The idea that Sanders might become the Democratic candidate was a fantasy

The Democratic Party Surrenders to Nostalgia

By Bill Blum

March 12, 2020 “Information Clearing House” – Now that the Michigan Democratic primary is over and Joe Biden has been declared the winner, it’s time to read the handwriting on the political wall: Biden will be the Democratic nominee for president, and Bernie Sanders will be the runner-up once again come the party’s convention in July. Sanders might influence the party’s platform, but platforms are never binding for the nominee. Sanders has lost, and so have his many progressive supporters, myself included.

I am nothing if not a realist. The idea that Sanders might have become the Democratic candidate was always a fantasy, not unlike my youthful dreams of one day becoming an NFL quarterback. Even after Sanders’ triumph in the Nevada caucuses, I never thought the party establishment would ever allow a socialist — even a mild social democratic one, such as Sanders — to head its ticket.

Funded by wealthy donors, run by Beltway insiders and aided and abetted by a corporate media dedicated to promoting the notion that Sanders was “unelectable,” the Democratic Party never welcomed Sanders as a legitimate contender. Not in 2016 and not in 2020. In several instances, it even resorted to some good old-fashioned red-baiting to frighten voters; the party is, after all, a capitalist institution. Working and middle-class families support the Democrats largely because they have no other place to go on Election Day besides the completely corrupt and craven GOP.

Now we are left with Donald Trump and Biden to duke it out in the fall. Yes, it has come to that.

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In terms of campaign rhetoric and party policies, the general election campaign will be a battle for America’s past far more than it will be a contest for its future. The battle will be fueled on both sides by narratives and visions that are illusory, regressive and, in important respects, downright dangerous.

Of the two campaigns, Trump’s will be decidedly more toxic. The “Make America Great Again” slogan that propelled Trump to victory in 2016 and the “Keep America Great” slogan he will try to sell this time around are neo-fascist in nature, designed to invoke an imaginary and false state of mythical past national glory that ignores our deeply entrenched history of patriarchal white supremacy and brutal class domination.

The fascist designation is not a label I apply to Trump cavalierly. I use it, as I have before in this column, because Trump meets many of the standard and widely respected definitions of the term.

As the celebrated Marxist playwright Bertolt Brecht wrote in 1935, fascism “is a historic phase of capitalism … the nakedest, most shameless, most oppressive and most treacherous form of capitalism.”  Trumpism, along with its international analogs in Brazil, India and Western Europe, neatly accords with Brecht’s theory.

Trumpism similarly meets the definition of fascism offered by Robert Paxton in his classic 2004 study, “The Anatomy of Fascism”:

Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

Trump and Trumpism similarly embody the 14 common factors of fascism identified by the great writer Umberto Eco in his 1995 essay, Ur Fascism:

  • A cult of traditionalism.
  • The rejection of modernism.
  • A cult of action for its own sake and a distrust of intellectualism.
  • The view that disagreement or opposition is treasonous.
  • A fear of difference. Fascism is racist by definition.
  • An appeal to a frustrated middle class that is suffering from an economic crisis of humiliation and fear of the pressure exerted by lower social groups.
  • An obsession with the plots and machinations of the movement’s identified enemies.
  • A requirement that the movement’s enemies be simultaneously seen as omnipotent and weak, conniving and cowardly.
  • A rejection of pacifism.
  • Contempt for weakness.
  • A cult of heroism.
  • Hypermasculinity and homophobia.
  • A selective populism, relying on chauvinist definitions of “the people” that the movement claims to represent.
  • Heavy usage of “newspeak” and an impoverished discourse of elementary syntax and resistance to complex and critical reasoning.

Joe Biden is not a fascist. He is, instead, a standard-bearer of neoliberalism. As with fascism, there are different definitions of neoliberalism, prompting some exceptionally smug mainstream commentators like New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait to claim that the concept is little more than a left-wing insult. In truth, however, the concept describes an all-too-real set of governing principles.

To grasp what neoliberalism means, it’s necessary to understand that it does not refer to a revival of the liberalism of the New Deal and New Society programs of the 1930s and 1960s. That brand of liberalism advocated the active intervention of the federal government in the economy to mitigate the harshest effects of private enterprise through such programs as Social Security, the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, Medicare, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That brand of liberalism imposed high taxes on the wealthy and significantly mitigated income inequality in America.

Neoliberalism, by contrast, deemphasizes federal economic intervention in favor of initiatives calling for deregulation, corporate tax cuts, private-public partnerships, and international trade agreements that augment the free flow of capital while undermining the power and influence of trade unions.

Until the arrival of Trump and his brand of neo-fascism, both major parties since Reagan had embraced this ideology. And while neoliberals remain more benign on issues of race and gender than Trump and Trumpism ever will be, neoliberalism offers little to challenge hierarchies based on social class. Indeed, income inequality accelerated during the Obama years and today rivals that of the Gilded Age.

As transformational a politician as Barack Obama was in terms of race, he too pursued a predominantly neoliberal agenda. The Affordable Care Act, Obama’s singular domestic legislative achievement, is a perfect example of neoliberal private-public collaboration that left intact a health industry dominated by for-profit drug manufacturers and rapacious insurance companies, rather than setting the stage for Medicare for All, as championed by Sanders.

Biden never tires of reminding any audience willing to put up with his gaffes, verbal ticks and miscues that he served as Obama’s vice president. Those ties are likely to remain the centerpiece of his campaign, as he promises a return to the civility of the Obama era and a restoration of America’s standing in the world.

