“We’ll be back…” Benjamin Netanyahu

For many people, having Netanyahu out of power was a relief.  In fact, there were those who worried that (like Trump) Netanyahu would refuse to relinquish power even though he was defeated in a national election.  But, Netanhahu’s replacement (at least for the time being), Bennett, is not much better.

According to Sarah Kenzior at Gaslight Nation (an essential podcast):

  • Netanyahu’s replacement, Bennett, is “incredibly dangerous in his own right.”  Naftali Bennett is an ultranationalist, has represented the violent Jewish settlement movement, has bragged openly about killing Arab people, opposes any Palestinian state within Israel, and has recently criticized Netanyahu for not boing violent enough with Gaza. 
  • Bennett is only one leader among the coalition of leaders taking over from Netanyahu, but he is among the most conservative.  His position as Prime Minister is supposed to be temporary and he is supposed to step down after a certain period of time to be replaced by one of the other members of the coalition.

NPR (6/13/21)

  • The new coalition government is made up of eight parties who have agreed to “hold off on major decisions surrounding controversial issues, like the future of the occupied West Bank.”
  • “Over the last 12 years, he (Netanyahu) has used his time in office to allow the growth of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, frustrated Palestinian aspirations for statehood and aligned Israel with right-wing leaders internationally.”
  • “…the former prime minister also faces corruption charges including bribery, fraud and breach of trust — allegations Netanyahu denies. A trial is already underway.”
  • Bennett is Netanyahu’s former chief of staff.
  • He is to serve two years before handing off to Lapid for the second half of a 4-year term.  Lapid holds more than double the seats of the “centrist” Yesh Atid party led by Bennett, but an agreement was made to allow Bennett to take the first term to “maintain political solidarity.”  I have no idea what that means.
  • This coalition includes a party representing Arab citizens.
  • Netanyahu called the coalition “…the scam of the century.”

In a speech shortly after handing over power, Netanyahu said: “We’ll be back – and faster than you think.” (NPR)

Sources

NPR (6/13/21)

https://www.npr.org/2021/06/13/1005724415/netanyahu-is-out-naftali-bennett-will-be-installed-as-israels-new-prime-minister

Don’t bother, you don’t need to know. After all, it’s uncle joe

ISRAEL

The Biden administration is taking on the same elitist “we’ll handle this you don’t need to bother” attitude that characterized the Obama administration.  And, the result will probably be the same. 

When there was clear evidence that the Russians had hacked into the election infrastructure in 2016, Obama, fearful of appearing partisan, refused to make the information public.  Harry Reid all but announced the information, but the corporate media ignored him.  But, Obama, remained silent.

According to staffers, Obama was so confident that Hillary was going to win, he figured she would take care of the issue after she was elected.  “We’ll handle this.”  Right.

Well, it didn’t turn out that way and we wound up with a Russian puppet in the White House for four years.  We will never know the extent of the devastation of that four years.

Obama cared more about his legacy than he did about the American people and the damage is incalculable.

Biden is issuing the same patronizing kinds of statements about the recent outbreak of conflict in Israel.  The administration is  doing “quiet diplomacy.”  That’s the story.  “We’ll handle this you don’t need to bother.”  It’s behind the scenes because really cool guys (like Biden) with experience (like Biden) know that it’s better to move behind the scenes than come out publicly and (in this case) demand a ceasefire.

In fact, not that you would know it from watching corporate news (celebrity gossip, agent driven interviews about new books, rap lyric quotes, hand wringing about the hypocrisy of the Republicans, the creation of Liz Cheney as a super-star) but the U.S. government has blocked a UN Security Council call for a ceasefire three times since this conflict began. 

Why, why would the U.S. block a call for a ceasefire?  What possible purpose would that serve unless you wanted to signal to Netanyahu that we support driving the Palestinians into the sea?

But, there is not a peep about this on the corporate news, or at least not that I have seen.  It’s all reassuring elitist head patting.  “We’ve got this under control.”  “Don’t worry.”  “You don’t have to know what’s going on.  Just trust us.”  “After all, it’s uncle Joe and his son died.”

When Barak Obama decided he knew better than the American people what to do about the Russian hacking, we wound up with the disaster of Trump, three Supreme Court justices not to mention a legion of federal court judges who comprise a ticking time bomb.  Biden adopting the same “trust me” attitude is not comforting. 

