Category Archives: Political crimes

Latin America, the “Democratic” Party and Never-Trumpsters

elliott

There are three important stories in the news within the past week relating to Latin America.

First, the Trump administration has appointed Elliott Abrams U.S. Special Representative for Iran.  For those of us who have been interested in Latin America for decades, Elliott Abrams is a criminal who is widely despised.  He should be in jail.  If there was anything like a justice system for high level corporate, political and white collar criminals, he would be.

As Common Dreams (8/6/20 ) has noted, “Abrams is one of the architects of right-wing “regime change.”  He “has made a career of lying and committing criminal acts that have led to the death and suffering of innocent people from Guatemala to Iraq.”  “He embraces militarism, covers up for gross human rights abuses, and has a history of supporting authoritarian regimes.”

As if this wasn’t enough, Abrams pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 1991 as part of the Iran-Contra affair.  He was later pardoned by George H.W. Bush.  Abrams admitted that he had willfully withheld information from congress in 1986 when he testified about the “secret Contra supply network and his role in soliciting a $10 million contribution for anti-Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua” (the Contras).

See “CODEPINK Denounces Elliott Abrams’…”  common Dreams.  August 6, 2020

The second story is about the release of a report detailing a State Department plan for regime change in Nicaragua intended to oust popularly elected members of the Sandinistas.

Ben Norton reports in The Grayzone that:

  • This newly released document outlines plans for USAID to oversee a regime-change plan to oust Nicaragua’s elected leftist government.
  • USAID (also widely despised in Latin America), is planning to establish a “market economy” in Nicaragua and purge the Sandinistas.
  • The socialist government in Nicaragua is democratically elected.
  • USAID, as always, functions here as a “regime-change” vehicle that “uses the pretense of humanitarian aid to advance Washington’s aggressive foreign-policy interests.”
  • The document presents this as a plan for “Nicaragua’s transition to democracy.” This is a euphemism for removing the leftist Sandinistas.
  • The report doesn’t even pretend to be anything but a hardline neoconservative document. It refers to the “Ortega regime”  and makes it clear that the intent is to install a “neoliberal administration that will privatize the economy and…purge all institutions of any trace of the leftist Sandinista movement.”

The third, and related story, is that Joe Biden has recruited Anna Navarro to help him mobilize the Hispanic vote.  The Democrats are opening positions of power within the party to a variety of never-Trump Republicans who have no goals or interests in common with publicly stated Democratic positions.

As Ban Norton (3/1/20) points out in his article published on The Gray Zone, Navarro has become “something of a celebrity among the anti-Trump republicans…”  She has also become a welcome anti-Trump Republican voice among the corporate media.  She is, for example, a frequent commentator on CNN and “The View.”

As Norton points out, “corporate media networks give Navarro a massive platform to attack progressives like Bernie Sanders and rebrand her neoconservative politics before impressionable liberal viewers who despise Trump, Navarro’s professional background has faced little scrutiny.”

Navarro, however, “lobbied for El Salvador’s corruption-drenched right-wing government.”   “Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) documents reviewed by The Grayzone reveal that Ana Navarro and her Republican lobbyist husband, Al Cárdenas, have worked with some of the most corrupt right-wing governments in recent Latin American history, including leaders who have overseen egregious human rights abuses and been convicted for serious criminal offenses.”

“Navarro hails from a wealthy family in Nicaragua, and still today she remains a staunch supporter of the Contras, far-right death squads that the CIA armed and trained in the 1980s in a regime-change war targeting the country’s socialist Sandinista government. The Contras waged a relentless terrorist campaign, massacring and torturing civilians in hopes of destabilizing the country. And Navarro has celebrated them as freedom fighters.

Navarro, now calls herself a “strategist” has branded herself a “moderate.”

None of this bodes well for Nicaragua or Latin America.  And, it only reinforces the argument that Joe Biden, the corporate Democrats and the corporate media are turning the Democratic Party into Republican-light.  It gives us even less reason to stay with the party.

