Total system failure will give rise to new economy

Total system failure will give rise to new economy

April 11, 2020

by Pepe Escobar – posted with permission

Covid-19 driven collapse of global supply chains, demand and mobility will painfully spawn next great tech-led economic models

Is the world on a collision course with the financial and economic equivalent of a meteor impact with shock wave? Fractal illustration: AFP

Nobody, anywhere, could have predicted what we are now witnessing: in a matter of only a few weeks the accumulated collapse of global supply chains, aggregate demand, consumption, investment, exports, mobility.

Nobody is betting on an L-shaped recovery anymore – not to mention a V-shaped one. Any projection of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 gets into falling-off-a-cliff territory.

In industrialized economies, where roughly 70% of the workforce is in services, countless businesses in myriad industries will fail in a rolling financial collapse that will eclipse the Great Depression.

That spans the whole spectrum of possibly 47 million US workers soon to be laid off – with the unemployment rate skyrocketing to 32% – all the way to Oxfam’s warning that by the time the pandemic is over half of the world’s population of 7.8 billion people could be living in poverty.According to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) most optimistic 2020 scenario – certainly to become outdated before the end of Spring – global trade would shrink by 13%.  A more realistic and gloomier WTO scenario sees global trade plunging by 32%.

What we are witnessing is not only a massive globalization short circuit: it’s a cerebral shock extended to three billion hyperconnected, simultaneously confined people. Their bodies may be blocked, but they are electromagnetic beings and their brains keep working – with possible, unforeseen political and other consequences.

Soon we will be facing three major, interlocking debates: the management (in many cases appalling) of the crisis; the search for future models; and the reconfiguration of the world-system.

This is just a first approach in what should be seen as a do-or-die cognitive competition.

Particle accelerator

Sound analyses of what could be the next economic model are already popping up. As background, a really serious debunking of all (dying) neoliberalism development myths can be seen here.

Yes, a new economic model should be revolving around these axes: AI computing; automated manufacturing; solar and wind energy; high-speed 5G-driven data transfer; and nanotechnology.

China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are very well positioned for what’s ahead, as well as selected European latitudes.

Plamen Tonchev, head of the Asia unit at the Institute of International Economic Relations in Athens, Greece, points to the possible reorganization – short term – of Belt and Road Initiative projects, privileging investment in energy, export of solar panels, 5G networks and the Health Silk Road.

Covid-19 is like a particle accelerator, consolidating tendencies that were already developing. China had already demonstrated for the whole planet to see that economic development under a control system has nothing to do with Western liberal democracy.

On the pandemic, China demonstrated – also for the whole planet to see – that containment of Covid-19 can be accomplished by imposing controls the West derided as “draconian” and “authoritarian,” coupled with a strategic scientific approach characerized by a profusion of test kits, protection equipment, ventilators and experimental treatments.

This is already translating into incalculable soft power which will be exercised along the Health Silk Road. Trends seem to point to China as strategically reinforced all along the spectrum, especially in the Global South. China is playing go, weiqi. Stones will be taken from the geopolitical board.

System failure welcomed? 

In contrast, Western banking and finance scenarios could not be gloomier. As a Britain-centric analysis argues, “It is not just Europe. Banks may not be strong enough to fulfill their new role as saviors in any part of the world, including the US, China and Japan. None of the major lending systems were ever stress-tested for an economic deep freeze lasting months.”

So “the global financial system will crack under the strain,” with a by now quite possible “pandemic shutdown lasting more than three months” capable of causing  “economic and financial ‘system failure.’”

As system failures go, nothing remotely approaches the possibility of a quadrillion dollar derivative implosion, a real nuclear issue.

Capital One is number 11 on the list of the largest banks in the US by assets. They are already in deep trouble on their derivative exposures. New York sources say Capital One made a terrible trade, betting via derivatives that oil would not plunge to where it is now at 17-year lows.

Mega-pressure is on all those Wall Street outfits that gave oil companies the equivalent of puts on all their oil production at prices above $50 a barrel. These puts have now come due – and the strain on the Wall Street houses and US banks will become unbearable.

The anticipated Friday oil deal won’t alter anything: oil will stay around $20 per barrel, $25 max.

This is just the beginning and is bound to get much worse. Imagine most of US industry being shut down. Corporations – like Boeing, for instance – are going to go bankrupt. Bank loans to those corporations will be wiped out. As those loans are wiped out, the banks are going to get into major trouble.

Derivative to the max

Wall Street, totally linked to the derivative markets, will feel the pressure of the collapsing American economy. The Fed bailout of Wall Street will start coming apart. Talk about a nuclear chain reaction.

In a nutshell: The Fed has lost control of the money supply in the US. Banks can now create unlimited credit from their base and that sets up the US for potential hyperinflation if the money supply grows non-stop and production collapses, as it is collapsing right now because the economy is in shutdown mode.

If derivatives start to implode, the only solution for all major banks in the world will be immediate nationalization, much to the ire of the Goddess of the Market. Deutsche Bank, also in major trouble, has a 7 trillion euro derivatives exposure, twice the annual GDP of Germany.

No wonder New York business circles are absolutely terrified. They insist that if the US does not immediately go back to work, and if these possibly quadrillions of dollars of derivatives start to rapidly implode, the economic crises that will unfold will create a collapse of the magnitude of which has not been witnessed in history, with incalculable consequences.

Or perhaps this will be just the larger-than-life spark to start a new economy.

Coronavirus Devastates Italy: Is It the Result of Globalism and Free Trade?

Philip Giraldi April 9, 2020

Coronavirus Devastates Italy: Is It the Result of Globalism and ...

The devastating impact of the coronavirus on Italy has sparked considerable speculation as to why the country appears to have suffered so disproportionately from the disease. Some initial theories suggested that the deaths might be due to lower standards and ill-advised practices in the Italian national health system, but the reality is that northern Italy, where the virus has struck hardest, has by most metrics better and more accessible health care than does the United States overall.

