Category Archives: Lockdown

Covid Deaths in the US (over 1 million) and China (about 5000)

In May and June of 2022 two milestones were passed in the world’s battle with Covid and were widely noted in the press, one in the US and one in China. They invite a comparison between the two countries and their approach to combatting Covid-19.

The first milestone was passed on May 12 when the United States registered over 1 million total deaths (1,008,377 as of June 19, 2022, when this is written) due to Covid, the highest of any country in the world. Web MD expressed its sentiment in a piece headlined: “US Covid Deaths Hit 1 Million: ‘History Should Judge Us.’”

Second, on June 1, China emerged from its 60-day lockdown in Shanghai in response to an outbreak there, the most serious since the Wuhan outbreak at the onset of the pandemic. The total number of deaths in Mainland China since the beginning of the epidemic in January 2020 now stands at a total of 5226 as of June 19,2022.

To put that in perspective, that is 3042 deaths per million population in the US versus 3.7 deaths in China due to Covid. 3042 vs. 3.7! Had China followed the same course as the US, it would have experienced at least 4 million deaths. Had the US followed China’s course it would have had only 1306 deaths total!

The EU did not fare not much better than the US with 2434 deaths per million as of June 19.

When confronted with these numbers, the response of the Western media has all too often been denial that China’s numbers were valid. But China’s data have been backed by counts of excess deaths during the period of the pandemic as the New York Times illustrated in a recent article. Actually this is old news. The validity of China’s numbers, as shown by counts of excess deaths, was validated long ago in a February 2021 study by a by a group at Oxford University and the Chinese CDC. This was published in the prestigious BMJ (British Medical Journal) and discussed in detail here.

What about the economy?

Clearly China put the saving of lives above the advance of the economy with its “dynamic zero Covid policy.” But contrary to what was believed in the West at the time, saving lives also turned out to be better for the economy, as shown in the following data from the World Bank:

During the first year of the pandemic, 2020, China’s economy continued to grow albeit at a slower rate. In contrast the US economy contracted dramatically, dropping all the way back, not simply to 2019 levels, but to pre-2018 levels!

Interestingly the plot also shows the year that the Chinese PPP-GDP surpassed that of the United States, 2017, heralding a new era for the Global South.

The World Bank has not yet released data for 2021, but the IMF has PPP-GDP data for 2021 shown here. The U.S. economy grew at 5.97 percent and China’s at 8.02 percent. Unlike the World Bank data shown in the graph above for the years up to 2020, these data for 2021 are not corrected for inflation which for 2021 ran at 4.7% in the U.S. whereas China’s was 0.85%. So China’s growth would be even greater in comparison to the US, were inflation taken into account.

The bottom line is that for the first two years of the pandemic through 2021, China’s growth was always positive and greater than that of the US. China’s policy not only saved lives but protected the economy. Win-win, one might say.

Is China’s dynamic zero Covid policy “sustainable”in the face of the Omicron variant? The Shanghai Lockdown.

The period of the recent Shanghai lockdown which we can date from April 1, 2022, ended on June 1, and was the second largest outbreak in China since the original outbreak in January, 2020, in Wuhan. Each resulted in major lockdowns, the first in Wuhan lasted about 76 days and the second in Shanghai about 60 days. The first in Wuhan was due to the original variant and the second was due to the much more infectious Omicron.

During the recent lockdown in Shanghai, the Western press was awash with proclamations, all too many laced with an unseemly Schadenfreude, that China’s dynamic Zero Covid policy was not sustainable. This is all too reminiscent of decades of predictions that China’s extraordinary success in developing its economy to number one in the world in terms of PPP-GDP was a passing phase, a Ponzi Scheme that was – what else – “not sustainable. Recently the same press has gone silent, always a sign that China has met with success. So what are the results?

The Shanghai Lockdown ended on June 1 and from that day until today, June 19, there have been no deaths due to Covid on the Chinese Mainland. Cases nationwide are also way down to 183 per day from the peak of 26,000 on April 15. That was the largest number of cases in a single day for the entire period of the pandemic in China. For comparison, the peak in the US was 800,000 in a single day.

Both the Wuhan and Shanghai lockdowns demanded sacrifices and patience over the roughly two-month period for each. However, these difficulties are generally exaggerated In the West and based on anecdotes of the worst of the difficulties encountered. Such sordid journalism reached rock bottom in a NYT piece equating China’s hard working health care workers to Adolph Eichmann!

As an antidote to this kind of hit piece and to gain a feeling of life in the cities that were under lockdown during the Wuhan outbreak, Peter Hessler’s March, 2020, account in the New Yorker, “Life on Lockdown in China,” is enlightening and will dispel many misconceptions. Hessler was living and teaching in Chengdu, Sichuan, at the time.

For the moment China’s approach has succeeded although we cannot say what the future holds. But the public health measures that have worked so well in Mainland China should not be lightly dismissed let alone be the subject of mean-spirited attacks. Such measures may be a means of saving millions of lives when the next variant or the next pandemic strikes.

The US Needs a People’s Tribunal on the Handling of Covid-19.

