Author: shahidkingbolsen

Independent Islamic thinker

BLM should be praying for a Trump win

Thinking as a strategist, #BlackLivesMatter has a number of problems as an opposition / protest movement. Firstly, there are exactly zero people who object to the concept expressed in their name. In many ways, this is a stroke of strategic genus, but it also creates problems for the movement. It is hard to be convincingly outraged when you have no opponent insisting that Black lives do NOT matter. If you have a movement called “Orphans are people”, or any other universally accepted premise, it would be difficult to energize much momentum beyond the immediate collective response of society: “indeed”.

This leads to the second problem, which the movement has dealt with quite cleverly: justifying the need for your movement’s existence. #BLM has chosen the deaths of Black suspects at the hands of police as its primary rationale for existing. This too is awkward, given the fact that there are so few such incidents, and what incidents there are, tend to contain no irrefutable racist elements. This is why BLM has rigidly refused to acknowledge criminality in the Black community; because they need to necessarily include the deaths of criminals in justified police shootings in their litany of injustices. It is a slick move, and one that can only work in the peculiar dynamics of America’s racial history. However, it is a risky strategy. Facts of a victim’s criminal behavior will always emerge, and that not only can lower public sympathy but also impugn the movement’s credibility.

When you have a relatively weak justification for your existence as a movement, you need to maintain a high level of emotional, unanalytical, urgency; you need constant momentum. This again, is why criminality cannot be allowed into discussion. Roughly 500 Black criminals are shot by police every year; as long as you can obscure their criminality as a factor in those shootings, you can reliably generate outrage over the killing of a Black person on a regular basis.

The next problem is that any movement with an actually meagre justification for existence is that the outrage required to sustain momentum – the momentum needed to distract from the weakness of your existential rationale –needs to be directed at a more or less abstract target; some sort of effigy upon which the rage can be unloaded. Once you have created the necessary militant emotions to sustain your movement, you cannot afford to be placated by undramatic policy enactments that can practically address the actually minor, though serious, grievances you are protesting.

This is why any strategist for BLM must surely pray for a Trump victory in November. More than anything else, Black Lives Matter is an anti-Trump movement, and his removal as the chief nemesis will be devastating to the movement. Trump completes them. He has been designated since before his election as the embodiment of White supremacy. If Joe Biden wins, and we have what everyone expects to be a Harris presidency, well, you can see the problem.

On BLM and ISIS

#BLM and #ISIS are dangerous extremist movements.

Both groups claim a slogan that rings virtuous to their target audiences, but which neither group believes in practice.

Both groups oppose Western Civilization.

Both groups threaten and use violence and intimidation to advance their goals.

Both groups have attempted to seize territory by force.

Both groups demonize disagreement.

Both groups promote a distorted version of history to justify their radical programs.

Both groups manipulate valid grievances to indoctrinate young people, sow division and incite destructive behavior.

If you really believe that there is a significant difference between these two groups, you are just as deceived as the Muslims who allowed themselves to be enthralled by #ISIS six or seven years ago.

The words on the BLM flag do not resonate with average people more than the words on the ISIS flag resonate with Muslims. No one could understand why Muslims might put the ISIS logo as their profile picture on Facebook in 2014, but the BLM logo today is almost mandatory for any business to display, and for any individual who wants to be regarded as decent and virtuous to adopt.

It is true, BLM has not committed violence on a level remotely close to the atrocities of ISIS — yet. The mentality, however, is not substantially different. If you thought that shows of Muslim support for ISIS revealed our innate savagery, be informed that such support was always minuscule, and often the result of online pressure from extremist trolls, or else sheer self-delusion about the true nature of that group because of their masterful manipulation of grievances and righteous rhetoric; just like BLM. A number of Muslims were misled, and the most fortunate among them have lived to deeply regret it. #BlackLivesMatter, however, has achieved mainstream endorsement, corporate backing, and almost unanimous media support; despite the fact that they — like ISIS — do not genuinely reflect the views of most of the people they claim to represent.

Americans have succumbed to radicalization with far greater speed and in far greater numbers than Muslims ever did with our extremist ideologies. No, this does not indicate intrinsic barbarity, but the zealotry of good intentions and a mania for rigid interpretations of righteousness born largely out of an exaggerated sense of shame and powerlessness.

More fallacious Covid projections — this time economic ones

“We can all recognise nonsense on stilts when it comes tripping into the room”

–David berlinski

 

This article has been making the rounds on social media, and yes, it is nonsense on stilts.  I will share the link in the comments rather that in the body of the post because I don’t want anyone to accidentally share the article without the refutation of it.

Let me begin by taking the arguments at face value.

First of all, the article disingenuously asserts that the Value of a Statistical Life (used by governments to assign a dollar value to each citizen’s life) is uniform for all age groups.  It isn’t.

The article uses the maximum VSL to calculate the financial cost of projected Covid deaths, rather than the significantly lower VSL applied to the elderly, who form the overwhelming majority of Covid fatalities.  Add to this the fact that the elderly represent a cost for the government by staying alive, as they receive monthly pension payouts which will become a savings for the government if they die.

