller, co-founder of Chicago’s Bloodshot Records, “so Trump’s kleptocracy will shower us with billions.”+ I was jolted by the death of Florian Schneider, co-founder of Kraftwerk, a band whose trippy synths came to be embraced and sampled by black dance DJs and hip-hoppers decades later. I recall an interview with him where he said that his two favorite bands were the Stooges and the MC5 and that he wanted the music of Krafwerk to capture electronically that kind of frenzied energy…

+ RIP Richie Cole, the great alto player who remained a bebop stalwart in a time of fusion and free jazz. I saw him several times in the late seventies at Harold’s Rogue and Jar in DC, one of the East Coast’s great secret jazz venues, which was about the size of a large living room and was owned by St. Matthews Cathedral, off of Rhode Island Ave. As I recall, there was a “singles club” on the second floor of the building. DC in the 70s…

+ I watched Vittorio De Sica’s devastating Shoeshine again last night, which remains the greatest film ever on the brutality of caging children. Welles: “What De Sica can do, that I can’t do. I ran his Shoeshine again recently and the camera disappeared, the screen disappeared; it was just life.”

+ Pauline Kael wrote one of her finest essays on the emotional experience of watching Shoeshine (h/t Alci Rengifo):

“When Shoeshine opened in 1947, I went to see it alone after one of those terrible lovers’ quarrels that leave one in a state of incomprehensible despair. I came out of the theater, tears streaming, and overheard the petulant voice of a college girl complaining to her boyfriend, “Well I don’t see what was so special about that movie.” I walked up the street, crying blindly, no longer certain whether my tears were for the tragedy on the screen, the hopelessness I felt for myself, or the alienation I felt from those who could not experience the radiance of Shoeshine. For if people cannot feel Shoeshine, what can they feel? My identification with those two lost boys had become so strong that I did not feel simply a mixture of pity and disgust toward this dissatisfied customer but an intensified hopelessness about everything . . . Later I learned that the man with whom I had quarreled had gone the same night and had also emerged in tears. Yet our tears for each other, and for Shoeshine did not bring us together. Life, as Shoeshine demonstrates, is too com­plex for facile endings.”

I’m at the Bottom in the Jailhouse Now

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

The Hidden World of the Fox
Adele Brand
(William Morrow)

Diary of a Foreigner in Paris
Curzio Malaparte

The Crash of Flight 3804: A Lost Spy, a Daughter’s Quest, and the Deadly Politics of the Great Game for Oil
Charlotte Dennett
(Chelsea Green)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Gregoire Maret, Romain Collin & Bill Frisell
(Act Jazz)

Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Fiona Apple

Oh Yeah?
(Trouble in Mind)

A Tragedy of Fate Alone

“Freedom is the possibility of isolation. You are free if you can withdraw from people, not having to seek them out for the sake of money, company, love, glory or curiosity, none of which can thrive in silence and solitude. If you can’t live alone, you were born a slave. You may have all the splendors of the mind and the soul, in which case you’re a noble slave, or an intelligent servant, but you’re not free. And you can’t hold this up as your own tragedy, for your birth is a tragedy of Fate alone. Hapless you are, however, if life itself so oppresses you that you’re forced to become a slave. Hapless you are if, having been born free, with the capacity to be isolated and self-sufficient, poverty should force you to live with others.”  (Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet)

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on Roaming Charges: Ain’t Living Long Like This

The Plot to Blame China for COVID-19


Photograph Source: – CC BY 2.0

The Trump lot—Steve Bannon, Peter Navarro, Mike Pompeo—and their media cheerleaders are as fanatically anti-China as the Biden crew is anti-Russia. Just like George W. Bush’s WMD lies in the early-2000s, there is a developing timeline of Trumpian efforts to bend intelligence on COVID to the administration’s anti-China policy.


In the 1980s, the US succeeded in pushing China’s elites to adopt neoliberal market “reforms,” many of which continue to the present. The World Bank hailed China as a “success” story in foreign direct investment, which it says contributed to China’s manufacturing and thus part of its 10 percent GDP growth between most of 1980 to 2010. It was not so successful for the hundreds of millions of Chinese who haven’t breathable air, drinkable water, or health insurance. But that’s another story. China became the “workshop of the world,” assembling parts for wealthier consumers in the US and Europe—until it outsourced that labor to poorer Asian countries. But this exploitation of Chinese labor had the consequence of increasing China’s GDP and its thus power on the world stage. This is known as the “globalization paradox.”

To make sure that China continues to benefit US corporations without getting too big for its boots, the US is relying on the doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance”: hypersonic drones, modified stealth bombers, cyberwar, the Space Force, etc., with which to threaten China.

In 2000, an organization to which future-US President George W. Bush belonged, the Project for the New American Century, said that after the US gained “a substantial force presence in the Gulf,” it would take on China: “Raising U.S. military strength in East Asia is the key to coping with the rise of China to great-power status. For this to proceed peacefully, U.S. armed forces must retain their military preeminence and thereby reassure our regional allies.”

