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living in poverty.According to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) most optimistic 2020 scenario – certainly to become outdated before the end of Spring – global trade would shrink by 13%.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.

10 Signs the U.S. Is Heading for a Depression

By Mike Whitney

Global Research, April 03, 2020

1– Unemployment is off-the-charts

Thursday’s jobless claims leave no doubt that the country is in the grips of another severe recession. More than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance in the last week. That number exceeds the gloomiest prediction of more than 40 economists and pushes the two-week total to an eye-watering 10 million claims.

According to CNBC:

“Those at the lower end of the wage scale have been especially hard-hit during a crisis that has seen businesses either cut staff outright or at best freeze any new hiring until there’s more visibility about how efforts to contain the coronavirus will work.

“We’ve lived through the recession and 9/11. What we’re seeing with this decline is actually worse than both of those events,” said Irina Novoselsky, CEO of online jobs marketplace CareerBuilder.” (CNBC)

According to New York Magazine:

“Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis projected Monday that job losses from the coronavirus recession would reach 47 million and push America’s unemployment rate to 32.1 percent — more than 7 points higher than its Great Depression–era peak.”

2– Service Sector has been walloped by the virus

Services account for 70% of the US economy, but presently the sector is in meltdown. According to the analysts at Wolf Street: “Employment contracted sharply and hours were reduced for those still employed. “The employment index plunged from +6.1 to -23.8, also the lowest level on record…

Retailers got whacked. The Retail Sales Index of the Texas Retail Outlook Survey collapsed from the already beaten-down level of -2.5 in February to an epic all-time low of -82.6 in March… (Also) the general business activity index collapsed from the beaten down level of -5.0 to a historic low of -84.2….

Comments from retail executives were somber:… “Most of our business has gone to zero except for essential locations such as hospitals, military bases and prisons… We are contemplating at this moment sending most employees home while our owners determine whether they can afford to pay reduced salaries and cover benefits for a short period while we see if things improve or worsen” (Wolf Street)

3– Economic carnage extends across sectors

Business Insider: “Recession risks are rising as coronavirus spreads around the world…The crisis will clobber airlines, shipping, hotels, and restaurants…

“Sectors reliant on trade and the free movement of people are most exposed,” said Benjamin Nelson, a Moody’s vice president and co-author of the report.

Carmakers, gaming, and retail will be hit hard by supply chain disruptions, the analysts said…

“A lengthy outbreak would affect economic activity for longer, leading to heightened recessionary dynamics and a more significant demand shock,” Moody’s said. “A sustained pullback in consumption would hurt corporate earnings, prompt layoffs, and weigh on consumer sentiment.”(Business Insider)

Car sales have also dropped dramatically in the last two weeks. On Wednesday, Hyundai reported that sales had seen a decline of 43 percent for March compared to the same period in 2019. That’s a drop from 61,177 vehicles in March 2019 to just 35,118 during the same month in 2020. All other car manufacturers are experiencing similar weakness in demand.

4– The Bloodbath on Wall Street continues

U.S. shares sold off again on Wednesday for the third time in four days wiping out most of last week’s bear market rally. The SandP 500 dipped 114 points while the Dow Jones lopped-off nearly 973 points by the end of the session. Analysts now believe that last week’s 20% surge was a temporary reaction to Trump’s multi-trillion dollar fiscal plan. By a 9 to 1 margin, investors are now betting that stocks have further to fall.

“Investor pessimism today is as bad as it has been,” said Dennis DeBusschere of Evercore ISI. “All estimates of when this will end are being pushed out…”

Before the outbreak of the virus, traders believed that low rates, liquidity injections and easy credit would keep stocks on a permanent upward trajectory. But the daily deluge of bad news coupled with an economy that is in freefall has undermined confidence in the Central Bank sending stocks into a tailspin. The Dow closed Wednesday at 20,943, which is three times higher than its March 9, 2009 low of 6,547. Stocks still have further to fall.

5– Struggling consumers can no longer carry the US economyAnother US Great Recession Coming?

An article at The Medium explains how the composition of the workforce has changed since the 2008 financial crisis. Gig workers make up are a significant part of the workforce, but they do not have the protections or benefits of most wage earners. These independent contractors will impacted the most by the sudden downturn in the economy. Their ability to consume will also weaken the post-crisis recovery and lead to slower growth. Check out this short excerpt from A crippling collapse in consumer spending is coming:

“From restaurant workers, caterers, and Uber drivers to office and hotel cleaning staff to event venue staff to people supplementing earnings with AirBnB revenue, income is cratering across the country for hourly and gig workers. And most have little to no financial cushion…

Thirty-six percent of U.S. workers are now involved in the gig economy…. Most gig and hourly workers are walking a financial tightrope. They will not be able to afford even a short-term hit to their earnings. It will mean a further spike in auto loan and credit-card delinquencies. It will mean a spike in healthcare-driven bankruptcies. It will mean unpaid rent. And it will mean consumer spending will plummet…. A sudden shock to gig and hourly-worker earnings will have seismic implications for the economic and political future of the U.S….