By one reckoning, the claimed number of dead is too high because anyone who tested positive and died had his or her death attributed to the virus even if it was actually due to other unrelated causes. And that argument has also been flipped on its head to demonstrate that the numbers are too low, using the fact that many Italians have not been tested for the virus to assert that many dead were actually caused by coronavirus. Since those dead were not medically confirmed positive for COVID-19, the deaths were erroneously attributed to other causes.

A third bit of somewhat more bizarre speculation centers on the fact that in September 2019 Italy made legal euthanasia for those with terminal illnesses seeking to end their suffering, a move strongly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church. Some of those weighing in on the number of deaths have claimed without evidence that a significant percentage of the dead were actually cases of euthanasia, i.e. implying that Italy has been deliberately killing off its elderly. Those seeking an explanation for such bizarre behavior by the national health service have suggested that it would be to ease pressure on the troubled Italian economy by eliminating old age pensions and medical costs.

Be that as it may, there is an interesting backstory developing in the Italian media about why Italy has been hit so hard by the “Chinese” virus in spite of the fact that it has been in lockdown for over one month. Italy’s ties with China, and with the city of Wuhan, where the virus may have originated, run deeper than with any other European country.

Last spring, when my wife and I were traveling in Northern Italy, we noticed the large numbers of Chinese, not only in tourism centers like Venice and Verona, but also in commercial and industrial areas. Italian shop holders we spoke with told us how the Chinese government and individual entrepreneurs were buying up businesses and properties at an alarming rate, penetrating the Italian economy at all levels. One gift shop proprietor in Venice described how even tourist items were increasingly being manufactured in China, a development which he described as “selling cheap junk.” He reached beneath his counter and produced a perfume bottle which looked like a local product but instead of being made in Murano it bore a tiny stamp “Made in China.”

A little less than a year ago Italy became the first G-7 country in Europe to sign a memorandum of understanding formalizing its membership in the Chinese Belt and Road project, part of the Silk Road scheme to create a vast linked commercial network across Asia and into Europe. Two of the main hubs being developed for the project are Genoa and Trieste. The Italian government, confronted with a struggling economy, based the move on “commercial reasons” and “economic advantages,” to include the investment being offered by Beijing, but Rome paid a price for the move with intense criticism coming from both Washington and Brussels. The Atlanticist crowd, which normally applauded a form of globalism and free trade, inevitably insisted that not only were the Chinese seeking to “destabilize” Europe, Beijing was also attempting to divide Europe politically and militarily from the United States.

One of the more interesting, and perhaps coincidental, aspects of the Chinese entry into Italy has been the particular connection between China and the northern Italian fashion houses, centered on Milan, that have shifted their production to Wuhan to take advantage of the cheap labor in China’s own textile industry, largely centered on the city. By all accounts, Chinese investors bought up factories in Northern Italy starting in the early 1990s. By 2016 many major brands had been completely acquired, to include Pinco Pallino, Miss Sixty, Sergio Tacchini, Roberta di Camerino and Mariella Burani while major shares of Salvatore Ferragamo and Caruso were also obtained.

The Chinese owners and investors replaced ageing machinery and brought in, often illegally, tens of thousands of skilled Chinese seamstresses as a labor force. By the end of last year when the virus first struck China, direct flights from Wuhan to Lombardy served the roughly 300,000 Chinese residents of Italy who mostly work in Chinese-owned factories producing Chinese inspired Made in Italy designs. It is widely believed, though not confirmed by the Rome government, that the first infections by coronavirus in Italy, attributed to visiting “tourists,” actually may have taken place in crowded dormitories where Chinese shift workers from Wuhan dined and slept.

In less than a year, however, Italians have come to realize that a tight economic embrace with Beijing also has a downside. Italy’s trade gap with China has gone up, not down and much promised investment in new enterprises has failed to materialize. But even as the dust cleared, the results derived from opening the door to China were not pretty. By 2016, Chinese acquisitions had exceeded 52 billion EUROS, giving them ownership of more than 300 companies representing 27% of major Italian corporations.

The Bank of China now owns five major banks in Italy as well as the major telecommunication corporation (Telecom) and the two top energy utilities (ENI and ENEL). China also has controlling interest in Fiat-Chrysler and Pirelli.

More recently, Italian government views on China’s human rights record in Hong Kong have hardened and the country’s legislature has rejected overtures by the Chinese telecommunications conglomerate Huawei to have a major role in developing the country’s new 5G technology. One might observe, however, that the barn door is being closed after the horse has already escaped.

To limit the damage, the Chinese have sweetened their economic expansion into Western Europe by carefully integrating trade with humanitarian initiatives to make the transformation palatable to the local populations. The Health Silk Road initiative is a major exercise of soft power which has, in the current crisis, provided various forms of emergency medical assistance to a number of European nations. In doing so, it has done more than the European Union or the United States. Italy currently has three Chinese medical teams assisting its doctors in and around Milan and has benefited from airlifted medical supplies to include millions of masks and testing kits.

China is not doing what it does for altruistic reasons. It sees itself as the major economic driver of a new globalism, displacing an increasingly foundering and incapable United States, which has dominated world finance and commerce since the Second World War. For China COVID-19 is seen as an opportunity to reconfigure the playing field in its favor.

The experience of Italy, which may have become an epicenter for the virus due to its close commercial and personal ties to China, is illustrative of how globalism and free trade being promoted by a number of engaged groups in many countries can be exploited to create a new reality. Beijing is shaping that reality while the U.S. and E.U. stand on the sideline and watch.

PEPE ESCOBAR: Who Profits from the Pandemic?

April 08, 2020

Pepe Escobar looks at a frightening future that might follow the already terrifying Covid-19 global outbreak. 

By Pepe Escobar
in Bangkok
Special to Consortium News

You don’t need to read Michel Foucault’s work on biopolitics to understand that neoliberalism – in deep crisis since at least 2008 – is a control/governing technique in which surveillance capitalism is deeply embedded.

But now, with the world-system collapsing at breathtaking speed, neoliberalism is at a loss to deal with the next stage of dystopia, ever present in our hyper-connected angst: global mass unemployment.

