Sep 272020

Louis Anquetin Girl Reading a Newspaper 1890



What I am wondering about: Why hasn’t US late night TV “comedy” circuit dug into Joe Biden when he provides them with so much material? Am I the only one who’s been puzzled about that?

It’s not specifically about Biden, he’s just a tool in a game, for late night comedy, it’s all about Donald Trump, and they ignore that beyond him, there’s a naked bloody battle between two US political parties. But why would comedians want to take sides in that battle? And is doing that a good idea for their careers? I could have opened with:” Late Night Biden? There’s no such thing, Joe’s fast asleep by then”! But the only people who would say such a thing today are in the Trump camp, not in late night “comedy”.

When I was living in Montreal and Ottawa I was a big admirer of US late night TV. Carson was way before my time, but Letterman was still there. Never was a big Leno fan. And then came the next generation, Jon Stewart was great, so was Stephen Colbert in his right wing parody on Jon’s show. Only, what happened then? You now have your Stephen Colbert 2.0 (no parody, no fun), Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers et al, Jimmy Kimmel perhaps.

All of whom have been doing the Orange Man Bad theme for four years running, all the while thinking that is funny. But repetition is predictable, and doing the same “jokes” about the same topic day after day is not funny. Sure, for your echo chamber perhaps, but come on! Things are either funny or they are not. Once they’re only funny in your head, or kitchen, or whatever, they no longer are. It’s not a big stretch.

Late night talk show became late night comedy with Jon Stewart, but nobody continued the format after he left. His successors did the same thing the NYT, WaPo, MSNBC and CNN did: play only to half their potential audience. Simply because they knew it was great for ratings and clickbait. Half the audience doesn’t sound good, but wait till you see that who’s left pays a hundred times more attention, because they hate the subject of your “jokes” even more than you do.

Saturday Night Live announced recently that Jim Carrey will play Joe Biden on SNL, and all I could think of is the great Twitter comment that said: “Nobody can be funnier playing Joe Biden than Joe Biden.” Dead on. So why would Carrey try? To make Biden less funny? You’d almost think so.

Of course I see that following US late night TV is almost impossible if you no longer live in North America. But from what I have managed to see of Jon Stewart’s successors it’s all the same. It’s party politics disguised as fun. It’s echo chamber induced deafness. But yeah, that’s just me, I’m sure people who for whatever reason don’t like Trump, or never did, may have been laughing their hearts out every single night for 4 years. But that doesn’t define “humor”. Real humor is something everyone can share.

In very much the same vein, I used to really dig Bruce Springsteen. But when he started campaigning for Obama, and the whole The Rising thing happened in DC, I no longer did. Not because of Obama, but because a songwriter, much like a late night comedian, should always steer clear of partisanship. That is, in my never very humble opinion.

Bob Dylan never did. He gave his opinion, but never about individuals. Well, maybe in Jokerman, but that was never about campaigning. Obama went on to bomb 8 different countries, kill 100s of 1000s of people in those countries, and establish open air slave markets in Libya while he was at it. Anyone ever ask Springsteen how he feels about that?

And I was still thinking: let it go. Because the whole thing has become so polarized, you’re never going to reach out from one end of the spectrum to the other anyway. The trenches have been dug. But then I see things like this, from a site named Deadline (Hollywood history since 1996):


Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah Fear For Trump “Coup D’Etat” If Biden Wins Election: “Who Knows What Could Happen”

President Donald Trump hasn’t promised that there will be a peaceful transfer of power if he loses to Joe Biden for the 2020 presidential Election. While the president remains mum, late-night hosts Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers warn viewers about what Trump’s refusal to leave in peace may bring. “Trump refusing to say that he would leave office if he loses is a scary thought because who knows what could happen with that kind of threat,” Noah grieved during Thursday’s episode of The Daily Show.