When you adjust VSL for age, the article’s projection of a $1 trillion dollar loss, due to presumed deaths in the absence of a lockdown, immediately falls to $150 billion.  When you subtract pension payouts, obviously, that cost is further reduced by at least another $10 billion or so. Later in the article, the author estimates the economic cost of lockdown to be roughly $90 billion; so we are already at just a $50 billion difference between the cost of lockdown versus the cost of having no lockdown.  In other words, just like the Imperial College study in the UK, the projections are drastically inaccurate; from $1 trillion to $140 billion constitutes a monumental accounting error.

Now, the other thing that has to be considered whether or not the projected Covid19 deaths in the absence of a lockdown are actually excess deaths, or are, in fact, consistent with the expected average mortality rate in Australia (or any other country that wishes to use this same argument).

Data globally has shown that Covid had not, by and large, resulted in significant excess deaths – even in Italy; which means that the projected economic losses the author claims would result from a lack of lockdown, would likely occur anyway.  This is precisely why the VSL for elderly people is lower than the VSL of young people.  So, if we estimate that only a minor percentage of Covid19 deaths represent excess deaths, then only that percentage would be considered excess or avoidable economic losses.  In Italy, only around 10% of Covid deaths could be considered excess deaths, so if we apply that equation to Australia, it leaves you with a total excess financial loss of around only $2.8 billion.

So now we have gone from an estimate of $1 trillion down to just under $3 billion.  Remember, the article later estimates the economic cost of lockdown as being around $90 billion — $87 billion MORE than if there were no lockdown, when you are actually being honest about the numbers/

Now, looking even more critically, the entire premise is based on a false assumption, namely that lockdown saves lives.  As stated, only a small percentage of Covid deaths are excess deaths anyway, but that is almost beside the point.  Governments have not imposed lockdowns to save lives; they have imposed lockdowns to MITIGATE the spread of the virus – to stagger the infection rate over a longer period of time to accommodate the inadequacies of the healthcare system.  In other words, lockdowns are not even intended to avoid the excess deaths; they are intended to space those excess deaths across a longer time frame; that’s all.  So, ultimately, ALL of the economic losses attributable to Covid19 are going to happen anyway, with or without lockdown.  So the argument is itself an utter fallacy.

What that means is that it is not a question of comparing and contrasting the losses of lockdown versus no lockdown; it is a matter of compounding the losses attributable to Covid with the losses attributable to lockdown.  Shutting down the economy does not, is not, will not, and is not intended to save lives and reduce economic losses caused by Covid deaths.  Those deaths and those losses will occur either way, just with lockdown, you are adding (according to the author) ANOTHER $90 billion in economic losses on top of the losses caused by the deaths.

Now, one final point.  The author says that the money spent by the government as “support” during the lockdown does not amount to “loss” it is “a transfer of resources from one part of society to another”, and that is true.  It is a transfer of public money into the private sector with a concomitant policy of vast impoverishment, indebtedness, and bankruptcy for tens of millions of working people.  So no, you cannot simply look at overall GDP to gauge the cost of lockdown to the health and stability of your economy.  You have to look at household debt, at the value of your currency, inflation, cost of living, and so on.  When you look at these metrics, the damage to the economy, and to people’s lives is almost unfathomable, and will persist for years if not decades.

This article, like every single other fanciful projection about all things Covid, is drastically, mind-bogglingly, and grotesquely wrong.

 

Saving lives is also a money issue

This is a pandemic, it is a crisis, we are told. It is about saving lives, we are told, the economy will just have to wait. It is heartless of anyone to talk about money right now.
 
OK.
 
Since the #Coronavirus fear-mongers are begrudgingly coming to terms with the fact that the virus death rate is less than 1%, they have redirected their horror away from potential fatalities and instead now raise the alarm about the potential over-burdening of hospitals.
 
OK, but that is a money issue. You are also talking about money. Hospitals need more resources. Ventilators cost between $25,000 for a basic model to $50,000 for a machine used in the most advanced intensive care units, and most hospitals simply cannot afford to buy more.
 
They can afford, however, to pay hospital executives tens of millions of dollars in salaries and bonuses.
 
A report last year found that hospitals “lavishly compensate their CEOs, and spend millions of dollars, which are generated by patient fees, lobbying government to defend the status quo.”
 
The report stated that “collectively, $297.5 million in cash compensation flowed to the top paid executive” at each of the 82 hospitals they reviewed. They found “payouts as high as $10 million, $18 million and even $21.6 million per CEO or other top-paid employee.”
 
Hospital executives in New York alone received $80 million last year just in bonuses. That amount of money could have purchased 1,600 top end ventilators for New York hospitals. But now, millions of working people and small businesses in the US have to watch their jobs and livelihoods disappear; face likely insolvency, and be buried alive under a mountain of debt they may never dig their way out of, have their vehicles repossessed and their mortgages foreclosed; all because hospitals did not allocate their budgets in the best interests of public health and safety.
 
So, just remember that next time you want to tell working class families that they are being selfish when they want to be able to return to their jobs in order to put food on the table. You are advocating shutting down the entire economy, costing tens of millions of people their jobs and transferring responsibility for hospitals’ unpreparedness to the general public, to protect the extravagant wealth and impunity of hospital executives
 

Blame Medicaid and budget cuts for NYC’s higher Covid19 hospitalization rates

New York has gotten quite a bit of attention lately in the #Coronavirus coverage because, apparently, the city’s percentage of younger patients being hospitalized with #Covid19 is higher than reported in any of the over 200 countries with confirmed cases.  ICU admissions and fatalities among the younger demographic, however, are more or less consistent with international pattenrs.

