Pablo Picasso Femme 1930
Good evening, and welcome to the upside-down.
Where what you see, can never be,
and what you know, just isn’t so.
Where bad is good and wrong is right.
Where truth went down without a fight.
Where you might just say, every day is opposite day.
Can I offer you a mask or an anal swab?
Rape is the law, if its for a good cause.
Oh no, it isn’t mandatory, that would be cruel,
but you have no choice, that’s our only rule.
Before you enter I must tell you about the world’s deadliest disease.
It can take you out with a single sneeze.
It’s a clever bugger too, it can’t take out a violent mob
it only thrives in those with jobs.
But luckily, we have the only cure,
it won’t stop it from spreading but that’s all we know for sure.
So “What does it do?”, you may ask.
No one knows, so please be sure to double mask.
“It’s super safe” the doctor said.
Even if you end up dead,
because the antidote can’t kill you since
it’s the leading cause of coincidence.
Now roll up your sleeve and let’s go,
I’ll take you through the backwards show.
Where doctors kill and science shills
for our lord and saviour, a man named Bill.
To your left you will find our grand display
of courageous men with nothing to say.
They don’t provide, or lead, or slay.
They smile, nod, and let you have your way.
To your right you’ll see our exhibition of empathy.
Where the rich stay home,
and through their phone,
demand that old folks die alone.
Follow along the yellow dotted line,
to our memorial of dissent, our evil shrine.
The thought criminals and sense seekers and those who disrupt,
the ones who tried to turn us right side up.
They did not shrink to double think,
so all of them died from “suicide”.
Thank you very much for visiting THE UPSIDE DOWN!
Now please return to the circus with the rest of the clowns.
“.. all public manifestations of political dissent will be intimidated by massive police presence, and that the cost of that massive intimidatory presence will in itself be reason to ban the demonstration. Which would be delightfully Kafkaesque were it only a joke.”
In one sense, I am delighted that the heavy-handed police action at the vigil for Sarah Everard has brought about public revulsion at the attack on free speech and the right of assembly, just as Priti Patel prepares to bring in the dreadful policing bill which represents the biggest single threat to freedom of assembly in the UK for 200 years. Its foundational principle is that the right of freedom of assembly is subordinate to the right to drive a SUV anywhere and any time you please, without having to detour around people taking part in democratic expression. It has a subsidiary principle that all public manifestations of political dissent will be intimidated by massive police presence, and that the cost of that massive intimidatory presence will in itself be reason to ban the demonstration. Which would be delightfully Kafkaesque were it only a joke.
The excuse for breaking up the Everard vigil was of course Covid. In all but the most extreme circumstances, where public health management conflicts with the most fundamental of human rights, then human rights should avail. The Patel legislation is not a response to Covid, it is a response to Extinction Rebellion. I remain wholly supportive of ER; the need to jolt people out of their complacency and inaction over climate change is a massive political priority, and I certainly hope Extinction Rebellion will be back with a bang in the summer. But I am afraid to say it could not escape my notice that the protest over the Everard vigil was in stark contrast to the lack of protest at the police breaking up the Assange vigil in Piccadilly Circus, which was much smaller and less intrusive and much better social distanced. Unfortunately the police arrested 92 year old Eric who is not a young and pretty woman, so it got no media coverage.
The sad truth is of course that among those vying to be seen in both mainstream and social media to express outrage at the police disruption of the Everard vigil, are many fierce proponents of cancel culture. The outrage over which speech is limited is highly selective. That free speech also extends to Julian Assange or Piers Corbyn is not intuitive to the mainstream media at present. There seems to be a real danger that British society is losing all notion of the idea that free speech is for everybody, not just those you agree with or who are deemed respectable by the media and political class.
