René Magritte Youth 1924
We’ll have to live through the mudslinging for a while longer. Will it stop on the 20th? Not very likely. The crowds smell blood.
My message to my fellow Americans and friends around the world following this week's attack on the Capitol. pic.twitter.com/blOy35LWJ5
— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) January 10, 2021
Epic rant by @UncleHotep
Let the truth be told about the 6th. pic.twitter.com/SLPfRzWI3g
— Hotep Jesus (@HotepJesus) January 10, 2021
“..his first ever tweet on May 4, 2009 was “Be sure to tune in and watch Donald Trump on Late Night with David Letterman as he presents the Top Ten List tonight!”
The president has lost both the Oval Office and his beloved Twitter account. His posts were hilarious, mad, and occasionally dangerous – but, God, it’s been a helluva ride. @realDonaldTrump, we’ll miss you. Donald Trump governed by social media. Tweeting from bed in his teddy bear pyjamas or on his sofa in front of a huge TV screen, sometimes from a buggy on his golf course. It was never gonna end well, and now it’s all over. Twitter permanently suspended his account yesterday, and he has been indefinitely hoofed off Facebook and Instagram. There are only so many teenage temper tantrums you can have until an adult takes away your smartphone.
Plenty of people say the dumbest things on social media, but they’re not usually the 74-year-old president of the most powerful country in the world, with more than 6,000 nuclear warheads and 1.3 million active duty troops ready to go. Their words don’t rock stock markets. Trump’s Twitter journey all started in pretty limp fashion; his first ever tweet on May 4, 2009 was “Be sure to tune in and watch Donald Trump on Late Night with David Letterman as he presents the Top Ten List tonight!” Just some bland, promotional pap selling the Trump brand. Seven years later, and he was about to be elected president – who’d have thought? That chubby orange-faced dude off ‘The Apprentice’, that serial bankrupt who erected gaudy apartment blocks and casinos and had a steady stream of pneumatic looking wives?
Nah. Don’t be ridiculous. That’s never gonna happen. His first tweet as president was: “I am honered to serve you, the great American people, as your 45th President of the United States!” The typo proved it was really him, and not some public relations drone. He later explained: “My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL.” Righto. He has sent thousands of tweets – and retweets such as “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” Which, uncharacteristically, he deleted. In early June 2020, during the police brutality protests, he sent exactly 200 tweets and retweets in a single day. This being Donald Trump, he didn’t get the irony that this tweet storm came shortly after he’d signed an executive order to regulate the platform after it fact checked one of his tweets. His previous record had been 142, during his impeachment trial in January 2020.
The risks of censorship.
Cutting off an opponent’s access to the media is step one in the regime change playbook, and the US government would know, having written several of them. When US-sponsored protesters deposed Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, the first building they seized after parliament was a TV station. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan avoided a communications blackout by using FaceTime to address the public during an attempted coup against him in 2016. Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak cut off internet access as protesters organized against him in 2011. Every coup or counter-coup hinges on media control, and the only difference between the deplatforming of Trump and the examples above are that for the first time, foreign regime-change strategies are being openly deployed by Americans, against Americans, in America.
As the country’s most despicable journalists and pundits cheer for the unaccountable tech tyrants, budding dictators abroad are surely taking notes. Building relationships with the tech titans is the modern equivalent of seizing a television studio, and popular movements can be easily suppressed with their cooperation. If the world’s loudest and proudest democracy is doing it, why can’t they? And who’s to say Silicon Valley’s giants themselves would stop at the US border? What is to stop them taking a dislike to some politician overseas and snuffing them out like Donald Trump? After all if the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth can be deleted, what chance do the rest of them have?
Back in the US, Trump has far more supporters than the mob who broke into the Capitol on Wednesday. He has 75 million of them, more than the population of the UK. Denied the opportunity to speak freely online and with their views branded as “extremist,” would anyone be surprised if they decided to take more drastic action? After all, the regime change manual closes with a warning: an attempted coup only ever addresses “immediate issues and short-term, rather than longer-term, interests.” For the US, these long-term consequences could have the political class pining for a return to Wednesday’s hooliganism.
I’m not in favor of big words like that.
