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Is the Economic Meltdown as Good as Gold? Maybe for the Far Right Powers that Be

In this post we’re going to take a look at a series of arti­cles that, when tak­en togeth­er, raise the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a grim­ly fas­ci­nat­ing new dimen­sion to the West­’s regime change cam­paign against Chi­na that is now play­ing out in the mid­dle of a glob­al COVID-19 pan­dem­ic that threat­ens to stran­gle vir­tu­al­ly all major economies and raise the fol­low­ing ques­tion: Is col­laps­ing the glob­al econ­o­my and bank­rupt­ing major world pow­ers for the pur­pose of push­ing the world to the gold stan­dard one of the objec­tives at work here too in addi­tion to foment­ing regime change in Chi­na?

So why might we sus­pect that return­ing to the gold stan­dard is an objec­tive of not just the Trump admin­is­tra­tion but per­haps gov­ern­ments around the world? Well, for starters...

1. Return­ing the gold stan­dard is a long-stand­ing far right goal and we are liv­ing in a moment when almost all gov­ern­ments around the globe are either overt­ly or covert­ly run by the far right. It’s a moment that may not last so this is a grand oppor­tu­ni­ty for achiev­ing that far right goal. If a gold stand is to be adopt­ed, it real­is­ti­cal­ly would need to be adopt­ed by all major economies rough­ly at the same time and there would have to be no exist­ing fiat cur­ren­cies that are poised to replace the dol­lar as the reign­ing safe haven. Hav­ing the far right run­ning almost all the major economies of the world right is like the stars align­ing for the gold stan­dard advo­cates or those who sim­ply want to see the dol­lar dethroned. All they have to do is all f*ck up at the same time repeat­ed­ly when it comes to fix­ing the sit­u­a­tion and force a mas­sive col­lec­tive explo­sion of debt across all major cur­ren­cies with­out any real results. That seems like some­thing far right should be high­ly adept at accom­plish­ing.

2. Trump has been sur­round­ing him­self with gold stan­dard advo­cates from the very begin­ning of his 2016 cam­paign and con­tin­ues to ele­vate gold stan­dard advo­cates with­in his admin­is­tra­tion. He’s nom­i­nat­ed gold bugs three time to the Fed­er­al Reserve board of gov­er­nors — Her­man Cain, Stephen Moore, and Judy Shel­ton — and while Cain and Moore’s nom­i­na­tions were reject­ed by the Sen­ate, Shel­ton appears to be on track to get­ting full Repub­li­can sup­port on the Sen­ate Bank­ing com­mit­tee. Unless one of the Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors on the com­mit­tee is will­ing to oppose Trump over this, she’s on the board of gov­er­nors.

3. Judy Shel­ton has­n’t just advo­cat­ed for the US to return the gold stan­dard. She wants to see a glob­al Bret­ton Woods-style con­fer­ence that has all of the major economies adopt it at the same time. She even sug­gest­ed hold­ing the con­fer­ence at Mar-a-Lago.

4. If Judy Shel­ton is indeed allowed to join the Fed’s board of gov­er­nors she’s seen as a top can­di­date for replac­ing Jerome Pow­ell as the chair of the Fed when Pow­ell’s term is up in 2022.

5. Judy Shel­ton has been the chair of the Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy (NED) since Jan­u­ary of 2017. As we’ll see in the Gray Zone arti­cle below, the NED has long been spon­sor­ing and work­ing close­ly with the World Uyghur Con­gress (WUC), the Uyghur move­ment in Chi­na that has regime change in Chi­na as one of its pri­ma­ry objects, whether that change comes polit­i­cal­ly or through mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion. So Shel­ton is undoubt­ed­ly deeply involved the NED’s regime change efforts in Chi­na.

6. As we’ll see in the sec­ond arti­cle below, Robert Mer­cer is a long-time gold stan­dard advo­cate. Giv­en his cur­rent sta­tus as one of the lead­ing bil­lion­aire Nazis with a pro­found influ­ence over the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and fig­ures like Steve Ban­non, we should­n’t at all be sur­prised if Mer­cer is qui­et­ly push­ing for the kind of glob­al eco­nom­ic col­lapse that could so dam­age the major cur­ren­cies of the world simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. Also recall the Mer­cer has expressed extreme social Dar­win­ism views, like how he views peo­ple on wel­fare as hav­ing “neg­a­tive val­ue” and less val­ue than a house cat which at least pro­vides peo­ple plea­sure. In oth­er words, Mer­cer prob­a­bly isn’t the kind of per­son who would flinch at the idea of using a glob­al pan­dem­ic (or start­ing it) to destroy the lives of bil­lions to achieve his goals. He’s basi­cal­ly a super-rich sociopath.