Turning again to the US, what does it say when the US, one of the richest nations in the world, spending over $1 trillion a year on its “national security” budget, could not muster the means to deal with Covid-19 and ended up with more deaths than any other nation on earth? China’s handling of the pandemic certainly shows a completely different outcome is possible. The US death toll was not an inescapable act of nature.

That being so, should there not be a People’s Tribunal to investigate those in charge in the US government over the course of three administrations? That, and not an official white wash, is certainly needed? And should not punishment appropriate for a crime against humanity be meted out? The one million dead deserve no less.

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Squelching dissent on both sides of the Atlantic

The current repression of dissent in Germany is startlingly similar to that in North America. In 2019 as the virus started to spread, the government ordered drastic measures against it. Several distinguished doctors and professors, including an MD who was a former member of parliament, asked the government for evidence and explanations justifying these measures. When they were ignored, they called a rally and gave speeches again asking the government for answers. The government ignored this too, but their press launched a smear campaign labeling these people as unscientific and incompetent. When several current members of parliament spoke out against the mandates, they were defamed and isolated.

The government forced the mandates through, and as the effects of these turned out to be more damaging than the virus, large-scale protests broke out. Politicians warned of the danger to our democracy from right-wing fanatics whom they claimed had taken over the protests. To defend democracy by disrupting the rallies, groups of Antifa tried to drown out speakers by shouting, “Halt die Fresse!” – “Shut your mouth!” Of course, the real danger to democracy comes from trying to silence or exclude anyone, right or left.

Establishment media refused to publish reports of severe side effects from the vaccines. A government statistician who gave evidence that the mandates and vaccines were ineffective and harmful was removed from duty, as were police officers who took part in peaceful rallies. Professors who spoke at demonstrations were shunned by their colleagues and passed over for promotion. Doctors who certified that their patients didn’t need to wear masks were suspended from practice. Some careers were destroyed, many damaged.

People were stunned by the savagery of the response to their demand for more public input into virus policies. They discussed possible reasons for the government’s attack. Conspiracy theories began to circulate, some of them quite wild.

The government broadened its attack. The press was full of interviews with psychiatrists discussing the dangerous psycho-pathology of conspiracy theorists. Wherever vaguely possible, parallels were drawn to Nazi Germany. Aged Holocaust victims were interviewed about their trauma caused by such people. One victim, though, Vera Sharav, made a video saying the government was behaving like the Nazis, but her statement was ignored by the mainstream and appeared only in the alternative media.

Rationality disappeared from public discourse. A seething polarization began to spread. The government recognized a growing threat of losing its hold on the people.

It cut back on testing. The “pandemic” faded. Russia invaded the Ukraine. A new enemy replaced the “killer virus” as a focus for fear.

The government’s campaign of forced lockdowns, masks, vaccines, and repression has unnecessarily and massively damaged millions of people, far more than what the virus has done. But on the positive side it has also turned millions of people against the government, a prerequisite for real change. The next step is ours.

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A Monetary Reset Where the Rich Don’t Own Everything (Part 1)

We have a serious debt problem, but solutions such as the World Economic Forum’s “Great Reset” are not the future we want. It’s time to think outside the box for some new solutions.

In ancient Mesopotamia, it was called a Jubilee. When debts at interest grew too high to be repaid, the slate was wiped clean. Debts were forgiven, the debtors’ prisons were opened, and the serfs returned to work their plots of land. This could be done because the king was the representative of the gods who were said to own the land, and thus was the creditor to whom the debts were owed. The same policy was advocated in the Book of Leviticus, though it is unclear to what extent this biblical Jubilee was implemented.

That sort of across-the-board debt forgiveness can’t be done today because most of the creditors are private lenders. Banks, landlords and pension fund investors would go bankrupt if their contractual rights to repayment were simply wiped out. But we do have a serious debt problem, and it is largely structural. Governments have delegated the power to create money to private banks, which create most of the circulating money supply as debt at interest. They create the principal but not the interest, so more money must be repaid than was created in the original loan. Debt thus grows faster than the money supply, as seen in the chart from WorkableEconomics.com below. Debt grows until it cannot be repaid, when the board is cleared by some form of market crash such as the 2008 financial crisis, typically widening the wealth gap on the way down.

Today the remedy for an unsustainable debt buildup is called a “reset.” Far short of a Jubilee, such resets are necessary every few decades. Acceptance of a currency is based on trust, and a “currency reset” changes the backing of the currency to restore that trust when it has failed. In the 20th century, major currency resets occurred in 1913, when the Federal Reserve was instituted following a major banking crisis; in 1933 following another catastrophic banking crisis, when the dollar was taken off the gold standard domestically and deposits were federally insured; in 1944, at the Bretton Woods Conference concluding World War II, when the US dollar backed by gold was made the reserve currency for global trade; and in 1974, when the US finalized a deal with the OPEC countries to sell their oil only in US dollars, effectively “backing” the dollar with oil after Richard Nixon took the dollar off the gold standard internationally in 1971. Central bank manipulations are also a form of reset, intended to restore faith in the currency or the banks; e.g., when Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker raised the interest rate on fed funds to 20% in 1980, and when the Fed bailed out Wall Street banks following the Great Financial Crisis of 2008-09 with quantitative easing.