More than 15.5 million Americans work in restaurants. Of those workers, roughly 3 million live in poverty….Unpaid rent will eventually lead to landlord defaults… Consumer spending now accounts for roughly 70% of the U.S. economy. Reportedly, government stimulus may not reach consumers until the end of April. Gig and hourly workers need help now.” (“A crippling collapse in consumer spending is coming”, The Medium)

How many of these gig workers will fall through the cracks, lose their apartments or rental units, and wind up on the streets, homeless and destitute?

6– Americans continue to stockpile food

According to the Wall Street Journal: “In the past two weeks, Americans have hoarded food as restaurants close their dining rooms and more are told to stay home from work and school. General Mills, which makes Cheerios cereal, Yoplait yogurt and Progresso soup, on Wednesday said retailers in North America and Europe are purchasing more of its products and its factories are running at near capacity to meet the demand….(WSJ)

“Consumers across the globe are still loading their pantries — and the economic fallout from the virus is just starting...

“You could see wartime rationing, price controls and domestic stockpiling,” said Ann Berg, an independent consultant and veteran agricultural trader.” (Bloomberg)

CNBC: “Psychologists ..weigh in on why our brains push us to panic buy — even when authorities are assuring the public there’s no need to. According to Paul Marsden, a consumer psychologist at the University of the Arts London,…

“It’s about ‘taking back control’ in a world where you feel out of control…When people are stressed their reason is hampered, so they look at what other people are doing. If others are stockpiling it leads you to engage in the same behavior. People see photos of empty shelves and regardless of whether it’s rational it sends a signal to them that it’s the thing to do….” (CNBC)

7– Most Americans have no savings

From Yahoo Finance:

Saving money continues to be a challenge for Americans….

Since 2015, GOBankingRates has asked Americans how much they have in savings. Each year, the survey results have shown that a majority of adults don’t even have $1,000 in a savings account…

This year, GOBankingRates asked more than 5,000 adults, “How much money do you have saved in your savings account?” Respondents could choose from one of seven options:

The survey found that 58 percent of respondents had less than $1,000 saved.

“It’s always concerning when a large part of the population is seemingly living paycheck to paycheck because when unexpected personal or financial hardships occur, it can be challenging to recover without adequate savings,” Jason Thacker, head of consumer deposits and payments at TD Bank, said.” (“58% of Americans Have Less Than $1,000 in Savings, Survey Finds”, Yahoo Finance)

8– Household debt is at an all-time high

From CNBC: “Household debt surged in 2019, marking the biggest annual increase since just before the financial crisis, according to the New York Federal Reserve.

Total household debt balances rose by $601 billion last year, topping $14 trillion for the first time, according to a new report by the Fed branch. The last time the growth was that large was 2007, when household debt rose by just over $1 trillion....

“The data also show that transitions into delinquency among credit card borrowers have steadily risen since 2016, notably among younger borrowers,” Wilbert Van Der Klaauw, senior vice president at the New York Fed, said in a statement.” (“Household debt jumps the most in 12 years, Federal Reserve report says”, CNBC)

9 — Many businesses might not survive long enough to get stimulus

Many businesses shut their doors either for a lack of customers or on orders from state or local governments as emergency declarations began rolling across the country in mid-March,. Yet it could be weeks more before the business loans, bigger unemployment checks and direct payments to individuals from the stimulus plan flow into the economy.

Small businesses account for almost half of U.S. private employment. A complete collapse of even some of those enterprises not only would dash the dreams of entrepreneurs and threaten the livelihoods of many, it risks sapping the power of an eventual economic rebound as the financial distress ripples through to landlords, vendors and lenders.

Already, 50,000 retail stores have shut in just over a week across the country, putting more than 600,000 workers on furlough, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The National Federation of Independent Business, had a record 13,000 people register for a webinar it hosted Monday on the stimulus plan and financial resources….After the webinar ended, more than 900 emails flooded in, she said, with business owners asking: “Am I going to have anything left? Will I be evicted? Will I have to file for bankruptcy? Will I be able to reopen?”

“The emails almost make me want to cry,” Milito added. “What I’m hearing from members is fear, uncertainty and almost heartbreak.” (“Stimulus May Come Too Late for U.S. Businesses Already Stretched”, Bloomberg)

10– Food banks are seeing a sudden, sharp rise in demand

This is from Newsday:

“Emergency food programs are bracing for a wave of new recipients in the coming weeks as more Long Islanders are expected to lose their jobs, get furloughed or have work hours and wages reduced. At the same time, volunteers — many of them at high risk of contracting the virus — are staying home to protect themselves and needy people from getting sick.

Compounding the problem is a crippled national supply chain that delays food deliveries by weeks.

“It’s a perfect storm of tragedy on top of each other,” said Jean Kelly, executive director of the Interfaith Nutrition Network, a Hempstead soup kitchen. “Everything that could go wrong is going wrong.”

Soup kitchens and pantries in many communities closed temporarily in recent weeks to protect volunteers or because sponsoring agencies, such as houses of worship and nonprofits, also shut their doors.