But Bush was busy murdering Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Somalis, and Yemenis as part of the “war on terror.” So, Obama ran with the China ball, announcing a “pivot” to Asia in 2011. In an obvious threat to neighboring China, Japan was pressured to drop the peace clause of constitution, which the US had cynically imposed after nuking Japan in 1945. New US weapons systems were placed in South Korea and the X-37B space weapon (which the US military assured us was not a weapon) was launched, reportedly over the Strait of Taiwan. Then-US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that by 2020, he hoped that 60 percent of US ships would be in the South China Sea. The failed Trans-Pacific Partnership deal was an effort to force China’s neighbors to trade and invest on US-dominated regional terms.

But, for the Trump cabal, none of this went far enough. The COVID-19 crisis has given the administration an opportunity to ramp up the anti-China narrative.


A now-deleted statement by the Wuhan Institute of Virology confirms that in early-2018, US officials visited the facility. “The Institute has established close cooperation with a number of well-known U.S. organizations including the National Science Foundation, the EcoHealth Alliance, University of Texas Medical Branch, and the Galveston National Laboratory, and has achieved a series of academic exchanges.” No US concerns about the safety of the lab were made public at the time, including in the press release. But, as we shall see, now we are being told that concerns were raised in private and that the virus escaped from the lab.

In April 2020, MSM subtly started seeding their articles with propaganda. On April 6th, CNN’s Robert Kuznia and Drew Griffin quoted Rutgers University’s Dr. Richard Ebright: “The possibility that the virus entered humans through a laboratory accident cannot and should not be dismissed.”

On April 14th, the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin, a well-known “security” talking head on MSM, was given alleged US Embassy cables dating back to early-2018, purporting to highlight US concerns over safety at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). One of the cables read: “During interactions with scientists at the WIV …, they noted the new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory.” Rogin quotes an unnamed US official: “The cable was a warning shot … They were begging people to pay attention to what was going on.”

Citing his Washington Post colleague David Ignatius’s opinion, that the Chinese government’s official story of the virus emerging from a seafood market is “shaky,” Rogin again quotes the unnamed official: “The idea that [it] was just a totally natural occurrence is circumstantial. The evidence it leaked from the lab is circumstantial. Right now, the ledger on the side of it leaking from the lab is packed with bullet points and there’s almost nothing on the other side (sic).” Rogin writes: “There are similar concerns about the nearby Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention lab, which operates at biosecurity level 2, a level significantly less secure than the level-4 standard claimed by the Wuhan Insititute of Virology lab.”

The Washington Post’s claims were echoed by other MSM. On April 16th, CNN Politics reported: “An intelligence official familiar with the government analysis said a theory US intelligence officials are investigating is that the virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, and was accidentally released to the public.”


Lying—along with blackmail, drug-dealing, kidnap, torture, and murder—is the intelligence agencies’ profession. A small sample from the last 20 years alone: Bin Laden linked to 9/11, Iraq linked to Bin Laden, Iraqi WMD, Gaddafi ethnic cleansing in Benghazi, Navy SEALs killed Bin Laden, Syria sarin attack, Russiagate… Former CIA Director and now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “We lied, we cheated, we stole (sic). It’s – it was like – we had entire training courses.”

These agencies need little pressuring in order to lie, yet the fanatically anti-China Trump administration is piling on demands to link the virus to the Wuhan labs.

On April 29th, NBC reported that, like the “war on terror”-era Bush administration in its zeal to link Iraq to 9/11, the Trump administration has been leaning on intelligence agencies. Organizations including the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Center for Medical Intelligence, and the National Security Agency were ordered by the White House “to comb through communications intercepts, human source reporting, satellite imagery and other data to establish whether China and the World Health Organization initially hid what they knew about the emerging coronavirus pandemic.”

The NYT also reported that Pompeo, “the administration’s most vocal hard-liner on China, has taken the lead in pushing American intelligence agencies for more information, according to current and former officials.”


The next day (April 30th) at 0916 EDT, the Intelligence Community (IC) issued an unusual press release: “The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.” By 1141 EDT, media were reporting on the press release.

The timing is important because the anti-Trump MSM are giving the impression that Trump is contradicting the intelligence agencies, when in fact said agencies are sending out signals to their media propagandists to report the virus as potentially originating from a lab.

Later that day at 1625 EDT, Trump told reporters: “You’ve heard three or four different concepts as to how it came out. We should have the answer to that in the not-too-distant future, and that will determine a lot how I feel about China.” A reporter later asked: “have you seen anything at this point that gives you a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of this virus?” Trump replied: “Yes, I have. Yes, I have.”