More than 150 organisations have warned ministers that a new law handing police tougher powers to crack down on protesters would be “an attack on some of the most fundamental rights of citizens” as Labour vowed to oppose it and officers’ handling of a vigil for Sarah Everard continued to draw criticism. The groups, including human rights charities, unions and faith communities, said on Sunday the wide-ranging legislation would have a hugely detrimental effect on civil liberties, and called for the government to “fundamentally rethink its approach”. In a letter to the home secretary, Priti Patel, and the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, seen by the Guardian, they claim the 307-page police, crime and sentencing bill – being debated on Monday and Tuesday before a vote – is being rushed through parliament before people have “been able to fully understand its profound implications”.
Some of the new police powers are draconian, they said, cautioning that the new law would also increase penalties for those breaching police conditions on protests and the ease with which they can be found to have done so. They said it raised “profound concern and alarm” and would also threaten access to the countryside and criminalise Gypsy and Traveller communities, adding that the legislation is being “driven through at a time and in a way where those who will be subject to its provisions are least able to respond”.
College students are continuing to flock to beaches to celebrate spring break despite the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although universities around the country either scaled back the traditional holiday week or canceled it altogether, the Sunshine State saw an influx of traveling students over the weekend. On Friday night, two Miami Beach Police officers dispersed a large crowd using pepper balls after two officers were injured, the police department tweeted. Authorities reported instances of bottles being thrown at police and a woman riding on top of a car. At one point, a crowd of more than 200 people, some of which were smoking marijuana and drinking from open containers, were blocking traffic, The Associated Press reported, citing police reports.
Thirty additional arrests were made Saturday night, police said. Earlier this month, Miami Beach City Manager Raul Aguila warned spring breakers to stay out of town, and a message to the cellphones of tourists warning them to “Vacation Responsibly.” “If you want to party without restrictions, then go somewhere else. Go to Vegas,” Aguila said during a virtual city meeting. On Saturday, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer advised the community to enjoy the weather while maintaining COVID-19 safety guidelines. In Texas, Galveston was also a hot spot for spring breakers, where thousands of people flocked to the beach to soak in the warm weather, ABC Corpus Christi affiliate KIII reported. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a plan to lift mask mandates and allow businesses to operate at 100% capacity on March 2.
“The inordinate delay by the EU authorities is at odds with the proven scientific success of Sputnik V and growing demand worldwide.”
Three vaccines have been approved so far by the EU: those of Oxford-AstraZeneca (Anglo-Swedish); Pfizer-BioNTech (American-German); and Moderna (American). A fourth vaccine from Johnson & Johnson gained approval this week, but it may take weeks before it reaches arms. And there are other problems. Several EU nations have halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine following a number of blood-clot (thrombosis) deaths among people who were injected. It is not clear if the deaths were a direct result of the jab. In the meantime, administering the vaccine has been reportedly suspended in Austria, Denmark and Italy. Non-EU nations Iceland and Norway have also put the brake on the AstraZeneca treatment.
This can only compound the EU’s already sluggish rollout program. First, it hits public confidence in taking up the vaccine even if it is cleared of side-effect risks. That will in turn place a burden on the supplies of the other three approved vaccines. The longer the delay in vaccinating the European population the greater the danger of new variants emerging, and hence the longer the delay in returning societies to pre-pandemic normalcy. Populations are becoming restive over protracted lockdowns. Economies and livelihoods have been wrecked by the pandemic. Millions of jobs have been lost. The OECD this week urged the EU to speed up vaccination coverage in order to salvage recovery as soon as possible. This is the context in which EU official reluctance to deploy Russia’s Sputnik V must be seen.
The European Medicines Agency – the regulator for vaccines – has still not approved the Russian shot even though the requisite data for application for use had been submitted two months ago by the Russian developer of the vaccine. The inordinate delay by the EU authorities is at odds with the proven scientific success of Sputnik V and growing demand worldwide. Public statements by EU officials expressing a cynical view of the Russian jab point to a deplorable politicization of the pandemic. (Ironically, they accuse Russia of politicizing it.) Instead of embracing Russian offers of its vaccine – offered in the spirit of partnership and prudent medical strategy to eradicate the virus – EU politicians, such as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her predecessor Donald Tusk, have been gratuitously invoking a Cold War politics of competition and adversity.