History, however, only moves forward. As charming and comforting as Biden’s imagery of the past may be, it is, like Trump’s darker outlook, a mirage. If Trump has taught us anything worthwhile, it is that the past cannot be replicated, no matter how much we might wish otherwise.

Bill Blum is a former judge and death penalty defense attorney. He is the author of three legal thrillers published by Penguin/Putnam (“Prejudicial Error,” “The Last Appeal” and “The Face of Justice”) and is a contributing writer for California Lawyer magazine. His nonfiction work has appeared in such publications as Crawdaddy magazine, In These Times, The Nation, The Progressive, the ABA Journal, the Orange County Register, the San Jose Mercury News, the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly and Los Angeles magazine. https://www.truthdig.com/author/bill_blum/

Do you agree or disagree? Post your comment here

==See Also==

 Jimmy Dore; Bernie Declares “Biden Can Beat Trump!” WTF!?!?

Watch: Bernie Asked About Biden’s Dementia At Town Hall

 

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

The Fed’s Baffling Response to the Coronavirus Explained

By Ellen Brown

March 12, 2020 “Information Clearing House” –  When the World Health Organization announced on February 24th that it was time to prepare for a global pandemic, the stock market plummeted. Over the following week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by more than 3,500 points or over 10%. In an attempt to contain the damage, on March 3rd the Federal Reserve slashed the fed funds rate from 1.5% to 1.0%, in their first emergency rate move and biggest one-time cut since the 2008 financial crisis. But rather than reassuring investors, the move fueled another panic sell-off.

Exasperated commentators on CNBC wondered what the Fed was thinking. They said a half point rate cut would not stop the spread of the coronavirus or fix the broken Chinese supply chains that are driving US companies to the brink. A new report by corporate data analytics firm Dun & Bradstreet calculates that some 51,000 companies around the world have one or more direct suppliers in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus. At least 5 million companies globally have one or more tier-two suppliers in the region, meaning their suppliers get their supplies there; and 938 of the Fortune 1000 companies have tier-one or tier-two suppliers there. Moreover, fully 80% of US pharmaceuticals are made in China. A break in the supply chain can grind businesses to a halt.

So what was the Fed’s reasoning in lowering the fed funds rate? According to some financial analysts, the fire it was trying to put out was actually in the repo market, where the Fed has lost control despite its emergency measures of the last six months. Repo market transactions come to $1 trillion to $2.2 trillion per day and keep our modern-day financial system afloat. But before getting into developments there, here is a recap of the repo action since 2008.

Repos and the Fed

Before the 2008 banking crisis, banks in need of liquidity borrowed excess reserves from each other in the fed funds market. But after 2008, banks were reluctant to lend in that unsecured market, because they did not trust their counterparties to have the money to pay up. Banks desperate for funds could borrow at the Fed’s discount window, but it carried a stigma. It signaled that the bank must be in distress, since other banks were not willing to lend to it at a reasonable rate. So banks turned instead to the private repo market, which is anonymous and is secured with collateral (Treasuries and other acceptable securities). Repo trades, although technically “sales and repurchases” of collateral, are in effect secured short-term loans, usually repayable the next day or in two weeks.

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The risky element of these apparently-secure trades is that the collateral itself may not be reliable, since it may be subject to more than one claim. For example, it may have been acquired in a swap with another party for securitized auto loans or other shaky assets – a swap that will have to be reversed at maturity. As explained in an earlier article here, the private repo market has been invaded by hedge funds, which are highly leveraged and risky; so risk-averse money market funds and other institutional lenders have been withdrawing from that market.

When the normally low repo interest rate shot up to 10 percent in September, the Fed therefore felt compelled to step in. The action it took was to restart its former practice of injecting money short-term through its own repo agreements with its primary dealers, which then lent to banks and other players. On March 3rd, however, even that central bank facility was oversubscribed, with far more demand for loans than the subscription limit.

The Fed’s March 3rd emergency rate cut was in response to that crisis. Lowering the fed funds rate by half a percentage point was supposed to relieve the pressure on the central bank’s repo facility by encouraging banks to lend to each other. But the rate cut had virtually no effect, and the central bank’s repo facility continued to be oversubscribed the next day and the next. As observed in a March 5th article on Zero Hedge:

This continuing liquidity crunch is bizarre, as it means that not only did the rate cut not unlock additional funding, it actually made the problem worse, and now banks and dealers are telegraphing that they need not only more repo buffer but likely an expansion of QE…

The Collateral Problem

As financial analyst George Gammon explains, the crunch in the private repo market is not actually due to a shortage of liquidity. Banks still have $1.5 trillion in excess reserves in their accounts with the Fed, stockpiled after multiple rounds of quantitative easing. The problem is in the collateral, which lenders no longer trust. Lowering the fed funds rate did not relieve the pressure on the Fed’s repo facility for obvious reasons: banks that are not willing to take the risk of lending to each other unsecured at 1.5 percent in the fed funds market are going to be even less willing to lend at 1 percent. They can earn that much just by leaving their excess reserves at the safe, secure Fed, drawing on the Interest on Excess Reserves it has been doling out ever since the 2008 crisis.

But surely the Fed knew that. So why lower the fed funds rate? Perhaps because they had to do something to maintain the façade of being in control, and lowering the interest rate was the most acceptable tool they had. The alternative would be another round of quantitative easing, but the Fed has so far denied entertaining that controversial alternative. Those protests aside, QE is probably next on the agenda after the Fed’s orthodox tools fail, as the Zero Hedge author notes.