The mob that barged into the Capitol Building on Wednesday accomplished a few things. First, it cemented the electoral demise of Donald Trump, whose termination from the presidency was merely delayed for a few hours by the chaos. Second, it put forward a public perception of Trump’s most ardent supporters as a collection of conspiracy-addled violent loons. Third, it humiliated and discredited Trump, who meekly conceded defeat the following day. There was no real “coup attempt,” despite incessant politician and media histrionics to that effect. Just a pitiful outburst that was quickly dispersed. It was clear within about ten minutes of the intrusion that the most severe consequences would stem not from the incident itself, but the deliberately-stoked over-reaction.
The bipartisan political and media class, whether cynically or sincerely, is broadcasting their steadfast conviction that this was something like a “MAGA Terrorist Insurrection” — which is literally how it’s being described on CNN. Under such allegedly extreme circumstances, of course extreme remedial action is going to be demanded. Few entities capitulate to upswells of political hysteria more reliably than the tech companies. Knowing that there will soon be a Democratic presidential administration and Congress to appease, they launched this week what is the most drastic corporate censorship offensive in modern history. Not only was Trump banished from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — the latter being his primary communications platform (for better or worse) — multiple high-profile Trump allies were likewise purged.
Steve Bannon was nuked from YouTube. Trump and his supporters are being neutralized online not because he currently poses any kind of bonafide “threat” to the Republic, but because his enemies are desperate for revenge. And they have been gifted with a perfect “crisis” that will justify their getting it. The expulsion of Trump from Twitter was celebrated rapturously by journalists whose conception of the job has markedly shifted away from anything to do with the preservation of protected speech. Instead, they are far more interested in asserting their political and cultural dominance, punishing those perceived to be undesirables, and functioning almost like a collective Human Resources social pressure department. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Twitter — collectively more powerful than most nation states — have become willing partners in this endeavor.
The rats and the ship.
The PGA of America has announced that it has moved the 2022 PGA Championship from Donald Trump’s Bedminster course in the wake of the invasion of the US Capitol. “The PGA of America Board of Directors voted tonight to exercise the right to terminate the agreement to play the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump Bedminster,’’ said Jim Richerson, president of the PGA of America. Bedminster, located in New Jersey, had been awarded the tournament in 2012, before Trump’s run for the presidency. It was the first time one of his courses had been chosen to host a men’s major although Bedminster hosted the women’s PGA in 2017. The tournament is due to be played in May 2022, and alternative venues include Bethpage Black, Southern Hills and Valhalla.
“We find ourselves in a political situation note of our making,’’ said Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA of America, in an interview with the Associated Press. “We’re fiduciaries for our members, for the game, for our mission and for our brand. And how do we best protect that? Our feeling was given the tragic events of Wednesday that we could no longer hold it at Bedminster. The damage could have been irreparable. The only real course of action was to leave.” The Trump Organization said they were disappointed with the decision. “This is a breach of a binding contract and they have no right to terminate the agreement,” a spokesperson told ABC on Sunday. “As an organization we have invested many, many millions of dollars in the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump National Golf Club, Bedminster. We will continue to promote the game of golf on every level and remain focused on operating the finest golf courses anywhere in the world.”
Can’t catch a break.
Payment processing company Stripe cut ties with President Trump’s campaign after his supporters rioted at the Capitol last week, a person familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill on Sunday. Stripe, a San Francisco-based company that manages online card payments for several businesses, will stop processing payments to the campaign, saying the campaign violated its policies against encouraging violence after a pro-Trump mob stormed and vandalized the Capitol. The company requests that users not collect payments for “high risk” activities, including for any business or organization that “engages in, encourages, promotes or celebrates unlawful violence or physical harm to persons or property,” according to its website.
“Neither Trump of Biden would save that baby and the many others like it. The Saudi kingdom, is a profitable friend.”
Millions of humans lead their lives despite the petty and often pathetic self importance of US partisan politics and yet somehow, the American empire finds them. Whether it is a drone hovering high above, visiting with random murder or a blockade of warships enforcing an almost ancient embargo, it is the American prevalence in all of our lives that seems to be destroying not only the US itself, but the wider world. And when a victor emerges, the world still gets war. Mostly American wars. These are not civil riots protests that waved a fist against state led bigotry, nor are they anti conscription riots over government forcing individuals to fight overseas in another war. Such past riots, have had limited impact in quelling the growth of government or in tempering its destructive might.