Henry Kissinger, anointed oracle/gatekeeper of the ruling class, is predictably scared. He claims that, “sustaining the public trust is crucial to social solidarity.” He’s convinced the Hegemon should “safeguard the principles of the liberal world order.” Otherwise, “failure could set the world on fire.”

That’s so quaint. Public trust is dead across the spectrum. The liberal world “order” is now social Darwinist chaos. Just wait for the fire to rage.

The numbers are staggering. The Japan-based Asian Development Bank (ADB), in its annual economic report, may not have been exactly original. But it did note that the impact of the “worst pandemic in a century” will be as high as $4.1 trillion, or 4.8 percent of global GDP.

This an underestimation, as “supply disruptions, interrupted remittances, possible social and financial crises, and long-term effects on health care and education are excluded from the analysis.”

We cannot even start to imagine the cataclysmic social consequences of the crash. Entire sub-sectors of the global economy may not be recomposed at all.  

The International Labor Organization (ILO) forecasts global unemployment at a conservative, additonal 24.7 million people – especially in aviation, tourism and hospitality.

The global aviation industry is a humongous $2.7 trillion business. That’s 3.6 percent of global GDP. It employs 2.7 million people. When you add air transport and tourism —everything from hotels and restaurants to theme parks and museums — it accounts for a minimum of 65.5 million jobs around the world.

According to the ILO, income losses for workers may range from $860 billion to an astonishing $3.4 trillion. “Working poverty” will be the new normal – especially across the Global South.

“Working poor,” in ILO terminology, means employed people living in households with a per capita income below the poverty line of $2 a day. As many as an additional 35 million people worldwide will become working poor in 2020. 

Switching to feasible perspectives for global trade, it’s enlightening to examine that this report about how the economy may rebound is centered on the notorious hyperactive merchants and traders of Yiwu in eastern China – the world’s busiest small-commodity, business hub.

Their experience spells out a long and difficult recovery. As the rest of the world is in a coma, Lu Ting, chief China economist at Nomura in Hong Kong stresses that China faces a 30 percent decline in external demand at least until next Fall.

Neoliberalism in Reverse?

San Miguel, Bulacan, Philippines, 2016. (Judgefloro, CC0, Wikimedia Commons)

In the next stage, the strategic competition between the U.S. and China will be no-holds-barred, as emerging narratives of China’s new, multifaceted global role – on trade, technology, cyberspace, climate change – will set in, even more far-reaching than the New Silk Roads. That will also be the case in global public health policies. Get ready for an accelerated Hybrid War between the “Chinese virus” narrative and the Health Silk Road.

The latest report by the China Institute of International Studies would be quite helpful for the West — hubris permitting — to understand how Beijing adopted key measures putting the health and safety of the general population first. 

Now, as the Chinese economy slowly picks up, hordes of fund managers from across Asia are tracking everything from trips on the metro to noodle consumption to preview what kind of economy may emerge post-lockdown.

In contrast, across the West, the prevailing doom and gloom elicited a priceless editorial from The Financial Times. Like James Brown in the 1980s Blues Brothers pop epic, the City of London seems to have seen the light, or at least giving the impression it really means it. Neoliberalism in reverse. New social contract. “Secure” labor markets. Redistribution.

Cynics won’t be fooled. The cryogenic state of the global economy spells out a vicious Great Depression 2.0 and an unemployment tsunami. The plebs eventually reaching for the pitchforks and the AR-15s en masse is now a distinct possibility. Might as well start throwing a few breadcrumbs to the beggars’ banquet. 

That may apply to European latitudes. But the American story is in a class by itself.

Mural, Seattle, February 2017. (Mitchell Haindfield, Flickr)

For decades, we were led to believe that the world-system put in place after WWII provided the U.S. with unrivalled structural power. Now, all that’s left is structural fragility, grotesque inequalities, unpayable Himalayas of debt, and a rolling crisis.

No one is fooled anymore by the Fed’s magic quantitative easing powers, or the acronym salad – TALF, ESF, SPV – built into the Fed/U.S. Treasury exclusive obsession with big banks, corporations and the Goddess of the Market, to the detriment of the average American.   

It was only a few months ago that a serious discussion evolved around the $2.5 quadrillion derivatives market imploding and collapsing the global economy, based on the price of oil skyrocketing, in case the Strait of Hormuz – for whatever reason – was shut down. 

Now it’s about Great Depression 2.0: the whole system crashing as a result of the shutdown of the global economy. The questions are absolutely legitimate: is the political and social cataclysm of the global economic crisis arguably a larger catastrophe than Covid-19 itself?  And will it provide an opportunity to end neoliberalism and usher in a more equitable system, or something even worse?

 ‘Transparent’ BlackRock

Wall Street, of course, lives in an alternative universe. In a nutshell, Wall Street turned the Fed into a hedge fund. The Fed is going to own at least two thirds of all U.S. Treasury bills in the market before the end of 2020.

The U.S. Treasury will be buying every security and loan in sight while the Fed will be the banker – financing the whole scheme.

So essentially this is a Fed/Treasury merger. A behemoth dispensing loads of helicopter money.

And the winner is BlackRock—the biggest money manager on the planet, with tentacles everywhere, managing the assets of over 170 pension funds, banks, foundations, insurance companies, in fact a great deal of the money in private equity and hedge funds. BlackRock — promising to be fully  “transparent” — will buy these securities and manage those dodgy SPVs on behalf of the Treasury.

BlackRock, founded in 1988 by Larry Fink, may not be as big as Vanguard, but it’s the top investor in Goldman Sachs, along with Vanguard and State Street, and with $6.5 trillion in assets, bigger than Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank combined. 

Now, BlackRock is the new operating system (OS) of the Fed and the Treasury. The world’s biggest shadow bank – and no, it’s not Chinese.

Compared to this high-stakes game, mini-scandals such as the one around Georgia Senator Kelly Loffler are peanuts. Loffler allegedly profited from inside information on Covid-19 by the CDC to make a stock market killing. Loffler is married to Jeffrey Sprecher – who happens to be the chairman of the NYSE, installed by Goldman Sachs. 

While corporate media followed this story like headless chickens, post-Covid-19 plans, in Pentagon parlance, “move forward” by stealth. 