Another reporter asked: “are you suggesting that maybe you have some evidence that this was not a naturally occurring virus?” Trump replied: “No, we’re going to see where it is. We’re going to see where it comes from. And you know — look, you know every theory, whether you had the theory from the lab, you had the theory from many different — the bats, and the type of bat, and the bat is 40 miles away, so it couldn’t have been here and it couldn’t have been there.” A reporter asked: “what gives you a high degree of confidence that this originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology?” Trump replied: “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”


Trump’s anti-China rhetoric and actions, including crossing out the prefix “Corona” and replacing it with “China,” are part of a continuation of US empire building that began long before Trump seized power in the Electoral College coup of 2016. The main difference is that where the MSM cheered on Obama’s dangerous and reckless provocations, the majority (with the notable exception of Fox News) are critical of Trump’s methods, though not the ultimate goal of making the Yellow Dragon choke at Uncle Sam’s feet.

Posted in USA, C.I.A, China, HealthComments Off on The Plot to Blame China for COVID-19

Live and Let Die


Photograph Source: Bart Everson – CC BY 2.0

Real Time Reflections from Sheltered Radicals in the Time of the Most Dangerous Criminal in Human History

May 3

+ Street: Comrades, this article never ends but it’s worth a read: “34 days of pandemic: Inside Trump’s desperate attempts to reopen America.” It is a blow-by-blow account of Trump’s total reckless insanity in response to COVID-19.

Rabid white Trumpenvolk + vicious right-wing billionaires + dismal corporate Democrats+ listless “liberals”+ moronic “moderates” + ” weak-kneed “progressives” + an ocean of pathetic ex-citizens who “just don’t follow the news” or “do politics stuff” = authoritarian fascistic rule in the world’s most powerful state (though one silver lining is that the feeble U.S. pathetic-ness on display is helping contribute to an escalated erosion of American global hegemony as the U.S. is revealed even more than before as a sick joke of a nation and a farce of a “society.”

This is what happens when people put a demented fascist moron —- Donald Trump, accurately described by Noam Chomsky as “the most dangerous criminal in human history” — in the White House and can’t be bothered to mount a serious movement to get rid of his totally insane regime.

Stephen B: I condemn the American people for allowing this to happen.

Street: The terrible tiny-fingered tangerine-tinted twitter-tantruming tyrant Trump is as American as Apple Pie. And now the glorious superpower with just over 4% of the world’s population is home to nearly a third of the world’s COVID-19 cases. America First!

Pat O: the indifference of the average citizen is no accident – when labor and civil rights showed just a little muscle, they were crushed, then civil right rec’d modest successes–then labor was crushed again – with constant encouragement funded by massive resources, the average citizen shops constantly, doing little else – apathy/obedience do not come from nowhere

“What a Sad Conclusion They Make”

+ Street: A “left” friend is calling for “re-opening.” Perhaps he will join the Trumpenvolk militias in the state capitals. Hey, let’s roll. Let’s get those Mexicans back on the covid-ridden packinghouse killing floors pronto! Let’s get commuters and factories and office-buildings burning as many fossil fuels as before! Let’s get those planes back in the air, crank up the pollution and get carbon emissions back on pace for melting Antarctica by 2050! Capitalism simply cannot pause for something as trifling as public health. And since God has proclaimed that there is no alternative to capitalism, we must now open-up the profits system again! Back to business (rule) as usual

Marco Daniel Summaria: The MSM is clearly not going to broadcast or detail that we have alternatives… There are simple and effective solutions to all our socioeconomic problems, but they are not included in the ‘discourse’ because the real solutions don’t leave the current assholes in charge….and because a discussion of the real solutions lays bare the reality that it is never a matter of what social and economic reforms cost — but rather what they save, because the money is being STOLEN, and because the REAL debate is always about WHO decides HOW our money is spent.

Mona Shaw: What a sad conclusion they make. They believe their only choice is between two avenues of death.

“A Neat Little Effort”

+ Street: COVID-19 is a potent organizing and recruiting tool for Amerikaner fascists: “The Coronavirus Becomes a Battle Cry for Extremists,” New York Times, May 3rd.

Anthony DiMaggio: One big problem I had with this piece was the neat little effort to separate out extremists in the marches from the rest. This is a typical mass media tactic. Portray a small number on the right as fascists. And the rest are more respectable conservatives. That isn’t the case here. This entire movement is a front for big capital and extremist plutocrats allied with white supremacists and terrorist vigilantes. They do not speak for the masses, and essentially amount to a death cult. The artificial efforts to divide out the far right into a fascist not fascist distinction is convenient, because it allows you to erase the creeping fascism problem. And if it doesn’t exist, you don’t have to address it. US mass media is still pretending that the Republican party and right are part of a functional political process, when this crisis proves once and for all that they’re not. It’s sort of pathetic at this point that establishment types can’t see this.

“Periodic Humiliations from This Deranged Clown”

May 4

+ Street: Please see my reflection on the 50th Anniversary of Kent State and its meaning for US imperialism today.