The Comedy Central host said during his segment that the President’s potential move would be unlike any other. Saying that “the world’s oldest democracy is about to become the world’s newest dictatorship,” Noah said that such political refusal seems un-American. “I never thought I’d see the day where an American president would threaten not to accept an election defeat,” he said. “Let’s be honest, this is something you hear about in some random country where America steps in to enforce democracy. I feel like now it’s only fair that those countries should send peacekeepers to the U.S.,” he added.

If Trump truly refuses to vacate the presidency for Biden, “one of the world’s most famous landlords” will turn “into the world’s most famous squatter,” Noah kidded during the segment. He also quipped that Trump, in order to remain in the White House for as long as possible, might live in the basement as Biden sits atop – à la Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite. Similarly, Meyers criticized Trump for his failure to confirm a peaceful transfer of power. “He’s threatening a coup d’etat even though I’m sure he has no idea what the phrase ‘coup d’etat’ means,” the Late Night host said. “He probably thinks it’s a lyric from Moulin Rouge!“

Like Noah, Meyers said Americans are seeing democracy transform into an “autocratic regime” in real time. He even quipped that if Trump stays in office, it won’t be long until he parks a military tank on Pennsylvania Avenue and dons green fatigues and a long beard.


But of course, and you read my mind on this, Trump is not the funniest topic anymore. Certainly not after 4 years depleting that topic night after night. That doesn’t mean there was never anything funny about him, it means 4 years is a long time to spend on one topic. Biden, however, is a whole different story. But I’ve never seen any of these late night comic geniuses, who all have dozens of people writing “jokes” for them, go for -or after- Biden.

Are they scared of doing that? Do they fear their viewers won’t like that angle? Are they fully in cahoots with the DNC and MSM? Or, more to the point, should they ever let things like that play into their decisions of what will be funny or not? Well, apparently they do. Because Biden has come up with more whoppers than we can even try to keep track of, and not a word- that I’ve seen- from late night US comedy. I truly wonder what Jon Stewart thinks about that, just like I wonder what Springsteen has to say about open air slave markets in Libya.

Here are a few Biden bloopers for your perusal that those very well-paid masters of comedy didn’t think were funny. Be your own judge. No, I did not go looking for them, on purpose. I really just happenstanced upon them. I have no doubt there are tons more of these videos. They’re just not late night comedy material, apparently. Please tell me why that is. Please tell me why all these people who live off of those shows find nothing about this funny, while I, time and again, think it’s hilarious.

It’s not a party political issue, It’s just really funny. Or, alternatively, please tell me why it’s not. Or even just imagine if Trump had said the things Biden did in these tapes, and none of the late night hosts would have presented that as funny. I’m waiting.

At this point, I don’t think there’s any possible way you could convince me that Joe Biden is not a whole huge lot funnier than all the Late Night shows put together. But you can try!

And after you watched all that, but only after you did, please tell me how you will feel if on January 20, 2021, that booming voice will announce: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States of America”!



Biden bloopers 5 min



Biden bloopers 20 min




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“As we get herded into our echo chambers of self-reinforcing information, we lose more and more sense of the real world and of each other. With it, our ability to empathise and compromise is eroded.”

– Jonathan Cook, commenting on the Julian Assange hearings.



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Mar 272020



More People Are Dying Of COVID-19 In The US Than We Know (BF)
We Could Watch Entire Populations Vanish (IC)
Coronavirus Could Kill 81,000 In US, Subside In June – Washington U. (R.)
Hold The Line (M.)
China Promotes Bear Bile As Coronavirus Treatment (NatGeo)
Fed Balance Sheet Tops $5 Trillion For First Time (R.)
Broward Poll Workers Test Positive For COVID-19 (L10)
Moscow Laboratories Will Conduct 13,000 Tests For Coronavirus Every Day (Tass)
New Zealand Coronavirus Deaths During Lockdown Could Be Just 20 – Modelling (G.)
Coronavirus Job Losses Will Raise Mortgage Stress More Than GFC Did (
France, Czechs, & Other US Allies Exit Iraq Over COVID-19 Fears (ZH)
Spike in Unemployment Claims is Even More Horrid Than it Appears (WS)
What Should The EU Do Now: 3-Point Plan For Averting A Depression (Varoufakis)
Dylan Ratigan: “An Abomination Beyond Comprehension” – “Bernie Folded” (Dore)
Muder Most Foul (Bob Dylan)