The central bank has become the only game in town, and its hammer keeps missing the nail. A recession caused by a massive disruption in supply chains cannot be fixed through central-bank monetary easing alone. Monetary policy is a tool designed to deal with “demand” – the amount of money competing for goods and services, driving prices up. To fix a supply-side problem, monetary policy needs to be combined with fiscal policy, which means Congress and the Fed need to work together. There are successful contemporary models for this, and the best are in China and Japan.

The Chinese Stock Market Has Held Its Ground

While US markets were crashing, the Chinese stock market actually went up by 10 percent in February. How could that be? China is the country hardest hit by the disruptive COVID-19 virus, yet investors are evidently confident that it will prevail against the virus and market threats.

In 2008, China beat the global financial crisis by pouring massive amounts of money into infrastructure, and that is apparently the policy it is pursuing now. Five hundred billion dollars in infrastructure projects have already been proposed for 2020 – nearly as much as was invested in the country’s huge stimulus program after 2008. The newly injected money will go into the pockets of laborers and suppliers, who will spend it on consumer goods, prompting producers to produce more goods and services, increasing productivity and jobs.

How will all this stimulus be funded? In the past China has simply borrowed from its own state-owned banks, which can create money as deposits on their books, just as all depository banks can today. (See here and here.) Most of the loans will be repaid with the profits from the infrastructure they create; and those that are not can be written off or carried on the books or moved off balance sheet. The Chinese government is the regulator of its banks, and rather than putting its insolvent banks and businesses into bankruptcy, its usual practice is to let non-performing loans just pile up on bank balance sheets. The newly-created money that was not repaid adds to the money supply, but no harm is done to the consumer economy, which actually needs regular injections of new money to fill the gap between debt and the money available to repay it. As in all systems in which banks create the principal but not the interest due on loans, this gap continually widens, requiring continual infusions of new money to fill the breach. (See my earlier article here.) In the last 20 years, China’s money supply has increased by 2,000 percent without driving up the consumer price index, which has averaged around 2 percent during those two decades. Supply has gone up with demand, keeping prices stable.

The Japanese Model

China’s experiences are instructive, but borrowing from the government’s own banks cannot be done in the US, since our banks have not been nationalized and our central bank is considered to be independent of government control. The Fed cannot pour money directly into infrastructure but is limited to buying bonds from its primary dealers on the open market.

At least, that is the Fed’s argument; but the Federal Reserve Act allows it to make three-month infrastructure loans to states, and these could be rolled over for extended periods thereafter. The repo market itself consists of short-term loans continually rolled over. If hedge funds can borrow at 1.5 percent in the private repo market, which is now backstopped by the Fed, states should get those low rates as well.

Alternatively, Congress could amend the Federal Reserve Act to allow it to work with the central bank in funding infrastructure and other national projects, following the path successfully blazed by Japan. Under Japanese banking law, the central bank must cooperate closely with the Ministry of Finance in setting policy. Unlike in the US, Japan’s prime minister can negotiate with the head of its central bank to buy the government’s bonds, ensuring that the bonds will be turned into new money that will stimulate domestic economic growth; and if the bonds are continually rolled over, this debt need never be repaid.

The Bank of Japan has already “monetized” nearly 50% of the government’s debt in this way, and it has pulled this feat off without driving up consumer prices. In fact Japan’s inflation rate remains stubbornly below the BOJ’s 2% target. Deflation continues to be a greater concern than inflation in Japan, despite unprecedented debt monetization by its central bank.     

 The “Independent” Federal Reserve Is Obsolete

 In the face of a recession caused by massive supply-chain disruption, the US central bank has shown itself to be impotent. Congress needs to take a lesson from Japan and modify US banking law to allow it to work with the central bank in getting the wheels of production turning again. The next time the country’s largest banks become insolvent, rather than bailing them out it should nationalize them. The banks could then be used to fund infrastructure and other government projects to stimulate the economy, following the model of China.

Ellen Brown chairs the Public Banking Institute and has written thirteen books, including her latest, Banking on the People: Democratizing Money in the Digital Age.  She also co-hosts a radio program on PRN.FM called “It’s Our Money.” Her 300+ blog articles are posted at EllenBrown.com

Do you agree or disagree? Post your comment here

==See Also==

Dow plunges 10% amid coronavirus fears for its worst day since the 1987 market crash

 

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Coronavirus – The Hidden Cases – Why We Must Shut Everything Down And Do It Now

By Moon Of Alabama

March 12, 2020 “Information Clearing House” –   The powers that be in our ‘western’ societies have decided to do nothing significant against the onslaught the novel coronavirus SARS-Cov-2 is now causing.

There will not even be an attempt to do like China or South Korea which have thrown all resources at stopping the spread of the virus while it was still possible. The ‘west’ now seem to be beyond that point.

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson floated the idea to “take it on the chin” –  i.e. to do nothing to soften the blow the epidemic will cause. Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany told her parliamentary group that 60-70% of all Germans will catch the virus. Most of them will fall ill with the Covid-19 disease the virus causes. At a 1% death rate this means that more than 500.000 Germans will die from it. Merkel did not say how she would try to prevent that. So far little was done by her administration to stop a further public spreading of the disease.

The Donald Trump administration has done its best to prevent an early detection of the outbreak in Washington State and likely also elsewhere:

As luck would have it, Dr. Chu had a way to monitor the region. For months, as part of a research project into the flu, she and a team of researchers had been collecting nasal swabs from residents experiencing symptoms throughout the Puget Sound region.To repurpose the tests for monitoring the coronavirus, they would need the support of state and federal officials. But nearly everywhere Dr. Chu turned, officials repeatedly rejected the idea, interviews and emails show, even as weeks crawled by and outbreaks emerged in countries outside of China, where the infection began.