So, why are so many more younger patients being hospitalized in New York?  Does the virus just behave differently in the Big Apple for some unknown reason?  When illogical things happen, you have to try to find logical explanations, so let me suggest a fairly straightforward possibility.

New York hospitals need money.  The ones that don’t need money, want money.  Last year, New York hospital executives received $80 million in bonuses; that takes quite a bite out of the budget.

One Brooklyn hospital that was highlighted in the media, Brookdale, is what is referred to as a “safety net hospital”, meaning at least 30% of inpatient care is paid for by Medicaid (the government’s healthcare program for the poor).

One in five New Yorkers are enrolled in Medicaid and, according to a report in the Daily Mail, “A stark New York City map has revealed that there are higher numbers of cases of coronavirus in poorer neighbourhoods than in wealthier zip codes”.  So, it appears that the segment of the population whose medical care is subsidized by Medicaid, which is to say, whose hospital bills are 100% covered by the government, require hospitalization more than other people.

Now, the hospitals in these neighbourhoods, like Brookdale, have faced, and are actually facing right now, funding cuts.  When their bills will be paid by the state, hospitalizing patients who may not actually require inpatient care, can be a significant source of revenue for a hospital grappling with budget cuts. Medicaid incentivizes them to admit patients into the facility even when they may be perfectly safe to recover at home.  Bear in mind that Medicaid fraud in New York is estimated to amount to around $18 billion per year, and the bulk of that is fraud by providers, not recipients.

Hospitals like Brookdale have to offset budget cuts however they can.  Here it is worth noting that if the healthcare system is overwhelmed during the Covid-19 pandemic, it has less to do with the pandemic and more to do with the Neoliberal de-funding of health services over the past several years. But yes, more Medicaid money is paid out in New York than in any other state, Covid-19 testing and treatment is covered by Medicaid, and the eligibility requirements for enrolment in Medicaid have been eased in response to the pandemic.  So, expensive treatments for low-income patients will be guaranteed, and these patients will mostly be seeking care from neighbourhood hospitals that are struggling to survive financially

Now, it goes without saying that I am not suggesting there are no legitimate hospitalizations of younger people infected with the virus; but I believe the percentage of necessary hospitalizations of younger patients is probably actually in line with global patterns, and the incentive to hospitalize Medicaid recipients accounts for the uniquely higher percentage in New York.

Playing with the lights

UK Power Networks, which provides electricity to the southeast and east of England, including London,has warned customers to prepare for blackouts, claiming that the #lockdown measures imposed over the #coronavirus have left the company short-staffed.
Now, with industrial energy use being drastically reduced during the lockdowns, even with increased home consumption, it is unlikely that there is any genuine inability to provide power.
So why is this happening? My first reaction was that it represented a kind of psychological tactic to habituate UK citizens to a kind of deprivation, which would then lower their quality of life expectations. In other words; like in a prison when inmates are deprived of various privileges, they become more docile and grateful when some of those privileges are restored, and are less hostile. This could be a strategy for managing the population during lockdown.
But then I discovered something interesting about UK Power Networks; it is 60% Chinese-owned. In fact, 24% of Britain’s electricity sector is Chinese-owned. So it is conceivable that the threat of blackouts may be some sort of power play (no pun intended).
Just a day before UK Power Networks’ customers were threatened with blackouts, it was reported that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was “furious” with China, accusing the state of lying about the number of #coronavirus cases in the country, and hinting that he may scrap a major deal with Huawei to oversee a new 5G network in the UK — a deal the United States opposed from the beginning.
Is China using its ability to shut off the lights in London as leverage against the government?

The dangerous act of walking outside

Look at how far they have pushed us in an incredibly short period of time, through irrational fear; to the point that it is a dangerous act of protest to simply walk outside.

Well, that is what is going to happen eventually if governments continue to impose “medical martial law”; banning protest, banning expression, banning freedom of assembly , all in one fell swoop. There will inevitably be a civil disobedience “walkout movement” in which people just….go outside.

Yes, ok, you can say such an act would be selfish; say that it is fine if these people don’t mind risking being infected by #coronavirus, but they have no right to put others in danger of having the virus transmitted to them. OK, simple solution: If you are afraid of infection, if you are from a vulnerable group…stay home, and let the rest of the population claim their freedom and basic rights.

Why don’t we just voluntarily divide ourselves between “Outsiders” and “Insiders”?

If the government is concerned about hospital capacity, then maybe use the apparently billions of dollars they have lying around to improve the healthcare sector, build or buy ventilators, etc; you know, actually spend money to care for people instead of acting like putting the population under house arrest is a solution in the 21st Century. If they had not put whole countries under lockdown, they would not have to dole out relief money to companies and workers (not that workers are going to receive any meaningful support).

But, that approach would not enable the massive transfer of public funds to the private sector, and it would not habituate the population to severe repression.