The corporate news by and large is promoting its usual “both sides” analysis.  Well, the Israelis are launching some missiles and Hamas is launching some missiles.  But, as was pointed out on Christine Amanpour’s show on 17 May 2021, there is no symmetry in the destructive power of the two entities. 

And, as Ehaled Elgindy, former advisor to the Palestinian authority commented on Amanpour’s program, the Israelis are essentially asking that Hamas stop firing on Israel in exchange for the Israelis stopping firing at some time in the future as yet undetermined. 

Elgindy noted that what was needed was the “robust” involvement of Biden in the situation, not the passive approach he is taking at the moment.  Elgindy argued that Biden was essentially saying to Netanyahu, go ahead, we’ll run diplomatic interference for you until you get what you want.  Biden should be calling for an immediate cease fire.  Because he is not, Biden is “greenlighting” the process. 

Elgindy continued that the policy in Washingon is basically that we have to “hug Israel” to get them to do anything.  Through 54 years of occupation, expulsions, and blockades, all Washington is willing to come up with are “positive inducements.”  The U.S. has “enabled” the situation for decades.

This week on the horrible Morning Joe (home for all middle of the road has beens who have nothing, and I mean nothing,to say) David Ignatius claimed that there wasn’t really anything the U.S. could do about the situation. 

Meanwhile, Washington approved $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel.  The Democrats were largely silent.

Sources

U.S. Today

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2021-05-17/biden-administration-approved-735-million-arms-sale-to-israel-sources

Christine Amanpour (5/17/21)

michael lewis’ “the premonition.”

Michal Lewis’ new book “The Premonition” couldn’t be more newsworthy.  Through the stories of three individuals who worked in the public health system, Lewis makes plain just how we ended up with a dysfunctional CDC at a time of a global pandemic.

In an interview with Nicolle Wallace of MSNBC (5/12/21) Lewis notes that we should question whether any of our government is best run by political appointees.  The CDC went from an institution run by experts to a home for those who needed to be politically rewarded.

Lewis also notes that there are characteristics of our economic system that made us unable to respond adequately to a crisis, in this case the pandemic, but the problems would be there in any crisis.   

Lewis notes that the for-profit system is so entrenched in the society that we are unable to avail ourselves of solutions even when they present themselves unless they exist within the for-profit world. 

He tells a story of a non-profit testing lab. When the owners of the lab saw that the CDC was not going to be able to adequately test people for COVID, it developed its own test and tried to give it away for free.  But, accepting a free testing service was problematic for some.  In one case, the agency approached could not use the free testing because its computer system could not accept any entry that had a $0 for the price. 

The testing lab went to San Quentin prison and warned them that if no testing was done in such a confined institution, the result was likely to be a disaster.  Those in charge initially accepted the testing but then quickly backed out.  When asked why, those in charge explained that they already had established contracts with big testing labs and they were afraid that accepting another test would infringe on their contracts or at the very least, make the big testing firms angry.

The testing provided by the big labs was more cumbersome and took more time.  The result, prisoners were transferred into the facility with COVID and twenty people died.  Twenty people died needlessly because the big labs needed to make money off their monopoly control over testing at San Quentin. 

As Lewis points out there are risks in the social environment that only the government can manage.  If we hollow out the ability of the state to manage these risks we do so at our own peril.  People like Ted Cruz may be able to fly off to another country and stay in a sealed community, but the rest of us can’t. 

Lewis also notes that the entire structure of incentives for health care is defective.  There are, for example, no incentives for preventive medicine. 

amanpour interview with michael lewis about his new book

Christina Amanpour interviews author Michael Lewis May 6, 2021 about his new book “The Premonition.” 

In his book, Michael Lewis followed three characters involved in the public health system and tells their stories.  The stories carry lessons for pandemic response in the past and the future.

As Amanpour notes, Lewis had already written about the hollowing out of creative professionals in the ranks of government.  This hollowing out left a bureaucracy afraid of creativity and afraid of risk.  When COVID hit, the CDC which should have been the leader, was afraid to act. 

As Ezra Klein noted in his article about  Lewis’ book in the New York Times (May 2021), the CDC was “too passive, too unwilling to act on uncertain information, too afraid of making  mistakes, too interested in its public image.”