By Feb. 25, Dr. Chu and her colleagues could not bear to wait any longer. They began performing coronavirus tests, without government approval.

What came back confirmed their worst fear. They quickly had a positive test from a local teenager with no recent travel history. The coronavirus had already established itself on American soil without anybody realizing it.

The CDC and the FDA would not have that:

The message from the federal government was blunt. “What they said on that phone call very clearly was cease and desist to Helen Chu,” Dr. Lindquist [the state epidemiologist in Washington] remembered. “Stop testing.”Our dear leaders are following the four stage strategy (vid):

In stage one we say “Nothing is going to happen”.
Stage two we say something may be going to happen but we should do nothing about it.
Stage three: We say maybe we should do something about it but there is nothing we can do.
Stage four: We say maybe there was something that could have been done but it is too late now.Yascha Mounk follows my argument and gives a reasonable advice on what we can do to make this as pandemic as survivable as possible. Shut everything down that can be shut down. Increase social distance as much as possible. Avoid all live social contacts wherever possible. Do it NOW!

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One Tomas Pueyo explains in detail why we must do this immediately. (I checked his numbers and find no faults with them.)

Wuhan city in China was shut down on January 23. Twelve days later, on February 4, the newly confirmed cases in Wuhan reached their peak and declined from there. This gives us the time delay from an infection to become a diagnosed and counted case as the shutdown increased the social distance and lowered the number of new infections.

Each newly infected person itself infected two or three other persons. The growth rate was thereby exponential until they shut the city down. Had the city not been shut down on January 23 the numbers beyond February 4 would have gone higher and higher. That will happen in our cities and countries as our authorities are unwilling or unable to act as early and as decisively as the Chinese authorities did.
Source: Tomas Pueyo – bigger – fullPueyo:

This is one of the most important charts.It shows in orange histograms the daily official number of cases in the Hubei province: How many people were diagnosed that day.

The grey histograms show the true daily coronavirus cases. Crucially, these weren’t know at the time. We can only figure them out looking backwards.

What this means is that the orange histograms show you what authorities knew, and the grey ones what was really happening.

On January 21st, the number of new diagnosed cases (orange) is exploding: there are around 100 new cases. In reality, there were 1,500 new cases that day, growing exponentially. But the authorities didn’t know that. What they knew was that suddenly there were 100 new cases of this new illness.

Two days later, authorities shut down Wuhan. At that point, the number of diagnosed daily new cases was ~400. Note that number: they made a decision to close the city with just 400 new cases in a day. In reality, there were 2,500 new cases that day, but they didn’t know that.

This means that we must all act now because today the numbers in Washington state and elsewhere are already exploding even though we do not know yet how high they really are. Those people who do get infected today will only become official cases twelve or more days from now when they will (hopefully) be diagnosed and counted.

The key thing to do now is ‘social distancing’. As our governments do not act decisively to achieve that it is our personal responsibility to do that ourselves. Everyone must do this to the best of their abilities.

These numbers are not fantasies but today’s reality:

Washington State is the US’s Wuhan. The number of cases there is growing exponentially.

Spain has very similar numbers as France (1,200 cases vs. 1,400, and both have 30 deaths). That means the same rules are valid: Spain has probably upwards of 20k true cases already.In the Comunidad de Madrid region, with 600 official cases and 17 deaths, the true number of cases is likely between 10,000 and 60,000.

If you read these data and tell yourself: “Impossible, this can’t be true”, just think this: With this number of cases, Wuhan was already in lockdown.

China has defeated the epidemic in Wuhan. A few cases leaked and the effects now move into our societies. But our dear leaders are throwing the Chinese victory out of the window by not replicating early and decisively what the Chinese did. Many of us will have to pay for this.

Communists will shut down a city to prevent a deadly epidemic from going exponential. Our neo-liberal leaders only started to care when the Dow Jones went down. Don’t expect them to call for a shutdown as that will cost their donor’s some money. As mostly elderly people will die they are probably calculating how much money the pension funds will save.

Not shutting everything down guarantees that our health care systems will get overwhelmed. This will increase the death rate of the disease.

Tomas Pueyo as well as Yascha Munck mention the 1918 influenza pandemic and point out how much difference a shutdown made at that time:

As the disease was spreading, Wilmer Krusen, Philadelphia’s health commissioner, allowed a huge parade to take place on September 28; some 200,000 people marched. In the following days and weeks, the bodies piled up in the city’s morgues. By the end of the season, 12,000 residents had died.In St. Louis, a public-health commissioner named Max Starkloff decided to shut the city down. Ignoring the objections of influential businessmen, he closed the city’s schools, bars, cinemas, and sporting events. Thanks to his bold and unpopular actions, the per capita fatality rate in St. Louis was half that of Philadelphia. (In total, roughly 1,700 people died from influenza in St Louis.)

Good luck to all of us.

Source

Do you agree or disagree? Post your comment here

==See Also==

Top US health official says coronavirus testing system is ‘failing,’ cases now confirmed in 44 states

 

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Whistleblower Chelsea Manning Ordered Immediately Released From Federal Holding

March 12, 2020 “Information Clearing House”  US District Judge Anthony J. Trenga ordered whistleblower Chelsea Manning released from detention on Thursday, a day after she attempted to take her own life. However, he did not release her from the fines she incurred as punishment, which total a quarter of a million dollars.