Saturday Morning Articles

anna navarro 1

SATURDAY MORNING ARTICLE RUN DOWN

 

USAID plans for coup in Nicaragua

https://thegrayzone.com/2020/08/04/usaid-document-nicaragua-coup/

 

Biden is putting us in bed with the likes of Anna Navarro

https://thegrayzone.com/2020/03/01/contras-cnn-ana-navarro-lobbying-corruption/

 

Trump puts Criminal Elliott Abrams Representative in Iran

https://news.yahoo.com/u-iran-envoy-brian-hook-173327817.html

 

Victims in Epstein Case Get Second Attempt

https://news.yahoo.com/epstein-victims-second-chance-justice-181228243.html

 

Don MaGahn

https://www.newsweek.com/other-donald-behind-donald-trump-457514

Elliott Abrams Should be in Prison. A New Low for the Trump Administration. The Criminal Mind

elliott

This is a good summary of some of the reasons Elliott Abrams should be in prison: Common Dreams, August 6, 2020

Abrams’ resume includes:

  • In the 1980s, he defended the infamous Guatemalan General Efraín Ríos Montt, whose violent crackdown on the indigenous Ixil Mayan people of Guatemala was so brutal that it was classified as genocide by the United Nations.
  • He denied that the Salvadoran military was responsible for the devastating El Mozote massacre where, in 1981, a U.S.-trained battalion murdered more than 500 civilians, slitting the throats of children along the way. Not only did Abrams deny the massacre and push for continued US support for the notoriously brutal Salvadoran government, but he even claimed in a 1994 interview that “the U.S. administration’s record in El Salvador is one of fabulous achievement.”
  • He is vehemently anti-Palestinian and shamelessly supports Israel. As George Bush’s aide on the National Security Council, Abrams did everything he could to thwart peace negotiations. He repeatedly undercut any U.S. pressure on Israel to stop the building of settlements and cited the Holocaust as justification for Israel’s killings of Palestinians (Jews are “a people who had learned from history what happens to Jews without security”). In 2015, he applauded then-Speaker John Boehner’s decision to invite Netanyahu to address Congress without the approval of President Obama. He lauds Evangelical descriptions of Israel such as the belief that “Israel is connected to the idea that God favors and protects Americans.”
  • In 1991, Abrams pled guilty to withholding information from Congress related to his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal, the secret and illegal scam in the 1980s to siphon profits from Iranian weapons sales to support the right-wing Contra rebels trying to overthrow the Sandinista government.
  • Abrams was a key supporter of the disastrous invasion of Iraq. In 1998, he submitted a letter to President Clinton encouraging him to depose Saddam Hussein. As Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy during George W. Bush’s second term, Abrams was in charge of promoting Bush’s strategy of “advancing democracy abroad.”
  • Abrams championed the U.S. overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, echoing the tactics used by the neocons for intervention in Iraq.
  • Abrams’ opposition to the Iran Nuclear Deal is epitomized by his attempts to encourage Israel to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites before negotiations became too serious. He expressed concern that Israel’s capacity to impede the deal was “already being narrowed considerably by the diplomatic thaw, because it is one thing to bomb Iran when it appears hopelessly recalcitrant and isolated and quite another to bomb it when much of the world — especially the United States — is optimistic about the prospect of talks.”
  • In January 2019, Abrams was appointed to be the U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela, and used his position to support an attempted coup, quash diplomatic talks, and increase brutal sanctions, even during the pandemic.

Abrams has now been appointed as the U.S. envoy for Iran, managing a situation that is already a tinderbox, with the Iranian people suffering immensely from U.S. sanctions. Rather than receiving this new position, Elliott Abrams should be barred for life from government positions and recognized as the war criminal that he is.

https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2020/08/06/codepink-denounces-elliott-abrams-appointment-next-us-special-representative

Article in Common Dreams

The Barr Hearings: That’s Why my Stomach hurts

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     Bill Barr, after being threatened with a subpoena by Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee, appeared before the House on July 28, 2020.  There was no reason for anybody who has watched Barr with increasing outrage and fury, as he has politicized the administration of justice in this country, to hold out much hope that these hearings would reveal much. 

Democrats are hopeless at taking on people with even moderate intelligence in a hearing setting.  They refuse to adopt an aggressive approach to Republican authoritarians.  They are so concerned with being “nice” or “polite” or “well mannered,” they never anticipate the depths of obfuscation and bad behavior to which the Republicans are willing to sink.

     When I switched channels over to MSNBC from TCM where I had been contemplating hiding in escapism for the duration, there was nothing but noise, loud, irritating, obnoxious noise.  Then, the camera switched to a screen inside the committee hearing.  On this screen was a video, displaying images of protesters, tear gas, confrontation, people pounding at fences.  What?  Isn’t this the Barr hearing?