 

Boiling the frog

لقراءة المقال بالعربية انتقل إلى الأسفل

The characteristics of Totalitarian regimes in normal circumstances make them highly efficient in emergencies. Issues of freedom, liberty, human rights, justice and fairness are tertiary, if they play any role at all in decision-making. The lack of concern for these matters allows Totalitarian systems to make decisions very quickly, and enforce those decisions without delay.

At a certain point in history, however, people decided that efficient power was less important than moral and accountable power. No one was ignorant of the risks involved when they decided that government should be concerned about principles like liberty even at the cost of expediency; but they felt that the dangers of Totalitarian control were far too much of a gamble.

The efficiency of dictatorial power during emergencies was not enough of a good to outweigh its bad on a daily basis, and thus, by choosing governmental models that place higher value on things like freedom and human rights, we knew that we might be slightly less effective during moments of crisis, because we could not sweep our principles off the table in an emergency and impose drastic measures without hesitation. Rather, we would have to find solutions that address the crisis while still upholding the beliefs to which the government was dedicated.

This has been an ongoing conflict in the West, particularly the United States, for many decades. As institutions of private power have grown – corporations – the Totalitarian impulse has been an increasingly hard to resist reflex. Corporations, after all, are Totalitarian structures, and very few politicians, if any, are not themselves reared within the corporate sector and are beholden to it. The same, of course, is true for the electorate. We exist several hours a day, most of our waking hours, within Totalitarian institutions, within Totalitarian cultures, in the workplace. Our rights are not self-evident at work; they are negotiated with the employers; even down to what we can or cannot wear, for example.

I think this has estranged us from the understanding of fundamental democratic principles. We are so accustomed to the Totalitarian model in our every day lives that we, like corporations and like Totalitarian regimes, de-value basic rights and freedoms in favour of efficiency.

This is rather like the old adage about how you boil a frog; if you try to drop it in boiling water, it will jump out immediately; but if you place it in cold water and heat it slowly, the frog will remain, adapting to the rising temperature until it boils to death.

You can witness this by the fact that there are loud public condemnations of anyone disobeying the various forms of martial law being imposed in country after country under the pretext of the #Coronavirus, while very little is being said about the governments’ refusal to implement genuinely useful measures to protect the vulnerable. The fault is with the people, not with power; if the virus spreads it is because people are too selfish about their personal liberty, not because the government has failed to deal with the problem while still preserving the society’s fundamental values.

Governments that are not even bothering to test their citizens for the virus, that are not providing the necessary — and obviously available — resources to insulate the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions from exposure, and are not adequately diverting funding to medical services; are being rebuked, not for the above failures, but for failing to repress their populations with sufficient thoroughness.

This is precisely why the original decision was made that Totalitarian efficiency cannot be allowed to win over democratic morality; because that efficient use of total power is not going to be exercised except for the benefit of the powerful, whether in normal circumstances or in emergencies. That is what is happening right now, and if we become accustomed to Totalitarian methods, if we become tolerant of Totalitarian methods, once our rights are swept off the table, they will be unrecoverable for generations to come.

سَلق الضفدع على مهل

إن خصائص الأنظمة الشمولية في الظروف العادية تجعلها ذات كفاءة عالية في حالات الطوارئ. فقضايا مثل الحرية، والاستقلال، وحقوق الإنسان، والعدل والإنصاف كلها تعتبر قضايا ثانوية… هذا إن لعبت أي دور على الإطلاق في صنع القرار. وعدم الاهتمام بهذه الأمور يسمح للأنظمة الشمولية باتخاذ القرارات بسرعة كبيرة، وفرض تلك القرارات دون تأخير.

ومع ذلك، وفي مرحلة معينة من التاريخ، قرر الناس أن السلطة الفعالة أقل أهمية من السلطة الأخلاقية والمساءلة. لم يكن أحد يجهل المخاطر التي تنطوي على هذا عندما قرروا أن الحكومة يجب أن تهتم بمبادئ مثل الحرية حتى على حساب النفعية، لكنهم شعروا أن مخاطر السيطرة الشمولية كانت أشبه ما تكون بالمقامرة الخطرة.

لم تكن كفاءة السلطة الديكتاتورية أثناء حالات الطوارئ كافية للتغلب على سيئاتها بشكل يومي، وبالتالي، فمع اختيار النماذج الحكومية التي تعطي قيمة أعلى لأشياء مثل الحرية وحقوق الإنسان، كنا نعلم أننا قد نكون أقل فاعلية قليلاً خلال الأزمات، لأننا لن نتمكن من إزالة مبادئنا من على الطاولة في حالات الطوارئ وفرض تدابير صارمة دون تردد، وبدلاً من ذلك، سيتعين علينا إيجاد حلول تعالج الأزمة مع الاستمرار في التمسك بالمعتقدات التي كرست الحكومة نفسها من أجلها.