“The reason they’re closed is they don’t really have an infrastructure of people to work there….The majority of the food pantries are operated by volunteers. The average age is in their 70s. They’re fearful of contracting the coronavirus.” (“Demand at LI food pantries rise as volunteers and food supplies fall”, Newsday)

Final Note from an article titled: “Americans Are Worried About The Coronavirus. They’re Even More Worried About The Economy”

“An overwhelming majority of Americans are really concerned about the economy. … A Morning Consult poll conducted between March 20 and March 22 found that 90 percent of Americans said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned that the coronavirus would impact the economy…Americans are also worried about job security — 49 percent said they were worried about losing their job, according to an Economist/YouGov survey conducted between March 22 and March 24.” (FiveThirtyEight)

Not surprisingly, some polls suggest that “more Americans are worried about the effect of the coronavirus on the economy than about their own health.” I would include myself in that group, which is why I hope that President Trump expands his economics team by adding more experienced, top-notch economists who can help him navigate this unprecedented and potentially-catastrophic crisis. This isn’t the time for the B Team (Kudlow, Mnuchin) to making decisions that will impact the entire country.

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This article was originally published on The Unz Review.

Mike Whitney is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from ShutterstockThe original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Mike Whitney, Global Research, 2020

How black swans are shaping planet panic

March 11, 2020

by Pepe Escobar – posted with permission

Is the planet under the spell of a pair of black swans – a Wall Street meltdown, caused by an alleged oil war between Russia and the House of Saud, plus the uncontrolled spread of Covid-19 – leading to an all-out “cross-asset pandemonium” as billed by Nomura?

Or, as German analyst Peter Spengler suggests, whatever the averted climax in the Strait of Hormuz has not brought about so far “might now come through market forces”?

Let’s start with what really happened after five hours of relatively polite discussions last Friday in Vienna. What turned into a de facto OPEC+ meltdown was quite the game-changing plot twist.

OPEC+ includes Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Essentially, after enduring years of OPEC price-fixing – the result of relentless US pressure over Saudi Arabia – while patiently rebuilding its foreign exchange reserves, Moscow saw the perfect window of opportunity to strike, targeting the US shale industry.

Shares of some of these US producers plunged as much as 50% on “Black Monday.” They simply cannot survive with a barrel of oil in the $30s – and that’s where this is going. After all these companies are drowning in debt.

A $30 barrel of oil has to be seen as a precious gift/stimulus package for a global economy in turmoil – especially from the point of view of oil importers and consumers. This is what Russia made possible.

And the stimulus may last for a while. Russia’s National Wealth Fund has made it clear it has enough reserves (over $150 billion) to cover a budget deficit from six to ten years – even with oil at $25 a barrel. Goldman Sachs has already gamed a possible Brent crude at $20 a barrel.

As Persian Gulf traders stress, the key to what is perceived in the US as an “oil war” between Moscow and Riyadh is mostly about derivatives. Essentially, banks won’t be able to pay those speculators who hold derivative insurance against a steep decline in the price of oil. Added stress comes from traders panicking with Covid-19 spreading across nations that are visibly unprepared to deal with it.

Watch the Russian game

Moscow must have gamed beforehand that Russian stocks traded in London – such as Gazprom, Rosneft, Novatek and Gazprom Neft – would collapse. According to Lukoil’s co-owner Leonid Fedun, Russia may lose up to $150 million a day from now on. The question is for how long this will be acceptable.

Still, from the beginning Rosneft’s position was that for Russia, the deal with OPEC+ was “meaningless” and only “cleared the way” for American shale oil.

The consensus among Russian energy giants was that the current market setup – massive “negative oil demand,”positive “supply shock” and no swing producer – inevitably had to crash the price of oil. They were watching, helplessly, as the US was already selling oil for a lower price than OPEC.

Moscow’s move against the US fracking industry was payback for the Trump administration messing with Nord Stream 2. The inevitable, steep devaluation of the ruble was gamed.

Still, what happened post-Vienna essentially has little to do with a Russia-Saudi trade war. The Russian Energy Ministry is phlegmatic: Move on, nothing to see here. Riyadh, significantly, has been emitting signs the OPEC+ deal may be back in the cards in the near future. A feasible scenario is that this sort of shock therapy will go on until 2022, and then Russia and OPEC will be back to the table to work out a new deal.

There are no definitive numbers, but the oil market accounts for less than 10% of Russia’s GDP (it used to be 16% in 2012). Iran’s oil exports in 2019 plunged by a whopping 70 %, and still Tehran was able to adapt. Yet oil accounts for over 50% of Saudi GDP. Riyadh needs oil at no less than $85 a barrel to pay its bills. The 2020 budget, with crude priced at $62-63 a barrel, still has a $ 50 billion deficit.

Aramco says it will be offering no fewer than 300,000 barrels of oil a day beyond its “maximum sustained capacity” starting April 1. It says it will be able to produce a whopping 12.3 million barrels a day.

Persian Gulf traders say openly that this is unsustainable. It is. But the House of Saud, in desperation, will be digging into its strategic reserves to dump as much crude as possible as soon as possible – and keep the price war full tilt. The (oily) irony is that the top price war victims are an industry belonging to the American protector.

Saudi-occupied Arabia is a mess. King Salman is in a coma. Every grain of sand in the Nefud desert knows Jared of Arabia Kushner’s whatsapp pal MBS has been de facto ruler for the past five years, but the timing of his new purge in Riyadh speaks volumes. Princes Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew, and Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, his younger brother, are now really in detention.

The CIA is fuming: Nayef was and remains Langley’s top asset. When Saudi regime spin denounced “Americans” as partners in a possible coup against MBS, that word needed to be read as “CIA.” It’s just a matter of time before the US Deep State, in conjunction with disgruntled National Guard elements, comes for MBS’s head – even as he articulates taking over total power before the G-20 in Riyadh next November.