A word about testing. There are stories everywhere of people dying without even having beenn tested, and of doctors not getting permission to test. Many countries have a central body that must give permission for a test, and they often don’t until it’s too late in the game (the life). To a larg extent, this is because politicians simply failed to procure test kits. But there’s another thing: political incentives for massive and accurate testing hardly exist at all (in the short term), while incentives for not testing are obvious: you look better.

The UK testing story could change that all, with its potential finger-prick 15 minute test, but only if that test is at least 95% accurate. I know they claim it is, but we’ll have to see. There are stories about Chinese tests that are 30% accurate, and it’s easy to see why that is useless. But I was talking to someone yesterday who said: there are now tests that are fast and 70% accurate! But isn’t that useless too. No, they can do a better test with those who test negative! Yes, but the 70% applies to the positives too… So 70% means you have to retest everyone. And we haven’t even mentioned asymptomatic cases yet…



Note: we may see the first time that 100,000 new cases come within 24 hours

Cases 542,385 (+ 55,683 from yesterday’s 486,702)

Deaths 24,368 (+ 2,347 from yesterday’s 22,021)




From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close) US: 17,000 cases in a day



From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 16% –



From SCMP:








Not in the US, everywhere.

More People Are Dying Of COVID-19 In The US Than We Know (BF)

Medical professionals around the US told BuzzFeed News that the official numbers of people who have died of COVID-19 are not consistent with the number of deaths they’re seeing on the front lines. In some cases, it’s a lag in reporting, caused by delays and possible breakdowns in logging positive tests and making them public. In other, more troubling, cases, medical experts told BuzzFeed News they think it’s because people are not being tested before or after they die. In the US, state and county authorities are responsible for collecting data on cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and deaths. The data is then reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In California, one ER doctor who works at multiple hospitals in a hard-hit county told BuzzFeed News, “those medical records aren’t being audited by anyone at the state and local level currently and some people aren’t even testing those people who are dead.” “We just don’t know. The numbers are grossly underreported. I know for a fact that we’ve had three deaths in one county where only one is listed on the website,” the doctor said. A spokesperson for the California Department of Health told BuzzFeed News in an email that “local health jurisdictions are required to report all positive COVID-19 cases to the state. In addition, when a death or impending death from COVID-19 occurs, health care facilities must immediately notify their local health jurisdiction and the state.”

[..] two of the hardest-hit areas in the nation — New York City and Los Angeles County — released guidance earlier this week encouraging doctors not to test patients unless they think the test will significantly change their course of treatment. That means that potentially more people in both places could be admitted to hospitals with severe respiratory symptoms and recover — or die — and not be registered as a coronavirus case.

Read more …

Africa. Pray.

We Could Watch Entire Populations Vanish (IC)

On March 18, Burkina Faso suffered the first confirmed Covid-19 fatality in all of sub-Saharan Africa. The victim was Rose-Marie Compaoré, the first vice president of the Sahelian nation’s parliament. Tiny, impoverished, and conflict-scarred, Burkina Faso is now West Africa’s worst-affected country, with 146 confirmed cases, including four government ministers. The U.S. ambassador to Burkina Faso, Andrew Young, has also tested positive for the disease. Burkina Faso has seen more than its share of hardships: poverty, drought, hunger, coups. But the coronavirus poses a new kind of threat to a country wracked by a war that has displaced around 700,000 Burkinabe in the last year.