     It was the Barr hearing.  What was going on was that bad-boy Jim Jordan, the crazed ex-wrestler who refused to report his colleague for sexual abuse, had introduced as an “opening statement” a long, selectively edited campaign video purporting to give an accurate representation of the protests occurring in various cities in the United States.  The video employed one of the right’s main strategies, fear, creating fear and therefore anger in their base.  That’s what Fox News does 24/7. 

If you watched the video divorced from any other news, you would think the country was descending into total chaos and violent anarchy.  That is exactly what the Republicans wanted to portray.  They spent the rest of the hearing, pounding home the point and punching the key words over and over – protest, chaos, anarchists, violence, crime, hate…”my constituents are afraid.” As usual, the Republicans had all been briefed on the key words to use during the hearing to drive home the point.  Like faithful soldiers, they complied.  

     This is a strategy they have used for decades.  Even years ago, ten or fifteen Republicans would be interviewed independently on television.  All of them would use the same words and phrases to describe a situation, to get their point across, to insert their frame on the news.  They are good little soldiers, obedient and loyal and willing to do and say anything.  That’s one of the many reasons we need to fear them and fight them.

     But, even though, Jerry Nadler scolded Jordan for violating Committee rules by not notifying committee of the intent to show the video, the damage was done.   

Why are Democrats always like Charlie Brown with the football?  Every time, they stand around and watch Lucy put the ball on the ground, suspecting nothing.  Then, they watch Lucy yank the ball out from under them.  Then, they issue a scolding after the fact, or ignore the behavior with dignified silence.

Why didn’t Jerry Nadler know the Republicans were going to play this video?  Why didn’t he review it?  There had to be people in the hearing room, setting this up.  If I had been burned as many times as the Democrats in hearings, I would have informants everywhere and somebody watching that room from the minute the doors were unlocked.

And, if you want to argue that Nadler couldn’t have known about the video, why didn’t he stop it?  If showing the video violated the rules, why didn’t Nadler stop the video?  Why didn’t he demand it be stopped when he saw that it was – a propaganda campaign ad that grossly misrepresented the situation?  Nadler can’t walk but somebody could have been told to go and stop that video if it violated Committee rules.  But, Jerry Nadler (and other corporate Democrats) refuse to enforce the rules?   

     I watch a lot of politics.  I have spent most of my adult life reading about, watching, writing about, studying politics, specifically politics and crime.  But, now, when one of these big hearings is scheduled, I start feeling queasy in the morning.  I feel obligated to watch, to witness this descent into authoritarianism.  But I don’t want to watch.  As someone said yesterday on Twitter, how can these hearings always end up being a loss for both sides?

I know corporate Democrats are largely cowards, feckless cowards who will not fight, or enforce the rules even when enforcing the rules would be to their advantage.  But, how did we end up with such a sorry lot?  And, what are they afraid of?

I think part of the answer lies in the fact that Democrats are living in a culture in Washington that no longer exists.  They can’t seem to accept, acknowledge, understand, that they are facing ruthless authoritarians who will resort to anything, anything to win. They act like if they just stand erect, stare directly ahead of them and behave in a dignified manner (watch Adam Schiff), this ruthless, gutter fight for power on the part of the Republicans will disappear.

In fact, Joe Biden has said just that.  He has stated that when we get rid of Trump, all his Republican friends are just going to go back to “normal” and we can return to a bipartisan Kumbaya that hasn’t existed for decades.  Republicans haven’t been “normal,” haven’t participated in this gentleman’s club of bipartisanship for decades.  And, they aren’t going to do so now.  People keep saying we need somebody who can “unite us.”  No, that’s not what we need.  We need somebody who can marginalize and neuter these rabid authoritarians, see them for what they are, and push them as far away from power as we can get them. 

     An interesting “tell” here is the ability of the “squad” and some of the other recently elected Democrats to run circles around these career corporate Democrats in hearings.  They are not still living in a culture that doesn’t exist.       

  First, they aren’t afraid.  They aren’t afraid to use their common sense and ask questions that make Republicans squirm.  They ask the sort of questions that these career corporate Democrats would rather die than ask.   Secondly, these women come prepared.  They generally don’t just read a prepared statement like they’ve never seen it before, stumbling over what are supposed to be their own words.  Third, they usually actually show up and listen to the hearings.  They don’t just appear and read a series of questions like bad third-grade actors.  They know what has gone on in the hearing and are capable of adapting to the situation.  Fourth, these women were by-and-large elected in an upset.  They have not been groomed by the DNC.  They were elected with a skill set that was larger than just being able to raise money and kiss butt.  When I watch people who have been on capitol hill for decades perform at a committee hearing, stumbling through the text of canned questions written by their staff, I always think: They are there because they can raise money, lots of money.  That’s the only reason they are there.  The DNC supports these types of candidates over other candidates that are more qualified because they can raise money and will behave. 