But quantitative easing did not fix the debt buildup, which today has again reached unsustainable levels. According to Truth in Accounting, as of March 2022 the US federal government has a cumulative debt burden of $133.38 trillion, including unfunded Social Security and Medicare promises; and some countries are in even worse shape. Former investment banker Leslie Manookian stated in grand jury testimony that European countries have 44 trillion euros in unfunded pensions, and there is no source of funds to meet these obligations. There is virtually no European bond market, due to negative interest rates. The only alternative is to default. The concern is that when people realize that the social security and pension systems they have paid into for their entire working lives are bankrupt, they will take to the streets and chaos will reign.

Hence the need for another reset. Private creditors, however, want a reset that leaves them in control. Today a new sort of reset is setting off alarm bells, one that goes far beyond restoring the stability of the currency. The “Great Reset” being driven forward by the World Economic Forum would lock the world into a form of technocratic feudalism.

The WEF is that elite group of businessmen, politicians and academics that meets in Davos, Switzerland, every January. The Great Reset was the theme of its (virtual) 2021 Summit, based on a July 2020 book titled Covid-19: The Great Reset co-authored by WEF founder Klaus Schwab. Some of the WEF’s proposals are summarized in a video on its website titled “8 Predictions for the World in 2030.” The first prediction is, “You’ll own nothing. And you’ll be happy. Whatever you want you’ll rent. And it will be delivered by drone.”

Schwab’s proposal would reset more than the currency. At a virtual meeting in June 2020, he said, “We need a ‘Great Reset’ of capitalism.” But as talk show host Kim Iversen observes, the proposed solution is more capitalism by a new name: “stakeholder capitalism,” where ownership will be with corporate stakeholders. You will have an account with the central bank and a mandatory federal digital ID. You will receive a welfare payment in the form of a marginally adequate basic income – so long as you maintain a proper social credit score. Your central bank digital currency will be “programmable” – rationed, controlled, and canceled if you get out of line or disagree with the official narrative. You will be kept happy with computer games and drugs.

According to WEF speaker and author Prof. Yuval Harari, “Covid is critical, because this is what convinces people to accept, to legitimize total biometric surveillance…. We need not just to monitor people, we need to monitor what’s happening under the skin.”

Harari is aware of the dangers of digital dictatorships. He said at a pre-Covid Davos presentation in January 2020:

In Davos we hear so much about the enormous promises of technology – and these promises are certainly real. But technology might also disrupt human society and the very meaning of human life in numerous ways, ranging from the creation of a global useless class to the rise of data colonialism and of digital dictatorships.…

We humans should get used to the idea that we are no longer mysterious souls – we are now hackable animals. … [I]f this power falls into the hands of a twenty-first century Stalin, the result will be the worst totalitarian regime in human history…

In the not-so-distant future, … algorithms might tell us where to work and who to marry, and also decide whether to hire us for a job, whether to give us a loan, and whether the central bank should raise the interest rate….

What will be the meaning of human life, when most decisions are taken by algorithms?

Clearing the Chessboard by Controlled Economic Demolition?

Before the game can be reset, the board must be cleared. What would make the population accept giving up their private property, surviving on a marginal basic income, and submitting to constant surveillance, internal and external?

The global pandemic and the lockdowns that followed have gone far toward achieving that result. Lockdowns not only eliminated smaller business competitors but drove up the debts of small countries, forcing them to increase their loans from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF is notorious for onerous loan terms, including imposing strict austerity measures, relinquishing control of natural resources, and marching in “lockstep” with pandemic restrictions.

In a June 2020 article on the blog of the IMF titled “From Great Lockdown To Great Transformation,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva called the global policy response to the 2020 crisis the “Great Lockdown.” She is quoted as saying to the US Chamber of Commerce:

We call the current period ‘the Great Lockdown’ because we are fighting a health emergency by bringing production and consumption to a standstill….

In March, around one hundred billion dollars left emerging markets and developing countries—three times more than during the global financial crisis.

But in April and May—thanks to this massive injection of liquidity in advanced economies—some emerging markets were able to go back to the markets and issue bonds with competitive yields, with total issuance of around seventy-seven billion dollars. This is almost three and a half times as much as in the same two months last year. [Italics added.]

In other words, by bringing production and consumption to a standstill, the Great Lockdown had already, by June 2020, managed to strip emerging markets of $100 billion in additional assets and to lock them into $77 billion in new debt.

That helps explain why so many countries acquiesced to the Great Lockdown so quickly, even when some had only a handful of Covid-19 deaths. Lockdown was apparently a “conditionality” required for getting an IMF loan. At least that was true for Belarus, which rejected the offer. Said Belarus’ President:

We hear the demands … to model our coronavirus response on that of Italy. I do not want to see the Italian situation to be repeated in Belarus. We have our own country and our own situation. … [T]he IMF continues to demand from us quarantine measures, isolation, a curfew. This is nonsense. We will not dance to anyone’s tune.