According to Lewis, the hollowing out of the CDC, the loss of their reputation, happened long before Trump.  I was interested to hear this since during the COVID crisis I kept wondering how Trump could eviscerate the CDC so rapidly.  Turns out he didn’t. 

According to Lewis, by 2012 the CDC had become an academic institution reluctant to take on any action aside from studying problems.  It had, according to Lewis, become a “disease observation and reporting” institution, not a disease control center.

Lewis tells the stories of several people involved in the public health system and their experiences dealing with the CDC. One, Charity Dean, was a public health official on the ground, locally.  When she tried to get assistance from the CDC for public health problems, she found none.  In fact, she found active hostility.  When she called on the CDC to help her they actually obstructed her investigations. 

Lewis commented that if the three people whose stories he told were asked whether the CDC would act as the battlefield commander in the event of a pandemic, they would have answer no.  The Centers for Disease Control had ceased to function to control disease.

It was obvious to some people, people who were actively trying to develop strategies for a future pandemic, that a battlefield commander was going to be needed.  But, the CDC wasn’t listening.

As Lewis tells tells the story, after 9/11 and Katrina, George Bush was primed to be concerned about any unexpected threat.  Sometime in 2005, he was handed the book “The Great Influenza.”  He supposedly read it and asked about the plan for dealing with a future pandemic.  The answer was that there wasn’t any.

Surprisingly, the Bush administration acted quickly and within weeks had Congress appropriate money to study the issue and devise a strategy.  Lewis notes how this back story illustrates just what can be done quickly when the President focuses on an issue and decides to get something done.

And, also surprisingly, the individuals brought in from various federal agencies were nominated because of their reputation for creative thinking.  That in-and-of itself is extraordinary.  In a country that spends untold amounts of money creating commissions and investigations filled with dignitaries and political donors, this body was staffed by people who were creative.  Go figure.

These folks Bush appointed to the commission, created a testing, tracking and social distancing strategy and convinced the rest of the world that it could be effective.  This strategy was designed to decrease mortality during the period between the onset of a pandemic and the development of vaccines.

The kicker was that after convincing a skeptical world that this public health strategy could work, the country that developed it failed to adequately put it into effect when a read pandemic occurred.

Lewis noted that this was because the strategy was widely considered to be a theoretical idea not an implementable public health measure.   Similarly, a pandemic was considered to be a theoretical threat, not a real possibility.

But, people on the ground, people like Charity Dean, one of the people in Lewis’ book, were looking at factors like the increasing worldwide transmission of viruses from animals to humans.  What they were looking at wasn’t a theoretical possibility.  When they looked at the evidence, the outbreak of a dangerous pandemic was a matter of when not if.

But, as Charity Dean told Lewis, people like her felt like Moses, building the ark.  Everyone around them accused them of lunacy.  So, there were people who knew a dangerous pandemic was coming.  When Trump went on national TV and claimed that the COVID virus outbreak was a total shock to the world, he was (as usual) lying.

By 2011 people like Charity Dean, people on the local level of public health, knew not only that a pandemic was coming, but that the country was unprepared.  The population, however, (as usual) was being told that we were the most prepared country in the world. 

Studies ranking preparedness, listed the U.K. an the U.S. as the most prepared countries in the world.  They were wrong.  They made people feel good.  They made people complacent, but they were wrong. 

As Lewis noted, the U.S. with 4% of population would up with 20% of the deaths.  Somehow, sometime, Americans are going to have to stop creating and repeating and believing their own propaganda. 

Crisis response is not about having the most resources or the most labs or the most prestigious boards at the CDC.  Lewis detailed some of the problems that are part of the structure of the society, features that make crisis response (whether it’s to a war or a pandemic) almost impossible.

Lewis and doctors at the WHO, talked about the endemic fear of failure.  As one of the doctors at the WHO put it, in March of 2020, fear of failure, fear of making a mistake has become paralyzing. “If you need to be right before you move, you will never win.”

Lewis noted that the culture has been primed to punish viciously crimes of commission, but to forget crimes of omission.  It doesn’t take much to predict which crimes will be the most prevalent. 