The DNC has worked tirelessly to keep new candidates from emerging in the Democratic party and has created a blacklist for consulting businesses who work for candidates challenging incumbents.  The Congressional Black Caucus actually supported an incumbent, Elliott Engels, over a progressive black challenger.  This tells you how institutionalized these Democrats have become.  The DNC is actively working to keep people in Congress who will play ball, who will not enforce the rules, who will not fight, and who will not ask the tough questions.

Recently, I read an interview of somebody in the music industry.  She said: “Oh, they don’t look for talent anymore.  They look for somebody with the right look and a compliant personality.”  That’s what the DNC looks for and they are selling us down the drain by doing so.  That’s why an important hearing makes my stomach hurt.

Glynn County, Georgia: Site of the Aubery Killings

browning Michael Browning, Glynn County Commission

 

It was in Glynn County, Georgia that three men stalked and killed Ahmaud Arbery.  One of the men documented the killing on video.  But, when police from the Glynn County Police Department arrived at the scene of the murder, they made no arrests.  One of the three men, Gregory McMichaels, is a former police officer and investigator for the Glynn County DA’s office.  Gregory McMichaels, his son Travis, and a neighbor who filmed the murder were allowed to go home after pretty much dictating the police report.

Later, another officer from the Glynnn County Police Department phoned the mother of jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, and told her that her son had been killed in a burglary.  This was untrue.

The DA in the county promptly recused herself from the case giving as the reason that Gregory McMichael had worked as a police officer in the 1980s and in the district attorney’s office until 2019.  She passed the case on to another DA who maintained that the two men were acting in self defense and should not be charged.

The case was later shifted to another DA.

Meanwhile, the Aubery family’s lawyer released the videotape of the killing and there was a public outcry as citizens watched these three men shoot and kill another man in broad daylight.

After bringing in investigators from the state, the three men were eventually charged, but only after a public outcry and national coverage of the murder.

Much of the attention in the case has been on the District Attorneys involved and their unwillingness to bring charges against the three men.  What should also have been brought out was the history of the Glynn County Police Department which not only failed to make an arrest in the case, but for whom one of the assailants (Gregory McMichael) used to work as a police officer and investigator.

The Glynn County Police Department has a history and it is not a proud one.  As Page Page, a criminal defense attorney in Glynn County stated in an interview, “There is not just one prior case.  There are many prior cases.  And each one is a separate Netflix episode.”

In 2018, Glynn County Police Lt. Robert Sasser killed his estranged wife and a man she had been seeing.  He then took his own life.  This final act followed a history of problematic behavior, much of it witnessed by members of the very police department he worked for.  But, that police department failed to act.

The family of Sasser’s wife is now suing the police department arguing that the department’s failure to act led to their daughter’s death.

In 2010, Sasser and another officer were involved in a brutal police shooting of a woman who led them on a low-speed chase.  The officers opened fire on her.  Nevertheless, Sasser avoided any punishment for the act and remained on the force.  The family of this woman is also taking legal action.

In 2018, the police department saw its certification with the state taken away because it did not meet basic police standards.  Part of the report that led to the de-certification noted that even though African Americans make up 26% of the population in the county, they make up only %12 of the police force.

In 2019, the county’s drug task force was disbanded after a state-led investigation.  This investigation found misconduct by Glynn County police officers, one of whom was having sex with an informant.

Then, Glynn County Police Chief John Powell, was indicted for perjury and witness tampering.  This was four days after the Arbery shooting.  This police chief remains on administrative leave.

County Commissioners have defended the police department handling of the Arbery case.  They blamed the DA for the decision not to arrest the three.  Commissioner Peter Murphy said that the police were told by the DA’s office not to make an arrest.

The DA, Jackie Johnson, says her office didn’t tell the police whether to make an arrest.  Johnson maintained that the police and the county commission wanted to smear her.

“I think it’s retaliation for me being the whistleblower on their police department multiple times over the last year.”

We have no idea what this means.