Unlike Belarus, most countries acquiesced, and so did households and businesses locked into the debt trap by an economy in which production and consumption were brought to a standstill. Like most emerging economies, they acquiesced to whatever terms were imposed for returning to “normal.”

The lockdowns have now been lifted in most places, but the debt trap is about to snap shut. A moratorium on U.S. rents and student debt is due to come to an end, and cumulative arrears may need to be paid. Debtors unable to meet that burden could be out in the street, joining the “useless class” described by Prof. Harari. They may be forced into accepting the technocratic feudalism of the WEF Great Reset, but is not the sort of future most people want. However, what are the alternatives?

A Eurasian Jubilee?

For sovereign debt (the debt of national governments), a form of jubilee is envisioned by Sergei Glazyev in conjunction with the alternative monetary system currently being designed by the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), detailed in my last article here. Glazyev is the Minister for Integration and Macroeconomics of the Eurasia Economic Commission, the regulatory body of the EAEU. An article in The Cradle titled “Russia’s Sergey Glazyev Introduces the New Global Financial System” is headlined:

The world’s new monetary system, underpinned by a digital currency, will be backed by a basket of new foreign currencies and natural resources. And it will liberate the Global South from both western debt and IMF-induced austerity.

The article quotes Glazyev as stating:

Transition to the new world economic order will likely be accompanied by systematic refusal to honor obligations in dollars, euro, pound, and yen. In this respect, it will be no different from the example set by the countries issuing these currencies who thought it appropriate to steal foreign exchange reserves of Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Afghanistan, and Russia to the tune of trillions of dollars. Since the US, Britain, EU, and Japan refused to honor their obligations and confiscated wealth of other nations which was held in their currencies, why should other countries be obliged to pay them back and to service their loans?

In any case, participation in the new economic system will not be constrained by the obligations in the old one. Countries of the Global South can be full participants of the new system regardless of their accumulated debts in dollars, euro, pound, and yen. Even if they were to default on their obligations in those currencies, this would have no bearing on their credit rating in the new financial system. Nationalization of extraction industry, likewise, would not cause a disruption. Further, should these countries reserve a portion of their natural resources for the backing of the new economic system, their respective weight in the currency basket of the new monetary unit would increase accordingly, providing that nation with larger currency reserves and credit capacity. In addition, bilateral swap lines with trading partner countries would provide them with adequate financing for co-investments and trade financing.

That may largely eliminate the sovereign debt overhang in the EAEU member countries, but what of the United States and other Western countries that are unlikely to join? Some innovative possibilities will be covered in Part 2 of this piece. Stay tuned.

• This article was first posted on ScheerPost.

The post A Monetary Reset Where the Rich Don’t Own Everything (Part 1) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Long COVID”: Economic Devastation and Quarter of a Billion Pushed Into Extreme Poverty  

There is a terrifying prospect that in excess of a quarter of a billion more people will fall into extreme levels of poverty in 2022 alone. Without immediate radical action, we could be witnessing the most profound collapse of humanity into extreme poverty and suffering in memory.

That is according to Oxfam International Executive Director Gabriela Bucher.

She adds this scenario is made more sickening given that trillions of dollars have been captured by a tiny group of powerful men who have no interest in interrupting this trajectory.

In its January 2021 report ‘The Inequality Virus’, Oxfam stated that the wealth of the world’s billionaires increased by $3.9tn between 18 March and 31 December 2020. Their total wealth then stood at $11.95tn, a 50 per cent increase in just 9.5 months.

In 2021, an Oxfam review of IMF COVID-19 loans showed that 33 African countries were encouraged to pursue austerity policies. This despite the IMF’s own research showing austerity worsens poverty and inequality.

Barely days into the shutdown of the global economy in April 2020, the Wall Street Journal ran the headline ‘IMF, World Bank Face Deluge of Aid Requests From Developing World‘. Scores of countries were asking for bailouts and loans from financial institutions with $1.2 trillion to lend.

Prior to that, in late March, World Bank Group President David Malpass said that poorer countries would be ‘helped’ to get back on their feet after the various COVID-related lockdowns. However, any assistance would be on condition that further neoliberal reforms became embedded.

Malpass said:

For those countries that have excessive regulations, subsidies, licensing regimes, trade protection or litigiousness as obstacles, we will work with them to foster markets, choice and faster growth prospects during the recovery.

Two years on and it is clear what ‘reforms’ really mean. In a press release issued on 19 April 2022, Oxfam International insists the IMF must abandon demands for austerity as a cost-of-living crisis continues to drive up hunger and poverty worldwide.

According to Oxfam’s analysis, 13 out of the 15 IMF loan programmes negotiated during the second year of COVID require new austerity measures such as taxes on food and fuel or spending cuts that could put vital public services at risk. The IMF is also encouraging six additional countries to adopt similar measures.

Kenya and the IMF agreed a $2.3 billion loan programme in 2021, which includes a three-year public sector pay freeze and increased taxes on cooking gas and food. More than three million Kenyans are facing acute hunger as the driest conditions in decades spread a devastating drought across the country. Oxfam says nearly half of all households in Kenya are having to borrow food or buy it on credit.