Black Hawk down?

So what happens next? Amid a tsunami of scenarios, from New York to all points Asia, the most optimistic say that China is about to win the “people’s war” against Covid-19 – and the latest figures confirm it. In this case, global oil demand may increase by at least 480,000 barrels a day.

Well, that’s way more complicated.

The game now points to a confluence of Wall Street in panic; Covid-19 mass hysteria; lingering, myriad aftershocks of Trump’s global trade mess; the US election circus; total political instability in Europe. These interlocked crises do spell Perfect Storm. Yet the market angle is easily explained: that may be the beginning of the end of Wall Street artificially inflated by tens of trillions of US dollars pumped by the Fed through quantitative easings and repos since 2008. Call it the calling of the central bankers’ bluff.

A case can be made that the current financial panic will only subside when the ultimate black swan – Covid-19 – is contained. Borrowing from the famous Hollywood adage, “No one knows anything,” all bets are off. Amid thick fog, and discounting the usual amount of disinformation, a Rabobank analyst, among others, came up with four plausible Covid-19 scenarios. He now reckons it’s getting “ugly” and the fourth scenario – the “unthinkable” – is not far-fetched anymore.

This implies a global economic crisis of, yes, unthinkable magnitude.

To a great extent it will all depend on how fast China – the inescapable crucial link in the global just-in-time supply chain – gets back to a new normal, offsetting interminable weeks of serial lockdowns.

Despised, discriminated against, demonized 24/7 by the “system leader,” China has gone full Nietzsche – about to prove that whatever does not kill you makes you stronger when it comes to a “people’s war” against Covid-19. On the US front, there’s scant hope that the gleaming Black “helicopter money” Hawk will crash down for good. The ultimate Black Swan will have the last word.

Big Banks Call for Wall Street Deregulation to “Fight Corona virus”

By Alan Macleod

Source

As coronavirus panic hits the U.S., a financial lobbying group is attempting to use the crisis to push through the deregulation of its industry. The Bank Policy Institute (BPI), a Washington-based lobbying organization representing many of the nation’s largest banks, released a set of proposals this week, the most important of which recommends that the Federal Reserve lower capital requirements to zero. This would mean banks could lend an unlimited amount without having any assets or wealth to back it up. It also advocated relaxing the so-called “stress tests” that force banks to show that they can withstand economic shocks. This, it claims, would help America fight the COVID-19 virus. The report’s lead author was BPI CEO Greg Baer, former Managing Director of JP Morgan Chase.

The recommendations have been condemned as incoherent and “transparently opportunistic” by Jeremy Krass of the University of Michigan School of Business. “The whole idea of capital requirements and stress-testing banks is to make sure they have enough cushion to absorb losses” in a period of economic crisis, Kress told the Washington Post. Now that the economy has gone into a sudden shock, Wall Street wants those regulations lifted.

The government itself is also trying to force through measures that it dubiously claims would help fight the coronavirus. Earlier this week President Trump called on Congress to enact a large tax cut and pushed Democrats to support it.

These efforts perfectly encapsulate the idea of the “Shock Doctrine” that author Naomi Klein laid out in her 2007 book of the same name. Klein argued that the wealthy elite use the confusion caused by economic and other disasters to quickly force through pro-free-market legislation that would otherwise meet with widespread and coordinated opposition. As she said, “the idea of exploiting crisis and disaster has been the modus operandi of [economist] Milton Friedman’s movement from the very beginning – this fundamentalist form of capitalism has always needed disasters to advance.”

“Some of the most infamous human rights violations of this era, which have tended to be viewed as sadistic acts carried out by antidemocratic regimes, were in fact either committed with the deliberate intent of terrorizing the public or actively harnessed to prepare the ground for the introduction of radical free-market ‘reforms,’” she explained.

Klein cites Hurricane Katrina – where the Bush administration rushed through privatization and charter school bills for New Orleans while residents were reeling from the devastation – as a perfect example. Going further back, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet used his coup against President Salvador Allende to turn Chile into a free-market, neoliberal experiment almost overnight, over the protestations of ordinary Chileans, whom he suppressed with overwhelming force.

Dean Baker@DeanBaker13

There are many things to worry about with the corinavirus, but a plunging stock market is not one of them, unless you are one of the minority who owns a large amount of stock https://cepr.net/coronavirus-the-stock-market-and-the-economy/ 

Coronavirus, the Stock Market, and the Economy – Center for Economic and Policy Research

Many people have become very concerned about the economy because of the stock market’s plunge in the last two weeks. While the spread of the coronavirus gives us very good reason to worry about the…

The stock market is in serious decline amid fears that the coronavirus will disrupt international supply chains; the Dow Jones index plummeted nearly 1,000 points yesterday. Yet, as the Center for Economic Policy Research’s Dean Baker has noted, the stock market is a very poor indicator of the economy’s current and future health. It is, however, a great gauge on how the top one percent are faring. Stocks also tend to surge after natural disasters (like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami) or when conservatives win elections (in December, British banks and weapons manufacturers’ share prices jumped after Boris Johnson beat Jeremy Corbyn). This is because corporations, ignoring the devastation, expect big orders to rebuild or to destroy.