Journalist Julian Assange is held captive in legal purgatory, punished for revealing the crimes of war mongers and lifting the up the skirt of many governments. Ross Ulbricht a prisoner because he created a website, the details of his conviction would make for an unbelievable fiction and yet it was all too real. Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning are pariah patriots, believers in the religious texts that most Americans claim to uphold and yet most of the voting public and voted for rulers disregard the details of such a constitution and Bill of Rights. And millions of poor and desperate foreigners live and die in the frontiers of foreign policy, their homes and day to day ruined so that macho sounding politicians can profit by propping up tyrannies of maniacal madness. Inside the prisons of the US itself are thousands of convicts punished for victimless crimes, the prohibitions and regulations of a cancerous government that claims to be for freedom, when in fact it dissolves it at every chance. The protests are not for any of them.
A small child, perhaps now dead, coiled in infant agony, starved as its innocent eyes bulged in anguish fronted recent articles covering the desperate situation in Yemen. A situation that would be impossible if not for the aid and assistance of the US and it’s imperial allies. Neither Trump of Biden would save that baby and the many others like it. The Saudi kingdom, is a profitable friend. The protesters that support the two coins of US partisan politics do not care about the children of Yemen either. One needs not look too far to find the victims of foreign policy, recent and distant to see the true outcome of such actions, but it seems few actually care to. And should they be presented with such facts and terrible images, a religious fog washes across their eyes, allowing them to either dismiss or contextualize the murder and suffering. But a slob tweeting from the toilet or a hair sniffing buffoon are both credible enough to lead, and be despised because they are not the other.
Not a popular POV these days.
Despite insistence from the mainstream media, Democratic Party, and establishment Republicans that President Trump incited violence at the U.S. Capitol, his morning speech at the White House did precisely the opposite.
As the final speaker of the Save America March in Washington, D.C., President Trump insisted his supporters would “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” at the Capitol following his speech. “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave Senators and Congressmen and women,” he outlined – never calling for protestors to breach the building or use physical force. In full his remarks read:
“And after this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down. We’re going to walk down anyone you want, but I think right here. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave Senators and Congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard. Today we will see whether Republicans stand strong for integrity.”
Even if it’s true that the challenges contributed to the riots, don’t they have the right to challenge?
A freshman House Democrat is preparing a resolution to introduce Monday to expel Republican lawmakers who supported challenges to the 2020 election results. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), said Sunday in a tweet she believes the election challenges contributed to the deadly riot inside the Capitol on Wednesday. “Tomorrow, I’m introducing my resolution to expel the members of Congress who tried to overturn the election and incited a white supremacist coup attempt that has left people dead,” Bush tweeted. “They have violated the 14th Amendment. We can’t have unity without accountability,” she wrote.
In The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells evokes a species — humanity — rendered helpless in the face of a force greater than itself and beyond its control. His depiction of the grim relationship between the Martians and the humans they were suppressing (meant to remind readers of the relationship between British imperialists and those they suppressed in distant lands) cast an eerie light on the power and wealth gap in Great Britain and around the world at the turn of the twentieth century. The book was written in the Gilded Age, when rapid economic growth, particularly in the United States, bred a new class of “robber barons.” Like the twenty-first-century version of such beings, they, too, made money from their money, while the economic status of workers slipped ever lower.
It was an early version of a zero-sum game in which the spoils of the system were increasingly beyond the reach of so many. Those at the top ferociously accumulated wealth, while the majority of the rest of the population barely got by or drowned. A crisis of inequality had been sparked by the Industrial Revolution itself, which started in England and then crossed the Atlantic. By the late nineteenth century, America’s “robber barons” were insanely wealthy. As economist Thomas Piketty wrote, there was a steeper increase in wealth inequality during the Gilded Age than ever before in American history. In 1810, the top 1% of Americans held 25% of the country’s total wealth; between 1870 and 1910 that share leapt to 45%. Today, the top 1% of Americans possess more wealth than the whole of the middle class, a phenomenon first true in 2010 and still the reality of our moment.