At the same time nine countries, including Cameroon, Senegal and Surinam are required to introduce or increase the collection of VAT, a tax that disproportionately impacts people living in poverty.

In Sudan, nearly half of the population live in poverty. However, it has been told to scrap fuel subsidies which will hit the poorest hardest. A country already reeling from international aid cuts, economic turmoil and rising prices for everyday basics such as food and medicine. More than 14 million people need humanitarian assistance (almost one in every three people) and 9.8 million are food insecure in Sudan.

In addition, 10 countries are likely to freeze or cut public sector wages and jobs, which could mean lower quality of education and fewer nurses and doctors in countries already short of healthcare staff. Consider that Namibia had fewer than six doctors per 10,000 people in early 2020.

Prior to Covid, the situation was bad enough. The IMF had consistently pushed a policy agenda based on cuts to public services, increases in taxes paid by the poorest and moves to undermine labour rights and protections. As a result, 52 per cent of Africans lack access to healthcare and 83 per cent have no safety nets to fall back on if they lose their job or become sick.

Nabil Abdo, Oxfam International’s senior policy advisor, says:

The IMF must suspend austerity conditions on existing loans and increase access to emergency financing. It should encourage countries to increase taxes on the wealthiest and corporations to replenish depleted coffers and shrink widening inequality.”

It is interesting to note what could be achieved. For instance, Argentina has collected about $2.4 billion from its one-off pandemic wealth tax. Oxfam estimates that a ‘Pandemic Profits Tax’ on 32 super-profitable global companies could have generated $104 billion in revenue in 2020 alone.

Many governments are nearing debt default and being forced to slash public spending to pay creditors and import food and fuel. The world’s poorest countries are due to pay $43 billion in debt repayments in 2022, which could otherwise cover the costs of their food imports. Oil and gas giants are reporting record-breaking profits, with similar trends expected to play out in the food and beverage sector.

Oxfam and Development Finance International (DFI) have also revealed that 43 out of 55 African Union member states face public expenditure cuts totalling $183 billion over the next five years.

Oxfam says that, despite COVID costs piling up and billionaire wealth rising more since COVID than in the previous 14 years combined, governments — with few exceptions — have failed to increase taxes on the richest.

Gabriela Bucher rejects any notion that governments do not have the money or means to lift all people out of poverty and hunger and ensure their health and welfare. She says the G20, World Bank and IMF must immediately cancel debts and increase aid to poorer countries and act to protect ordinary people from an avoidable catastrophe.

Nabil Abdo says:

The pandemic is not over for most of the world. Rising energy bills and food prices are hurting poor countries most. They need help boosting access to basic services and social protection, not harsh conditions that kick people when they are down.

The ‘pandemic’ is not over for most of the world – for sure. People too often conflate the effects of COVID-related policies with the impact of COVID itself. It is these policies that have caused the ongoing devastation to lives and livelihoods.

What it has amounted to is a multi-trillion-dollar bailout for a capitalist economy that was in meltdown prior to COVID. This came in the form of trillions of dollars pumped into financial markets by the US Fed (in the months prior to March 2020) and ‘COVID relief’.

As the world’s richest people lined their pockets even more in the past two years, COVID IMF loans are now piling more misery on some of the world’s poorest people. For them, ‘long COVID’ is biting austerity – their ‘new normal’.

All this resulting from policies supposedly brought in to protect public health – a claim that rings hollower by the day.

The post “Long COVID”: Economic Devastation and Quarter of a Billion Pushed Into Extreme Poverty   first appeared on Dissident Voice.

It’s About Time

Isn’t it always?

With the start of World War III by the United States “declaring” war against Russia by its actions in Ukraine, we have entered a time when the end of time has become very possible.  I am speaking of nuclear annihilation.

I look down at my great-uncle’s gold Elgin pocket watch from the 19th century.  His name was John Patrick Whalen, an Irish immigrant to the U.S. who fled England’s colonialist created famine in Ireland.  It tells me it is 5:15 PM on April 21, 2022, a date, coincidentlly, with a history.  No doubt John looked at his watch on this date in 1898 when the United States, after the USS Maine exploded from within in Havana harbor (a possible false flag attack), declared war on Spain in order to confiscate Spanish territories – Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.  One colonial power replaced another and then proceeded over the long decades to wage war and slaughter these island peoples.  Imperialism never dies.  It is timeless.

One hundred-and twenty-four years go by in a flash and it’s still the same old story.  In 1898 the yellow press screamed Spanish devils and today it screams Russian devils.  Then and now the press called for war.  If the human race is still here in another 124 years, time and the corporate media will no doubt have told the same story – war and propaganda’s lies to an insouciant and ignorant population too hypnotized by propaganda to oppose them. This despite the apocalyptic sense that permeates our lives because of demonic technology and its use to transform humans into machines who can’t think clearly enough to perceive reality and realize the threat posed by that quintessential technological invention – nuclear weapons.