Existential Comics@existentialcoms

– a minimum wage increase is struck down
– employees are prevented from unionizing
– corporate taxes are reduced
– labor laws are relaxed

The stock market is not the economy, it’s an estimate of how much wealth can be extracted from workers.

Today the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide reached 100,000, with 3,461 recorded deaths. In response, the Himalayan nation of Bhutan closed its doors to tourists altogether, Starbucks announced it would no longer allow customers to use their own cups due to concern about contagion, and the world’s smallest country, the Vatican, recorded its first case of coronavirus. In the U.S., 259 people have been infected, and 14 have died.

While emergency funding to combat the virus will be passed today, the American response has not been swift. Workers have not been guaranteed full sick pay while quarantining, leading to a situation where many poorer citizens will have to choose between doing the right thing and going broke. A Miami resident returning from China was presented with a $3,500 bill after reporting his flu-like symptoms to medical staff, leading to fears that a lack of universal healthcare will help the virus spread. Analysts, however, appear more concerned about the health of stock prices than the health of the nation. CNBC’s Rick Santelli suggested infecting the entire population with COVID-19 so nobody would have an excuse to miss work, thus effectively sacrificing the country for the sake of the economy. While there are many economic steps the United States could take to help the situation, deregulating Wall Street might not be the most necessary.

Trump’s Legal Team Responds to Dems Impeachment Scam

By Stephen Lendman

Global Research, January 20, 2020

There’s overwhelming just cause to impeach and remove Trump from office for legitimate high crimes.  

The same is true for most of his predecessors, along with most current and former congressional members.

The Constitution’s Article II, Section 4 states “(t)he President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Evidence supporting the removal of Trump from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, rising to the level of impeachable offenses as constitutionally defined, is lacking — charges against him by undemocratic Dems politicized.

Unrelated to removing him from office by Senate trial, they’re all about wanting him delegitimized and weakened ahead of November 2020 elections.

Ahead of proceedings to begin on Tuesday, Trump’s legal team formally slammed what’s going on as a “brazen and unlawful attempt” to overturn results of the 2016 presidential election. More on this below.

How would Abraham Lincoln fare today. He illegally suspended the Constitution and habeas rights, forcefully closed courts, arbitrarily ordered arrests, conscripted US citizens without congressional consent, closed newspapers opposing his policies, and ordered generals to commit war crimes.

Under his command, General William Sherman’s march to the sea involved rape, pillaging and mass murder.

His Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free a single slave. He wanted them deported at war’s end to maintain America as a white supremacist society.

Glorifying him as one of the nation’s greatest presidents ignores his dark side.

History taught Americans in secondary school, college, graduate school and in doctoral studies conceals the US dark side.

Slave owners Washington, Jefferson, and other US presidents diminished their moral and ethical standing, clearly not believing that all Americans are created equal.

Despite his lofty rhetoric and intellectual pursuits, Jefferson knew slavery was wrong, but owned them anyway, never freeing them like Washington.

He had a slave as mistress and lied about it. He or Washington could have set an example by freeing the nation’s slaves, neither figure having the courage to do the right thing.

Samuel Johnson asked: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of Negroes?”Militarism Defines Trump’s 4th of July Spectacle

According to historian Stephen Ambrose, “(o)f all the contradictions in Jefferson’s contradictory life, none is greater,” adding:

“Of all the contradictions in America’s history, none surpasses its toleration first of slavery and then of segregation.”

Ambrose omitted endless US wars throughout most of the nation’s history — from exterminating Native Americans to ongoing war on humanity.

Washington reviled the nation’s native people, calling them “wolves” and “beasts of prey.”

He dispatched General John Sullivan to attack noncombatant Onondaga people in 1779, ordering him to destroy their villages, homes, fields, food supplies, cattle herds and orchards, wanting as many as possible killed. He stole Indian land.

Dem Woodrow Wilson’s tenure was defined by US involvement in WW I — after pledging to keep America out of Europe’s war.

It was also disgraced by signing the 1913 Federal Reserve Act into law, giving Wall Street control of the nation’s money, the supreme power above all others.

Policies under Franklin Roosevelt pressured imperial Japan to attack the US, giving FDR the war he wanted.

US history isn’t pretty, Trump the latest in a long line of presidents whose policies supported wealth, power and privilege exclusively over peace, equity and justice, notions considered un-American — based on policies pursued by its ruling class throughout US history.

The Clinton co-presidency was anti-New Deal, anti-Great Society, pro-war, pro-business, anti-populist, anti-labor, anti-public welfare.

Bush/Cheney waged US war OF terror, not on it in Afghanistan, Iraq, and against Muslims in America, numerous police state laws enacted on their watch.

Obama bragged about terror-bombing seven countries in eight years.

He institutionalized indefinite detention, authorizing the military to indefinitely detain anyone anywhere without charge, including US citizens, based on suspicions or spurious allegations.

His disposition matrix kill list ordered the elimination of alleged enemies of the state.

Trump exceeded the worst of his predecessors’ domestic and geopolitical policies — filling the swamp he pledged to drain with neocon hardliners, militarists, and super-wealthy individuals like himself.

He broke virtually everyone positive promise made, operating in bad faith, never to be trusted, while waging war on humanity at home and abroad.

Yet none of his legitimate wrongdoing is included in impeachment charges against him.