“Upon consideration of the Court’s May 16, 2019, order, the motion, and the court’s March 12, 2020, order discharging Grand Jury 19-3, the court finds that Ms. Manning’s appearance before the grand jury is no longer needed, in light of which her detention no longer serves any coercive purpose,” Judge Trenga wrote in a Thursday court order. “The court further finds that enforcement of the accrued conditional fines would not be punitive but rather necessary to the coercive purpose of the court’s civil contempt order.”

“According, it is hereby ordered that Chelsea Manning be, and she hereby is, immediately released from the custody of the attorney general,” he wrote.

However, the judge denied Manning’s request to have waived $256,000 in fines she had accrued since the previous May, which he added as an additional coercive measure to try and force her to testify.

The decision comes a day after Manning attempted to end her life while in Virginia’s Alexandria Detention Center and a day before she was due to appear in court regarding a February 19 motion for her release. She has been in detention since March 2019 for her refusal to testify before a grand jury about her interactions with WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, who helped her publish a trove of stolen US government documents in 2010 revealing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning, then a US Army intelligence analyst, was tried and sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 for that crime, but released in 2017 when departing US President Barack Obama commuted her sentence.

Her detention has been protested by tens of thousands of activists, academics, politicians, and sympathetic persons, including the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, who wrote a letter to the US government in November denouncing her treatment and calling for her release.

On Wednesday, Melzer wrote on Twitter that Manning’s suicide attempt was “typical for the confusion, dehumanisation & suffering deliberately inflicted through prolonged psychological torture.”

Assange was arrested in the United Kingdom a month after Manning was detained, and the US Department of Justice revealed he was charged with 18 counts relating to his publication of Manning’s documents. The first round of Assange’s extradition hearings in London happened last week, which could see him shipped to the US for trial.

Source

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Anti-War Activist Chelsea Manning Attempted Suicide in Prison

She has been pressured to cooperate with an investigation against journalists who expose government misdeeds.

By teleSUR

March 12, 2020 “Information Clearing House” –   Former U.S. Army Intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning attempted suicide on Wednesday at a detention center in Virginia, where she has been incarcerated since March 2019 for her refusal to give testimony before a grand jury convened to investigate and prosecute journalists whose work threatens to expose government misdeeds.

The anti-war activist, who is currently recovering her health at the hospital, was scheduled to appear before a judge regarding a motion seeking to end the civil contempt sanctions she faces.

“Ms. Manning is still scheduled to appear on Friday for a previously-calendared hearing, at which Judge Anthony Trenga will rule on a motion to terminate the civil contempt sanctions stemming from her May 2019 refusal to give testimony before a grand jury investigating the publication of her 2010 disclosures,” Manning’s lawyers said.

U.S. prosecutors have kept Manning in jail under “coercive confinement”, which means that she will be held in jail until she agrees to cooperate and testify about her association with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.​​​​​​​

“Coercive confinement is considered a violation of international law, but the U.S. authorizes its use to enforce cooperation with grand jury subpoenas…

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Since Chelsea will never betray her principles, her confinement is not coercive, but punitive, and must not continue,” organizations supporting the anti-war activist said.

Before being at the Alexandria Detention Center, Manning served seven years in a military prison on the same charges that are currently being brought against her.​​​​​​​

Her lawyers have also assured that “she will not betray her principles, even at the risk of serious damage herself.”

In 2019, in a letter to Judge Anthony Trenga, Manning said that the judicial process against her only seeks to intimidate journalists and editors who dare to fulfill what society demands of them, namely, to report the truth.​​​​​

While a military intelligence analyst in 2010, Manning leaked more than 700,000 classified documents on the U.S. military and political actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. This information exposed the true reasons that motivated Washington to militarily attack these countries.

In August 2013, a military court sentenced the former US soldier to 35 years in prison. Later, however, the then-President Barack Obama commuted his sentence.​​​​​​​

Source

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==See Also==

 George Galloway: US govt’s persecution of Chelsea Manning is medieval punishment, the cutting out of tongues, the murder of truth

 

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Coronavirus: 8 essential tips for staying safe

These coronavirus tips will help you stay healthy as COVID-19 spreads

Coronavirus tips: Hand washing

Knowing and following coronavirus tips is crucial to staying healthy as COVID-19 continues to spread across the world.

Many of these safety tips are common sense precautions. All come from recommendations made by reputable organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

COVID-19 is spreading at a fast pace. As of March 12, there are over 127,750 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide and 1,323 in the US. The government has instituted a coronavirus travel ban against non-authorized people who have departed from 26 European countries (not including the UK).

If coronavirus has made its way to your community, you may be concerned that you or a loved one are at risk of catching the disease.Here are essential tips for staying safe and healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Wash your hands the right way

The CDC recommends washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you’ve been in a public place and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Also wash your hands after you’ve been to the bathroom and before eating.

To time handwashing to 20 seconds, you can sing the Happy Birthday song twice. Or try singing the chorus to Toto’s Africa or Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide. There’s now a coronavirus handwashing meme based on a site called Wash Your Lyrics. You can make your own  infographic with the lyrics to your favorite song, timed to 20 seconds, like so:

Coronavirus tips: Wash your hands lyrics

(Image credit: WashYourLyrics.com)

If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Make sure to cover the entire surface of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

2. Use a tissue for coughs and sneezes, or your elbow

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away afterward. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve.

(Note: Sneezing is not a common symptom of COVID-19, but better to develop healthy habits.)

The main mode of coronavirus transmission is through respiratory droplets. Either people breathe in those droplets or people touch a surface that the droplets landed on. It’s unknown how long droplets of the new coronavirus remain infectious, but according to WHO, similar coronaviruses can survive on surfaces from a few hours up to a few days, depending on the environment. For more information about this, read this guide by LiveScience.