Many of the researchers who understood and warned about the coming pandemic believe that this is not the serious pandemic they are concerned about.  They believe that this is only a dry run.  The real pandemic has yet to happen.  We all need to put that in our pipes and smoke.   

TOMORROW: How the For-Profit Health Care System Crippled the pandemic Response.

further notes about covid and india

10 May 2021

The New York Times (Marshal, 5/9/21) reported an increasing number of potentially fatal fungal infections affecting people who have COVID or who have recently recovered from COVID.  The condition affects people who have compromised immune systems especially those with diabetes. 

This is a respiratory mold that was present in India before the pandemic.  It erodes the facial structure and harms the brain.  Doctors posit that the increase in the incidence could be from self medicating, or the widespread use of steroids to treat the virus. 

Marshal (5/9/21) “A potentially fatal fungal…” New York Times

After reporters in India attempted to alert the world to the severity of the problems in the country experiencing a devastating second wave of COVID, right-wing social media started attacking the journalists.  In what has been called “an orchestrated move” the right is trying to discredit journalists, especially those wiring for foreign publications like the Washington Post.

They have been slammed as “vultures” for posting photographs and video of crematoriums.  Indian journalist Barkha Dutt was criticized as taking “a macabre ghoulish delight at our misery.”  She was called a disgrace to India.  Dutt has said in interviews that many journalists are being asked not to share photographs of the situation in India on the ground.

Sources

Article: The News Minute

https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/journalists-abused-called-vultures-reporting-covid-19-cremations-india-147847

india is the republican’s idea of the future

In the past two days I have listened to three interviews with Indian journalist Barkha Dutt about the stunning second wave of COVID deaths in India.  Dutt lost her own father to COVID within the past week.  She comes from what she describes as a privileged family in India, but even so, she was not able to get the medical attention that could have kept her father alive.  The desperation in her reporting and in her voice are inescapable.

After it became apparent that a second wave of COVID was out of control in India, a number of journalists posted photographs of vastly overburdened crematoriums operating all over the country.  There was also video footage of hospitals that are so over run patients are laying on the ground, or on flattened paper boxes with IV feeds hanging from the limbs of trees.  Family members are desperately running from hospital to hospital seeking medical attention for loved ones, and individually searching for oxygen and taking it to those lucky enough to be in hospitals.

According to Dutta, India was incredibly complacent after the first wave of COVID.  Most people thought the worst was behind them.  The Indian government failed to buy adequate supplies of vaccines to cope with a possible second wave, rejected the idea of buying vaccines that weren’t completely made in India and even gave vaccine away after the first wave.  Politicians continued to have enormous rallies without any social distancing or masking and the government allowed masses to gather for religious services.

Now, a second wave has hit India and even the official statistics of deaths are stunning. And, as Dutt reports, the official statistics, alarming as they are, are grossly underreporting the number of deaths.  Dutt has talked to crematorium workers who report burning over 120 bodies a day.  This is one crematorium in one location.  Government statistics for that region, report something like 47 deaths for the entire city. 

Dutt has said that she can’t even estimate how extensive the underreporting is.  She said that she has seen instances where there is as much as a four-fold difference between the official statistics and those she estimates for a city. 

To add to the problem, some testing facilities have been asked to decrease the amount of testing so that there will not be so many cases reported.  This is reminiscent of actions taken by the Trump administration when COVID case counts became politically embarrassing.

Dutt argues that the Indian government was outrageously complacent and did not adequately prepare for the possibility of a second wave of COVID.  She also reports that people in India while initially forgiving of the mistakes of the government, are now angry.

Some people are blaming health care workers for the lack of vaccines and infrastructure, but in fact, it is the fault of the government.   Citizens, she says, have been left to fend for themselves.  Whether you survive this pandemic depends on who you know and how strong you are.  It is survival of the richest and the most connected.  People feel that they are out there all alone, she says.  There is no state apparatus to turn to for help at the hospitals or the crematoriums.  It is just every person on their own fighting for resources.  You can hear the fear and desperation and anger in her voice.