+ Street: No re-open and we get 117,000 COVID-19 deaths by end of June. Add 45,000 more with a partial re-opening. Add 233,000 more with full re-opening. And oh, BTW: resume full on rapacious capitalist growth and species goes extinct through climate catastrophe and related causes.

+ Street: I don’t believe the tangerine reptile here . There’s no way Tony Fauci told Trump COVID-19 “wasn’t going to be a big deal” last January. What a lying sack of shit Danger Clown Donald is.

Terry Thomas: Everybody involved in the federal response, including Fauci and Birx, should expect to be under the bus before this is over, and if they refuse to leave the administration and accept the periodic humiliations from this deranged clown they can expect to be under the wheels repeatedly. It will become a ritual.

Killer Kim Reynolds

+ Street: Iowa’s Koched-up governor Kim Reynolds to her state’s working-class: “put your life at risk or sacrifice your unemployment pittance, proletarian peons!” According to Business Insider, “Iowa [Reynolds] tells workers to return to their jobs or lose unemployment benefits, despite warnings that reopening could lead to a 2nd wave of infections.” This white-nationalist witch is opening most of the state’s counties even as Iowa cases and fatalities have been taking off — last I looked Iowa’s rate of increase was the highest in the nation. Let’s deliver Frau Reynolds and other top Iowa Reich officials to a Tyson plant pork-cutting room and make them live in a trailer park in a meth-drenched county where doctors are scarce and no hospitals can be found.

A Loathsome Shit-stain

K.J.F: What a loathsome shit-stain Trump is. He accepts responsibility for nothing. He will sacrifice anyone–with the possible exception of his daughter, Dachau Barbie–to move any blame from himself. He is a coward. His sickness is incurable

+ Street: Given Demented Orange’s earlier claim that COVID-19 would just go away with warm weather and his longstanding efforts to accelerate the process of turning the planet into a giant Greenhouse Gas Chamber, I’m a little surprised Tangerine Antichrist hasn’t argued for increasing global warming as a good cure — along with main-lining Clorox.

May 5

+ Street: Orange King Covid announces that “we will release our politically self-interested Orwellian distortion of COVID-19 history sometime: Reuters, “Trump Says U.S. Will Report Virus Origins, Gives No Timeline,”

Terry Thomas: Typical Trump: announce major exculpating information to be delivered at future date that of course never arrives. He has no intention of delivering shit about China. Just one more manipulation of media and pig food for the Trumpenvolk. Put it out there and it becomes reality. “Don’t believe what you see and hear.”

Kenneth M: You just know that Trump is going to accuse the Chinese of releasing the virus from that biomedical research lab in Wuhan, but when pressed for evidence, Trump will coyly respond that he would love to present the evidence, but by doing so, he would risk revealing intelligence sources and methods.

Terry Thomas: That’s how it works. Put it out there, becomes reality for the targeted population, and move on to next pile of crap.

+ Street: “We get a lot of people watching.” See this New York Post piece on Trump loving how his nightly coronavirus briefings garner a lot of television views. It’s all about ratings for this subhuman malignancy Trump.

Terry Thomas: Even as his advisors, at least the ones who retain a modicum of sanity, point out that recommending people ingest bleach and stuff UV lamps down their throats are things that probably lose you votes. This guy can’t stop himself: if there’s stage he has to be the one on it, the only one on it. Somebody else getting attention is more than he can deal with. So these shit shows will return and he will show off his talents for all to see.

This is War

+ Street: See this: COVID-19 mutates and will take different forms (like the flu). Meanwhile right-wing criminals plot re-escalated exposure and mass death. We need able-bodied people to process that the right-wing is trying to kill millions and broadly (when you factor in ecological problems like climate) trying to wipe out humanity. That means mass movements beneath outworn 18th Century slaveowners and merchant capitalists’ constitutions and absurdly compromised ruling class electoral and party systems. But first we need to process just how extreme the project of the right is. In the current environmental and epidemiological context, we are dealing now with “the most dangerous criminal[s] in human history” (Chomsky) from Trump and Bolsonaro and their corporate and military allies and enablers on down. We are all dead meat without a radical alteration in our relationships with current social, political, environmental, and physical reality. We must rise and defend prospects for a decent organized human existence in the future. Get it that your right-wing uncle or cousin or brother in law or brother or (gasp) son or husband is the 21st century equivalent of a Nazi and actually more dangerous given current realities. They may not know better and it may even in a way not be their fault, but, well, so what? This is war.

“Live and Let Die”

May 6

+ Street: This is brilliant and haunting:

“A seamless vision of this country’s ever-flowering dystopia unspooled itself in Arizona yesterday. Donald Trump, in furtherance of his quest to reopen the U.S. economy in the middle of the beginning of a lethal pandemic, visited a Honeywell International face mask factory in Phoenix… and refused to wear a mask, despite the big sign at the door telling visitors to WEAR A MASK.”