The price? A meager $1,200 check per person for a month. Anyone knows that, based on median salary income, a typical American family would need $12,000 to survive for two months. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in an act of supreme effrontry, allows them a mere 10 percent of that. So American taxpayers will be left with a tsunami of debt while selected Wall Street players grab the whole loot, part of an unparalleled transfer of wealth upwards, complete with bankruptcies en masse of small and medium businesses.

Fink’s letter to his shareholders almost gives the game away: “I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.”

And right on cue, he forecasted that, “in the near future – and sooner than most anticipate – there will be a significant reallocation of capital.”

He was referring, then, to climate change. Now that refers to Covid-19.

Implant Our Nanochip, Or Else?

West Virginia National Guard members reporting to a Charleston nursing home to assist with Covid-19 testing. April 6, 2020. (U.S. Army National Guard, Edwin L. Wriston)

The game ahead for the elites, taking advantage of the crisis, might well contain these four elements: a social credit system, mandatory vaccination, a digital currency and a Universal Basic Income (UBI). This is what used to be called, according to the decades-old, time-tested CIA playbook, a “conspiracy theory.” Well, it might actually happen.

A social credit system is something that China set up already in 2014. Before the end of 2020, every Chinese citizen will be assigned his/her own credit score – a de facto “dynamic profile”, elaborated with extensive use of AI and the internet of things (IoT), including ubiquitous facial recognition technology. This implies, of course, 24/7 surveillance, complete with Blade Runner-style roving robotic birds.

The U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Russia and India may not be far behind. Germany, for instance, is tweaking its universal credit rating system, SCHUFA. France has an ID app very similar to the Chinese model, verified by facial recognition.

Mandatory vaccination is Bill Gates’s dream, working in conjunction with the WHO, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Big Pharma. He wants “billions of doses” to be enforced over the Global South. And it could be a cover to everyone getting a digital implant.

Here it is, in his own words. At 34:15: “Eventually what we’ll have to have is certificates of who’s a recovered person, who’s a vaccinated person…Because you don’t want people moving around the world where you’ll have some countries that won’t have it under control, sadly. You don’t want to completely block off the ability for people to go there and come back and move around.”

Then comes the last sentence which was erased from the official TED video. This was noted by Rosemary Frei, who has a master on molecular biology and is an independent investigative journalist in Canada. Gates says: “So eventually there will be this digital immunity proof that will help facilitate the global reopening up.”

This “digital immunity proof” is crucial to keep in mind, something that could be misused by the state for nefarious purposes.

The three top candidates to produce a coronavirus vaccine are American biotech firm Moderna, as well as Germans CureVac and BioNTech.

Digital cash might then become an offspring of blockchain. Not only the U.S., but China and Russia are also interested in a national crypto-currency. A global currency – of course controlled by central bankers – may soon be adopted in the form of a basket of currencies, and would circulate virtually. Endless permutations of the toxic cocktail of IoT, blockchain technology and the social credit system could loom ahead.

Already Spain has announced that it is introducing UBI, and wants it to be permanent. It’s a form insurance for the elite against social uprisings, especially if millions of jobs never come back.

So the key working hypothesis is that Covid-19 could be used as cover for the usual suspects to bring in a new digital financial system and a mandatory vaccine with a “digital identity” nanochip with dissent not tolerated: what Slavoj Zizek calls the “erotic dream” of every totalitarian government.

Yet underneath it all, amid so much anxiety, a pent-up rage seems to be gathering strength, to eventually explode in unforeseeable ways. As much as the system may be changing at breakneck speed, there’s no guarantee even the 0.1 percent will be safe. 

Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is “2030.” Follow him on Facebook.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

Ground Control to Planet Lockdown: This Is Only a Test

Pepe Escobar

April 2, 2020

Ground Control to Planet Lockdown: This Is Only a Test - Global ...

As much as Covid-19 is a circuit breaker, a time bomb and an actual weapon of mass destruction (WMD), a fierce debate is raging worldwide on the wisdom of mass quarantine applied to entire cities, states and nations.

Those against it argue Planet Lockdown not only is not stopping the spread of Covid-19 but also has landed the global economy into a cryogenic state – with unforeseen, dire consequences. Thus quarantine should apply essentially to the population with the greatest risk of death: the elderly.

With Planet Lockdown transfixed by heart-breaking reports from the Covid-19 frontline, there’s no question this is an incendiary assertion.

In parallel, a total corporate media takeover is implying that if the numbers do not substantially go down, Planet Lockdown – an euphemism for house arrest – remains, indefinitely.

Michael Levitt, 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry and Stanford biophysicist, was spot on when he calculated that China would get through the worst of Covid-19 way before throngs of health experts believed, and that “What we need is to control the panic”.

Let’s cross this over with some facts and dissident opinion, in the interest of fostering an informed debate.

The report Covid-19 – Navigating the Uncharted was co-authored by Dr. Anthony Fauci – the White House face of the fight –, H. Clifford Lane, and CDC director Robert R. Redfield. So it comes from the heart of the U.S. healthcare establishment.

The report explicitly states, “the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.”

On March 19, four days before Downing Street ordered the British lockdown, Covid-19 was downgraded from the status of “High Consequence Infectious Disease.”

John Lee, recently retired professor of pathology and former NHS consultant pathologist, has recently argued that, “the world’s 18,944 coronavirus deaths represent 0.14 per cent of the total. These figures might shoot up but they are, right now, lower than other infectious diseases that we live with (such as flu).”

He recommends, “a degree of social distancing should be maintained for a while, especially for the elderly and the immune-suppressed. But when drastic measures are introduced, they should be based on clear evidence. In the case of Covid-19, the evidence is not clear.”

That’s essentially the same point developed by a Russian military intel analyst.

No less than 22 scientists – see here and here – have expanded on their doubts about the Western strategy.

Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi, Professor Emeritus of Medical Microbiology at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, has provoked immense controversy with his open letter to Chancellor Merkel, stressing the “truly unforeseeable consequences of the drastic containment measures which are currently being applied in large parts of Europe.”