3. Engage in social distancing

Avoid close contact with anyone who’s sick. The CDC recommends that you maintain a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) from anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets into the air, which may contain the virus. If you’re too close, you could breathe in those droplets.

4. Practice other good health habits

Get a good night’s sleep. Exercise. Drink plenty of fluids. Eat nutritious food. Take vitamins.

And if you’re worried about going to the gym, there is actually a lower risk of picking up coronavirus at a gym than a church service (that’s what Dr. David Thomas, a professor of medicine and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine told The New York Times).

Many gyms, like Equinox and YogaWorks, are taking additional steps to clean equipment and surfaces. Dr. Thomas does recommend bringing your own alcohol wipes to swab equipment before using it.

5. Disinfect surfaces

Coronavirus tips: Disinfect surfaces

(Image credit: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe/Getty)

Clean and disinfect computers, telephones, doorknobs, switches, handles, bedside tables, bathroom sinks, toilets, counters, toys and other commonly-touched surfaces in your home and at your workplace.

If you can find them, Clorox wipes will likely be your best bet. Here’s how to clean your phone.

6. Prepare your household in case you get sick or are quarantined

Experts suggest that you stock a 30-day supply of your prescription medications and make sure you have other health supplies on hand, such as pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes and vitamins. Also replenish your cleaning supplies (like bleach and laundry detergent) and isopropyl rubbing alcohol. Here are the best coronavirus cleaning products according to the EPA.

Also consider stocking up with a two-week supply of food. And no, it doesn’t have to be just canned beans and rice. Electricity will still work, so you can also get frozen foods.  There are also food delivery apps, grocery delivery services, meal kit delivery services like Hello Fresh. Many of these services are introducing contact-less delivery, so the order will be dropped off outside the door.

Here’s a complete coronavirus checklist of what to buy to keep yourself safe.

7. Don’t wear a mask unless you’re already sick

Coronavirus tips: Face mask

(Image credit: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty)

The CDC and infectious disease specialists do not recommend face masks if you’re healthy. If you are sick, wear a facemask when you are around other people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you’re healthy, don’t stock up on face masks. Save them for the people who really need them.

8. Stay home if you’re sick

If you’re not feeling well, protect other people from infection by being extra cautious if you are not feeling well.

The most common coronavirus symptoms are fever and dry cough, followed by fatigue and shortness of breath. If you experience any of these, stay at home. Do not go to work, do not take public transportation, do not go to the grocery store, do not take your kids to school. Contact your employer to figure out how to best manage your work responsibilities. Here are the best home office tech and supplies to work from home.

If you do get sick, contact your health care professional to get advice and treatment options.

The Democrats’ Quandary

In a struggle between oligarchy and democracy, something must give

By Michael Hudson

February 26, 2020 “Information Clearing House” – To hear the candidates debate, you would think that their fight was over who could best beat Trump. But when Trump’s billionaire twin Mike Bloomberg throws a quarter-billion dollars into an ad campaign to bypass the candidates actually running for votes in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, it’s obvious that what really is at issue is the future of the Democrat Party. Bloomberg is banking on a brokered convention held by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in which money votes. (If “corporations are people,” so is money in today’s political world.)

Until Nevada, all the presidential candidates except for Bernie Sanders were playing for a brokered convention. The party’s candidates seemed likely to be chosen by the Donor Class, the One Percent and its proxies, not the voting class (the 99 Percent). If, as Mayor Bloomberg has assumed, the DNC will sell the presidency to the highest bidder, this poses the great question: Can the myth that the Democrats represent the working/middle class survive? Or, will the Donor Class trump the voting class?

This could be thought of as “election interference” – not from Russia but from the DNC on behalf of its Donor Class. That scenario would make the Democrats’ slogan for 2020 “No Hope or Change.” That is, no change from today’s economic trends that are sweeping wealth up to the One Percent.

All this sounds like Rome at the end of the Republic in the 1st century BC. The way Rome’s constitution was set up, candidates for the position of consul had to pay their way through a series of offices. The process started by going deeply into debt to get elected to the position of aedile, in charge of staging public games and entertainments. Rome’s neoliberal fiscal policy did not tax or spend, and there was little public administrative bureaucracy, so all such spending had to be made out of the pockets of the oligarchy. That was a way of keeping decisions about how to spend out of the hands of democratic politics. Julius Caesar and others borrowed from the richest Bloomberg of their day, Crassus, to pay for staging games that would demonstrate their public spirit to voters (and also demonstrate their financial liability to their backers among Rome’s One Percent). Keeping election financing private enabled the leading oligarchs to select who would be able to run as viable candidates. That was Rome’s version of Citizens United.

But in the wake of Sanders’ landslide victory in Nevada, a brokered convention would mean the end of the Democrat Party pretense to represent the 99 Percent. The American voting system would be seen to be as oligarchic as that of Rome on the eve of the infighting that ended with Augustus becoming Emperor in 27 BC.

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Today’s pro-One Percent media – CNN, MSNBC and The New York Times have been busy spreading their venom against Sanders. On Sunday, February 23, CNN ran a slot, “Bloomberg needs to take down Sanders, immediately.” Given Sanders’ heavy national lead, CNN warned, the race suddenly is almost beyond the vote-fixers’ ability to fiddle with the election returns. That means that challengers to Sanders should focus their attack on him; they will have a chance to deal with Bloomberg later (by which CNN means, when it is too late to stop him).