7. As we’ll see in the third, fourth, and fifth arti­cles below, J. Kyle Bass — the bil­lion­aire hedge fund investor who has been work­ing close­ly with Steve Ban­non’s regime change oper­a­tion tar­get­ing Chi­na — appears to be some sort of dooms­day prep­per who advo­cates the stock­pil­ing of gold and guns. And plat­inum. And explo­sives.

8. If return­ing to the gold stan­dard real­ly is the end result of peri­od of mas­sive eco­nom­ic tur­moil, the far right would LOVE Trump and com­plete­ly for­give him for that eco­nom­ic tur­moil. Sure, elder­ly Repub­li­cans who will lose their social secu­ri­ty might not like Trump under those cir­cum­stances, but they’ll pre­sum­ably be dead soon any­way. Either COVID-19 will get them or the sud­den­ly lack of a safe­ty and col­lapsed health care sys­tem will do the job. But the younger ‘Alt Right’ con­ser­v­a­tives who will define the move­ment in com­ing decades will love Trump for­ev­er for destroy­ing enti­tle­ments and bring­ing back the gold stan­dard.

9. The socioe­co­nom­ic tur­moil that could result from a sus­tained eco­nom­ic col­lapse is a per­fect excuse to dep­u­tize all the far right mili­tias (like the Oath Keep­ers) that have been pin­ing to be grant­ed law enforce­ment pow­ers. These are the kinds of groups that dream of a time when every­thing has col­lapsed and gold is sud­den­ly the coin of the realm.

10. The con­ser­v­a­tive euro­zone mem­ber states would prob­a­bly also be espe­cial­ly excit­ed about return­ing to the gold stan­dard, whether that involves hold­ing the euro­zone togeth­er or not. Don’t for­get that the con­ser­v­a­tive euro­zone mem­ber states have long want­ed to see the euro­zone effec­tive­ly oper­ate like a vir­tu­al gold stan­dard between mem­ber states. Ordolib­er­al­ism — the Ger­man eco­nom­ic ide­ol­o­gy — more or less demands that nations oper­ate as if they were on the gold stan­dard any­way, i.e. when there’s reces­sion, cut back on gov­ern­ment spend­ing and allow the ensu­ing reces­sion to kill off the weak­est com­pa­nies. This was a sig­nif­i­cant ide­o­log­i­cal moti­va­tor for the aus­ter­i­ty poli­cies the euro­zone pur­sued over the past decade fol­low­ing the euro­zone finan­cial cri­sis. Ger­many, in par­tic­u­lar, would like­ly find an extreme­ly recep­tive audi­ence for a gold stan­dard. Also recall how Ger­many repa­tri­at­ed large amounts of its glob­al over­seas gold hold­ings in 2017, three years ahead of sched­ule.

11. If the word did shift to a gold stan­dard, almost all social spend­ing would have to rad­i­cal­ly cur­tailed per­ma­nent­ly as min­i­miz­ing nation­al debt loads become the top pri­or­i­ty. Which, again, is a far right dream.

12. Final­ly, if some group knew this was part of a secret far right agen­da they could make A LOT by know­ing that in advance, but from short­ing mar­kets and buy gold rel­a­tive­ly cheap­ly. Or if they hap­pened to have large stores of loot­ed gold hid­den away from, say WWII, those stores would sud­den­ly become the dom­i­nant sources of wealth on the plan­et.

Is it pos­si­ble that we’re look­ing at a simul­ta­ne­ous push to col­lapse Chi­na by col­laps­ing the glob­al econ­o­my, with a grand final prize of achiev­ing that long-held far right dream of return­ing the world to a gold stan­dard? We prob­a­bly should­n’t rule it out. It’s a long-stand­ing far right goal and we real­ly are look­ing at a globe cur­rent­ly dom­i­nat­ed by fas­cists and crypto­fas­cists so now would be when we should expect some­thing like this. There are a lot of fas­cist goals that could be accom­plished by return­ing to the gold stan­dard. It would­n’t even have to be a per­ma­nent return. Just a tem­po­rary shift back to a gold stan­dard that could help com­plete­ly reori­ent the polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic pow­er of the globe away from the US and give gov­ern­ments around the world an excuse for a gen­er­a­tion of mass glob­al aus­ter­i­ty. They could return to some some of fiat glob­al reserve cur­ren­cy (or bas­ket of reserve cur­ren­cies) lat­er. If the euro sur­vives it would prob­a­bly be a in good posi­tion to become the new ‘king’ cur­ren­cy, but there are plen­ty of oth­er can­di­dates.