This is not uplifting, but it’s true.  The nuclear weapons are primed and ready to fly.  The U.S. insists on its first-strike right to launch them.  It openly declares it is seeking the overthrow of the Russian government.  Russia says it will use nuclear weapons only if its existence is threatened, which has become increasingly so because of U.S. provocations over a long time period and its current expanding arming of Ukraine’s government and its neo-Nazi forces.

The Russian President Vladimir Putin and its Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov have just warned the U.S. that such involvement has made nuclear war a “serious” and “real” risk, in Lavrov’s words “we must not underestimate it,” which is a mild form of diplomatic speech. Putin said that Russia has made all the preparations to respond if it senses a strategic threat to Russia and that response will be “instant, it will be quick.”  The U.S. response is to shrug these statements off, just as it has done so for many years with Putin’s complaints about NATO forces moving up to its border.  Incredibly, Biden has said, “For God’s sake, this man (Putin) cannot remain in power.”

Despite endless media/intelligence anti-Russian propaganda – “a vast tapestry of lies,” to use Harold Pinter’s phrase – many fine writers have provided the historical details to confirm the truth that the U.S. has purposely provoked the Russian war in Ukraine by its actions there and throughout Eastern Europe, which the mainstream media avoid completely. This U.S. aggressive history against Russia is part of a much larger history of imperial hubris extending back to the 19th century.  I will therefore here follow Thoreau’s advice – “If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications?” – since how many times do people need to hear lies such as “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction” in order to justify wars of aggression around the world.  The historical facts are very clear, but facts and history don’t seem to matter to many people. Pinter again, in his Nobel Address, bluntly told the truth about the U.S.’s history of systematic and remorseless war crimes: “Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”  Which is still the case.

So time is my focus, for the last days have arrived unless there occurs a radical awakening to the obvious truth that the U.S. government is pushing the world to the brink of disaster in full awareness of the consequences.  Its actions are insane, yet insanity has become the norm.  Insane leaders and a catatonic, hypnotized public lead to disaster.

I write these words with an old fountain pen, a high school graduation gift, to somehow comfort and remind myself that when we were this close once before in October 1962, Kennedy and Khrushchev miraculously found a solution to the Cuban Missile Crisis; and to find hope now, and that when my time is up and I join John Patrick in the other world, things will have changed for my children and grand-children.  It is admittedly the hope of a desperado.

The last few years of the Covid-19 propaganda have served to further distort people’s sense of time, a distortion years in the making through the introduction of digital technology with its accompanying numerical time clicks and its severing of our natural sense of time that is tied to the rising and falling of the tides and the turning of the days and seasons, a feeling that is being lost. Such felt sense of time’s texture could be slow or faster, but it had limits.  We now live in a world without limits, which, as the ancient Greeks knew, demands payback.

For years before Covid 19, the sense of speed time was dominant, supported by the politically-introduced state of a constant emergency after September 11, 2001 with the urgency to hurry and keep up or one would fall behind.  Keep up with what was never explained.  Hurry why?  Fast and faster was the rule with constant busyness that served the very useful social function of leaving no time for thinking, which was the point, but it made many feel as though they were engaged.  And constantly alert for “terrorists” to come knocking.  Thus the long wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, etc., all of which continue via various subterfuges.

Then, presto, all this frenzied time sense came to a stop with the 2020 lockdowns, when time got very slow, but not slow in the natural sense but an enforced slowness.  People were locked up.  Not only was it stupefying but stultifying and an existential drag.  This went on for two years with the prisoners allowed short respites only to be rounded back up and locked down again. Jabbed and jolted was the plan.  When will it ever end? was the common cry, as despair and depression spread and scrambled minds led to suicides and mindless screen entertainment.  This was planned education for a trans-human future in which the cell phone will be central to totalitarian control if people do not rebel.

Those behind the Covid-19 and war propaganda are fanatical technocrats who seek total control of the world’s population through digital technology.  Now they have temporarily let the people out of one type of cell and dramatically sped up time with frantic war propaganda against Russia.  The great English writer John Berger said it perfectly:

Every ruling minority needs to numb, and, if possible, to kill the time-sense of those whom it exploits. This is the authoritarian secret of all methods  of   imprisonment.

Everyone is now doing time while scrolling messages on the walls of their cell phones.  A twisted, convoluted, distorted, mechanical time in which it seems that there is no history and the future is an endless road of more of the same.

Some say we have all the time in the world.  I say no, that we have entered a new time, perhaps the end-time, when the world’s end is a very real possibility.  Hypnotized people can agree to anything, even mass-suicide, unless they snap out of it.  This can only happen with a return to slowness in the old sense, when people once felt time in their hearts, rhythms attuned to the rising and falling of nature’s reality.  Time to think and contemplate the fate of the earth when nuclear war is contemplated.  Yes, “We must not underestimate it.”

It’s about time.

Isn’t it always?

The post It’s About Time first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Localization and Local Futures: The Alternative to the Authoritarian New Normal    

World Localization Day’ will be celebrated on 20 June. Organised by the non-profit Local Futures, this annual coming together of people from across the world began in 2020 and focuses on the need to localise supply-chains and recover our connection with nature and community. The stated aim is to “galvanize the worldwide localization movement into a force for systemic change”.