ظل هذا صراعًا مستمرًا في الغرب، وخاصة في الولايات المتحدة، لعقود عديدة. ومع نمو مؤسسات السلطة الخاصة – أي الشركات – أصبح من الصعب جدا مقاومة الاندفاع للشمولية كرد فعل، فالشركات، في نهاية المطاف، ليست إلا هياكل استبدادية، كما أن عدد قليل جدًا من السياسيين، إن وجد، هم الذين لم ينشأوا في قطاع الشركات ومدينون له. وينطبق الشيء نفسه بالطبع على الناخبين. نحن جميعا نتواجد عدة ساعات في اليوم، معظم ساعات استيقاظنا، داخل مؤسسات شمولية، وداخل ثقافات شمولية، أثناء تواجدنا في أماكن عملنا. حقوقنا ليست بديهية في العمل، ولكنها عرضة للتفاوض مع أصحاب العمل… بما في ذلك ما يمكننا أو ما لا يمكننا ارتداءه، على سبيل المثال.

أعتقد أن هذا قد أبعدنا عن فهم المبادئ الديمقراطية الأساسية، فقد اعتدنا على النموذج الشمولي في حياتنا اليومية، لدرجة أننا، مثل الشركات والأنظمة الاستبدادية، نسفه من قيمة الحقوق والحريات الأساسية في مقابل الكفاءة.

هذا مثل القول المأثور القديم عن كيفية “سلق الضفدع على مهل”، فإذا حاولت إسقاطه في الماء المغلي، فسيقفز على الفور، ولكن إذا وضعته في ماء بارد وقمت بتسخينه ببطء، سيبقى الضفدع متكيفًا مع ارتفاع درجة الحرارة إلى أن يغلي حتى الموت.

والذي يشهد على هذا هو حقيقة أن هناك إدانات علنية وعالية لأي شخص يخالف أي نوع من الأحكام العرفية التي يتم فرضها في بلد تلو الآخر بذريعة #فيروس_كورونا، في حين لا يُقال إلا القليل جدًا عن رفض الحكومات لتطبيق التدابير المفيدة لحماية الضعفاء. المشكلة في الشعب، وليس في السلطة… إذا انتشر الفيروس، فذلك لأن الناس أنانيون جدًا بشأن حريتهم الشخصية، وليس لأن الحكومة فشلت في التعامل مع المشكلة مع الحفاظ على القيم الأساسية للمجتمع.

الحكومات التي لا تكلف نفسها عناء التحليل لمواطنيها للكشف عن الفيروس، والتي لا توفر الموارد اللازمة والمتاحة بشكل واضح لعزل كبار السن ومن يعانون من أمراض صحية مزمنة ومسبقة، ولا تقوم بتحويل التمويل بشكل كافٍ للخدمات الطبية؛ يتم توبيخها، ليس بسبب الإخفاقات المذكورة أعلاه، ولكن لفشلها في قمع شعوبها بدقة كافية.

ليس هكذا يفكر من يؤمنون بالديمقراطية!

إذا كان رد فعلنا على هذه السياسات القمعية غير المبررة والرجعية هو القبول بها، فلا يوجد سبب للاعتقاد بأنها لن تصبح القاعدة.

هذا هو السبب في أن القرار الأصلي كان هو ألا يُسمَح للكفاءة الشمولية بالفوز على المبادئ الديمقراطية. لأن الاستخدام الفعال للسلطة الشمولية لن يُمارس إلا لصالح الأقوياء، سواء في الظروف العادية أو في حالات الطوارئ. وهذا هو ما يحدث الآن، فإذا أصبحنا معتادين على الأساليب الشمولية وتسامحنا معها وتقبلناها، ثم أزيحت حقوقنا من على الطاولة، فلن تكون قابلة للاسترداد لأجيال قادمة.

Corona Capitalism

لقراءة المقال بالعربية انتقل إلى الأسفل

Following the financial crisis of 2008-2009, Central Banks around the world, including the US Federal Reserve lowered interest rates drastically, and the biggest multinational corporations on earth took advantage of this, borrowing huge amounts of money.  So much money that corporate debt reached $19 trillion by the end of last year. Anyone who was paying attention made the prediction that the corporate debt bubble was going to burst very soon, and it would be a financial catastrophe such that it would dwarf the global meltdown 12 years ago.  Even the IMF has been saying for months that the end is near because corporate debt was grotesquely high.

When these mega-companies took on the loans, officially, they were supposed to go to boost the economy, create more jobs, spur innovation, and so forth.   But instead, they used massive amounts of that money to buy back shares of their own companies, thereby raising share prices, giving CEOs and shareholders inflated, over-valued stocks, from which they derived obscenely high dividends.  But everyone knew the party was coming to an inevitable end, and that it would end in Apocalyptic slaughter.  When Christine Lagarde is actually telling companies what they are doing is going to end in tears, it’s like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas telling Robert DeNiro to slow down.  They knew their share values were artificially high (they had made them that way), and they knew they were going to drop, sooner rather than later, and they knew the only profitable option was to start selling the shares themselves while the values were still high.  Of course, doing this would predictably cause the stocks to plummet shortly thereafter, triggering a mammoth market crash.

Timing is everything

Enter, Coronavirus, the ultimate Ex Machina.  By end of February panic about the outbreak was already snowballing in the US as infections had been discovered throughout the country.  Selling began.  By the beginning of March, the first American died and there were mounting cases of confirmed infections.  Within a week, 20 were dead.  Events were being cancelled, and the Stock Market was, yes, dropping.  Ohio declared a state of emergency on March 9, and Wall Street experienced the biggest fall in history.  The crash was not caused by Coronavirus, it was covered by it.  Corporations that had used loans to buy back stocks, accumulating trillions of dollars in debt in the process, in order to inflate share values, triggered the most historic collapse Wall Street had ever seen by selling off their shares amidst the growing uncertainty and fear of the Covid19 pandemic, which would then be blamed for the crash.