There are snide accusations that Russia is using “vaccine soft power” to cause division within the EU and more generally promote the image of the Kremlin around the world. This Russophobia and Cold War mindset is reprehensible. It is putting politics above public health and safety based on irrational prejudice. With nearly 900,000 deaths so far, continental Europe accounts for almost a third of the world’s total from Covid-19 over the past year. Europe’s toll compares with the United States’ figure of 530,000 deaths. Russia, the largest country in continental Europe, has a vital interest in eradicating the pandemic. Russia’s death toll stands at around 88,000.
Science upside down. “Just because it’s reported following a vaccination doesn’t mean that it’s because of the vaccination. It could be completely unrelated.”
Or it could not. Note that this “logic” is used only for vaccines.
AstraZeneca on Sunday insisted that is Covid-19 vaccine was safe citing a review of safety data from inoculated people which found no evidence of increased risk of blood clots, as the Netherlands and Ireland became the latest countries who have suspended the use of the vaccine following reports of possible side effects including blood clots. The Netherlands announced on Sunday that the use of the AstraZeneca jab will be suspended at least till March 29 as a precaution after reports of unexpected possible side effects in Denmark and Norway. While no cases of blood clotting were reported in the Netherlands there was no proof yet of a direct link between the vaccine and blood clots, Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said, “we can’t allow any doubts about the vaccine.”
Ireland also temporarily suspended the use of the shots following the reports from Norway noting the move was a precaution as no direct link had been established between the vaccine and the adverse events. Insisting its vaccine is safe, AstraZeneca said it had reviewed safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and the U.K. and found no evidence of an “increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country,” Reuters reported. Apart from the Netherlands and Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Thailand have also temporarily suspended rollout of the vaccine while Austria has stopped using a particular batch of the shots.
30 million. That’s the number of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that the U.S. government has purchased, the New York Times reported. However, the vaccine is yet to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is still undergoing phase-three clinical trials. Although the World Health Organization has said it is investigating the reports of blood clots its Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said: “it remains unclear if the vaccine is causing the blood clots.” She then added, “The adverse events which are reported after vaccination have to be seen in the context of events which occur naturally in the population. Just because it’s reported following a vaccination doesn’t mean that it’s because of the vaccination. It could be completely unrelated.”
“..milk the teats of Brussels tax-free salaries and ensure the Germans didn’t cotton on the fact they were paying for much of it.”
What is going on in Europe? The political and economic options are limited, the outcomes predictable, and none of them are good. But don’t worry – Europe can always blame the UK and AstraZeneca. On the back of news of collapsing trade between Europe and the UK due to Brexit, I wish I could work out what’s going through the collective mindset of the European Commission and the European Central Bank regarding how they now intend to turn Europe into a major growth economy of economies, create jobs and wealth, foster social cohesion, and become a third force for moderation in geopolitics. What’s the plan I wonder… do they care to share it?
To give Europe some credit, it’s done remarkably well holding together these last 12 years, creating an increasingly connected European state without the tedious need of anyone actually voting for it. Political and Economic compromises have been made, but the whole thing has muddled through rather well – give or take suboptimal growth being hamstrung by the construct of the Euro. Since 2012, when Europe’s central bank finally cottoned on to the crisis then enveloping European bond markets, the ECB has have had but one policy: keep Interest Rates at zero and below, and wait, hope, and pray for recovery and inflation to discount down the debt. They are still waiting. As far as I can work out…. that’s about the sum of the economic side of the plan. Hope is never a strategy, and monetary mismanagement without some fiscal common sense to back it up looks an unlikely route to success.
On the political side of the equation, for years the EC bumbled along as a rest home for “shunky retreads”. (I just love that description by the Australian Ambassador of the qualities required to become one of Europe’s unelected leaders.) Its’ main purpose was to ensure everyone got a fair chance to milk the teats of Brussels tax-free salaries and ensure the Germans didn’t cotton on the fact they were paying for much of it.
“..the Trump administration already approved $4 trillion in new spending for covid-19 stimulus and relief bills..”
