Saagar Enjeti delves into the financial uncertainty millions of Americans will face as layoffs and unemployment continue to soar.
Matt Stoller talks about the corporate bailouts in the stimulus bill, and Pelosi and McConnell’s full caucus control over the legislation.
By Moon Of Alabama
March 28, 2020 “Information Clearing House” – The Trump administration is reacting to the pandemic stress by lashing out at perceived internal and external enemies. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is leading the external onslaught.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for an “immediate global ceasefire” to focus on fighting Covid-19. He has appealed for the “waiving of sanctions that can undermine countries’ capacity to respond to the pandemic.”
But Washington is not listening.
Requests from Venezuela and Iran for emergency IMF loans to buy medical supplies were blocked by U.S. interventions.
Just a month ago Pompeo announced an increase of sanctions against Iran. The sanctions block money transfers. They make it impossible for Iran to import the medical equipment it urgently needs to counter the epidemic.
While the U.S. renewed the sanction waiver which allows Iraq to import electricity and gas from Iran the waiver is now limited to only 30 days. One third of Iraq’s electricity depends on those imports from Iran and, if the waiver is not renewed, its hospitals will go dark just when the epidemic will reach its zenith.
Parts of the Trump administration are even pressing for a wider war against alleged Iranian proxy forces in Iraq:
The Pentagon has ordered military commanders to plan for an escalation of American combat in Iraq, issuing a directive last week to prepare a campaign to destroy an Iranian-backed militia group that has threatened more attacks against American troops.
But the United States’ top commander in Iraq has warned that such a campaign could be bloody and counterproductive and risks war with Iran.
Some top officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, have been pushing for aggressive new action against Iran and its proxy forces — and see an opportunity to try to destroy Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq as leaders in Iran are distracted by the pandemic crisis in their country.
Military leaders, including Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have been wary of a sharp military escalation, warning it could further destabilize the Middle East at a time when President Trump has said he hopes to reduce the number of American troops in the region.
The plan is lunatic. One can not “destroy” Kataib Hezbollah and other Iraqi Shia groups which Iran helped to build during the war against ISIS. These groups are part of political parties with deep roots in the Iraqi society.
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France, Italy and the Czech Republic have started to withdraw from Iraq. Denmark is also leaving and the UK is removing 50% of its force. There are less then 5,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq and a war on Kataib Hezbollah could mobilized hundreds of thousands Iraqis to fight against the U.S. occupation. Such a war would also involve Iran and the U.S. would certainly lose it.
The U.S. has currently two aircraft carrier groups in the Arab sea to threaten Iran. But those ships are of no use right now. They are ‘cruise ships with guns’. Nuclear powered five billion dollar petri dishes for novel coronavirus outbreaks. Two U.S. carrier groups in the Pacific are already out of action because they have larger outbreaks on board. It is only a question of time until the other carriers follow.
It is not only Iraq and Iran the U.S. is aiming at. The U.S. State Department cut its contributions to health care in Yemen just in time of the highest need:
Officials with the United States Agency for International Development said the decision to halt funding, reported earlier by The Washington Post, included exceptions for “critical, lifesaving activities, including treatment of malnutrition as well as water, sanitation and hygiene programs aimed at keeping people healthy and staving off disease.”
But humanitarian officials said the agency’s exceptions did not provide for continued funding of basic health care programs, which are heavily reliant on foreign aid, and did not seem to take into account what might occur when the coronavirus begins to spread.
Not happy with only messing up the Middle East the State Department also renewed its assault on Venezuela. On Thursday the Justice Department announced charges of ‘Narco-Terrorism, Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Crimes’ against President Nicolas Maduro and 14 former or current officials. It put up a $15 million reward for Maduro’s arrest.
It alleges that Maduro worked with Columbian cartels to smuggle cocaine through Venezuela.
But here is a map of smuggling routes from U.S. ally Columbia where most of the cocaine is produced. It was shown during a Congress hearing. Whatever is smuggled through Venezuela is a tiny share compared to the huge stream that comes through the Pacific.
|Whoever wrote and signed of the indictment also made a huge mistake. The charges included Clíver Antonio Alcalá Cordones, a former General in the Venezuelan armed forces, and put a $10 million reward on his head.
Alcalá Cordones is no friend of Maduro. He retired in 2013 when Maduro was elected after Hugo Chávez had died. Alcalá Cordones fled to Colombia from where he supported the U.S. chosen clown Juan Guaidó as self proclaimed president of Venezuela.
After the Justice Department indictment against him he came out and revealed that he was involved in coup plans in support of Juan Guaidó:
Alcalá is implicated in a recent plot to attack the Maduro government. On March 24, Colombian authorities seized a truck full of weapons and military equipment, including 26 assault rifles, worth $500,000. Venezuelan intelligence services linked the weapons to three camps in Colombia where paramilitary groups of Venezuelan deserters and U.S. mercenaries are training to carry out attacks against Venezuela. According to Venezuela’s Communication Minister Jorge Rodríguez, these groups were planning to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to attack military units and plant bombs. He also linked the groups to Alcalá.