In June of 2020, the Glynn County Commissioners (some of whom are lame ducks leaving office) met to approve creating a new job for the Police Chief, John Powell.  Approximately $150,000 of county “reserve” funds were to be used to make a job for the indicted Police Chief.

But, the local newspaper, the Brunswick News, reported that the vote was to occur.  When the County Commissioners met at a scheduled meeting all had agreed to, two of the members were missing.   One of the Commissioners gave a statement to the local newspaper that it would be “unfair” for the Commission to go ahead without the missing two members.

I suspect that what he meant was that they didn’t want to go ahead unless all the Commissioners were implicated in the decision.

The members present voted to “defer” the decision about using county funds during a pandemic to create a job for the indicted police chief.  The Commissioners failed to reveal when they planned on meeting again.

The outrage about the history of the Glynn County Police Department had led to a bill passed by the Georgia legislature allowing the citizens of Glynn County to vote on whether they wanted to dissolve the Police Department entirely.

The Glynn County Commissioners announced through one Michael Browning (one of the lame ducks) that the County Commission would hire lawyers and pay them with county funds to sue the state of Georgia if they went ahead with plans to allow the citizens of Glynn County to vote on dissolving the police department.

 

Notes from “Hiding in Plain Sight” by Sarah Kenzior

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The Bellwether of American Decline

“…the facts make you wish they were fiction, but that is all the more reason we need to hear them.”

Greitens, governor of Missouri

“Whereas once mere publicity about his scandals would have prompted resignation, Greitens proved that hanging on to executive power to dodge or manipulate prosecution remains a viable option in an era of unfettered corruption—a lesson the Trump administration knows well. One of the most awful things about the Greitens case is that Missourians felt lucky he left, like peasants relieved at the passing of an evil king. There was never accountability, there was never transparency—there was just luck, otherwise known as dead expectations.
“When asked to vote on a specific issue, Missourians chose the most progressive options. But when asked to vote for a politician, over half of Missourians chose Republicans who sought to strike down the very ballot initiatives for which they had voted.”

 

The 1980s: Roy Cohn’s Orwellian America

 

“In 1984, one year after the tower’s completion, Soviet army veteran David Bogatin purchased five luxury condos for six million dollars—a purchase so substantial that Trump made sure to personally oversee the closing.”

 

“In 1987, Bogatin admitted he had purchased the Trump Tower condos “to launder money, to shelter and hide assets…”

 

“…a Senate investigation revealed him to be a leading figure in the Russian mafia. The Russian mafia had been growing in New York City due to a wave of Soviet émigrés and a crackdown on the Italian mob…”

 

“…Comey, who replaced Mueller as FBI head in 2013, the FBI removed Mogilevich—the dangerous Russian mafia head who had been ancillary to Trump since the 1980s—from the Ten Most Wanted list in December 2015 and replaced him with a bank robber. “

 

“When the press works against its own financial interest—as it did by rejecting the harrowing truth of Trump—there is a deeper problem.”

 

“…documents to claim that, beginning in 1977, Trump would remain “completely tax-exempt for the next 30 years” thanks to a mysterious arrangement between his company and the American government; that he was contractually bound to have three children with Ivana (which he did); and that he was being groomed to run for president in 1988 (which he nearly did).”:

 

“February 20, 2017, one month after Trump’s inauguration, Churkin died suddenly at the age of sixty-four….Churkin had been the fifth Russian diplomat to die unexpectedly and in an unexplained fashion since Trump won the election.”

 

“…1987, he (Trump) told journalist Ron Rosenbaum that he sought to partner with Russia on nuclear weapons with the aim of threatening other countries into compliance.”

 

“Stone was involved in every Trump presidential run thereafter as well as in Trump’s near-run for New York governor in 2014.

 

“Trump had one condition for entering a race: his win needed to be preordained.”

 

“…crime committed brazenly is over time redefined as something other than crime. It is entertainment, and then it is autocracy, and then it is too late.”

 

“That a significant number of today’s high-profile journalists did know the Trump family personally is cause for concern.”

 

“These powerful sectors of society have been overtaken by connections rather than merit, and dynasties rather than unbiased workforces.”

 

“The deep secret of all Trump coverage is that it is cost-effective news—”

 

“David Cay Johnston, author of multiple bestsellers about Trump, noted that in addition to refusing to cover the rape of Ivana, the 2016 press would not report on Trump’s documented ties to organized crime.”