By 2018, about 75% of the $113 trillion in aggregate U.S. household assets were financial ones; that is, tied up in stocks, ETF’s, 401Ks, IRAs, mutual funds, and similar investments. The majority of nonfinancial assets in that mix was in real estate. Even before the pandemic, only the richest 20% of American households had recovered fully (or, in the case of the truly wealthy, more than fully) from the financial crisis. That’s mostly because since that crisis, fewer households had participated in the stock market or owned real estate and so had no chance to capitalize on increases in the values of either. Much of the appreciation in stock market and real-estate values has been directly or indirectly related to the Fed’s actions. By the end of December 2020, its balance sheet had increased by $3.164 trillion, reaching a total of $7.35 trillion, 63% more than its book at the height of the decade following the 2008 disaster.
Victoria Nuland, former foreign policy adviser to vice president Dick Cheney, should not be nominated for undersecretary of state [for political affairs], and if nominated should be rejected by the Senate. Nuland played a key role in facilitating a coup in Ukraine that created a civil war costing 10,000 lives and displacing over a million people. She played a key role in arming Ukraine as well. She advocates radically increased military spending, NATO expansion, hostility toward Russia, and efforts to overthrow the Russian government. The United States invested $5 billion in shaping Ukrainian politics, including overthrowing a democratically elected president who had refused to join NATO. Then-Assistant Secretary of State Nuland is on video talking about the U.S. investment and on audiotape planning to install Ukraine’s next leader, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was subsequently installed.
The Maidan protests, at which Nuland handed out cookies to protesters, were violently escalated by neo-Nazis and by snipers who opened fire on police. When Poland, Germany, and France negotiated a deal for the Maidan demands and an early election, neo-Nazis instead attacked the government and took over. The U.S. State Department immediately recognized the coup government, and Arseniy Yatsenyuk was installed as Prime Minister. Nuland has worked with the openly pro-Nazi Svoboda Party in Ukraine. She was long a leading proponent of arming Ukraine. She was also an advocate for removing from office the prosecutor general of Ukraine, whom then-Vice President Joe Biden pushed the president to remove.
Nuland wrote this past year that “The challenge for the United States in 2021 will be to lead the democracies of the world in crafting a more effective approach to Russia—one that builds on their strengths and puts stress on Putin where he is vulnerable, including among his own citizens.” She added: “…Moscow should also see that Washington and its allies are taking concrete steps to shore up their security and raise the cost of Russian confrontation and militarization. That includes maintaining robust defense budgets, continuing to modernize U.S. and allied nuclear weapons systems, and deploying new conventional missiles and missile defenses, . . . establish permanent bases along NATO’s eastern border, and increase the pace and visibility of joint training exercises.”
Oh, yes, our moral standards.
Britain is to square up to China — by outlawing imports with any links to human rights abuse. Dominic Raab will use the Modern Slavery Act to make firms root out items which are made using forced labour. The Foreign Secretary will also toughen up laws around exporting British goods or technology to China that could be used for repression. The plans will be outlined to MPs tomorrow. Britain’s diplomatic ties with Beijing have been strained since claims China tried to cover up the Covid outbreak and following attacks on democracy campaigners in Hong Kong. The Foreign Office has spoken of “deeply troubling” evidence of Uyghur Muslims forced to produce cotton.
There are fears the textile industry is doing too little due diligence on goods from Xinjiang Province where the Uyghurs are forced to live in “re-education camps”. But to the dismay of some MPs and campaigners, it is understood Britain will not sanction Communist officials linked to camps and forced sterilization programmes. Officials from Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea have been banned from entering Britain or using UK banks. But Whitehall insiders said the so-called Magnitsky powers are not expected to be deployed in China — although it is believed ministers have them in their sights.
What comes after central banks go nuts.