The party’s Clinton-Obama recipients of Donor Class largesse pretend to believe that Sanders is not electable against Donald Trump. This tactic seeks to attack him at his strongest point. Recent polls show that he is the only candidate who actually would defeat Trump – as they showed that he would have done in 2016.

The DNC knew that, but preferred to lose to Trump than to win with Bernie. Will history repeat itself? Or to put it another way, will this year’s July convention become a replay of Chicago in 1968?

A quandary, not a problem

Last year I was asked to write a scenario for what might happen with a renewed DNC theft of the election’s nomination process. To be technical, I realize, it’s not called theft when it’s legal. In the aftermath of suits over the 2016 power grab, the courts ruled that the Democrat Party is indeed controlled by the DNC members, not by the voters. When it comes to party machinations and decision-making, voters are subsidiary to the superdelegates in their proverbial smoke-filled room (now replaced by dollar-filled foundation contracts).

I could not come up with a solution that does not involve dismantling and restructuring the existing party system. We have passed beyond the point of having a solvable “problem” with the Democratic National Committee (DNC). That is what a quandary is. A problem has a solution – by definition. A quandary does not have a solution. There is no way out. The conflict of interest between the Donor Class and the Voting Class has become too large to contain within a single party. It must split.

A second-ballot super-delegate scenario would mean that we are once again in for a second Trump term. That option was supported by five of the six presidential contenders on stage in Nevada on Wednesday, February 20. When Chuck Todd asked whether Michael Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar would support the candidate who received the most votes in the primaries (now obviously Bernie Sanders), or throw the nomination to the super-delegates held over from the Obama-Clinton neoliberals (75 of whom already are said to have pledged their support to Bloomberg), each advocated “letting the process play out.” That was a euphemism for leaving the choice to the Tony-Blair style leadership that have made the Democrats the servants’ entrance to the Republican Party. Like the British Labour Party behind Blair and Gordon Brown, its role is to block any left-wing alternative to the Republican program on behalf of the One Percent.

This problem would not exist if the United States had a European-style parliamentary system that would enable a third party to obtain space on the ballots in all 50 states. If this were Europe, the new party of Bernie Sanders, AOC et al. would exceed 50 percent of the votes, leaving the Wall Street democrats with about the same 8 percent share that similar neoliberal democratic parties have in Europe (e.g., Germany’s hapless neoliberalized Social Democrats), that is, Klobocop territory as voters moved to the left. The “voting Democrats,” the 99 Percent, would win a majority leaving the Old Neoliberal Democrats in the dust.

The DNC’s role is to prevent any such challenge. The United States has an effective political duopoly, as both parties have created such burdensome third-party access to the ballot box in state after state that Bernie Sanders decided long ago that he had little alternative but to run as a Democrat.

The problem is that the Democrat Party does not seem to be reformable. That means that voters still may simply abandon it – but that will simply re-elect the Democrats’ de facto 2020 candidate, Donald Trump. The only hope would be to shrink the party into a shell, enabling the old guard to go away so that the party could be rebuilt from the ground up.

But the two parties have created a legal duopoly reinforced with so many technical barriers that a repeat of Ross Perot’s third party (not to mention the old Socialist Party, or the Whigs in 1854) would take more than one election cycle to put in place. For the time being, we may expect another few months of dirty political tricks to rival those of 2016 as Obama appointee Tom Perez is simply the most recent version of Florida fixer Debbie Schultz-Wasserman (who gave a new meaning to the Wasserman Test).

So we are in for another four years of Donald Trump. But by 2024, how tightly will the U.S. economy find itself tied in knots?

The Democrats’ Vocabulary of Deception:
How I would explain Bernie’s Program

Every economy is a mixed economy. But to hear Michael Bloomberg and his fellow rivals to Bernie Sanders explain the coming presidential election, one would think that an economy must be either capitalist or, as Bloomberg put it, Communist. There is no middle ground, no recognition that capitalist economies have a government sector, which typically is called the “socialist” sector – Social Security, Medicare, public schooling, roads, anti-monopoly regulation, and public infrastructure. These are a valid alternative to privatized monopolies extracting economic rent.

What Mr. Bloomberg means by insisting that it’s either capitalism or communism is an absence of government social spending and regulation. In practice this means oligarchic financial control, because every economy is planned by some sector. The key is, who will do the planning? If government refrains from taking the lead in shaping markets, then Wall Street takes over – or the City in London, Frankfurt in Germany, and the Bourse in France.

Most of all, the aim of the One Percent is to distract attention from the fact that the economy is polarizing – and is doing so at an accelerating rate. National income statistics are rigged to show that “the economy” is expanding. The pretense is that everyone is getting richer and living better, not more strapped. But the reality is that all the growth in GDP has accrued to the wealthiest 5 Percent since the Obama Recession began in 2008. Obama bailed out the banks instead of the 10 million victimized junk-mortgage holders. The 95 Percent’s share of GDP has shrunk.

The GDP statistics do not show that “capital gains” – the market price of stocks, bonds and real estate owned mainly by the One to Five Percent – has soared. This is thanks to Obama’s $4.6 trillion Quantitative Easing pumped into the financial markets instead of into the “real” economy in which wage-earners produce goods and services.

How does one “stay the course” in an economy that is polarizing? Staying the course means continuing the existing trends that are concentrating more and more wealth in the hands of the One Percent, that is, the Donor Class – while loading down the 99 Percent with more debt, paid to the One Percent (euphemized as the economy’s “savers”). All “saving” is at the top of the pyramid. The 99 Percent can’t afford to save much after paying their monthly “nut” to the One Percent.