On Saturday, his legal team led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and personal attorney Jay Sekulow submitted a six-page response to impeachment charges against him — ahead of Senate trial proceedings to begin this week.

Rejecting charges by Dems, it said “articles of impeachment (they) submitted are a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president,” adding:

“This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election — now just months away.”

“Nothing in these Articles could permit even beginning to consider removing a duly elected President or warrant nullifying an election and subverting the will of the American people. They must be rejected.”

Rejection is virtually certain in the GOP-controlled Senate, trial proceedings likely to conclude in two or three weeks.

No president in US history was removed from office by impeachment, Trump highly unlikely to be the first.

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Featured image is from The BulletThe original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2020

Crimes against Humanity: US Sanctions Harm One Third of World’s People

Global Research, December 05, 2019
Workers World 3 December 2019

The most insidious and pervasive form of modern warfare by Wall Street and the Pentagon, acting in coordination, is passing largely unnoticed and unchallenged. This calculated attack is rolling back decades of progress in health care, sanitation, housing, essential infrastructure and industrial development all around the world.

Almost every developing country attempting any level of social programs for its population is being targeted.

U.S. imperialism and its junior partners have refined economic strangulation into a devastating weapon. Sanctions in the hands of the dominant military and economic powers now cause more deaths than bombs or guns. This weapon is stunting the growth of millions of youth and driving desperate migrations, dislocating tens of millions.

‘A crime against humanity’

Sanctions and economic blockades against Venezuela, Cuba and Iran are well known. But the devastating impacts of U.S. sanctions on occupied Palestine — or on already impoverished countries such as Mali, Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Kyrgyzstan, Fiji, Nicaragua and Laos — are not even on the radar screen of human rights groups.

Most sanctions are intentionally hidden; they don’t generate even a line of news. Some sanctions are quickly passed after a sudden news article about an alleged atrocity. The civilians who will suffer have nothing to do with whatever crime the corporate media use as an excuse. What are never mentioned are the economic or political concessions the U.S. government or corporations are seeking.

Sanctions cannot be posed as an alternative to war. They are in fact the most brutal form of warfare, deliberately targeting the most defenseless civilians — youth, the elderly, sick and disabled people. In a period of human history when hunger and disease are scientifically solvable, depriving hundreds of millions from getting basic necessities is a crime against humanity.

International law and conventions, including the Geneva and Nuremberg Conventions, United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, explicitly prohibit the targeting of defenseless civilians, especially in times of war.

Sanctions draw condemnation

Modern industrial society is built on a fragile web of essential technology. If pumps and sewage lines, elevators and generators can’t function due to lack of simple spare parts, entire cities can be overwhelmed by swamps. If farmers are denied seed, fertilizer, field equipment and storage facilities, and if food, medicine and essential equipment are deliberately denied, an entire country is at risk.

The Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations, Samuel Moncada, spoke to the XVIII Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct. 26. Addressing the 120 countries represented, he denounced the imposition of arbitrary measures, called “sanctions” by the U.S., as “economic terrorism which affects a third of humanity with more than 8,000 measures in 39 countries.”

This terrorism, he said, constitutes a “threat to the entire system of international relations and is the greatest violation of human rights in the world.” (tinyurl.com/uwlm99r)

The Group of 77 and China, an international body based at the U.N. and representing 134 developing countries, called upon “the international community to condemn and reject the imposition of the use of such measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries.”

The Group explained:

“The criminal, anti-human policy of targeting defenseless populations, which is in clear violation of United Nations Charter and international law, has now become the new weapon of choice for these powerful states since they are faced with strong opposition from the majority of their own population to the endless wars of occupation that they are already involved in.”

The power of banks

The mechanism and the ability of one country or one vote to destroy a country on the other side of the world are not well understood.

International capital uses the dollar system. All international transactions go through U.S. banks. These banks are in a position to block money transfers for the smallest transaction and to confiscate billions of dollars held by targeted governments and individuals. They are also in a position to demand that every other bank accept sudden restrictions imposed from Washington or face sanctions themselves.

This is similar to how the U.S. Navy can claim the authority to intercept ships and interrupt trade anywhere, or the U.S. Army can target people with drones and invade countries without even asking for a declaration of war.

Sometimes a corporate media outlet, a U.S.-funded “human rights” group or a financial institution issues charges, often unsubstantiated, of human rights violations, or political repression, drug trafficking, terrorist funding, money laundering, cyber-security infractions, corruption or non-compliance with an international financial institution. These charges become the opening wedge for a demand for sanctions as punishment.

Sanctions can be imposed through a U.S. Congressional resolution or Presidential declaration or be authorized by a U.S. government agency, such as the departments of the Treasury, Commerce, State or Defense. The U.S. might apply pressure to get support from the European Union, the U.N. Security Council or one of countless U.S.-established regional security organizations, such as the Organization of American States.

A U.S. corporate body that wants a more favorable trade deal is able to influence numerous agencies or politicians to act on its behalf. Deep-state secret agencies, military contractors, nongovernmental organizations funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, and numerous corporate-funded foundations maneuver to create economic dislocation and pressure resource-rich countries.