What Unites The Nation­al Endown­ment for Democ­ra­cy and Turk­ish Fas­cist? The World Uyghur Con­gress

Ok, first, here’s that Gray Zone arti­cle describe the deep his­toric ties between the NED and World Uyghur Con­gress (WUC). The arti­cle makes it clear that that the WUC and it’s many off­shoot groups are essen­tial­ly exten­sions of the US’s for­eign pol­i­cy and intel­li­gence estab­lish­ment, going back to WWII. The arti­cle also describes the long-stand ties between the WUC’s lead­ers and the Turk­ish far right, who view the Xin­jiang region of North­west Chi­na where the Uyghur’s pri­mar­i­ly locat­ed as part of “East Turk­istan”. Alarm­ing­ly, it sounds like the WUC lead­er­ship would like to see Turkey play a role in Chi­na sim­i­lar to the role Turkey has played in Libya and Syr­ia, which is basi­cal­ly a call for foment­ing a civ­il war and balka­niz­ing the coun­try. So at a time what the far right is in pow­er in almost every major coun­try on the plan­et, we’re see­ing a group with exten­sive far right ties mak­ing a big push desta­bi­lize Chi­na which should be rais­ing the ques­tion of what else is on the far right desta­bi­liza­tion agen­da:

The Gray Zone

Inside the World Uyghur Con­gress: The US-backed right-wing regime change net­work seek­ing the ‘fall of Chi­na’

While pos­ing as a grass­roots human rights orga­ni­za­tion, the World Uyghur Con­gress is a US-fund­ed and direct­ed sep­a­ratist net­work that has forged alliances with far-right eth­no-nation­al­ist groups. The goal spelled out by its founders is clear: the desta­bi­liza­tion of Chi­na and regime change in Bei­jing.

By Ajit Singh
March 5, 2020

In recent years, few sto­ries have gen­er­at­ed as much out­rage in the West as the con­di­tion of Uyghur Mus­lims in Chi­na. Report­ing on the issue is typ­i­cal­ly rep­re­sent­ed through seem­ing­ly spon­ta­neous leaks of infor­ma­tion and expres­sions of resis­tance by Uyghur human rights activists strug­gling to be heard against a tyran­ni­cal Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

True or not, near­ly every­thing that appears in West­ern media accounts of China’s Uyghur Mus­lims is the prod­uct of a care­ful­ly con­ceived media cam­paign gen­er­at­ed by an appa­ra­tus of right-wing, anti-com­mu­nist Uyghur sep­a­ratists fund­ed and trained by the US gov­ern­ment.

A cen­tral gear in Washington’s new Cold War against Chi­na, this net­work has a long his­to­ry of rela­tion­ships with the US nation­al secu­ri­ty state and far-right ultra-nation­al­ists.

At the heart of this move­ment is the World Uyghur Con­gress (WUC), an inter­na­tion­al Uyghur orga­ni­za­tion that claims to be engaged in a “peace­ful, non­vi­o­lent, and demo­c­ra­t­ic” strug­gle for “human rights.” The WUC con­sid­ers China’s north­west­ern Xin­jiang region to be East Turkestan, and sees its Uyghur Mus­lim inhab­i­tants not as Chi­nese cit­i­zens but instead as mem­bers of a pan-Tur­kic nation stretch­ing from Cen­tral Asia to Turkey.

As this inves­ti­ga­tion estab­lish­es, the WUC is not a grass­roots move­ment, but a US gov­ern­ment-backed umbrel­la for sev­er­al Wash­ing­ton-based out­fits that also rely heav­i­ly on US fund­ing and direc­tion. Today, it is the main face and voice of a sep­a­ratist oper­a­tion ded­i­cat­ed to desta­bi­liz­ing the Xin­jiang region of Chi­na and ulti­mate­ly top­pling the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

While seek­ing to orches­trate a col­or rev­o­lu­tion with the aim of regime change in Bei­jing, the WUC and its off­shoots have forged ties with the Grey Wolves, a far-right Turk­ish orga­ni­za­tion that has been active­ly engaged in sec­tar­i­an vio­lence from Syr­ia to East Asia.