 

“..confessed drug trafficker. [The trafficker is Joseph Weichselbaum,”

 

“This is called “normalcy bias”: the idea that if a situation is truly dangerous, if massive crimes are being committed in plain sight, someone will intervene and stop them.”

 

“Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present, controls the past,” Orwell wrote in 1984. “Past events, it is argued, have no objective existence, but survive only in written records and in human memories. The past is whatever the records and the memories agree upon. And since the Party is in full control of all records, and in equally full control of the minds of its members, it follows that the past is whatever the Party chooses to make it.”

The Aim is to Smash the Table: The Power Worshipers by Katherine Stewart

katherine stewart

The Power Worshipers

Notes on an Interview on CSPAN with author Katherine Stewart

Katherine Stewart in a CSPAN interview, points out that Trump wouldn’t be in office without the “Christina nationalists.”  There is a myth that these people “held their noses” and voted for Trump in a transactional way, but that is not true.  This is, according to Stewart, “a movement that does not believe in liberal democracy.”

“It’s aim is to smash the table, to overthrow the system as we know it and to create a new type of order one in which its leaders along with member of certain approved religious groups… and their political allies will enjoy positions of exceptional privilege in politics, law and society.”

Most people think of the movement as being “bottom up.”  It’s not.  “Religious nationalism works from the top down.”  Stewart, in this book, points out the real leaders and the real followers and the fact that they are going to be around a lot longer than Trump.

“This is,” she says “a political movement not just a cultural movement.”  “It’s about power.”

 

 

 

 

Disaster Economics: Part 2

pitchfork

Notes from the podcast Pitchcock Economics

 

“Disaster Economics” 23 March 2020

  • This crisis brings into focus the damage of forty years of neo-liberal politics. These policies have been corrosive.
  • The effect of a crisis reveals how well the society was prepared in the first place. If, when a hurricane is coming, the society lived in houses that were already built to withstand a hurricane and have good plumbing, the effect of the hurricane is not so disastrous.  For us, it’s like we have been living in tin huts.
  • Decades of wage suppression have left people living on the edge of financial survival.
  • If you cannot survive a $400 emergency, if you don’t have the reserves to last over a $400 emergency, you are going to have to go back to work, no matter what the risks. If people go back to work, they are going to destroy the social distancing measure effect.
  • Over the past 40 years, the richest 1% got richer. The poorer got poorer.
  • By Mid-March 18% of the workforce will lose their jobs or suffer reduced hours due to the epidemic. We could see 20% unemployment.
  • Even on the Democratic side, politicians are steeped in neoliberalism.
  • As the Republicans have been saying, they want a government so small it could be drowned in a bathtub. Well, that’s what we now have, a government that is unprepared to deal with a crisis like this.  We have underfunded all the collective capacity of the government to deal with a situation like this.  We have done so to maintain a society whose entire organizational structure is designed to make rich people richer.
  • One example of this that is particularly pertinent at the moment is massive hospital consolidation which has left us without the adequate health care capacity to deal with a pandemic. While this consolidation has made private equity guys rich, it has not benefited the rest of us..
  • The U.S. has one of the lowest per capita percentages of hospital beds in the developed world. In Italy, where there is an unmitigated disaster, they have significantly more capacity in their hospital system.
  • While it’s more “efficient” when 70% – 80% of your hospital beds are filled at any one time. In a crisis, you need more beds.  When you don’t have them you are in a situation like we are in now, where we’re choosing who gets health care and who doesn’t.  We are forced to choose who will live and who will die with people who would otherwise survive.
  • Grover Norquist said that his goal (and the goal of the Republican Party) was to establish a government that was small enough to be drowned in a bathtub.
  • But, there is no alternative to collective capacity. You can’t buy own ventilators. You can’t prepare for pandemic on your own. You can’t establish your own CDC, develop your own vaccines.
  • (Note: Quote from Mario Cuomo saying that government is like family, sharing resources between those who have and those who have not).
  • China was able to respond quickly to the crisis because they have a well established collective capacity. We, on the other hand, are still struggling just to establish social distancing.
  • We are still not testing. Only way to control this pandemics is to test and isolate those infected, but we are not doing this.
  • (Note: The notion of American exceptionalism is one of the things that blocks us from taking effective action. The assumption is that we are Americans, we won’t be affected like the rest of the world, we can go back to work in the middle of a pandemic and not be hurt.)
  • McConnell and the whole gang of libertarian idiots, at least said that they believed we would all be better off on our own, without government.
  • But, the airlines asking for a $60 billion bailout. During the past decade the airlines have had high profits, but they didn’t use those profits to prepare. They did CEO raises and share buy backs.  And now they are waiting, demanding that the government bail them out.
  • The airline industry spent $800 billion on share buy backs last year. That’s one year.  They could have chosen to pay their workers more.  But, they have established no cushion for disaster.   This is an economy where  corporations assume that any upturn is going to last forever.  “They thought it was going to go on forever.”
  • Boeing is a good example of corporate irresponsibility. Their 737 max has been grounded for a year due to incompetence.  But, during that time last year Boeing was borrowing money to buy back stock.  Going into debt, borrowing money to return “value” to shareholders.  This at a time when they were facing biggest internal management crisis in their history.
  • “The shareholders should be wiped out.” They allowed an incompetent company to run itself into the ground.  But, rather than the investors absorbing the hit, the government is going to bail them out.
  • It should be part of the bill that no company gets a bail out without giving citizens preferred stock. The government could create a joint stock company, and everyone with a social security card, would be a co-equal share holder. This would be like a Sovereign Wealth Fund.  Citizens would own the stock, not the government.  Preferred stock means that the holders are given preference over all other stock holders.  They get paid first if there’s a liquidation.
  • Individuals would own stock in any company accepting a bailout.
  • Vast majority of these companies are going to thrive, and instead of old shareholders being bailed out, middle class citizens would own shares along with the old shareholders.
  • This is a fair way to recapitalize these companies.
  • When you retire, you get your share.
  • And, by doing it this way, we would have seats on the board.
  • This is one way of turning lemons into lemonade
  • The vast majority of wealth in this country is owned by a minority. We could make this the new disaster capitalism.  For the past 40 years economic and other types of disasters have been used to disempower regular people, to disenfranchise and impoverish them.  We can re-empower regular people by making new rules in this crisis.
  • We can change the rules. We can set rules for those companies that are requiring bail outs.  We could require, for example, that labor be on boards of these companies.  Other countries do this.
  • We can make rules that these bailout companies have to keep their employees employed. We are not bailing you out so you can downsizes lay off people.
  • We could require that companies have to offer $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave. If these companies need the money they will have to take the rules. Otherwise they don’t have to take the money.
  • Crises like these make vivid past policy failures – the fact that there is no national policy on paid sick leave.