 

‘The wealthiest 1% are the real victims in all this’

 

Before the unprecedented free fall on Wall Street, the IMF had warned that 40% of the corporate debt in 8 leading countries would be “impossible to service” if there were a downturn half as serious as the one that occurred in 2008.  Read that again, and you will understand that what these debtor corporations did from the end of February to early March was the equivalent of burning down their own house to collect the insurance money.  Except, with the Coronavirus, there was an already existing panic about a mad arsonist in the neighbourhood.

 

It was the Central Banks and Federal Reserve pumping “liquidity” into the market after 2008 that created the unsustainable debt, as well as the opportunity to inflate share prices and reap the dividends; and what immediately followed the crash of 2020?  The injection of $1.5 trillion in loans to pump “liquidity” back into the market.

Today, Christine Lagarde, who has since left the IMF and become head of the European Central Bank, announced that the ECB would “buy government and company debt across the eurozone”, because, after all, the corporate robber barons are the hardest hit by the crisis.

The Coronavirus’ usefulness for the self-enrichment, broadening and consolidation of power and control by the 1% has only barely been tapped.  You may have noticed that the most rapidly taken actions by governments around the world ostensibly to respond to the pandemic, prioritized and benefited larger corporations and provided almost nothing for the general population except restrictions.

In Germany, for example, the government announced a bailout package for businesses and banks “of an unlimited sum.” At least €500 billion will be provided to the banks and biggest corporations to help them cope with the Coronavirus crisis. Only the largest companies are being favoured, while others are sidelined.  For instance, loans from the state-controlled Bank of Reconstruction were previously available to businesses with an annual turnover of up to €500 million, but by some trick of logic, the threshold has been increased to €2 billion, in the wake of the virus.  Meanwhile, the only assurance Angela Merkel could offer the public was that she believed 70% of them would likely get infected, and she promptly sealed the borders, banned religious services, and ordered the closure of nonessential businesses.  A full lockdown is anticipated.

In the UK, corporations are jockeying for positon to collect taxpayers’ money to fortify their profits, with the airline industry calling for a £7.5 billion bailout. Sir Richard Branson, hailed this “unprecedented level of support.” Meanwhile, his company, Virgin Atlantic obliged workers to take eight weeks “unpaid leave” and said all his employees could otherwise accept “voluntary redundancy.”

Meanwhile, testing for Covid19 in the UK has completely stopped, with the public being strongly advised to just stay home if they feel sick.  Some 20,000 British troops are now on standby for domestic deployment to “fight the Coronavirus”; though how they will identify their incorporeal enemy without testing taking place, is anyone’s guess.

In country after country, big business is cushioned to help them cope with the trauma of the pandemic, and the population are dismissed to their homes, most often without paid leave.

The recommendations of the World Health Organisation are ignored in favour of one or another form of martial law, and medical services are increasingly overburdened as the virus inevitably spreads to the most vulnerable.  The WHO never advised travel bans, and travel bans have been imposed; they did not advise mass lockdowns, and mass lockdowns are imposed; they recommend early detection through readily accessible testing, and testing is abandoned; they recommend isolation of confirmed carriers of the virus, and contact tracing, and normal daily life for the entire society is shut down instead.

No, the responses of governments around the world do not demonstrate concern and care for their citizens, but indifference.  What we are seeing is a wholesale power grab and suppression of the population writ large, with policies that will have the absolutely predictable result of impoverishing hundreds of millions of people, with the lower class undoubtedly suffering the most harm.  Small to medium sized companies will fall by the wayside, and the population will be drowned in debt, while the strongest, most powerful companies will reap unprecedented bailouts, tax cuts, incentives, cash injections, and increased freedom to eliminate workers.

At the same time, the broad stroke “preventative” measures will continue to leave the most vulnerable segments of the public at risk and in competition for medical care with younger, less critical patients; with at least one result being that European countries and the United States will reduce their obligations to pay pensions and social security to the elderly and disabled, who will be the first to perish.

The prevailing acceptance of the state’s justification for “medical martial law” will likely mean that it is a justification that will be accepted on an ongoing basis, literally leaving society to be plundered while we are locked in our homes – if we still have homes.

 

الرأسمالية بنكهة الكورونا

بعد الأزمة المالية التي حدثت في 2008-2009، قامت البنوك المركزية في جميع أنحاء العالم (بما في ذلك مجلس الاحتياطي الفيدرالي الأمريكي) بخفض أسعار الفائدة بشكل كبير، واستفادت أكبر الشركات متعددة الجنسيات من هذا الأمر، فاقترضت مبالغ ضخمة من المال، وكانت هذه المبالغ ضخمة جدا جدا حتى وصلت ديون الشركات إلى 19 تريليون دولار بنهاية العام الماضي. توقع أي شخص كان مهتمًا بمتابعة الموضوع، أن فقاعة ديون الشركات ستنفجر في وقت قريب وأنها ستكون كارثة مالية بحيث تقزم الانهيار العالمي الذي حدث قبل 12 عامًا. حتى صندوق النقد الدولي كان يقول منذ شهور إن النهاية قريبة لأن ديون الشركات كانت مرتفعة بشكل مرعب للغاية.