Many of those people now find themselves under great physical and emotional strain, lacking proper shelter, food, and the other necessities — all of which makes them more vulnerable to the pandemic. Experts fear that Covid-19 could decimate entire settlements of Burkina Faso’s displaced, and they are bracing for devastating outbreaks in conflict zones, refugee camps, and the poorest countries in the developing world. Globally, millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, or IDPs, living in cramped, squalid conditions find themselves at risk. “When the virus hits overcrowded settlements in places like Iran, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Greece, the consequences will be devastating,” warned Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council [..] He also spoke of “carnage when the virus reaches parts of Syria, Yemen, and Venezuela where hospitals have been demolished and health systems have collapsed.”

[..] I have no reason to believe Moumoumi Sawadogo had Covid-19 when I met him eight weeks ago in Burkina Faso. After living 89 years in an arid, impoverished land on the fringe of the Sahara Desert, surviving a massacre, walking for a week and enduring hunger and homelessness, it was clear that Sawadogo was a survivor. But Covid-19 posed a different kind of danger. “These populations are already very vulnerable to diseases that are otherwise easy to treat. But that’s not the case when they have no access to water or proper sanitation or health care,” Alexandra Lamarche, senior advocate for West and Central Africa at Refugees International, told The Intercept. “We could watch entire populations vanish.”

Read more …

Modelling is only as good as its initial assumptions. Which in this case come out of hot thin air.

Coronavirus Could Kill 81,000 In US, Subside In June – Washington U. (R.)

The coronavirus pandemic could kill more than 81,000 people in the United States in the next four months and may not subside until June, according to a data analysis done by University of Washington School of Medicine. The number of hospitalized patients is expected to peak nationally by the second week of April, though the peak may come later in some states. Some people could continue to die of the virus as late as July, although deaths should be below epidemic levels of 10 per day by June at the latest, according to the analysis. The analysis, using data from governments, hospitals and other sources, predicts that the number of U.S. deaths could vary widely, ranging from as low as around 38,000 to as high as around 162,000.

The variance is due in part to disparate rates of the spread of the virus in different regions, which experts are still struggling to explain, said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who led the study. The duration of the virus means there may be a need for social distancing measures for longer than initially expected, although the country may eventually be able relax restrictions if it can more effectively test and quarantine the sick, Murray said. The analysis also highlights the strain that will be placed on hospitals. At the epidemic’s peak, sick patients could exceed the number of available hospital beds by 64,000 and could require the use of around 20,000 ventilators. Ventilators are already running short in hard-hit places like New York City.

The virus is spreading more slowly in California, which could mean that peak cases there will come later in April and social distancing measures will need to be extended in the state for longer, Murray said. Louisiana and Georgia are predicted to see high rates of contagion and could see a particularly high burden on their local healthcare systems, he added.

Read more …

Let the caretakers talk. They need to, and we need to hear them.

Hold The Line (M.)

As an infectious disease epidemiologist (although a lowly one), at this point I feel morally obligated to provide some information on what we are seeing from a transmission dynamic perspective and how they apply to the social distancing measures. Like any good scientist I have noticed two things that are either not articulated or not present in the “literature” of social media. I have also relied on my much smarter infectious disease epidemiologist friends for peer review of this post; any edits are from peer review. Specifically, I want to make two aspects of these measures very clear and unambiguous. First, we are in the very infancy of this epidemic’s trajectory. That means even with these measures we will see cases and deaths continue to rise globally, nationally, and in our own communities in the coming weeks.

This may lead some people to think that the social distancing measures are not working. They are. They may feel futile. They aren’t. You will feel discouraged. You should. This is normal in chaos. But this is normal epidemic trajectory. Stay calm. This enemy that we are facing is very good at what it does; we are not failing. We need everyone to hold the line as the epidemic inevitably gets worse. This is not my opinion; this is the unforgiving math of epidemics for which I and my colleagues have dedicated our lives to understanding with great nuance, and this disease is no exception. I want to help the community brace for this impact. Stay strong and with solidarity knowing with absolute certainty that what you are doing is saving lives, even as people begin getting sick and dying. You may feel like giving in. Don’t.