Local Futures, founded by Helena Norberg-Hodge, urges us to imagine a very different world, one in which most of our food comes from nearby farmers who ensure food security year round and where the money we spend on everyday goods continues to recirculate in the local economy.

We are asked to imagine local businesses providing ample, meaningful employment opportunities, instead of our hard-earned cash being immediately siphoned off to some distant corporate headquarters.

Small farms would be key in this respect. They are integral to local markets and networks, short supply chains, food sovereignty, more diverse cropping systems and healthier diets. And they tend to serve the food requirements of communities rather than the interests of big business, institutional investors and shareholders half a world away.

If the COVID lockdowns and war in Ukraine tell us anything about our food system, it is that decentralised, regional and local community-owned food systems based on short(er) supply chains that can cope with future shocks are now needed more than ever.

The report Towards a Food Revolution: Food Hubs and Cooperatives in the US and Italy offers some pointers for creating sustainable support systems for small food producers and food distribution. Alternative, resilient food models and community supported agriculture are paramount.

Localization involves strengthening and rebuilding local economies and communities and restoring cultural and biological diversity. The ‘economics of happiness’ is central to this vision, rather than an endless quest for GDP growth and the alienation, conflict and misery this brings.

It is something we need to work towards because multi-billionaire globalists have a dystopian future mapped out for humanity which they want to impose on us all – and it is diametrically opposed to what is stated above.

The much-publicised ‘great reset’ is integral to this dystopia. It marks a shift away from ‘liberal democracy’ towards authoritarianism. At the same time, there is the relentless drive towards a distorted notion of a ‘green economy’, underpinned by the rhetoric of ‘sustainable consumption’ and ‘climate emergency’.

The great reset is really about capitalism’s end-game. Those promoting it realise the economic and social system must undergo a reset to a ‘new normal’, something that might no longer resemble ‘capitalism’.

End-game capitalism  

Capital can no longer maintain its profitability by exploiting labour alone. This much has been clear for some time. There is only so much surplus value to be extracted before the surplus is insufficient.

Historian Luciana Bohne notes that the shutting down of parts of the economy was already happening pre-COVID as there was insufficient growth, well below the minimum tolerable 3% level to maintain the viability of capitalism. This, despite a decades-long attack on workers and corporate tax cuts.

The system had been on life support for some time. Credit markets had been expanded and personal debt facilitated to maintain consumer demand as workers’ wages were squeezed. Financial products (derivatives, equities, debt, etc) and speculative capitalism were boosted, affording the rich a place to park their profits and make money off money. We have also seen the growth of unproductive rentier capitalism and stock buy backs and massive bail outs courtesy of taxpayers.

Moreover, in capitalism, there is also a tendency for the general rate of profit to fall over time. And this has certainly been the case according to writer Ted Reese, who notes it has trended downwards from an estimated 43% in the 1870s to 17% in the 2000s.

The 2008 financial crash was huge. But by late 2019, an even bigger meltdown was imminent. Many companies could not generate enough profit and falling turnover, squeezed margins, limited cashflows and highly leveraged balance sheets were prevalent. In effect, economic growth was already grinding to a halt prior to the massive stock market crash in February 2020.

Fabio Vighi, professor of critical theory, describes how, in late 2019, the Swiss Bank of International Settlements, BlackRock (the world’s most powerful investment fund), G7 central bankers, leading politicians and others worked behind closed doors to avert a massive impending financial meltdown.

The Fed soon began an emergency monetary programme, pumping hundreds of billions of dollars per week into financial markets. Not long after, COVID hit and lockdowns were imposed. The stock market did not collapse because lockdowns occurred. Vighi argues lockdowns were rolled out because financial markets were collapsing.

Closing down the global economy under the guise of fighting a pathogen that mainly posed a risk to the over 80s and the chronically ill seemed illogical to many, but lockdowns allowed the Fed to flood financial markets (COVID relief) with freshly printed money without causing hyperinflation. Vighi says that lockdowns curtailed economic activity, thereby removing demand for the newly printed money (credit) in the physical economy and preventing ‘contagion’.

Using lockdowns and restrictions, smaller enterprises were driven out of business and large sections of the pre-COVID economy were shut down. This amounted to a controlled demolition of parts of the economy while the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, Meta (Facebook) and the online payment sector – platforms which are dictating what the ‘new normal’ will look like – were clear winners in all of this.

The rising inflation that we currently witness is being blamed on the wholly avoidable conflict in Ukraine. Although this tells only part of the story, the conflict and sanctions seem to be hitting Europe severely: if you wanted to demolish your own economy or impoverish large sections of the population, this might be a good way to go about it.

However, the massive ‘going direct’ helicopter money given to the financial sector and global conglomerates under the guise of COVID relief was always going to have an impact once the global economy reopened.

Similar extraordinary monetary policy (lockdowns) cannot be ruled out in the future: perhaps on the pretext of another ‘virus’ but possibly based on the notion of curtailing human activity due to ‘climate emergency’. This is because raising interests rates to manage inflation could rapidly disrupt the debt-bloated financial system (an inflated Ponzi scheme) and implode the entire economy.