None of these links seem to have trou­bled the WUC’s spon­sors in Wash­ing­ton. If any­thing, they have added to the network’s appeal, con­sol­i­dat­ing it as one of the most potent polit­i­cal weapons the US wields in its new Cold War against Chi­na.

The World Uyghur Con­gress, brought to you by the US government’s regime change arm

The WUC pro­motes itself as an “oppo­si­tion move­ment against Chi­nese occu­pa­tion of East Turk­istan [sic]” that “represent[s] the col­lec­tive inter­ests” and is “the sole legit­i­mate orga­ni­za­tion of the Uyghur peo­ple both in East Turk­istan and abroad.”

Head­quar­tered in Munich, Ger­many, the WUC is an inter­na­tion­al umbrel­la orga­ni­za­tion with a net­work of 33 affil­i­ates in 18 coun­tries around the world. The WUC and its affil­i­ates — par­tic­u­lar­ly the Uyghur Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion, Uyghur Human Rights Project, and Cam­paign for Uyghurs — are cit­ed in near­ly every West­ern media report on China’s Uyghur Mus­lims.

From its incep­tion, the WUC has been backed by the Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy (NED). With mil­lions in US tax­pay­er mon­ey, the NED and its sub­sidiaries have backed oppo­si­tion par­ties, “civ­il soci­ety” groups, and media orga­ni­za­tions in coun­tries tar­get­ed by the US for regime change.

Philip Agee, the late CIA whistle­blow­er, described the work of the NED as a more sophis­ti­cat­ed ver­sion of the old-fash­ioned covert oper­a­tions that Lan­g­ley used to engi­neer. “Nowa­days,” Agee explained, “instead of hav­ing the CIA going around behind the scenes and try­ing to manip­u­late the process by insert­ing mon­ey here and giv­ing instruc­tions secret­ly and so forth, they have now a side­kick, which is this Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy, NED.”

Agee’s assess­ment was con­firmed by Allen Wein­stein, a for­mer Trot­sky­ist and found­ing mem­ber of the NED. Wein­stein told the Wash­ing­ton Post in 1991, “A lot of what we do today was done covert­ly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

When the WUC was found­ed in 2004, the NED’s then-senior Asia pro­gram offi­cer, Louisa Coan Greve, praised the move as a “great accom­plish­ment.”

The NED has pro­vid­ed the WUC with mil­lions of dol­lars in fund­ing, includ­ing $1,284,000 since 2016 alone, and mil­lions of dol­lars in addi­tion­al fund­ing to WUC-affil­i­ate orga­ni­za­tions. The grants are ear­marked for train­ing Uyghur activists and youth in media advo­ca­cy and lob­by­ing “to raise aware­ness of and sup­port for Uyghur human rights,” with a par­tic­u­lar focus on US Con­gress, Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, and the Unit­ed Nations.

In 2018, the NED pro­vid­ed the WUC and its off­shoots with close to $665,000, accord­ing to the for­mer organization’s web­site.

The NED has played a direct role in mold­ing the direc­tion and pol­i­tics of the WUC. Besides hon­ey­comb­ing WUC-affil­i­at­ed orga­ni­za­tions with NED oper­a­tives like Coan Greve, the NED has spon­sored and orga­nized annu­al “Lead­er­ship Train­ing Sem­i­nars” for the WUC since 2007.

Many lead­ing mem­bers of the WUC have also worked in senior posi­tions for Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty (RFE/RL). These US gov­ern­ment-run news agen­cies were cre­at­ed by the CIA dur­ing the Cold War to project pro­pa­gan­da into Chi­na and the Sovi­et Union, and to stir up oppo­si­tion to com­mu­nism on these coun­tries’ fron­tiers.

Unsur­pris­ing­ly, the WUC is tight­ly aligned with Washington’s for­eign pol­i­cy agen­da and hos­tile new Cold War strat­e­gy which seeks to con­tain and impede the rise of Chi­na. The WUC reg­u­lar­ly meets with and lob­bies US and West­ern politi­cians, urg­ing them to iso­late and “increase the pres­sure on Chi­na”; ratch­et up eco­nom­ic sanc­tions; curb ties with Chi­na, and with­draw West­ern com­pa­nies from the region.

The WUC cel­e­brat­ed the pas­sage of The Uighur Act of 2019 by the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, in Decem­ber 2019. The bill, which called on the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to enact sanc­tions against the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, was the lat­est in a string of anti-Chi­na achieve­ments.