We’ve entered a new era of politics and government in America, and the Left is pretty happy about it. This week, for example, The Guardian announced “Biden’s $1.9tn Covid relief bill marks an end to four decades of Reaganism.” From this point of view, “Reaganism” is code for extreme free-market libertarian public policy. Or as some call it: “neoliberalism.” The idea that this sort of Reaganism took over the country contradicts reality, of course. By virtually every metric—from tax revenues and federal spending per capita, and in to the size of the regulatory state—the size of the American state has expanded relentlessly for more than 40 years.
But in many respects the headline is correct. The new Covid relief bill signals that whatever restraint on public spending existed before 2020 is now all but gone. And the bill represents the beginning of a new era: an era that can be likened to the New Deal. This has long been part of the plan according to social democrats and progressives. After all, there’s been a lot of talk from the Left for years about the need for a “new new deal.” Whether it centered on environmentalism or on health care, everyone in these circles agrees on one thing: we needed a new surge in the size and scope of the government sector.
And now it’s happened. We’re in a new era when an ongoing crisis justifies any number of drastic new measures enacted by governments. To question this, the media and the pundits insist, constitutes “denying science” or “wanting grandma to die.” The only question now is how long this new era of enbridled government expansion will last. Moreover, just as the New Deal turned an ordinary downturn into a decade-long depression—and did nothing to “end” the Depression—this new new deal will only ensure that any real recovery is years away. The most visible aspect of this all are the immense increases in government spending that have occurred over the past year.
While it’s true the Biden administration is signing off on an immense $1.9 trillion “relief” package, the fact is the Trump administration already approved $4 trillion in new spending for covid-19 stimulus and relief bills. The Biden addition will be on top of that. To put this into perspective, keep in mind that during most of the Obama years, total federal outlays ranged from $3.5 to $3.9 trillion. Trump pushed those numbers up even further, topping $4.4 trillion in the 2019 fiscal year. In the 2020 fiscal year (which ended in September) outlays skyrocketed to 6.5 trillion. This doesn’t even capture all of Trump’s stimulus spending. Some of it will count under the 2021 fiscal year, and we still have a long way to go.
“The aide who rewrote the report with the intention to mislead the public..”
Last spring, the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered nursing homes to admit patients who had recently been treated for Covid-19. This led to a spike in Covid deaths inside nursing homes, which are filled with elderly people in the highest risk category for serious Covid-19 cases. When the State Health Department issued a report on the nursing home deaths, one of Cuomo’s aides rewrote it to remove the total count of 9,250 deaths related to the policy. The reasoning was that the death count outpaced New Jersey’s— with the second highest nursing home death rate in the county— by almost 3,000. The aide who rewrote the report with the intention to mislead the public worked as a Professor of Government Ethics at NYU’s law school, before joining the Cuomo administration in “ethics and law enforcement matters.” There’s government ethics for you.
Despite growing concerns about Chinese disinformation and propaganda in Europe, the EU’s trade deal with Beijing makes no attempt to rectify the stark differences in access rights between European and Chinese investors when it comes to media and news operations. Texts of the EU’s investment deal with China were published on Friday and the documents show Beijing has used the opportunity to set in stone draconian restrictions on foreign investment in news media and the entertainment industry, even specifying that foreign programs cannot be shown between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. without special approval and that only Chinese cartoons can be shown between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.
While European leaders often insist that the deal should achieve “reciprocity” with China, the European Commission conspicuously failed to introduce this logic in the all-important news and information sector. The texts of the accord struck in December show that European investors are boxed out of Chinese media while Chinese investors are largely free to buy up news services, broadcasters, cinemas and film-making ventures in the EU. In terms of soft power, this means the tables are firmly tilted in favor of China, allowing Beijing to seek further inroads into the business of what Chinese President Xi Jinping calls telling “China’s stories well.” This agenda of winning hearts and minds through “good news” stories about China has become a hot topic during the coronavirus pandemic, when China has been widely accused of covering up the origins of the virus, downplaying the foreign assistance it has received and playing up the aid it has given.