Second, although social distancing measures have been (at least temporarily) well-received, there is an obvious-but-overlooked phenomenon when considering groups (i.e. families) in transmission dynamics. While social distancing decreases contact with members of society, it of course increases your contacts with group (i.e. family) members. This small and obvious fact has surprisingly profound implications on disease transmission dynamics. Study after study demonstrates that even if there is only a little bit of connection between groups (i.e. social dinners, playdates/playgrounds, etc.), the epidemic isn’t much different than if there was no measure in place. The same underlying fundamentals of disease transmission apply, and the result is that the community is left with all of the social and economic disruption but very little public health benefit. You should perceive your entire family to function as a single individual unit; if one person puts themselves at risk, everyone in the unit is at risk.

Read more …

This is about wildlife, not economic pessimists. Just in case you were confused.

China Promotes Bear Bile As Coronavirus Treatment (NatGeo)

Less than a month after taking steps to permanently ban the trade and consumption of live wild animals for food, the Chinese government has recommended using Tan Re Qing, an injection containing bear bile, to treat severe and critical COVID-19 cases. It is one of a number of recommended coronavirus treatments—both traditional and Western—on a list published March 4 by China’s National Health Commission, the government body responsible for national health policy. This recommendation highlights what wildlife advocates say is a contradictory approach to wildlife: shutting down the live trade in animals for food on the one hand and promoting the trade in animal parts on the other. Secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, bile from various species of bears, including Asiatic black bears and brown bears, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine since at least the eighth century.

It contains high levels of ursodeoxycholic acid, also known as ursodiol, which is clinically proven to help dissolve gallstones and treat liver disease. Ursodeoxycholic acid has been available as a synthetic drug worldwide for decades. [..] Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners typically use Tan Re Qing to treat bronchitis and upper respiratory infections. Clifford Steer, a professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, has studied the medical benefits of ursodeoxycholic acid. He knows of no evidence that bear bile is an effective treatment for the novel coronavirus. But, he says, ursodeoxycholic acid is distinct from other bile acids in its ability to keep cells alive and may alleviate symptoms of COVID-19 because of its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to calm the immune response.

Although use of bear bile from captive animals is legal in China, bile from wild bears is banned, as is the import of bear bile from other countries. According to Aron White, wildlife campaigner for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)—a nonprofit based in London, England, that exposes wildlife crimes—his organization learned first about the Chinese government’s recommendations to treat COVID-19 via social media posts from illegal traders. “We were witnessing how this government recommendation was being coopted by the traffickers to advertise their illegal products as a treatment,” White says. Illegal bile from wild bears is produced in China, he says, and is also imported from wild and captive bears in Laos, Vietnam, and North Korea.

Read more …

If numbers get big enough, they lose meaning.

Fed Balance Sheet Tops $5 Trillion For First Time (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s balance sheet soared past $5 trillion in assets for the first time this week as it scooped up bonds and extended loans to banks, mutual funds and other central banks in its unprecedented effort to backstop the economy in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic. The Fed’s total balance sheet size exploded by more than half a trillion dollars in a single week, roughly twice the pace of the next-largest weekly expansion in the financial crisis in October 2008. As of Wednesday, the Fed’s stash of assets totaled $5.3 trillion, according to data released on Thursday.

The Fed bought $355 billion of Treasuries and mortgage-backed bonds in the last week in what is now an open-ended commitment to stabilize financial markets rocked by the outbreak and the halt in economic activity that has come in its wake. It also offered more than $200 billion in credit through so-called foreign currency swap lines to other central banks to allow them to pump much-needed greenbacks into their jurisdictions to help foreign borrowers stay current with their dollar-denominated liabilities.

The weekly snapshot of the Fed’s balance sheet, released each Thursday, also showed sizable demand for a pair of brand new liquidity facilities aimed at stabilizing money markets and supporting primary dealers, the banks that transact directly with the central bank. The new Primary Dealer Credit Facility had been tapped for $27.7 billion in loans as of Wednesday, while the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility had borrowings of $30.6 billion.