Even New York governor Andrew Cuomo admitted on the record about the error of quarantining elderly people with illnesses alongside the fit young population.

The absolutely key issue is how the West was caught completely unprepared for the spread of Covid-19 – even after being provided a head start of two months by China, and having the time to study different successful strategies applied across Asia.

There are no secrets for the success of the South Korean model.

South Korea was producing test kits already in early January, and by March was testing 100,000 people a day, after establishing strict control of the whole population – to Western cries of “no protection of private life”. That was before the West embarked on Planet Lockdown mode.

South Korea was all about testing early, often and safely – in tandem with quick, thorough contact tracing, isolation and surveillance.

Covid-19 carriers are monitored with the help of video-surveillance cameras, credit card purchases, smartphone records. Add to it SMS sent to everyone when a new case is detected near them or their place of work. Those in self-isolation need an app to be constantly monitored; non-compliance means a fine to the equivalent of $2,800.

Controlled demolition in effect

In early March, the Chinese Journal of Infectious Diseases, hosted by the Shanghai Medical Association, pre-published an Expert Consensus on Comprehensive Treatment of Coronavirus in Shanghai. Treatment recommendations included, “large doses of vitamin C…injected intravenously at a dose of 100 to 200 mg / kg per day. The duration of continuous use is to significantly improve the oxygenation index.”

That’s the reason why 50 tons of Vitamin C was shipped to Hubei province in early February. It’s a stark example of a simple “mitigation” solution capable of minimizing economic catastrophe.

In contrast, it’s as if the brutally fast Chinese “people’s war” counterpunch against Covid-19 had caught Washington totally unprepared. Steady intel rumbles on the Chinese net point to Beijing having already studied all plausible leads towards the origin of the Sars-Cov-2 virus – vital information that will be certainly weaponized, Sun Tzu style, at the right time.

As it stands, the sustainability of the complex Eurasian integration project has not been substantially compromised. As the EU has provided the whole planet with a graphic demonstration of its cluelessness and helplessness, everyday the Russia-China strategic partnership gets stronger – increasingly investing in soft power and advancing a pan-Eurasia dialogue which includes, crucially, medical help.

Facing this process, the EU’s top diplomat, Joseph Borrell, sounds indeed so helpless: “There is a global battle of narratives going on in which timing is a crucial factor. […] China has brought down local new infections to single figures – and it is now sending equipment and doctors to Europe, as others do as well. China is aggressively pushing the message that, unlike the U.S., it is a responsible and reliable partner. In the battle of narratives we have also seen attempts to discredit the EU (…) We must be aware there is a geo-political component including a struggle for influence through spinning and the ‘politics of generosity’. Armed with facts, we need to defend Europe against its detractors.”

That takes us to really explosive territory. A critique of the Planet Lockdown strategy inevitably raises serious questions pointing to a controlled demolition of the global economy. What is already in stark effect are myriad declinations of martial law, severe social media policing in Ministry of Truth mode, and the return of strict border controls.

These are unequivocal markings of a massive social re-engineering project, complete with inbuilt full monitoring, population control and social distancing promoted as the new normal.

That would be taking to the limit Secretary of State Mike “we lie, we cheat, we steal” Pompeo’s assertion, on the record, that Covid-19 is a live military exercise: “This matter is going forward — we are in a live exercise here to get this right.”

All hail BlackRock

So as we face a New Great Depression, steps leading to a Brave New World are already discernable. It goes way beyond a mere Bretton Woods 2.0, in the manner that Pam and Russ Martens superbly deconstruct the recent $2 trillion, Capitol Hill-approved stimulus to the U.S. economy.

Essentially, the Fed will “leverage the bill’s $454 million bailout slush fund into $4.5 trillion”. And no questions are allowed on who gets the money, because the bill simply cancels the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the Fed.

The privileged private contractor for the slush fund is none other than BlackRock. Here’s the extremely short version of the whole, astonishing scheme, masterfully detailed here.

Wall Street has turned the Fed into a hedge fund. The Fed is going to own at least two thirds of all U.S. Treasury bills wallowing in the market before the end of the year.

The U.S. Treasury will be buying every security and loan in sight while the Fed will be the banker – financing the whole scheme.

So essentially this is a Fed/ Treasury merger. A behemoth dispensing loads of helicopter money – with BlackRock as the undisputable winner.

BlackRock is widely known as the biggest money manager on the planet. Their tentacles are everywhere. They own 5% of Apple, 5% of Exxon Mobil, 6% of Google, second largest shareholder of AT&T (Turner, HBO, CNN, Warner Brothers) – these are just a few examples.

They will buy all these securities and manage those dodgy special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) on behalf of the Treasury.

BlackRock not only is the top investor in Goldman Sachs. Better yet: Blackrock is bigger than Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank combined. BlackRock is a serious Trump donor. Now, for all practical purposes, it will be the operating system – the Chrome, Firefox, Safari – of Fed/Treasury.

This represents the definitive Wall Street-ization of the Fed – with no evidence whatsoever it will lead to any improvement in the lives of the average American.

Western corporate media, en masse, have virtually ignored the myriad, devastating economic consequences of Planet Lockdown. Wall to wall coverage barely mentions the astonishing economic human wreckage already in effect – especially for the masses barely surviving, so far, in the informal economy.

For all practical purposes, the Global War on Terror (GWOT) has been replaced by the Global War on Virus (GWOV). But what is not being seriously analyzed is the Perfect Toxic Storm: a totally shattered economy; The Mother of All Financial Crashes – barely masked by the trillions in helicopter money from the Fed and the ECB; the tens of millions of unemployed engendered by the New Great Depression; the millions of small businesses that will simply disappear; a widespread, global mental health crisis. Not to mention the masses of elderly, especially in the U.S., that will be issued an unspoken “drop dead” notice.

Beyond any rhetoric about “decoupling”, the global economy is already, de facto, split in two. On one side, we have Eurasia, Africa and swathes of Latin America – what China will be painstakingly connecting and reconnecting via the New Silk Roads. On the other side, we have North America and selected Western vassals. A puzzled Europe lies in the middle.