These allegations proved to be correct, as Alcalá, in a video he posted online hours after the indictments, admitted that the weapons were under his command. He further admitted that the weapons were purchased with funds given to him by Juan Guaidó, with whom he allegedly signed a contract. Additionally, Alcala claimed that the operation was planned by U.S. advisors, with whom he supposedly met at least seven times. Aclalá also alleged that Leopoldo López, the founder of Guaidó’s party Voluntad Popular who was sprung from house arrest during Guaidó’s April 30 attempted insurrection, had full knowledge of the terror plot.
As a result of these videos, Venezuela’s Attorney General has opened an investigation into Juan Guaidó for an attempted coup.
The U.S. blew it by accusing the one man that was willing to help its chosen clown and by not informing him before the indictment came out. That man then freaked out and blew the whistle. This is now threatening the whole opposition plan the U.S. concocted with Guaidó and the men behind him.
On Friday Alcalá Cordones decided it was unsafe for him to stay in Colombia. He ‘called up‘ the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and gave himself up. He was extradited to New York and will now become a ‘witness’ against Maduro who he has publicly opposed in the first place.
This chaos was certainly created by Elliott Abrams, the neoconservative U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela. Abrams has a talent for messing things up.
U.S. foreign policy during the crisis has been abysmal. The U.S. angered China, the biggest producer of urgently needed masks and drugs, by calling the virus “Wuhan virus” or “Chinese virus”, a practice that stopped only after a phone call between Trump and Xi Jinping. It angered Germany when it tried to buy exclusive rights for a potential vaccine that is being developed there. Requests for support by multiple European allies were left unanswered while China and Russia mobilized to help over 80 countries. Meanwhile Pompeo chastised Italy for accepting Cuban drugs and doctors.
There will be a large cost to pay for this when the pandemic is over. The U.S. has exposed itself as unreliable ally, as war mongering moron even at the worst time and as incapable of helping its own citizens.
China on the other hand defeated the epidemic at home and now helps defeating it wherever it can. This is going to be its century.
Won’t you spare me over til another year
Well what is this that I can’t see
With ice cold hands takin’ hold of me
Well I am death, none can excel
I’ll open the door to heaven or hell
Whoa, death someone would pray
Could you wait to call me another day
The children prayed, the preacher preached
Time and mercy is out of your reach
I’ll fix your feet til you cant walk
I’ll lock your jaw til you cant talk
I’ll close your eyes so you can’t see
This very air, come and go with me
I’m death I come to take the soul
Leave the body and leave it cold
To draw up the flesh off of the frame
Dirt and worm both have a claim
Won’t you spare me over til another year
My mother came to my bed
Placed a cold towel upon my head
My head is warm my feet are cold
Death is a-movin upon my soul
Oh, death how you’re treatin’ me
You’ve close my eyes so I can’t see
Well you’re hurtin’ my body
You make me cold
You run my life right outta my soul
Oh death please consider my age
Please don’t take me at this stage
My wealth is all at your command
If you will move your icy hand
Oh the young, the rich or poor
Hunger like me you know
No wealth, no ruin, no silver no gold
Nothing satisfies me but your soul
Wont you spare me over ’til another year
Wont you spare me over ’til another year
Wont you spare me over ’til another year
In voudun there are gods and demigods of death and of the cemetery who come to the dancing
ground and possess some of their worshipers; now vehicles through which the deities can communicate
with mortals, the possessed advise, gossip, eat, dance, and socialize with the congregants.
Thus Bessie Jones’s dramatic dialogue between Death and the reluctant sinner might just as well
have its roots in an African tradition as in the popular religious poems and dramas of medieval
Europe in which death was so frequently personified.
O Death in the mornin’, (3 times)
Spare me over another year.
Well, Death walked up into the sinner’s gaze,
Says, “B’lieve you have waited now a little too late,
Your fever now is one hundred and two,
Have a narrow chance if you ever pull through.”
He cried, “O Death,”
Cryin’, “O Death in the mornin’,
Death, spare me over in another year.
Hey, what is this I see,
Cold, icy hands all over me?
You say, “I am Death, no one can excel,
I span the doors of Death and Hell.”
“No, you heard God’s people sing and pray,
You would not heed, you just walked away,
You would not even bend your knee,
Now you got to come and go with me.
“Well, I’m gon’ fix your feet so you cannot walk,
‘M fix your tongue where you cannot talk,
Close your eyes and you cannot see,
And you got to come and go with me.”
“Well, Death, consider my age,
And do not take me in this stage,
Because all of my wealth is at your command,
If you’ll just move your cold, icy hand.”