Read more …

Which bunch of fools decided to have that vote?

Broward Poll Workers Test Positive For COVID-19 (L10)

Two poll workers have been positively diagnosed with coronavirus, according to a statement from The Broward County Supervisor of Elections. One of the workers was only at Precinct V011 on Tuesday, March 17, Election Day, which is located at the Martin Luther King Community Center in Hollywood. The other worked at V020 at the David Park Community Center (also in Hollywood) as well as a Weston early voting location. The supervisor said that county staff as well as other poll workers at the locations have been notified of the situation. However, voters who were at the polls in person on March 17 at either of those locations or who voted early at the Weston early voting location may “wish to take appropriate steps and seek medical advice.”

Read more …

Because of western testing that may seem like a high number, but it’s not.

Moscow Laboratories Will Conduct 13,000 Tests For Coronavirus Every Day (Tass)

The laboratories in Moscow will carry out up to 13,000 tests for the novel coronavirus per day, Deputy Mayor Anastasiya Rakova said on Thursday. “Last week, only federal laboratories were authorized to conduct tests. We have fully joined this effort, launching nine laboratories. Today we are conducting nearly 4,000 tests for the coronavirus in Moscow laboratories. In the coming week w will boost the capacity to 13,000 [tests] per day,” Rakova told a TV program hosted by Vladimir Solovyov on Rossiya-1 channel. According to Rakova, the authorities were preparing for all scenarios of how the events would unfold. “Increasing the number of people who are to be tested for the coronavirus is a necessary condition and a crucial step for stopping the spread of the virus,” she stressed.

In late December 2019, Chinese authorities notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of a previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, central China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus – named COVID-19 by the WHO – have been reported in more than 150 countries. [..]Russia has recorded 840 coronavirus cases, with more than half of them in Moscow. Some 38 people have recovered and have been discharged from hospitals, and two people have died.

Read more …

When the desire for optimist political messaging becomes fully irresponsible.

New Zealand Coronavirus Deaths During Lockdown Could Be Just 20 – Modelling (G.)

Jacinda Ardern has implored New Zealanders to “stay local” during a four-week countrywide lockdown as modelling showed that strict measures adopted by the country could limit deaths to 0.0004% of the population – or about 20 people. Research released by Te Punaha Matatini suggested that, left unchecked, the virus could eventually infect 89% of New Zealand’s population and kill up to 80,000 people in a worst-case scenario. According to the research, intensive care beds would reach capacity within two months and the number of patients needing intensive care would exceed 10 times capacity by the time the virus peaked.

However, with the strictest suppression measures, which the country has adopted, the fatalities would drop to just 0.0004%. Hospital capacity would not be exceeded for over a year. These measures included physical distancing, case isolation, household quarantine, and closing schools and universities and would require the restrictions to remain in place until a vaccine or other treatment was developed. However, researchers noted such strategies can “delay but not prevent the epidemic”. “When controls are lifted after 400 days, an outbreak occurs with a similar peak size as for an uncontrolled epidemic,” the researchers wrote. The government has currently mandated a four-week lockdown.

Read more …

Zero recognition of living in a bubble.

Coronavirus Job Losses Will Raise Mortgage Stress More Than GFC Did (

As job losses continue to rise because of shutdowns in place to fight the coronavirus crisis, the number of Australians struggling to repay their mortgages is expected to lift to higher levels than seen during the global financial crisis. Credit rating agency S&P Global has warned the number of Australians falling behind on their mortgage repayments is likely to soar. “We currently expect increases in arrears to be higher than during the 2008 global financial crisis, given the wide-ranging effects on the economy stemming from the sudden disruption to economic activity,” S&P analyst Erin Kitson said. Australia avoided mass defaults during the GFC, with mortgage arrears rising to 1.69 per cent after the 2008 crisis, from a pre-crisis average of about 1.40 per cent.