Permanent austerity   

But lockdowns, restrictions or creating mass unemployment and placing people on programmable digital currencies to micromanage spending and decrease inflationary pressures could help to manage the crisis. ‘Programmable’ means the government determining how much you can spend and what you can spend on.

How could governments legitimise such levels of control? By preaching about reduced consumption according to the creed of ‘sustainability’. This is how you would ‘own nothing and be happy’ if we are to believe this well-publicised slogan of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

But like neoliberal globalization in the 1980s – the great reset is being given a positive spin, something which supposedly symbolises a brave new techno-utopian future.

In the 1980s, to help legitimise the deregulated neoliberal globalisation agenda, government and media instigated an ideological onslaught, driving home the primacy of ‘free enterprise’, individual rights and responsibility and emphasising a shift away from the role of state, trade unions and the collective in society.

Today, we are seeing another ideological shift: individual rights (freedom to choose what is injected into your own body, for instance) are said to undermine the wider needs of society and – in a stark turnaround – individual freedom is now said to pose a threat to ‘national security’, ‘public health’ or ‘safety’.

A near-permanent state of ‘emergency’ due to public health threats, climate catastrophe or conflict (as with the situation in Ukraine) would conveniently place populations on an ongoing ‘war footing’. Notions of individual liberty and democratic principles would be usurped by placing the emphasis on the ‘public interest’ and protecting the population from ‘harm’. This would facilitate the march towards authoritarianism.

As in the 1980s, this messaging is being driven by economic impulses. Neoliberalism privatised, deregulated, exploited workers and optimised debt to the point whereby markets are now kept afloat by endless financial injections.

The WEF says the public will ‘rent’ everything they require: stripping the right of personal ownership under the guise of ‘sustainable consumption’ and ‘saving the planet’. Where the WEF is concerned, this is little more than code for permanent austerity to be imposed on the mass of the population.

Metaverse future 

At the start of this article, readers were asked to imagine a future based on a certain set of principles associated with localization. For one moment, imagine another. The one being promoted by the WEF, the high-level talking shop and lobby group for elite interests headed by that avowed globalist and transhumanist Klaus Schwab.

As you sit all day unemployed in your high-rise, your ‘food’ will be delivered via an online platform bought courtesy of your programmable universal basic income digital money. Food courtesy of Gates-promoted farms manned by driverless machines, monitored by drones and doused with chemicals to produce crops from patented GM seeds for industrial ‘biomatter’ to be engineered, processed and constituted into something resembling food.

Enjoy and be happy eating your fake food, stripped of satisfying productive endeavour and genuine self-fulfilment. But really, it will not be a problem. You can sit all day and exist virtually in Zuckerberg’s fantasy metaverse. Property-less and happy in your open prison of mass unemployment, state dependency, track and chip health passports and financial exclusion via programmable currency.

A world also in which bodily integrity no longer exists courtesy of a mandatory vaccination agenda linked to emerging digital-biopharmaceutical technologies. The proposed World Health Organization pandemic treaty marks a worrying step in this direction.

This ‘new normal’ would be tyrannical, but the ‘old normal’ – which still thrives – was not something to be celebrated. Global inequality is severe and environmental devastation and human dislocation has been increasing. Dependency and dispossession remain at the core of the system, both on an individual level and at local, regional and national levels. New normal or old normal, these problems will persist and become worse.

Green imperialism  

The ‘green economy’ being heavily promoted is based on the commodification of nature, through privatization, marketization and monetary valuation. Banks and corporations will set the agenda – dressed in the garb of ‘stakeholder capitalism’, a euphemism for governments facilitating the needs of powerful global interests. The fear is that the proposed system will weaken environmental protection laws and regulations to facilitate private capital.

The banking sector will engage in ‘green profiling’ and issue ‘green bonds’ and global corporations will be able to ‘offset’ (greenwash) their environment-degrading activities by, for example, protecting or planting a forest elsewhere (on indigenous people’s land) or perhaps even investing in (imposing) industrial agriculture which grows herbicide-resistant GMO commodity crop monocultures that are misleadingly portrayed as ‘climate friendly’. Imperialism wrapped in green.

Relying on the same thinking and the same interests that led the world to where it is now does not seem like a great idea. This type of ‘green’ is first and foremost a multi-trillion market opportunity for lining pockets and part of a strategy that may well be used to secure compliance required for the ‘new normal’.

The future needs to be rooted in the principles of localization. For this, we need look no further than the economics and the social relations that underpin tribal societies (for example, India’s indigenous peoples). The knowledge and value systems of indigenous peoples promote long-term genuine sustainability by living within the boundaries of nature and emphasise equality, communality and sharing rather than separation, domination and competition.

Self-sufficiency, solidarity, localization and cooperation is the antidote to globalism and the top-down tyranny of programmable digital currencies and unaccountable, monopolistic AI-driven platforms which aim to monitor and dictate every aspect of life.

The post Localization and Local Futures: The Alternative to the Authoritarian New Normal     first appeared on Dissident Voice.