If this economic polarization is impoverishing most of the population while sucking wealth and income and political power up to the One Percent, then to be a centrist is to be the candidate of oligarchy. It means not challenging the economy’s structure.

Language is being crafted to confuse voters into imagining that their interest is the same as that of the Donor Class of rentiers, creditors and financialized corporate businesses and rent-extracting monopolies. The aim is to divert attention from voters’ own economic interest as wage-earners, debtors and consumers. It is to confuse voters not to recognize that without structural reform, today’s “business as usual” leaves the One Percent in control.

So to call oneself a “centrist” is simply a euphemism for acting as a lobbyist for siphoning up income and wealth to the One Percent. In an economy that is polarizing, the choice is to favor them instead of the 99 Percent.

That certainly is not the same thing as stability. Centrism sustains the polarizing dynamic of financialization, private equity, and the Biden-sponsored bankruptcy “reform” written by his backers of the credit-card companies and other financial entities incorporated in his state of Delaware. He was the senator for that state’s Credit Card industry, much as former Democratic VP candidate Joe Lieberman was the senator from Connecticut’s Insurance Industry.

A related centrist demand is that of Buttigieg’s and Biden’s aim to balance the federal budget. This turns out to be a euphemism for cutting back Social Security, Medicare and replace social spending (“socialism”) to pay for America’s increasing militarization, subsidies and tax cuts for the One Percent. Sanders rightly calls this “socialism for the rich.” The usual word for this is oligarchy. That seems to be a missing word in today’s mainstream vocabulary.

The alternative to democracy is oligarchy. As Aristotle noted already in the 4th century BC, oligarchies turn themselves into hereditary aristocracies. This is the path to serfdom. To the vested financial interests, Hayek’s “road to serfdom” means a government strong enough to tax wealth and keep basic essential infrastructure in the public domain, providing its services to the population at subsidized prices instead of letting its services be monopolized.

Confusion over the word “socialism” may be cleared up by recognizing that every economy is mixed, and every economy is planned – by someone. If not the government in the public interest, then by Wall Street and other financial centers in their interest. They fought against an expanding government sector in every economy today, calling it socialism – without acknowledging that the alternative, as Rosa Luxemburg put it, is barbarism.

I think that Sanders is using the red-letter word “socialism” and calling himself a “democratic socialist” to throw down the ideological gauntlet and plug himself into the long and powerful tradition of socialist politics. Paul Krugman would like to call himself a social democrat. But the European parties of this name have discredited this label as being centrist and neoliberal. Sanders wants to emphasize that a quantum leap, a phase change is in order.

If he can be criticized for waving a needlessly red flag, it is his repeated statement that his program is designed for the “working class.” What he means are wage-earners and this includes the middle class. Even those who make over $100,000 a year are still wage earners, and typically are being squeezed by a predatory financial sector, a predatory medical insurance sector, drug companies and other monopolies.

The danger in this terminology is that most workers like to think of themselves as middle class, because that is what they would like to rise into. That is especially the case for workers who own their own home (even if mortgage represents most of the value, so that most of the home’s rental value is paid to banks, not to themselves as part of the “landlord class”), and have an education (even if most of their added income is paid out as student debt service), and their own car to get to work (involving automobile debt).

The fact is that even $100,000 executives have difficulty living within the limits of their paycheck, after paying their monthly nut of home mortgage or rent, medical care, student loan debt, credit-card debt and automobile debt, not to mention 15% FICA paycheck withholding and state and local tax withholding.

Of course, Sanders’ terminology is much more readily accepted by wage-earners as the voters whom Hillary called “Deplorables” and Obama called “the mob with pitchforks,” from whom he was protecting his Wall Street donors whom he invited to the White House in 2009. But I think there is a much more appropriate term: the 99 Percent, made popular by Occupy Wall Street. That is Bernie’s natural constituency. It serves to throw down the gauntlet between democracy and oligarchy, and between socialism and barbarism, by juxtaposing the 99 Percent to the One Percent.

The Democratic presidential debate on February 25 will set the stage for Super Tuesday’s “beauty contest” to gauge what voters want. The degree of Sanders’ win will help determine whether the byzantine Democrat party apparatus actually will be able to decide on the Party’s candidate. The expected strong Sanders win will make the choice stark: either to accept who the voters choose – namely, Bernie Sanders – or to pick a candidate whom voters already have rejected, and is certain to lose to Donald Trump in November.

If that occurs, the Democrat Party will evaporate as its old Clinton-Obama guard is no longer able to protect its donor class on Wall Street and corporate America. Too many Sanders voters would stay home or vote for the Greens. That would enable the Republicans to maintain control of the Senate and perhaps even grab back the House of Representatives.

But it would be dangerous to assume that the DNC will be reasonable. Once again, Roman history provides a “business as usual” scenario. The liberal German politician Theodor Mommsen published his History of Rome in 1854-56, warning against letting an aristocracy block reform by controlling the upper house of government (Rome’s Senate, or Britain House of Lords). The leading families who overthrew the last king in 509 BC created a Senate chronically prone to being stifled by its leaders’ “narrowness of mind and short-sightedness that are the proper and inalienable privileges of all genuine patricianism.”

These qualities also are the distinguishing features of the DNC. Sanders had better win big!

Michael Hudson is President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), a Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and author of J is for Junk Economics (2017), Killing the Host (2015), The Bubble and Beyond (2012), Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (1968 & 2003), Trade, Development and Foreign Debt (1992 & 2009) and of The Myth of Aid (1971), amongst many others.

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==See Also==

Sanders & Socialism: Debate Between Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman & Socialist Economist Richard Wolff

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/53044.htm

 

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.