The latest S&P data said mortgage arrears were 1.36 per cent in January, up from 1.28 per cent last December. Ms Kitson could not put a number on the exact number of Australian households that would be impacted by arrears but noted that many of those facing difficulty would be the self-employed. But the Federal Government’s stimulus packages and hardship relief measures from banks would limit some of the damage, Ms Kitson added. To fight the economic threat, the Government will announce a third stimulus package, expected within days. Many banks have also recently announced COVID-19 support packages that provide affected borrowers with an option to defer their repayments for up to six months.

The Reserve Bank cuts interest rates to a record low and announces a quantitative easing program for the first time in its history to help prevent a coronavirus-driven recession. And regulator, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), has said if a borrower who has been meeting their repayment obligations until recently chooses to take up the repayment holiday, then the bank need not classify that period as “arrears”. Other emergency measures aimed at banks include an emergency interest rate cut and $90 billion in cheap 0.25-per-cent funding for three years for small business loans.

Read more …

One day the Pentagon stops all troop movements, the next day the US declares Maduro a terrorist, and the allies, want nno part of this.

Seeing your soldiers die of corona would be much too close to WWI mass Spanish flu deaths in the trenches.

France, Czechs, & Other US Allies Exit Iraq Over COVID-19 Fears (ZH)

The United States has shown itself willing to both keep up its ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Iran and its proxies while riding roughshod over Iraqi sovereignty by remaining in the country even as Baghdad leaders and the broader population demand a final exit. But in another sign Europe is ready to divorce itself from US aims in the region, France has abruptly withdrawn its forces from the country after being there for five years. Interestingly the prime reason given was troop safety concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, but we imagine European leaders likely now see an opportunity to make a swift and easy exit without provoking the ire of their US counterparts. International correspondents say this includes French withdrawal from six bases, with a small contingent of about 100 troops remaining in the country.

The Czech Ministry of Defense also announced the exit of its forces Wednesday, which followed a large contingent of British forces leaving last week, also on fears of coronavirus exposure during the mission. “British, French, Australian and Czech troops who were coaching Iraqi counterparts were being temporarily sent home as Baghdad had put a hold on training operations to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” reports the AFP this week. All had been there to support coalition anti-ISIL operations led by Washington. But as the US mission to defeat the Islamic State has lately become less relevant given the demise of the terror group, Washington’s focus became Iranian influence inside Iraq – far beyond the original mission scope. The US itself had been reportedly drawing down from certain bases, but is not expected to ultimately depart given the current high state of tensions with Iran-backed militias in the country.

Read more …

The stimulus bill has opened access to assictance for the entire gig economy.

Spike in Unemployment Claims is Even More Horrid Than it Appears (WS)

This morning, the US Dept. of Labor announced that 3.283 million people had filed initial unemployment claims in the week ended March 21. We were warned yesterday that today’s initial claims would be horrid. In his press conference yesterday concerning the coronavirus, California Governor Gavin Newsom said that California by itself had “just passed the 1 million mark” in unemployment claims since March 13 — and this might include claims to be reflected in the next reporting week. And it’s going to get worse. The five largest counties of the San Francisco Bay Area were the first major region in the US to go into lockdown on March 17. The State of California followed on March 20, toward the end of the unemployment-claims reporting week (through March 21), and many other states followed within days – and many of those claims were filed after this reporting week had ended. This is the mind-blowing effect what started to happen in the week ended March 21:

The report by the Department of Labor this morning listed some sectors that were particularly hard hit by “COVID-19 virus impacts”: • Services industries broadly, particularly accommodation and food services; • health care and social assistance services; • arts, entertainment and recreation; • transportation and warehousing; • manufacturing industries. However, this horrid spike in claims only shows a partial picture. Since the end of that reporting week, lockdowns have spread to many other states, and companies in those states are now struggling with how to cope. Many companies had already laid off people before the lockdowns – and this is reflected in today’s unemployment claims. But much of the fallout from those lockdowns and their secondary effects will be reflected in future reports.