“All the workers wore them. The press and Secret Service agents wore them. Trump, senior White House staff and the Honeywell executives present did not. As Trump toured the facility maskless, the factory sound system began blaring ‘Live and Let Die,’ the Guns N’ Roses cover of the old Paul McCartney chestnut.”

“This was not a worker signaling his disapproval of Trump and his deadly policies. ‘Live and Let Die’ is a staple at Trump’s rallies. It was the perfect Trump anthem, played in Phoenix as he turned his factory tour into another campaign stop at which he signaled to his base, ‘No masks needed, it’s a hoax’ with his usual brazen carelessness. One wonders what Sir Paul thinks of this.”

(From William Rivers-Pitt, “Trump’s Anthem Has Always Been ‘Live and Let Die.’”)

I am nearly speechless at this point. “Live and Let Die” is this monumental asshole’s Social Darwinian “anthem” — of course it is. The vicious. corrupt, lethal, and fascistic idiocy and of this presidency is overwhelming.

+ Street: They need just the right amount of us to die. Too many deaths is bad for profits but so is too few. The Lords of Capital are trying to calibrate just the right amount of death – the sweet spot for them

The Only Way

+ Street: The Dems have nothing and will not save you. They suck. The electoral, party, and legal systems – same thing. We will have to think and act outside the usual bourgeois boxes or we will all go down with the ship.

Cindy B. H.: There is a movement afoot, growing out of the MayDay General Strike organized by Cooperation Jackson:

Valerie V-S: Strikes and direct action are the only way. The legislatures and the Courts have always been on the back end of any successes won by and for ordinary people. NOTHING good in America has ever come about as a gift freely given from On High (legislatures or courts), but as a response to persistent, organized direct action. Lincoln didn’t even think that slavery in the South was an issue to be addressed, only slavery in states on the Western frontier, until Frederick Douglass and the entire Emancipation movement pestered him into doing the right thing. This has been true ever since.

“Criminal Negligence”: Lesser Evil-ism “Brought Us Here”

+ Street: I can simultaneously (a) understand why many on the left will vote for Biden to block Trump (I mean I have been describing Trump as a demented fascist oligarch for a good while) and (b) find it depressing to read Noam Chomsky suggesting that lefties who can’t vote for Biden are criminally complicit in Trumpism. If one is going to call Trump potentially worse than Hitler —- “the most dangerous criminal in human history” — then one ought to be calling urgently, regularly, and loudly for mass action in the streets everyday starting yesterday. It’s not at all clear that Trump can or will be defeated through the badly degraded U.S. electoral process – one of the least democratic electoral set-ups in the industrialized world.

Jay Becker: THANK YOU! Seriously, “potentially worse than Hitler” but rely on the political channels that these fascists control? THAT’S criminal negligence, I don’t care what your name or your credentials are. And even though we can’t go out in the streets right now, some of us have been making the case and building the movement to do that as soon as possible because it’s the only power that can stop them, people power – connect with Refuse Fascism (RF), sign and spread RF’s Statement of Conscience because this isn’t proto- or neo- or sorta fascism, it’s a fascist regime that already controls the executive and top judicial branch and the Senate so “let’s not hope against fact that the 2020 election…will resolve this crisis.”

Terry Thomas: Seems to me we’ve ended with “the most dangerous president in history” in some measure because too many have operated on the “lesser evil” assumption for as long as I can remember, and I go back pretty far. Every republican seems in some fashion worse than the democrat opposing them, so in the final analysis people vote for the democrat, not identifying at all with the policies, but at least they’re not the republican who seems somehow worse — perhaps this worked when it was FDR v. Hoover or LBJ v. Goldwater (and I know LBJ’s relation to Vietnam, etc.) or maybe even Carter v. Reagan. But as John Harvey says, the democrats have grown into liberal versions of the conservative republicans: all believe in the neoliberal organization of the global economy, and all that entails. Obama might talk a better game on global warming or whatever than republicans but in terms of actual policy he would only go so far, because the corporate overlords lay down the rules of the game. This trend has literally brought us to Biden v. Trumpian Neo-fascism. So now we are being asked to vote for Biden, with all his racism and corporatism, because at least he’ll make references to global warming as the planet begins to sizzle on a carbon skillet. But he won’t actually confront the issue, because his corporate overlords will lay out the rules of his administration. And he’ll gladly follow them. Hell, this guy can’t even come out in support of universal health care in midst of a pandemic. I’ve done this shit long enough — can’t do it anymore. The social safety net the democrats (and republicans) crafted from the New Deal to the Great Society is gone, and none of them support it anymore.I would have voted with gusto for Bernie, but now I’ll vote for the Green candidate, and I would do so even if I lived in an alleged swing state. The democrats are complicit in putting us in this horrifying situation, and I can’t support the shit anymore.