The biggest party grouping in the European Parliament, the center-right European People’s Party, identified that openness to Chinese takeovers of European media as a leading source of concern in its first-ever China paper this week. According to the EPP report, China has invested almost €3 billion in European media firms over the last 10 years. “We therefore encourage the Commission to develop an EU-wide regulatory system to prevent media companies either funded or controlled by governments to acquire European media companies,” it said. When asked about the imbalance, the European Commission said the EU-China deal simply enshrined the status quo that the parties had agreed to under World Trade Organization rules. However, the agreement will give China an additional way to enforce these commitments via a bespoke state-to-state dispute settlement, to which other WTO members don’t have access.
But the banking system depends on those high prices.
Those Kiwi revolutionaries are at it again. In 1989, New Zealand’s central bank was the first to commit to a specific target for consumer price inflation, then the biggest threat to the world economy. Unions and businesses howled, saying the move would kill growth and jobs. One property developer called for a rope on which to hang central bank chief Donald Brash. Brash, a former fruit farmer who had seen his uncle’s life savings destroyed by inflation, held firm. By signalling the bank’s seriousness, the target helped to lower the public’s self-fulfilling expectation of endless price rises. Over two years, inflation fell from 8 to 2 per cent. The unpopular idea caught on. Soon, most central banks had adopted targets and this helped tame the global scourge of runaway prices for food, fuel and other consumer staples.
Today, a new scourge — asset price inflation — looms. And New Zealand has launched another counterattack. While consumer prices have been held in check by globalisation and automation, easy money pouring out of central banks has been driving up the price of assets from stocks to bonds and housing. As homes are generally not counted as consumer goods, even sharp price spikes carry relatively little weight in central bank deliberations. Home prices have risen steadily in the pandemic, and in 12 months through to the end of January were up 19 per cent in New Zealand. The price of a typical Auckland home soared past $720,000, embarrassing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. A global political celebrity, the liberal Ardern was elected on a promise of affordable housing.
Fed up, her government has ordered the central bank to add stabilising home prices to its remit, starting March 1. It is novel and healthy for a politician to recognise the unintended consequences of easy money. If this idea catches on, it could lead to greater financial and social stability worldwide. Decades of loose central bank policy have done less to generate growth in the real economy than in the financial markets — and those gains benefit mainly the rich. This is widening wealth inequality, pushing homes beyond reach for the middle class, and not only in New Zealand. Of 502 international cities tracked by Numbeo, a research firm, prices are “unaffordable” (more than three times median family income) in more than 90 per cent. In recent years, the tiny minority of affordable cities has been shrinking toward zero.
India will propose a law banning cryptocurrencies, fining anyone trading in the country or even holding such digital assets, a senior government official told Reuters in a potential blow to millions of investors piling into the red-hot asset class. The bill, one of the world’s strictest policies against cryptocurrencies, would criminalise possession, issuance, mining, trading and transferring crypto-assets, said the official, who has direct knowledge of the plan. The measure is in line with a January government agenda that called for banning private virtual currencies such as bitcoin while building a framework for an official digital currency. But recent government comments had raised investors’ hopes that the authorities might go easier on the booming market.
Instead, the bill would give holders of cryptocurrencies up to six months to liquidate, after which penalties will be levied, said the official, who asked not to be named as the contents of the bill are not public. Officials are confident of getting the bill enacted into law as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government holds a comfortable majority in parliament. If the ban becomes law, India would be the first major economy to make holding cryptocurrency illegal. Even China, which has banned mining and trading, does not penalise possession. [..] In India, despite government threats of a ban, transaction volumes are swelling and 8 million investors now hold 100 billion rupees ($1.4 billion) in crypto-investments, according to industry estimates. No official data is available.
“The money is multiplying rapidly every month and you don’t want to be sitting on the sidelines,” said Sumnesh Salodkar, a crypto-investor. “Even though people are panicking due to the potential ban, greed is driving these choices.”
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