عندما حصلت هذه الشركات الضخمة على القروض، كان من المفترض أن تذهب رسميًا لتعزيز الاقتصاد، وخلق المزيد من فرص العمل، وتحفيز الابتكار، وما إلى ذلك. ولكن بدلاً من ذلك، تم استخدام مبالغ ضخمة من هذه الأموال لإعادة شراء أسهم شركاتهم الخاصة، وبالتالي ارتفعت أسعار الأسهم، مما أتاح للمديرين التنفيذيين والمساهمين تضخمًا وقيمة متزايدة لأسهمهم جعلتهم يستمدوا منها أرباحًا باهظة. لكن الجميع كانوا يعلمون أن الحفلة كانت على وشك الانتهاء، وأنها ستنتهي بسيناريو أشبه ما يكون بنهاية العالم.

عندما تقول كريستين لاجارد للشركات أن ما يفعلونه سينتهي بالدموع، فإن الأمر أشبه ما يكون بجو بيشي في فيلم Goodfellas عندما طلب من روبرت دي نيرو أن يتمهل.

كانوا يعلمون أن قيم أسهمهم مرتفعة بشكل مصطنع (فهم أنفسهم من جعلوها بهذه الطريقة)، وكانوا يعلمون أنها ستهبط، عاجلاً وليس آجلاً، وكانوا يعرفون أن الخيار المربح الوحيد هو بدء بيع الأسهم بأنفسهم بينما كانت قيمتها لا تزال عالية. وبالطبع، فهذا كان سيؤدي إلى هبوط قيم الأسهم بعد ذلك بوقت قصير، مما سيؤدي إلى انهيار كبير في السوق.

التوقيت كان هو الفيصل

ثم يأتي فيروس كورونا ليدخل الصورة على يد القدر! وبحلول نهاية شهر فبراير، كان الذعر من تفشي المرض يتصاعد بالفعل في الولايات المتحدة حيث تم اكتشاف العدوى في جميع أنحاء البلاد… وهنا بدأ البيع! وبحلول بداية مارس، توفى أول أمريكي وكانت هناك حالات متزايدة من العدوى المؤكدة. وفي غضون أسبوع، مات 20 شخص، فتم إلغاء المناسبات الجماعية، وظل سوق الأسهم ينخفض. أعلنت ولاية أوهايو حالة الطوارئ في 9 مارس، وشهدت وول ستريت أكبر انخفاض في تاريخه. لم يكن سبب الانهيار هو فيروس كورونا، ولكنه تدثر بردائه. الشركات التي استخدمت القروض لإعادة شراء الأسهم، وتراكم تريليونات الدولارات من الديون في هذه العملية، من أجل تضخم قيم الأسهم، تسببت في الانهيار التاريخي الذي شهدته وول ستريت من خلال بيع أسهمها وسط تزايد عدم اليقين والخوف من جائحة Covid19، الذي سيتم بعد ذلك إلقاء اللوم عليه جراء هذا الانهيار.

الـ 1٪ الأغنى في العالم، هم الضحايا الحقيقيون هنا

قبل السقوط الحر غير المسبوق في وول ستريت، حذر صندوق النقد الدولي من أن 40٪ من ديون الشركات في 8 دول رائدة ستستحيل إدارتهاإذا حدثت نصف الانتكاسة الخطيرة التي حدثت في عام 2008. اقرأ هذا مرة ثانية، وستفهم أن ما فعلته هذه الشركات المدينة من نهاية فبراير إلى أوائل مارس كانت أشبه ما يكون بمن يحرق بيته من أجل جمع قيمة التأمين. وبغض النظر عن فيروس كورونا، كانت هناك بالفعل حالة ذعر من الإحراق المتعمد “للحي بأكمله”.

تدخل البنوك المركزية والاحتياطي الفيدرالي لضخ السيولةفي السوق بعد عام 2008 هو الذي خلق الدين الذي لا يمكن تحمله، فضلاً عن فرصة تضخيم أسعار الأسهم وجني أرباح الأسهم، ولكن ما الذي حدث بعد انهيار 2020 على الفور؟ تم ضخ 1.5 تريليون دولار من القروض لخلق السيولةمرة أخرى في السوق.

اليوم، أعلنت كريستين لاجارد، التي تركت صندوق النقد الدولي وأصبحت رئيسًا للبنك المركزي الأوروبي، أن البنك المركزي الأوروبي سيشتري ديون الحكومة والشركات عبر منطقة اليورو، ففي نهاية المطاف كان باروناتسرقة الشركات هم الأكثر تضررا بالأزمة.

عالم جديد شجاع

بالكاد تم الاستفادة من فيروس كورونا للإثراء الذاتي وتوسيع وتوطيد سلطة وتحكم نسبة الـ 1٪ هذه… فربما لاحظتم أن الإجراءات التي تتخذها الحكومات في جميع أنحاء العالم بسرعة أكبر استجابة للوباء بشكل ظاهري، إلا أنها تضع استفادة الشركات الكبيرة كأولوية، ولم تقدم شيئًا تقريبًا يذكر لعامة السكان إلا القيود على الحركة.