Valerie V-S: The Dem controlled House voted without any debate 3x to give T everything he wanted in a Defense Budget, the last time while they in the midst of impeaching “the most dangerous man in America”.

No Profit in Prevention

+ Street: Of course: CNN, “Nation’s stockpile proves no match for the coronavirus pandemic”. An arch-capitalist society doesn’t heed warnings from mere public health experts and plan and produce on behalf of the common good. Where would the profit have been in adequate preparation?

“Regular Folks” – “Saying Out Loud What Right-Wingers Say in Private”

May 7

+ Street: Trump is up to 24 Lies Per Day since early April — I shit you not: see this.

+ Street: Jesus H Antichrist: “Wisconsin’s chief justice said a coronavirus outbreak spreading through a meatpacking plant wasn’t affecting the regular folks. The comment came Tuesday during oral arguments in the state’s stay-at-home shut down case.”

“‘Due to the meatpacking, though, that’s where the Brown County got the flare. It wasn’t just the regular folks in Brown County,’ Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack said.”

Kenneth M: She is only saying out loud what a lot of far right wingers will say in private. Whenever I go to the underbelly of the Internet, places like 4chan where people are less guarded, a lot of people share this view: “the majority of people dying are Blacks, Latinos, old people and people with underlying conditions, so maybe having COVID19 isn’t the catastrophe the news media are making it out to be.” You just know the plutocrats hold a similar view: “You mean our Big Beautiful Stock Market is tanking because we are shutting down the economy just to protect the old, the sick and the working class? F*ck those people! Open the economy now!” What makes this even worse is that under normal circumstances the opinions of racist plutocrats wouldn’t gain much traction among the general public, but their lackeys in the corporate media are subliminally grooming the public for an unsafe reopening of the economy. They are constantly running stories about the anti-lockdown protesters or local city councils refusing to enforce the state lockdown and allowing businesses to operate. Their stories rarely allow time for public health officials to explain to people why this behavior is so dangerous or acknowledging that 70% of the public want lockdowns to continue until public health officials, and not politicians, believe it’s safe to reopen.

Hate Deficit

+Street: See this, “The Rich Are Having Themselves A Fine Coronavirus,” reporting that:

“It’s not just bank shareholders who are going to feast on cash payouts while millions of Americans find themselves unemployed. The restrictions on dividend payouts to shareholders ― even for companies that receive a bailout from the coronavirus bill ― only apply to airlines and ‘national-security-critical’ businesses. A lot of firms are about to lay off a bunch of workers to cut costs while sending checks to their shareholders. Congress and the Trump administration are letting it happen…. Today, as unemployment has skyrocketed to the highest level since the Great Depression almost overnight, the top economic regulator in America is protecting the rights of big banks to keep funneling cash to the wealthiest people in the country.”

Liberal and “moderate” Dems: are you capable of a hint, a scent, an iota, a scintilla, a fraction, a dose, a drop, a speck, a flicker, or a wisp of appropriate class hatred for the wealthy, parasitic, and capitalist possessing classes?

Valerie V-S: NO. They are not. They’re digging in deeper. They don’t want to associate with the unwashed masses, only to read about them is the NY Times Poverty Porn sections.

“You Know the Thing!”

Street: Joe Biden in Texas last March 2: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: All men um, are created by the, um, co…,oh,… YOU KNOW THE THING!” I am not making that up. See the YouTube video here. This is the clown the Democrats are running again “the most dangerous criminal in human history.”

Posted in USA, PoliticsComments Off on Live and Let Die

Assange’s US Extradition, Threat to Future of the Internet and Democracy


Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

On Monday May 4, the British Court decided that the extradition hearing for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, scheduled for May 18, would be moved to September. This four month delay was made after Assange’s defense lawyer argued the difficulty of his receiving a fair hearing due to restrictions posed by the Covid-19 lockdown. Monday’s hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court proceeded without enabling the phone link for press and observers waiting on the line, and without Assange who was not well enough to appear via videolink.

Sunday May 3rd marked World Press Freedom Day. As people around the globe celebrated with online debates and workshops, Assange was being held on remand in London’s Belmarsh prison for publishing classified documents which exposed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. On this day, annually observed by the United Nations to remind the governments of the importance of free press, Amnesty International renewed its call for the US to drop the charges against this imprisoned journalist.

The US case to extradite Assange is one of the most important press freedom cases of this century. The indictment against him under the Espionage Act is an unprecedented attack on journalism. This is a war on free speech that has escalated in recent years turning the Internet into a battleground.

Privatized censorship

While he was living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after being granted asylum in 2012, Assange alerted the public about the oppressive force that is now threatening press freedom around the world. In a statement that was read during the “Organizing Resistance to Internet Censorship” webinar in January 2018, Assange noted how multinational tech companies like Google and Facebook have evolved into powerful “digital superstates”. He warned that “undetectable mass social influence powered by artificial intelligence is an existential threat to humanity”.