This is what the social configuration looks like when the state breaks down in a complex society.  This is exactly what the Republicans have in mind for this country.  They have worked for decades to destroy the faith people had in the government.  They have worked tirelessly to block any policy that would have allowed government to improve their lives of the citizenry.  They have blocked any policies which would have even allowed the government to function.  Republicans are against effective programs to deal with COVID because successful state intervention in a crisis might have caused people to start understanding and valuing the role of government in a complex society.  An effective government response to COVID might cause people to question whether the state is the enemy.

Numerous corporate journalists (who are like parrots) are now having a field day talking about how the Republicans have ceased to be ideological.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  They have been and are now conducting an ideological fight for a world where life is each against all, where the wealthy and the powerful can secure access to health and clean food and clean water and the rest of us fight it out on the street as did Dutt’s family when they went to have her father cremated.

This is the world Republicans are ushering in.  The reality is staring us in the face every day, with every news report, but the reality is so disturbing Americans cannot and will not look at it.  They would prefer to watch corporate news hosts make celebrities out of the hundreds of thousands of people who needlessly died because of a refusal to allow the government to act. They would rather watch hosts quote rap lyrics as if they were great literature, follow the soap opera of the royal family, or  interview each other about their books (which all say that the institutions are holding and everything’s fine).  The American people would, in other words, prefer to do anything, anything but look at the stark reality of the world the Republicans are preparing us for.

And, we should remember that many of these Republicans have no investment in this world.  They truly believe that this is the “end times,” and that in a very short time they are going to be leaving the rest of us behind while they ascend to heaven.  So, far from being free of ideology, they have the most destructive ideology on the planet.  They believe that the worse things get the better because that brings us nearer to the end of the world.

If you want to know what that world is going to look like, just take a look close look at India.

Dutt was interviewed on Christine Amanpour’s nightly news program and by Ian Bremmer on his podcast, Gzero World (5/8/21)

further notes about protests in colombia

BBC:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-56983865

•       The UN human rights office has accused Colombia’s security forces of using excessive force against protesters

•       They are particularly concerned about events in Cali on Monday, where police fired on protesters.

•       The government had argued that new taxes were necessary to mitigate Colombia’s economic crisis. 

•       The “reform” would have lowered the threshold at which salaries are taxed.

•       More than 800 people are reported to have been injured in clashes between police and protesters.

•       The response is predictable.  Officials claim that the police themselves were attacked and that the police were dealing with “criminal elements.”

Associated Press

https://hosted.ap.org/journalrecord/article/6ed35865fbe5487fe8cc36ddffba6a3c/corruption-economic-woes-spark-deadly-protests-colombia

•       The Associated press is reporting 26 people killed in protests in Colombia in recent weeks.

•       The police are arguing that rebel groups have infiltrated the protests and drug trafficking enterprises are funding the protests.

•       Police are heavily armed from years of dealing with drug trafficking.

Scotsman (5/7/21)

https://www.scotsman.com/news/world/what-is-happening-in-colombia-2021-protests-explained-as-continued-violence-against-demonstrators-claims-lives-3224866

•       The Scotsman is reporting as many as 37 people killed in clashes with police in Colombia.

•       The protests are also about the privatization of health care, something that wasn’t mentioned in the corporate media.

•       The Scotsman is also reporting 89 people missing.

•       Colombia is experiencing the third highest rate of covid deaths in Latin America.

colombia

Colombia

•       There are violent riots in Colombia brought about partly because of a proposed tax hike. 

•       It is estimated that 45% of the people in the country are living in poverty.  There are high levels of unemployment.

•       Due to the protests, the proposed tax hike has been withdrawn, but that hasn’t been enough to calm the situation where other grievances are fueling the protests.

•       Political parties have been weakened in Colombia and in effect, ceased to function.  The streets are the only viable political vehicle.

•       “Latin America is going through hell.”  Says Moises Naim, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

•       The consequences of the pandemic have been dire.  Latin America has 8% of the world’s population, but 35% of total Covid deaths.

•       Protest in Latin America is met with arguments of 1) conspiracy – protest is the effect of outside forces (the old “outside agitator” argument;  2) copy cats – this is people copying Hong Kong and other protests; 3) combustion –  people are fed up because of other issues and they take to the streets.

•       There is a covid-enhanced erosion of democratic forms.  There is a concern about decreasing rather than increasing democracy in Latin America.

See the interview with Moises Naim on Amanpour and Company. 

A discussion of politics, law, justice, and crime.