We should:

Make the tax structure make more progressive, raise the taxes on capital gains and dividend, to same level as ordinary income.  I

Increase highest tax level for those making above $1 million to 50%

There is an insane amount of money available to meet the challenges of society if we just make the tax system fair.

Have a national health care system that disintermediates private insurers – from health care transactions.

Implement common sense labor reforms, national paid sick leave, raise minimum wage, increase wages for bottom 60%.

Establish expanded unemployment programs.  The length and the amount of unemployment should be increased.

 

Disaster Economics: Part 1

pitchfork

The more useless the corporate news media becomes, the more essential it is to find good, informative podcasts.

Today, I listened to a podcast from Pitchfork Economics called “Disaster Economics.”  It’s worth 100 hours of listening to the gossip of Nicolle Wallace, the geek coronavirus obsession of Rachael Maddow, or the endless inspirational anecdotes of CNN.

Pitchfork Economics Podcast

Discussion notes:

The hope is that this crisis will force a reexamination of forty years of neoliberal policies.  Republicans and libertarians have fought for years to make government small enough to (as Grover Norquist once said) strangle in a bathtub.  Well, now that’s what we’ve got, and it’s ill equipped to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Even knowing that this type of pandemic was possible, the government scaled down and down government agencies like the CDC and failed to adequately prepare for a crisis.  Trump eliminated pandemic planning units of the government and trivialized the problem even when he was repeatedly warned about it.

Neoliberal policies have led to a situation where, for example, this country has the lowest per capita percentage of hospital beds in the advanced industrialized world.  The massive hospital consolidation which has been allowed to occur, may have made running particular hospitals more “efficient.”  Hospitals, for example, make more money when they have 70% to 80% of their hospital beds full all the time.  And, this makes private equity guys happy, but when there is a crisis, the country is not prepared.

We must use this crisis to make regular people more empowered.  For 40 years, capitalists have used disasters to disempower people.  We must use them to seize back the power we have to determine our own futures.