Most who care about digital rights are well aware that tech giants like Google and Facebook have long been embroiled with Washington’ halls of power. Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook has been candid about his pro-censorship stance. In his 2019 Washington Post op-ed Zuckerberg shared his belief that Facebook, the world’s largest social networking site with more than 800 million users, should take an active role to control content – for governments.

In “When Google Met WikiLeaks”, published in 2014, Assange exposed the way Google executives used ‘revolving doors’ within the US State Department, and highlighted their close ties to US intelligence agencies like the NSA. Google’s internal research presentation, leaked to Breitbart News from the company’s employees in 2018, revealed government requests for censorship have tripled since 2016. An 85-page briefing entitled “The Good Censor” concluded that the multinational search giant needs to move toward censorship if it wishes to continue to receive the support of national governments and continue its global expansion.

Google has been accused of discriminating against conservative viewpoints and suppressing free speech. YouTube, one of Google’s subsidiaries, is now censoring the WikiLeaks “Collateral Murder” video. Real images of war that exposed the US military’s brutal killing of innocent Iraq civilians, including two Reuters journalists, is now assigned to the “inappropriate for some users’ category, severely compromising its viewership. Meanwhile, the many millions of YouTube videos, of which tens of thousands depict violence, are allowed to be played without restriction.

Big Tech’s fight against misinformation

Now, amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, this privatized censorship via a monopoly on information became more overt and even normalized. On March 11, after the White House asked Big Tech for help in fighting the spread of ‘false information’ about Covid-19, top tech industry players including Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Twitter and Reddit issued a joint statement on their collaborative efforts to battle against ‘disinformation’ on their platforms.

As measures to quell the spread of inaccurate information and harmful content, Facebook implemented a new policy to direct users who have interacted with posts that contain “harmful” coronavirus misinformation to a “myth busters” page, maintained by the World Health Organization (WHO). In setting forth this company’s new aggressive move to counter misinformation about Covid-19, Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice-president of integrity commented in a blogpost:

“We want to connect people who may have interacted with harmful misinformation about the virus with the truth from authoritative sources in case they see or hear these claims again off of Facebook”.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai also announced that the company is partnering with the US government in developing a website to educate about COVID-19 and provide resources nationwide. The blog post indicated that the multinational search giant would work under the guidance of the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Silencing the voices of dissent

Since it declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization positioned itself as a source of legitimacy, setting guidelines and recommendations to direct a worldwide response to Covid-19. Narratives put forward by this Geneva-based global health body began to rapidly shape the scenery of our everyday life.

Images of emergency rooms filled with those who are infected with novel coronavirus have quickly flooded into American homes through major cable news networks. With a daily report of death count increasing everyday, fear began to spread around the world. As doctors and nurses at the frontline fight to save the lives of victims in what has now become the “War on Covid-19”, views that challenge the mainstream discourse on the pandemic have emerged on the Internet. Physicians who disagree with the expert opinion of WHO – on the transmission of Covid-19, efficacy of its treatment and/or management of the outbreak – began speaking out.

Recently a call by two Californian doctors to reopen the economy and to examine the death rate of Covid-19 and justification of lockdown, created a wide sensation, attracting both support and criticism. A news conference held by Dr. Daniel W. Erickson and Dr. Artin Massih, co-owners of Accelerated Urgent Care in Bakersfield, was livestreamed by local television stations. When the online video went viral, being viewed millions of times, YouTube pulled the plug, stating that the doctors were disputing ‘local health authority’ guidance.

In the first week of May, David Icke, the former football player and author of more than 20 books, got deplatformed from Facebook and Google for posting content that questioned the motives of WHO and countered the official narratives on the threat of Covid-19. In deleting his account, YouTube stated that the 68 year old UK citizen, often labeled a professional ‘conspiracy theorist’, violated their Community Guidelines on sharing information about coronavirus. Prior to deleting his account, a video of an interview of him by London Real was deleted. That video, discussing misdiagnosis and misclassification of death and economic consequences of the lockdown, is reported to have been viewed over 30 million times.

The disciplinary actions of these digital mega corporations against those who don’t conform to the edicts of the designated health authority resemble the censorship of authoritarian states – such as China. In a name of public safety, efforts to widen discourse and open up a democratic debate were uniformly shut down across major media platforms. This contravention of First Amendment principles does not stop with restriction of the freedom of speech. It also abridges the right of the people to peaceably assemble, prohibiting political dissent. Facebook has now confirmed that the company, after consulting with state governments, is banning promotions for protests that violate social distancing rules.

CIA’s cyber-warfare

A little over a year before his arrest inside the embassy, Assange gave a dire warning: “The future of humanity is the struggle between humans that control machines and machines that control humans”. In this digital age, a battle for free speech is not fought on the political ground alone – with legislators, corporate lobbyists, senators and presidents. Civil liberties are being eroded by an algorithmic control dictated by the Silicon Valley tech titans. They use AI in ways that act beneath conscious awareness, manipulating reality at a speed and level that humans can no longer keep up with, to control perception.