Even sanctions that appear mild and limited can have a devastating impact. U.S. officials will claim that some sanctions are only military sanctions, needed to block weapons sales. But under the category of possible “dual use,” the bans include chlorine needed to purify water, pesticides, fertilizers, medical equipment, simple batteries and spare parts of any kind.

Another subterfuge is sanctions that supposedly apply only to government officials or specific agencies. But in fact any and every transaction they carry out can be blocked while endless inquiries are held. Anonymous bank officials can freeze all transactions in progress and scrutinize all accounts a country holds. Any form of sanctions, even against individuals, raises the cost and risk level for credit and loans.

There are more than 6,300 names on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List of individuals sanctioned by the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the U.S. Treasury Department.

The OFAC describes its role this way:

“OFAC administers a number of different sanctions programs. The sanctions can be either comprehensive or selective, using the blocking of assets and trade restrictions to accomplish foreign policy and national security goals.”

There is also a Financial Action Task Force list and an International Traffic in Arms Regulations list.

The sanctions weapon has become so extensive that there is now a whole body of law to guide U.S. corporations and banks in navigating sales, credit and loans. It is intended to be opaque, murky and open to interpretation, payoffs and subterfuge. There seems to be no single online site that lists all the different countries and individuals under U.S. sanctions.

Once a country is sanctioned, it must then “negotiate” with various U.S. agencies that demand austerity measures, elections that meet Western approval, cuts in social programs, and other political and economic concessions to get sanctions lifted.

Sanctions are an essential part of U.S. regime change operations, designed in the most cynical way to exact maximum human cost. Sudden hyperinflation, economic disruption and unexpected shortages are then hypocritically blamed on the government in office in the sanctioned country. Officials are labeled inept or corrupt.

Agencies carefully monitor the internal crisis they are creating to determine the optimum time to impose regime change or manufacture a color revolution. The State Department and U.S. covert agencies fund numerous NGOs and social organizations that instigate dissent. These tactics have been used in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, Syria, Libya, Zimbabwe, Sudan and many other countries.

A weapon of imperialism in decline

Gone are the days of Marshall Plan-type promises of rebuilding, trade, loans and infrastructure development. They are not even offered in this period of capitalist decay. The sanctions weapon is now such a pervasive instrument that hardly a week goes by without new sanctions, even on past allies.

In October the U.S. threatened harsh sanctions on Turkey, a 70-year member of the U.S.-commanded NATO military alliance.

On Nov. 27, Trump suddenly announced, by presidential decree, harsher sanctions on Nicaragua, calling it a “National Security Threat.” He also declared Mexico a “terrorist” threat and refused to rule out military intervention. Both countries have democratically elected governments.

Other sanctions sail through the U.S. Congress without a roll call vote — just a cheer and a unanimous voice vote, such as the sanctions on Hong Kong in support of U.S.-funded protests.

Why Wall Street can’t be sanctioned 

Is there any possibility that the U.S. could be sanctioned for its endless wars under the same provisions by which it has asserted the right to wreak havoc on other countries?

The Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, in November 2017 asked the Hague-based ICC to open formal investigations of war crimes committed by the Taliban, the Haqqani network, Afghan forces, and the U.S. military and the CIA.

The very idea of the U.S. being charged with war crimes led then White House National Security Advisor John Bolton to threaten judges and other ICC officials with arrest and sanction if they even considered any charge against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

“If the court comes after us, Israel or other U.S. allies, we will not sit quietly,” Bolton said. He noted that the U.S. “is prepared to slap financial sanctions and criminal charges on officials of the court if they proceed against any U.S. personnel. … We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system. … We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.” (The Guardian, Sept. 10, 2018)

Bolton also cited a recent move by Palestinian leaders to have Israeli officials prosecuted at the ICC for human rights violations. The ICC judges got the message. They ruled that despite “a reasonable basis” to consider war crimes committed in Afghanistan, there was little chance of a successful prosecution. An investigation “would not serve the interests of justice.”

Chief Prosecutor Bensouda, for proposing an even-handed inquiry, had her U.S. visa revoked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Sanctions are a weapon in the capitalist world order used by the most powerful countries against those that are weaker and developing. One hundred years ago, in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson advocated sanctions as a quiet but lethal weapon that exerts pressure no nation in the modernworld can withstand.

Sanctions demonstrate how capitalist laws protect the right of eight multibillionaires to own more than the population of half the world.

U.N. sanctions demanded by Washington

The U.S., with the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet and 800 military bases, claims — while engaged in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya — that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran are the greatest threats to world peace.

In the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. succeeded in winning harsh new sanctions against Iran and the DPRK by threatening, on the eve of “war games,” that the U.S. would escalate hostilities to an open military attack.

This threat proved sufficient to get other Security Council members to fall in line and either vote for sanctions or abstain.

These strong-arm tactics have succeeded again and again. During the Korean War, when the U.S. military was saturation-bombing Korea, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Warren Austin held up a submachine gun in the Security Council to demand expanded authority in the war from that body.

Throughout the 1990s the U.S. government used sanctions on Iraq as a horrendous social experiment to calculate how to drastically lower caloric intake, destroy crop output and ruin water purification. The impact of these sanctions were widely publicized — as a threat to other countries.

Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, when asked about the half a million children who died as a result of U.S. sanctions on Iraq, replied, “We think the price is worth it.”

The sanctions imposed by the U.S. against Iran are book-length, spanning 40 years since the Iranian Revolution. The blockade and sanctions on Cuba have continued for 60 years.