He cried, “No no,
O Death in the mornin’,
Lord, spare me over in another year.”
– Alan Lomax
Check out Daniel’s interesting interview with a doctor on the ground in Wuhan:
Beautifully sung, just gorgeous ❤
Man’s greatest longing is for freedom. Man IS a longing for freedom. Freedom is the very essential core of human consciousness: love is its circumference and freedom is its center. These two fulfilled, life has no regret. And they both are fulfilled together, never separately.
People have tried to fulfill love without freedom. Then love brings more and more misery, more and more bondage. Then love is not what one has expected it to be, it turns out just the opposite. It shatters all hopes, it destroys all expectations and life becomes a wasteland — a groping in darkness and never finding the door.
Love without freedom naturally tends to be possessive. And the moment possessiveness enters in, you start creating bondage for others and bondage for yourself — because you cannot possess somebody without being possessed by him. You cannot make somebody a slave without becoming a slave yourself. Whatsoever you do to others is done to you.
This is the basic principle to be understood, that love without freedom never brings fulfillment.
By Leonardo Flores
March 27, 2020 “Information Clearing House” – Within a few hours of being launched, over 800 Venezuelans in the U.S. registered for an emergency flight from Miami to Caracas through a website run by the Venezuelan government. This flight, offered at no cost, was proposed by President Nicolás Maduro when he learned that 200 Venezuelans were stuck in the United States following his government’s decision to stop commercial flights as a preventative coronavirus measure. The promise of one flight expanded to two or more flights, as it became clear that many Venezuelans in the U.S. wanted to go back to Venezuela, yet the situation remains unresolved due to the U.S. ban on flights to and from the country.
Those who rely solely on the mainstream media might wonder who in their right mind would want to leave the United States for Venezuela. Numerous outlets—including TIME magazine, the Washington Post, The Hill, the Miami Herald, and others—published opinions in the past week describing Venezuela as a chaotic nightmare. These media outlets painted a picture of a coronavirus disaster, of government incompetence and of a nation teetering on the brink of collapse. The reality of Venezuela’s coronavirus response is not covered by the mainstream media at all.
Furthermore, what each of these articles shortchanges is the damage caused by the Trump administration’s sanctions, which devastated the economy and healthcare system long before the coronavirus pandemic. These sanctions have impoverished millions of Venezuelans and negatively impact vital infrastructure, such as electricity generation. Venezuela is impeded from importing spare parts for its power plants and the resulting blackouts interrupt water services that rely on electric pumps. These, along with dozens of other implications from the hybrid war on Venezuela, have caused a decline in health indicators across the board, leading to 100,000 deaths as a consequence of the sanctions.
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Regarding coronavirus specifically, the sanctions raise the costs of testing kits and medical supplies, and ban Venezuela’s government from purchasing medical equipment from the U.S. (and from many European countries). These obstacles would seemingly place Venezuela on the path to a worst-case scenario, similar to Iran (also battered by sanctions) or Italy (battered by austerity and neoliberalism). In contrast to those two countries, Venezuela took decisive steps early on to face the pandemic.
As a result of these steps and other factors, Venezuela is currently in its best-case scenario. As of this writing, 11 days after the first confirmed case of coronavirus, the country has 86 infected people, with 0 deaths. Its neighbors have not fared as well: Brazil has 1,924 cases with 34 deaths; Ecuador 981 and 18; Chile 746 and 2; Peru 395 and 5; Mexico 367 and 4; Colombia 306 and 3. (With the exception of Mexico, those governments have all actively participated and contributed to the U.S.-led regime change efforts in Venezuela.) Why is Venezuela doing so much better than others in the region?
Skeptics will claim that the Maduro government is hiding figures and deaths, that there’s not enough testing, not enough medicine, not enough talent to adequately deal with a pandemic. But here are the facts:
First, international solidarity has played a priceless role in enabling the government to rise to the challenge. China sent coronavirus diagnostic kits that will allow 320,000 Venezuelans to be tested, in addition to a team of experts and tons of supplies. Cuba sent 130 doctors and 10,000 doses of interferon alfa-2b, a drug with an established record of helping COVID-19 patients recover. Russia has sent the first of several shipments of medical equipment and kits. These three countries, routinely characterized by the U.S. foreign policy establishment as evil, offer solidarity and material support. The United States offers more sanctions and the IMF, widely known to be under U.S. control, denied a Venezuelan request for $5 billion in emergency funding that even the European Union supports.