Now, the machines seem to be out of control, fueling cyber-warfare. In 2017, WikiLeaks released the largest publication of confidential documents, code-named “Vault 7,” sourced from the top-secret security network at the Cyber Intelligence Center. This release revealed that the CIA had lost control of the cyber-weapons it had developed.

What is alarming is that the CIA became aware of this loss but didn’t warn the public about it. Now, this horrific arsenal that was designed to hide all traces of its own actions, is loosed upon the world and can be used for malicious purposes by cyber-mafias, foreign agents, hackers, and anyone else who eventually got their hands on it.

The CIA’s covert hacking program and their weaponized exploits target a wide range of U.S. and European company products. The series of documents and files categorized in “Year Zero” revealed the specific CIA malware that grants the agency capacity to penetrate Google’s Android phone and Apple’s iPhone software – the very software that runs (or has run) presidential Twitter accounts – and to avoid or manipulate fingerprints in any subsequent ‘forensic review’. An example of the abuse of this power is found in evidence of CIA espionage, targeting French political parties and candidates in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election.

Rage against the machine

The Framers of the US Constitution believed there is a seed of corruption inherent in humans. This is why Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of America’s founding document, emphasized the vital role of a free press in keeping government power in check. He said that if he had to choose between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Although the social and political landscape has significantly changed since his time, fundamentals of democracy have not changed. As our society quickly moves into a 1984 Orwellian technological dystopia, Jefferson’s words that alarmed a nation back then should sound more loudly now. If people care about democracy, a healthy distrust of the government must be restored, awakening moral courage to ignite our rage against the machine.

Through his work with WikiLeaks, Assange aimed to hold people who run the machine to account. As a project of free software, he created an exemplar of scientific journalism on the platform of the Internet. It provided ordinary people with a formidable tool that can help them take back their power to control the machine and end its hostile takeover of society.

The whistleblower behind WikiLeaks publication of Vault 7 (allegedly Joshua Schulte, still held in custody in New York) disclosed CIA documents in an effort to “initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons”. In releasing the material, Assange, as editor in chief of WikiLeaks, responded to his source’s call for peacemaking, by affirming the organization’s role as a “neutral digital Switzerland” for people all over the world, to provide protection against nation-states and cyber attacks.

After the whistleblowing site carefully redacted the actual codes of CIA hacking tools, anonymized names, and email addresses that were targeted, it contacted Apple, Microsoft, Google, Mozilla, and MicroTik, stating that WikiLeaks would work with tech companies by giving them exclusive access to appropriate material so they could help create a possible antidote to the CIA’s breach of security and offer countermeasures.

Existential threat to democracy

For these efforts to end the military occupation of cyberspace, Assange is now being aggressively pursued by the Trump administration. At the time when WikiLeaks released a massive trove of documents that detailed the CIA hacking tools, Vice President Mike Pence vowed to “use the full force of the law” to hunt down those who released the Intelligence Agency’s secret material. Calling WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service” that needs to be shut down, Secretary of State and former CIA director Mike Pompeo has taken on and expanded Obama’s war on whistleblowers to attack the publisher.

John Kiriakou, who became the first CIA officer to give evidence of the use of torture, repeatedly said that if Assange were extradited, he would receive no fair trial. The CIA whistleblower, who was jailed for calling this torture unconstitutional, noted that in the Eastern District of Virginia where Assange was charged, “juries are made up of people from the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon, the department of Homeland security and intelligence community contractors or their family members” and that “no national security defendant has ever won a case there.”

In his fight against extradition to the US, where he faces 175 years in prison and being subjected to harsh conditions under “Special Administrative Measures”, Assange is rendered defenseless. He is in effective solitary confinement, being psychologically tortured inside London’s maximum-security prison. With the British government’s refusal to release him temporarily into home detention, despite his deteriorating health and weak lung condition developed as consequences of long detention, Assange is now put at risk of contracting coronavirus. This threatens his life.

Now, as the world stands still and becomes silent in our collective self-quarantine, Assange’s words spoken years ago in defense of a free internet call for our attention from behind the walls of Belmarsh prison:

“Nuclear war, climate change or global pandemics are existential threats that we can work through with discussion and thought. Discourse is humanity’s immune system for existential threats. Diseases that infect the immune system are usually fatal. In this case, at a planetary scale.”

Prosecution of WikiLeaks is an attack on the free press that is supposed to promote the discourse necessary to maintain the health of our society. A potential US extradition of Assange poses existential threats to democracy. We must fight to stop it, for without each individual’s ability to speak freely, the tyranny of the authoritarian technocracy will become inevitable. It will be the extinction of free human beings everywhere in the world.

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