A cryogenically induced global economy certainly facilitates a reboot. Trumpism is the New Exceptionalism – so that means an isolationist MAGA on steroids. In contrast, China will painstakingly reboot its market base along the New Silk Roads – Africa and Latin America included – to replace the 20% of trade/exports to be lost with the U.S.

The meager $1,200 checks promised to Americans are a de facto precursor of the much touted Universal Basic Income (UBI). They may become permanent as tens of millions of people will be permanently unemployed. That will facilitate the transition towards a totally automated, 24/7 economy run by AI – thus the importance of 5G.

And that’s where ID2020 comes in.

AI and ID2020

The European Commission is involved in a crucial but virtually unknown project, CREMA (Cloud Based Rapid Elastic Manufacturing) which aims to facilitate the widest possible implementation of AI in conjunction to the advent of a cashless One-World system.

The end of cash necessarily implies a One-World government capable of dispensing – and controlling – UBI; a de facto full accomplishment of Foucault’s studies on biopolitics. Anyone is liable to be erased from the system if an algorithm equals this individual with dissent.

It gets even sexier when absolute social control is promoted as an innocent vaccine.

ID2020 is self-described as a benign alliance of “public-private partners”. Essentially, it is an electronic ID platform based on generalized vaccination. And its starts at birth; newborns will be provided with a “portable and persistent biometrically-linked digital identity.”

GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, pledges to “protect people’s health “ and provide “immunization for all”. Top partners and sponsors, apart from the WHO, include, predictably, Big Pharma.

At the ID2020 Alliance summit last September in New York, it was decided that the “Rising to the Good ID Challenge” program would be launched in 2020. That was confirmed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) this past January in Davos. The digital identity will be tested with the government of Bangladesh.

That poses a serious question: was ID2020 timed to coincide with what a crucial sponsor, the WHO, qualified as a pandemic? Or was a pandemic absolutely crucial to justify the launch of ID2020?

As game-changing trial runs go, nothing of course beats Event 201, which took place less than a month after ID2020.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in partnership with, once again, the WEF, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, described Event 201 as “a high-level pandemic exercise”. The exercise “illustrated areas where public/private partnerships will be necessary during the response to a severe pandemic in order to diminish large-scale economic and societal consequences.”

With Covid-19 in effect as a pandemic, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health was forced to issue a statement basically saying they just “modeled a fictional coronavirus pandemic, but we explicitly stated that it was not a prediction”.

There’s no question “a severe pandemic, which becomes ‘Event 201’ would require reliable cooperation among several industries, national governments, and key international institutions”, as spun by the sponsors. Covid-19 is eliciting exactly this kind of “cooperation”. Whether it’s “reliable” is open to endless debate.

The fact is that, all over Planet Lockdown, a groundswell of public opinion is leaning towards defining the current state of affairs as a global psyop: a deliberate global meltdown – the New Great Depression – imposed on unsuspecting citizens by design.

The powers that be, taking their cue from the tried and tested, decades-old CIA playbook, of course are breathlessly calling it a “conspiracy theory”. Yet what vast swathes of global public opinion observe is a – dangerous – virus being used as cover for the advent of a new, digital financial system, complete with a forced vaccine cum nanochip creating a full, individual, digital identity.

The most plausible scenario for our immediate future reads like clusters of smart cities linked by AI, with people monitored full time and duly micro-chipped doing what they need with a unified digital currency, in an atmosphere of Bentham’s and Foucault’s Panopticum on overdrive.

So if this is really our future, the existing world-system has to go. This is a test, this is only a test.

China rolls out the Health Silk Road

China rolls out the Health Silk Road

April 02, 2020

by Pepe Escobar – Posted with permission

In the Belt and Road framework, China is supplying much of the world including virus-hit Europe with medicine and healthcare items

When President Xi Jinping was on a phone call in mid-March with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti, before the arrival of a China Eastern flight from Shanghai to Milan full of medical help, the key takeaway was the Chinese pledge to develop a Health Silk Road (Jiankang Sichou Zhilu).

That was in fact already inbuilt in the Belt and Road Initiative playbook since at least 2017, under the framework of enhanced, pan-Eurasian health connectivity. The pandemic only accelerated the timeline. The Health Silk Road will run in parallel to the multiple overland Silk Road corridors and the Maritime Silk Road.

In a graphic demonstration of soft power, so far China has offered Covid-19-related equipment and medical help to no fewer than 89 nations – and counting.

That covers Africa (especially South Africa, Namibia and Kenya, with Alibaba in fact announcing it will send help to all African nations); Latin America (Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Peru); the arc from East Asia to Southwest Asia; and Europe.Key recipients in Europe include Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Serbia and Poland. But Italy, most of all, is a very special case. Most are donations. Some are trade – like millions of masks sold to France (and the US).

Less than a year ago Italy became the first G-7 nation to sign a memorandum of understanding formally joining Belt and Road – much to the displeasure of Washington and the Atlanticist galaxy in Brussels and beyond.

Earlier this year in Sicily, I discussed these intricacies in detail with Enrico Fardella, Professor of History at Peking University  and an expert on China-Mediterranean relations.

Italy is supported on myriad fronts – not only at the highest political level but also via the Chinese Red Cross, Sino-Italian associations, tech/logistics Chinese companies and donations from Alibaba, Huawei, ZTE and Lenovo. There are three Chinese medical teams in Italy at the moment.

This all ties up with the larger Belt and Road picture, featuring investments in Genoa and Trieste, two key ports and future Belt and Road nodes.

A performance of a Puccini opera whose story focuses on the illness and death of a lovely seamstress is canceled, ironically due to coronavirus, at the Verdi theater in Trieste. China has made investments in Trieste and Genoa, two key ports and future Belt and Road nodes, and now it is providing medical aid to Italy as part of its newer, parallel Health Silk Roads scheme. Photo: AFP / Jacopo Landi / NurPhoto

This Chinese soft power offensive is carefully calibrated to offset the current paralysis of global supply chains. China is now working overtime to supply many parts of the world with medicine and related healthcare items – always with the Belt and Road framework in mind, as if doubling down on Globalization 2.0.