في ألمانيا، على سبيل المثال، أعلنت الحكومة عن حزمة من القرارات من أجل إنقاذ الشركات والبنوك بمبلغ غير محدود“. سيتم توفير ما لا يقل عن 500 مليار يورو للبنوك والشركات الكبرى لمساعدتها على التعامل مع أزمة فيروس كورونا. تم تفضيل الشركات الكبرى فقط، بينما تم تهميش الشركات الأخرى. على سبيل المثال، كانت القروض من بنك التعمير الذي تسيطر عليه الدولة متاحة سابقًا للشركات التي يبلغ حجم مبيعاتها السنوي ما يصل إلى 500 مليون يورو، ولكن من خلال بعض الحيل المنطقية، تم رفع هذه القيمة إلى 2 مليار يورو، في أعقاب الفيروس. وفي الوقت نفسه، فإن الضمان الوحيد الذي قدمته أنجيلا ميركل للجمهور هو أنها تعتقد أن 70 ٪ منهم من المحتمل أن يصابوا بالعدوى، وأغلقت الحدود على الفور، وحظرت الخدمات الدينية، وأمرت بإغلاق الشركات غير الضرورية. من المتوقع أن يحدث غلق كامل للبلد.

في المملكة المتحدة، تتنافس الشركات على نيل فرصة لجني أموال دافعي الضرائب لتعزيز أرباحها، حيث دعت صناعة الطيران إلى خطة لإنقاذها بـ 7.5 مليار جنيه استرليني. وأشاد السير ريتشارد برانسون بـ مستوى الدعم غير المسبوق هذا“. في حين أجبرت شركته فيرجين أتلانتيك الموظفين على أخذ إجازة بدون أجر لمدة ثمانية أسابيع وقالت إن جميع موظفيها يمكن أن يقبلوا الاستغناء الطوعيعنهم.

وفي الوقت نفسه، تم إيقاف التحاليل الخاصة بـ Covid19 في المملكة المتحدة تمامًا، وتم نصح الجمهور بشدة بالبقاء في المنزل إذا شعروا بالمرض. هناك حوالي 20.000 جندي بريطاني على أهبة الاستعداد الآن للانتشار المحلي لمحاربة فيروس كورونا“. ولا أحد يعرف كيف سيحددون عدوهم الخفي دون إجراء التحاليل.

في بلد تلو الآخر، يتم إيقاف الأعمال الكبيرة لمساعدتهم على التعامل مع صدمة الوباء، ويتم طرد السكان إلى منازلهم، وفي معظم الأحيان بدون إجازة مدفوعة الأجر.

يتم تجاهل توصيات منظمة الصحة العالمية لصالح شكل أو آخر من أشكال الأحكام العرفية، والخدمات الطبية يتم إثقالها بشكل متزايد بينما ينتشر الفيروس حتمًا إلى أكثر الفئات ضعفاً. لم تنصح منظمة الصحة العالمية قط بحظر السفر، وفرض غلق الدول، ولم ينصحوا بعمليات الإغلاق الجماعي، ولا بفرضه، ولكنهم يوصون بالاكتشاف المبكر من خلال تحاليل يمكنها تحديد الفيروس بسهولة، ومع ذلك يتم التخلي عن التحاليل، ثم توصي منظمة الصحة بعزل حاملي الفيروس ومن تواصلوا معهم، ومع ذلك يتم إغلاق الحياة اليومية العادية للمجتمع بأكمله.

لا يبدو لي أن ردود أفعال الحكومات حول العالم تُظهِر الاهتمام بمواطنيها، بل أنها تظهر اللامبالاة. ما نراه هو انتزاع السلطة بالجملة وقمع السكان بشكل كبير، مع سياسات من شأنها أن تؤدي إلى نتيجة يمكن التنبؤ بها تمامًا لإفقار مئات الملايين من الناس، حيث الطبقة الدنيا تعاني أكبر الأضرار. الشركات الصغيرة والمتوسطة ستسقط على جانب الطريق، وسيغرق السكان في الديون، بينما ستجني الشركات الأقوى والأكبر أموالًا طائلة وغير مسبوقة تحت مظلة عمليات الإنقاذ، وخفض الضرائب، والحوافز، والضخ النقدي، والحرية الأكبر في إنهاء توظيف العمال.

وفي الوقت نفسه، ستستمر الإجراءات الوقائيةالواسعة النطاق في ترك الشرائح الأكثر ضعفاً من الجمهور في خطر وفي تنافس على الرعاية الطبية مع المرضى الأصغر سناً والأقل خطرًا، وهناك نتيجة واحدة على الأقل متوقعة وهي أن الدول الأوروبية والولايات المتحدة ستخفض التزاماتها بدفع المعاشات والضمانات الاجتماعية للمسنين والمعوقين، الذين سيكونون أول من يهلك.

ومن المرجح أن يعني القبول السائد بتبرير الدولة للأحكام العرفية الطبيةأنه تبرير مقبول كأمر واقع، مما سيترك المجتمع كله عرضة للنهب والسرقة أثناء حبسهم في منازلهم – هذا إذا ظلت لدينا أية منازل.