One month ago, we reported that SocGen’s bearish analyst Albert Edwards, who is traditionally well ahead of the curve, looked at charts of soaring food prices and was starting to “panic.” Edwards’ research report concluded by urging his readers to “keep a very close eye as to whether we see a repeat of the 2010/11 surge in food prices” because “on the 10th anniversary of the start of the Arab Spring, and with poverty having already been made much worse by the pandemic, another food price bubble could well be the straw to break the very angry camel’s back.” And while it’s not quite the spring of 2011 just yet (give it a few months) it’s getting dangerously close.
As Rithesh Jain from the World out of Whack blog writes, citing an article in the Reuters, “Vietnam, the world’s third biggest exporter of rice, has started buying the grain from rival India for the first time in decades after local prices jumped to their highest in nine years amid limited domestic supplies.” “For the first time we are exporting to Vietnam,” B.V. Krishna Rao, president of the Rice Exporters Association, told Reuters on Monday. “Indian prices are very attractive. The huge price difference is making exports possible.” Dwindling supplies and continued Philippine buying have lifted Vietnamese rice export prices to a fresh nine-year high.
Vietnam’s 5% broken rice is offered around $500-$505 per tonne, significantly higher compared to Indian prices of $381-$387. This means that, as we have been warning for the past few months, food inflation is indeed back with a vengeance: The purchases underscore tightening supplies in Asia, which could lift rice prices in 2021 and even force traditional buyers of rice from Thailand and Vietnam to switch to India – the world’s biggest exporter of the grain.
Study after study being required. But not for the vaccines.
In March, the government’s scientific advisers examined existing evidence and decided there wasn’t enough to act upon. But in April, dozens of doctors wrote to the British Medical Journal describing the correction of vitamin D deficiencies as “a safe, simple step” that “convincingly holds out a potential, significant, feasible Covid-19 mitigation remedy”. In the Newcastle hospitals, patients found to be vitamin D-deficient were given extremely high oral doses of the nutrient, often up to 750 times the daily measure recommended by Public Health England. In July, clinicians wrote to the journal Clinical Endocrinology to share their initial outcomes. Of the first 134 coronavirus patients given vitamin D, 94 had been discharged, 24 were still receiving inpatient care, and 16 had died. The clinicians hadn’t clearly associated vitamin D levels with overall death rates, but only three patients with high levels of the nutrient died, and all of them were frail and in their 90s.
Increasingly, others followed the lead of the Newcastle doctors and began taking the vitamin themselves. During the first months of the pandemic, up to 1,000 NHS staff received free wellness packs – including vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc – from a voluntary initiative called the Frontline Immune Support Team, after informal demand from clinicians. And as sales of vitamin D supplements significantly increased, some doctors informally recommended it to patients. In a letter, the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin advised its members to take the nutrient, though it was not made official policy. “We believe that vitamin D3 deficiency is a major risk factor for severe coronavirus infection, for which there is accumulating evidence,” the letter said.
[..] In 1940, when Churchill’s government feared people were particularly at risk of the musculoskeletal condition rickets, margarine companies were ordered to fortify their products with vitamin D “to safeguard the nutritional status of the nation”. (Back then, the nutrient was universally thought only to impact bone and muscle health, rather than having any effect on immune or metabolic health.) Margarine was fortified with vitamin D until 2013, when the government decided that fortification was unnecessary “gold-plating”. It became industry standard to include the nutrient within other fat spreads, but for six years there has been no legal obligation to do so.
To the former Brexit secretary David Davis, the failure to fortify a wider group of foods seems unacceptable. Like clinicians at the height of the first wave of the pandemic, he couldn’t understand why vitamin D wasn’t being pursued as a viable coronavirus treatment. Davis is a Conservative MP with a molecular science degree. In May, he urged the health secretary, Matt Hancock, to review the evidence and consider a free supplement scheme to reverse vitamin D deficiencies, citing the letter sent to the BMJ. Up to 40% of the population is estimated to be vitamin D-deficient this winter.
[..] it is only a Spanish study, conducted in early September, that came close to incontrovertibly proving low vitamin D levels have a pivotal role in causing increased death rates. There, 50 patients with Covid-19 were given a high dose of vitamin D, while another 26 patients did not receive the nutrient. Half of patients who weren’t given vitamin D had to be placed in intensive care, and two later died. Only one patient who received vitamin D required ICU admission, and they were later released with no further complications.
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