Second, the government quickly carried out a plan to contain the spread of the disease. On March 12, a day before the first confirmed cases, President Maduro decreed a health emergency, prohibited crowds from gathering, and cancelled flights from Europe and Colombia. On March 13, Day 1, two Venezuelans tested positive; the government cancelled classes, began requiring facemasks on subways and on the border, closed theaters, bars and nightclubs, and limited restaurants to take-out or delivery. It bears repeating that this was on Day 1 of having a confirmed case; many U.S. states have yet to take these steps. By Day 4, a national quarantine was put into effect (equivalent to shelter-in-place orders) and an online portal called the Homeland System (Sistema Patria) was repurposed to survey potential COVID-19 cases. By Day 8, 42 people were infected and approximately 90% of the population was heeding the quarantine. By Day 11, over 12.2 million people had filled out the survey, over 20,000 people who reported being sick were visited in their homes by medical professionals and 145 people were referred for coronavirus testing. The government estimates that without these measures, Venezuela would have 3,000 infected people and a high number of deaths.
Third, the Venezuelan people were positioned to handle a crisis. Over the past 7 years, Venezuela has lived through the death of wildly popular leader, violent right-wing protests, an economic war characterized by shortages and hyperinflation, sanctions that have destroyed the economy, an ongoing coup, attempted military insurrections, attacks on public utilities, blackouts, mass migration and threats of U.S. military action. The coronavirus is a different sort of challenge, but previous crises have instilled a resiliency among the Venezuelan people and strengthened solidarity within communities. There is no panic on the streets; instead, people are calm and following health protocols.
Fourth, mass organizing and prioritizing people above all else. Communes and organized communities have taken the lead, producing facemasks, keeping the CLAP food supply system running (this monthly food package reaches 7 million families), facilitating house-by-house visits of doctors and encouraging the use of facemasks in public. Over 12,000 medical school students in their last or second-to-last year of study applied to be trained for house visits. For its part, the Maduro administration suspended rent payments, instituted a nationwide firing freeze, gave bonuses to workers, prohibited telecoms from cutting off people’s phones or internet, reached an agreement with hotel chains to provide 4,000 beds in case the crisis escalates, and pledged to pay the salaries of employees of small and medium businesses. Amid a public health crisis – compounded by an economic crisis and sanctions – Venezuela’s response has been to guarantee food, provide free healthcare and widespread testing, and alleviate further economic pressure on the working class.
The U.S. government has not responded to the Maduro administration’s request to make an exception for Conviasa Airlines, the national airline under sanctions, to fly the Venezuelans stranded in the United States back to Caracas. Given everything happening in the United States, where COVID-19 treatment can cost nearly $35,000 and the government is weighing the option of prioritizing the economy over the lives of people, perhaps these Venezuelans waiting to go home understand that their chances of surviving the coronavirus—both physically and economically—are much better in a country that values health over profits.
Leonardo Flores is a Latin American policy expert and campaigner with CodePink.
Trading Liberty for Security
There was a good reason why our American ancestors failed to include an emergency exception in the Bill of Rights. It was because they knew that throughout history emergencies have been the time-honored way by which people lose their liberty.
Thus, the First Amendment does not say:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, except in cases of emergency.
The Second Amendment does not state:
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed, except in cases of emergency.
The Fifth Amendment does not state:
No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, except in cases of emergency.
The Sixth Amendment does not state:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, except in cases of emergencies.
The Constitution does not state:
The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it, except in cases of emergencies.
Why didn’t the Framers and our ancestors include an emergency exception in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?
Because they knew that such an exception would nullify all the restrictions in the Bill of Rights and the limitations on power enumerated in the Constitution.
That is, they knew that if they included an emergency exception, then they might as well have just called into existence a federal government with the omnipotent, totalitarian power to destroy their rights and liberties.
The Framers and our ancestors understood that emergencies and crises have been the time-honored way throughout history by which people have lost their liberties and their well-being at the hands of their own government.
After all, ask yourself: Why did they deem it necessary to expressly prohibit the federal government from doing all those bad things that are listed in the Bill of Rights? It was because they knew that the propensity of people who are attracted to government power is to thirst and ache to do such things and to look for opportunities to do them.
By the same token, people who thirst and ache for power know that a free people don’t like giving up their rights and liberties.
But then along come emergencies and all bets are off. Now people become greatly afraid, which presents those who thirst and ache for power with the opportunity to strike by offering the fear-filled people a bargain: “Trade away your freedom and I will keep you safe. It will only be temporary. As soon as the emergency is over, I will quickly restore your rights and liberties to you without hesitation.”
A long time ago in a faraway land, a group of chickens on a farm were threatened with a severe emergency. A wolf was periodically attacking and eating them. The chickens approached a neighborhood fox and explained the emergency. The fox assured the chickens that he could keep them safe. All they had to do was enter into a cage, after which would close and lock the door. He would then dutifully stand watch until the emergency was over, at which point he promised that he would open the door and let the chickens go free. The chickens accepted the deal.
Fortunately, the Framers and our ancestors knew the outcome of that experience, which is why they didn’t include an emergency exception in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
by Jacob G. Hornberger