That spells out the interconnectivity of nations that badly need development and infrastructure along with the need for good health systems and practices.

And that prepares the terrain for, when Covid-19 is more or less tamed and the Chinese economy fully recovered, the Belt and Road reboot: an inexorable historic trend based on a new economic model that Beijing deems more equitable, and in the interests of the Global South.

‘Chinese lie

A Health Silk Road is already in effect when we see China, Russia – and Cuba with its first-class health system – sending teams of doctors and virologists as well as planes with medical equipment to Italy, and China sending drugs, test kits and supplies to illegally sanctioned Iran.

China immediately understood what was at stake as it saw Covid-19 ravage many hot points of world-famous Made in Italy. With its offer of skilled, cheaper manufacturing, China had initially lured key Italian fashion houses to outsource their production to China, and most of all to Wuhan.

The connectivity – which has been there for decades – works both ways. Chinese investors started to arrive in northern Italy in the early 1990s. They bought a string of factories; renovated them; created their own, top Made in Italy brands; and brought in tens of thousands of skilled Chinese seamstresses to work in these factories.

There are plenty of direct flights from Wuhan to Lombardy – to serve at least 300,000 Chinese who have moved permanently to Italy to work in Chinese-owned factories producing Made in Italy.

So it’s no wonder Doctor Giuseppe Remuzzi, director of the Mario Negri Pharmacology Institute in Milan, became a superstar in China.  In an interview that went viral, Remuzzi talks about his explosive findings in conversations with general practitioners in Lombardy.

Here’s Dr. Remuzzi, at 4:19:  “Do you know what happened? Certain family doctors, who have the best antennas in the territory, at least the most able and attentive ones, have told me recently that they were seeing grave cases of pneumonia, which we had never seen in other years.

These pneumonia cases had nothing to do with typical flu pneumonia, they were interstitial pneumonias, they had to do CT, radiography [to diagnose it], and this was seen in October, November, December. So this virus has been circulating a long time.”

That was indeed in parallel with or even before the first coronavirus cases in Wuhan in mid-November. It’s been already scientifically established that the virus strains in Wuhan and in Lombardy are different. Which came first, and where from, remains a matter of incendiary debate.

Inevitably the Health Silk Road would have to be dismissed by the Atlanticist gang as a disinformation ploy exploiting the pandemic to “destabilize” and weaken Europe. That’s the narrative promoted by EUvsDisinfo, an NGO whose personnel love to blast Russia and China for a living.

So for the Brussels bureaucracy, the Health Silk Road is not about saving lives; it’s about “destabilizing” the EU and improving Xi Jinping’s domestic image after China lied, lied and lied again about the extent and severity of coronavirus. That happens to be the exact same narrative of the Trump administration, US corporate media and US intelligence.

Does it matter? Not for those 89 nations that are receiving much-needed help and equipment. The dogs of demonization bark while the Health Silk Road caravan passes.

Lazy Optimism and US Capitalism’s Deaths of Despair

We are all Stoics now

Source

March 21, 2020

By Pepe Escobar – posted with permission

The Philosophical Silk Road as celebrated at an Italian airport: a meeting of Chinese and Greek/Latin stoicism

Stoics would approve: Following a decree issued by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on March 9, all commercial activities have been required to close after 6 pm with the exception of food shops. The squares of Italian cities have emptied; bars, restaurants, cafes and covered markets are now deserted. Movement is allowed only for business purposes and home deliveries and for close personal reasons. The streets are patrolled by police forces. This photo was taken at Piazza Capitaniato, Padua, on Monday. Photo: AFP / Roberto Silvino / NurPhoto

Earlier this week a delegation of Chinese medics arrived at Malpensa airport near Milan from Shanghai on a special China Eastern flight carrying 400,000 masks and 17 tons of equipment. The salutation banner the visitors rolled out on the tarmac, in red and white, read, “We’re waves from the same sea, leaves from the same tree, flowers from the same garden.”

In a stance of supreme cross-cultural elegance, this was inspired by the poetics of Seneca, a Stoic. The impact, all over Italy, where people still study the classics, was immense.

The Chinese were consulted in advance and they preferred Seneca to a Chinese saying. After all, for China, a 5,000-year-old civilization-state that has confronted perhaps more than its share of instances of luan (“chaos”), there’s nothing more rejuvenating than post-chaos.

China is donating coronavirus test kits to Cambodia. China sent planeloads of masks, ventilators – and medics – to Italy and France. China sent medics to Iran, which is under unilateral, illegal US sanctions – and to Iraq, which the Pentagon is bombing again. China is helping across the (Eurasian) board, from the Philippines to Spain.

President Xi Jinping, in a phone call with Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, pledged in the wake of Covid-19 to establish a Health Silk Road, a companion to the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative.

Thus, finally, there’s the Philosophical Silk Road celebrated at an Italian airport, a meeting of Greek/Latin stoicism with Chinese stoicism.

Slave, orator, emperor

Stoicism, in Ancient Greece, was pop culture – reaching out in a way that the sophisticated Platonic and Aristotelian schools could only dream of. Like the Epicureans and the Skeptics, the Stoics owed a lot to Socrates who always stressed that philosophy had to be practical, capable of changing our priorities in life.

The Stoics were very big on ataraxia – freedom from disturbance – as the ideal state of our mind. The wise man cannot possibly be troubled because the key to wisdom is knowing what not to care about.

So the Stoics were Socratic in the sense that they were striving to offer peace of mind to Everyman. Like a Hellenistic version of the Tao.

The great ascetic Antisthenes was a companion of Socrates and a precursor of the Stoics. The first Stoics took their name from the porch – stoa – in the Athenian market where official founder Zeno of Citium (333-262 BC) used to hang out. But the real deal was in fact Chrisippus, a philosopher specialized in logic and physics, who may have written as many as 705 books, none of which survived.

The West came to know the top Stoics as a Roman trio – Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. They are the role models of stoicism as we know it today.

Epictetus (50-120 AD) was born as a slave in Rome, then moved to Greece and spent his life examining the nature of freedom.