The gig economy, as the US economy has been called due to the growth of business models that shift labor from employees to contract workers, is unprepared for this. Under current rules, gig workers cannot file for unemployment claims – though the stimulus package will change this. And for now, they have not filed for unemployment claims. But their hours of many have been cut, and others lost their gigs entirely. This includes musicians whose gigs were eliminated when bars, restaurants, and clubs shut down. It includers actors and singers and artists. It includes Uber and Lyft drivers whose business has dwindled. It includes self-employed vacation-rental entrepreneurs with some units on Airbnb that no one is booking because the travel industry has shut down. It includes tech workers whose projects have been put on hold. It includes instructors and coaches of all kinds – such as figure skating coaches, language coaches, and corporate coaches. And so on. Many millions of people.

Read more …

The battle between getting closer together and staying further apart. Stuck between social distancing and political distancing.

What Should The EU Do Now: 3-Point Plan For Averting A Depression (Varoufakis)

With Lives, Livelihoods and the Union on the brink, the COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest test of the European project in the history of the Union — and we are failing. Solidarity was meant to be a foundational principle of the EU. But solidarity is missing at the moment it is most needed. COVID-19 has revealed a fundamental truth: Europe is only as healthy as its sickest resident, only as prosperous as its most bankrupted. But the EU’s leadership is paralysed by its beggar-thy-neighbour – and now sicken-thy-neighbour – mindset. The price of this failure will not merely be lives lost and livelihoods destroyed. It will be the disintegration of the Union itself. In line with its Green New Deal for Europe, DiEM25 offers a 3-point plan to protect all European residents, avert an economic depression, and prevent the collapse the Union.

Our plan is premised on four basic facts.
1) Public debt will, and must, rise: The precipitous fall in private sector incomes must be replaced by government expenditure. If not, bankruptcies will destroy much of Europe’s productive capacity and, thus, deplete the tax base even further.

2) The wholesale rise in public debt must not divide us: The last euro crisis wrecked some member-states’ fiscal position while improving the fiscal position of others. The results are wildly different fiscal absorption capacities across the eurozone. If the rise in public debt is not a shared burden, the new euro crisis will destroy the last chance to hold the European Union together once the virus itself has been defeated.

3) A Eurobond is essential, but the devil is in its details: Nine eurozone governments have rightly demanded the issue of a Eurobond so that the burden of rising public debt is shared. But the most important questions remain: Which institution should issue it? And who will back it? DiEM25 believes there is only one answer: an ECB-Eurobond backed solely by the ECB.

4) A Eurobond is essential, but it is not enough: Two more interventions are needed. During the pandemic, Europe must inject directly cash into every citizen’s bank account immediately so as to prevent as many bankruptcies and lost livelihoods as possible. Once the pandemic recedes, Europe must embark upon a sizeable, effective and common green investment program so as to improve Europe’s overall capacity to bounce back.

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I haven’t had time to listen to the whole thing. But I miss Dylan Ratigan.

Dylan Ratigan: “An Abomination Beyond Comprehension” – “Bernie Folded” (Dore)

Jimmy Dore talks to Dylan Ratigan

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In the midst of the corona crisis,, Bob Dylan dropped a 17-minute song, on the murder of JFK. It’s his first original song in 8 years, and also of course since getting the Nobel Prize.. And why not. For help with lyrics go here

The day that they killed him, someone said to me, ‘Son
The age of the Antichrist has only begun.’
Air Force One coming in through the gate
Johnson sworn in at 2:38
Let me know when you decide to thrown in the towel
It is what it is, and it’s murder most foul

What’s new, pussycat? What’d I say?
I said the soul of a nation been torn away
And it’s beginning to go into a slow decay
And that it’s 36 hours past Judgment Day

Muder Most Foul (Bob Dylan)

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