Sanctions Kill campaign

It is an enormous political challenge to break the media silence and expose this crime. We need to put a human face on the suffering.

Targeted countries cannot be left to struggle by themselves in isolation  — there must be full solidarity with their efforts. The sheer number of countries being starved into compliance via U.S.-imposed sanctions must be dragged into the light of day. And one step in challenging the injustice of capitalist property relations is to attack the criminal role of the banks.

The effort to rally world opinion against sanctions as a war crime is beginning with a call for International Days of Action Against Sanctions & Economic War on March 13-15, 2020. Its slogans are “Sanctions Kill! Sanctions Are War! End Sanctions Now!”

These coordinated international demonstrations are a crucial first step. Research and testimony; resolutions by unions, student groups, cultural workers and community organizations; social media campaigns; and bringing medical supplies and international relief to sanctioned countries can all play a role. Every kind of political campaign to expose the international crime of sanctions is a crucial contribution.

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Deep State Coup D’Etat: Subverting the U.S. Presidency from JFK to Trump

Global Research, November 24, 2019

On the Global Research News Hour we do our best to cover a wide spectrum of topics from the environmental crisis to economic and geopolitical analysis to debunking war pre-text narratives.

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“The President of the United States is a transient official in the regard of the warfare conglomerate. His assignment is to act as master of ceremonies in the awarding of posthumous medals, to serve when needed as a salesman for the military hardware manufacturers and to speak as often as possible about the nation’s desire for peace. He is not free to trespass on the preserve of the war interests nor even to acknowledge that such an organism exists.” – Jim Garrison (May 27, 1969) [1]

The murder of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 is widely recognized as a pivotal moment in U.S. history.

It was the first assassination of a U.S. president in the television age. The death of Kennedy enabled Cold Warriors within Washington to pursue their pillaging of the African, South American and Asian continents with substantially less resistance. But perhaps just as significantly, it marked an important chapter in a long-standing power struggle between big moneyed interests in America along with their intelligence operatives, and recognizable constitutional government, made up of representatives elected by the people and accountable to the public.

It was in direct response to inconvenient questions around the first Kennedy assassination that the CIA weaponized the term ‘conspiracy theory,’ a thought-stopping ad-hominem attack intended to disarm truth-seekers challenging the crimes that a controlled media fail to thoroughly investigate.

The existence of Wall Street overlords acting in tandem with military-intelligence figures as a kind of shadow government or ‘Deep State’ to appropriate the foreign policy and war-making apparatus of a country puts in doubt any assertions of America as a properly functioning democracy with power overseen and exercised by duly appointed representatives.

There have been several examples of similar State Crimes Against Democracy deliberately concealed and covered up so as to protect unaccountable elites. The assassinations of John Kennedy’s brother RobertMartin Luther King, and Malcolm X, as well as the (false flag) terrorist attack known as 9/11 being among the more famous examples.

Against this backdrop, we witness the spectacle of President Trump having his authority challenged in an exhaustively publicized impeachment proceeding. Considering documented war crimes and other malfeasance committed by presidents spanning the last half century, one wonders why the particular allegations against Trump are being pursued so relentlessly, and not others. At the end of the day, impeachment or no, will the people end up with a marginally more accountable government, or will the unaccountable power behind the throne have been reinforced by this 21st Century Kabuki theater?

This week’s episode of the Global Research News Hour radio program is as much an attempt to view the current impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump through the lens of ‘deep politics’ as an anniversary commemoration of the assassination of one of America’s most popular presidents. We have taken the liberty to reach out to two authoritative scholars of events like the Kennedy assassinations and 9/11 to get their insights into what the Trump impeachment drama might mean from the stand-point of entrenched unaccountable power within the USA.

In our first half hour. We hear from writer, researcher and frequent guest Mark Robinowitz. He discloses his thoughts about how and why earnest investigators into clandestine operations implicating the Deep State get side-tracked and typically fail to achieve the changes in the political and legal system that should, in a fair world, spring from revelations of truths implicating high officials.

In our second half hour, legendary ‘Deep State’ researcher and author Professor Peter Dale Scott joins us to describe some of the characteristics all of these events have in common, he locates the commonalities between Trump and former Presidents Nixon and Kennedy, and tracks the evolution of the National Security State’s grip on power since that fatal shooting in Dallas 56 years ago.

Mark Robinowitz is a writer, political activist and ecological campaigner. He manages the sites oilempire.us and jfkmoon.org which look into the Deep Political events and how they intersect with politics, economics and ecology. He is based in Eugene, Oregon.

Peter Dale Scott is a former Canadian diplomat, Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, co-founder of the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Berkeley, poet, and 2002 recipient of the Lannan Poetry Award. His political books include American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan  (2010), The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil, and the Attack on U.S. Democracy (2014) and  Dallas ’63: The First Deep State Revolt Against the White House (2015). He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. His website is http://www.peterdalescott.net.

(Global Research News Hour episode 278)

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Notes:

  1. Interview with Jim Garrison, District Attorney for Parish of Orleans, Louisiana. File Reproduced at the National Archives and released June 7, 2004; 200https://statick2k-5f2f.kxcdn.com/images/pdf/garrison-interview-05-27-1969.pdf
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