Seneca (5 BC-65 AD), a fabulous orator and decent dramatist, was exiled to Corsica when he was falsely accused of committing adultery with the sister of emperor Claudius. But afterward he was brought back to Rome to educate the young Nero, and ended up sort of forced by Nero to commit suicide.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca (The Younger) c5 BC-65 AD. Roman Stoic philosopher, committing suicide in his bath, having antagonised Nero. Photo AFP / rom Hartmann Schedel ‘Liber chronicarum mundi’ (Nuremberg Chronicle), 1493 woodcut, Nuremberg

Marcus Aurelius, a humanist, was the prototypical reluctant emperor, living in the turbulent second century AD and configuring himself as a precursor of Schopenhauer: Marcus saw life as really a drag.

Zeno’s teachers were in fact Cynics (the nickname affixed to them came from a Greek word meaning “dog-like, currish, churlish”) whose core intuition was that nothing mattered more than virtue. So the trappings of conventional society would have to be downgraded to the status of irrelevant distractions at best. Few of today’s (lowercase) cynics would qualify.

It’s enlightening to know that the upper classes of the Roman empire, the 1%, regarded Zeno’s insights as quite solid, while predictably deriding the first punk in history, Diogenes the Cynic, who masturbated in the public square and carried a lantern trying to find a real man.

As much as for Heraclitus, for the Stoics a key element in the quest for peace of mind was learning how to live with the inevitable. This desire for serenity is one of their linkages with the Epicureans.

Stoics were adamant that most people have no clue about the universe they live in. (Imagine their reaction to social networks.) Thus they end up confused in their attitudes towards life. In contrast to Plato and Aristotle, the Stoics were hardcore materialists. They would have none of that talk of “Forms” in an ideal Platonic world. For the Stoics, these were nothing but concepts in Plato’s mind.

For the Epicureans, the world is the unplanned product of chaotic forces.

The Stoics, in contrast, thought the world was a matter of organization down to the last detail.

For the Epicureans, the course of nature is not pre-determined: Fate intervenes in the form of random swerves of atoms. Fate, in ancient Greece, actually meant Zeus.

For the Stoics, everything happens according to fate: an inexorable chain of cause and effect, developing in exactly the same way again and again in a cycle of cosmic creation and destruction – a sort of precursor of Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence.

Resigned acceptance

The Stoics were heavily influenced by Heraclitus. Stoic physics dealt with the notion of interpenetration: the physical world as a stirred concoction of intermingled substances, quite an extraordinary precursor of the equivalence of energy and matter in Einstein.

What the post-modern world retains from the Stoics is the notion of resigned acceptance – which makes total sense if the world really works according to their insights. If fate rules the world, and practically everything that happens is out of our hands, then realpolitik means to accept “everything to happen as it actually does happen,” in the immortal words of Epictetus.

Thus it’s pointless to get excited about stuff we cannot change. And it’s pointless to be attached to things that we will eventually lose. (But try selling this notion to the Masters of the Universe of financial capitalism.)

So the Way, according to the Stoics, is to own only the essentials, and to travel light. Lao Tzu would approve. After all, anything we may lose is more or less gone already – thus we are already protected from the worst blows in life.

Lao-Tzu (c.604-531 BC) on his Buffalo, Qing dynasty (ceramic) by Chinese School, (18th century); Musee Guimet, Paris. Photo: AFP

Perhaps the ultimate Stoic secret is the distinction by Epictetus between things that are under our control – our thoughts and desires – and those that are not: our bodies, our families, our property, our lot in life, all elements that the expansion of Covid-19 has now put in check.

What Epictetus tells you is that if you redirect your emotions to focus on what is in your power and ignore everything else, then “no one will ever be able to exert compulsion upon you, no one will hinder you – neither there’s any harm that can touch you.”

Epictetus the Greek Stoic philosopher. Photo: AFP / ©Costa/leemage

Power ultimately irrelevant

Seneca offered a definitive guide that we may apply to multiple strands of the 1%: “I deny that riches are a good, for if they were, they would make men good. As it is, since that which is found in the hands of the wicked cannot be called a good, I refuse to apply the term to riches.”

The Stoics taught that to enter public life means to spread virtue and fight vice. It’s a very serious business involving duty, discipline and self-control. This goes a long way to explain why over 70% of Italians now applaud the conduct of the prime minister in the fight against Covid-19. Conte did rise to the occasion, unexpectedly, as a neo-Stoic.

The Stoics regarded death as a useful reminder of one’s fate and of the ultimate insignificance of the things of the world. Marcus Aurelius found enormous consolation in the shortness of life: “In a little while you will be no one and nowhere, even as Hadrian and Augustus are no more.” When circumstances made it impossible to live up to the ideals of Stoic virtue, death was always a viable Plan B.

Epictetus also tells us we should not really be concerned about what happens to our body. Sometimes he seemed to regard death as the acceptable way out of any misfortune.

At the top of their game the Stoics made it clear that the difference between life and death was insignificant, compared with the difference between virtue and vice.

Thus the notion of a noble suicide. Stoic heroism is plain to see in the life and death of Cato The Younger as described by Plutarch. Cato was a fierce opponent of Caesar, and his integrity ruled that the only possible way out was suicide.

According to Plutarch’s legendary account, Cato, on his last night, defended a number of Stoic theses during dinner, retreated to his room to read Plato’s Phaedo – in which Socrates argues that a true philosopher sees all of life as a preparation for death – and killed himself. Of course he became a Stoic superstar for eternity.

The Stoics taught that wealth, status and power are ultimately irrelevant. Once again, Lao Tzu would approve. The only thing that can raise one man above others is superior virtue – of which everyone is capable, at least in principle. So, yes, the Stoics believed we are all brothers and sisters. Seneca: “Nature made us relatives by creating us from the same materials and for the same destiny.”

Imagine a system built on a selfless devotion to the welfare of others, and against all vanity. It’s certainly not what inequality-provoking, financial turbo-capitalism is all about.

Epictetus: “What ought one to say then as each hardship comes? ‘I was practicing for this, I was training for this.’” Will Covid-19 show to a global wave of practicing neo-Stoics that there is another way?

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