This regime change appa­ra­tus has made its strongest impact through the media, pro­vid­ing a con­stant source of self-styled Uyghur dis­si­dents and human rights hor­ror sto­ries to eager West­ern reporters. The expo­sure the WUC and its affil­i­ates receive extends well beyond cor­po­rate media out­lets known for echo­ing Washington’s for­eign pol­i­cy talk­ing points; even osten­si­bly adver­sar­i­al, pro­gres­sive, and left-wing media such as The Inter­cept, Democ­ra­cy Now! and Jacobin Mag­a­zine have pro­vid­ed them with an uncrit­i­cal plat­form.

While adopt­ing the WUC’s nar­ra­tive, these self-styled alter­na­tive out­lets nev­er seem to men­tion the close bonds the orga­ni­za­tion and its off­shoots have forged with the US nation­al secu­ri­ty state and right-wing eth­no-nation­al­ist move­ments abroad. But the rela­tion­ships are no secret. In fact, they appear to be a source of pride for WUC lead­er­ship.

The Far-Right Roots of the Uyghur “Human Rights” Move­ment

Behind its care­ful­ly con­struct­ed human rights brand, the Uyghur sep­a­ratist move­ment emerged from ele­ments in Xin­jiang which view social­ism as “the ene­my of Islam,” and which sought Washington’s sup­port from the out­set, pre­sent­ing them­selves as eager foot-sol­diers for US hege­mo­ny.

The found­ing father of this sep­a­ratist move­ment was Isa Yusuf Alptekin. His son, Erkin Alptekin, found­ed the WUC and served as the organization’s inau­gur­al pres­i­dent. The senior Alptekin is referred to as “our late leader” by the WUC and cur­rent Pres­i­dent Dolkun Isa.

Born at the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry, Alptekin was the son of a local gov­ern­ment Xin­jiang offi­cial. He received a large­ly Islam­ic edu­ca­tion as a youth, as his fam­i­ly intend­ed for him to be a reli­gious schol­ar.

Dur­ing the Chi­nese Civ­il War that raged between the nation­al­ists and com­mu­nists from 1945 to ’49, Alptekin served under the nation­al­ist Kuom­intang (KMT) admin­is­tra­tion in Xin­jiang. Through­out this peri­od, the KMT received mas­sive mil­i­tary and eco­nom­ic back­ing from the Unit­ed States — includ­ing bil­lions of dol­lars in cash and mil­i­tary hard­ware, along with the deploy­ment of tens of thou­sands of US marines — in an effort to quash the Chi­nese rev­o­lu­tion.

At the same time, accord­ing to his­to­ri­an Lin­da Ben­son, Alptekin “became more active in both the Guo­min­dang [sic] and nation­al lev­el pol­i­tics … and met sev­er­al times with [KMT leader] Chi­ang Kai-shek per­son­al­ly.” For Alptekin and fel­low trav­el­ers advanc­ing Tur­kic nation­al­ism and the region’s even­tu­al inde­pen­dence, “equal­ly impor­tant was the neces­si­ty of pro­tect­ing the land they called East Turkestan from Sovi­et and Chi­nese com­mu­nism, both of which were viewed as real and present dan­gers to Islam­ic peo­ples.”

For the KMT, Uyghur activists like Alptekin made prime can­di­dates for Xinjiang’s provin­cial admin­is­tra­tion. As Ben­son explained, “[t]he essen­tial qual­i­fi­ca­tion for such appointees… was that they be anti-Com­mu­nist and anti-Sovi­et.” In his mem­oirs, Alptekin revealed that he “sought to elim­i­nate all Rus­sians and left­ists in the gov­ern­ment,” and said that “schools were also encour­aged to include reli­gious instruc­tion in their cur­ricu­lum.”

A fer­vent oppo­nent of mis­ce­gena­tion, Alptekin worked to pre­vent inter­mar­riage between Han Chi­nese and Uyghur Mus­lims. Dur­ing his time in gov­ern­ment, reli­gious fun­da­men­tal­ists “attacked the hous­es of Han Chi­nese who were mar­ried to Moslem [sic] women […] The mob abduct­ed the Moslem wives, and in some cas­es the unfor­tu­nate women were forced to mar­ry old Moslem men.” Though the vio­lence killed numer­ous Han Chi­nese, it pro­ceed­ed with­out any gov­ern­ment response dur­ing Alptekin’s tenure.

As the civ­il war wore on, Alptekin grew frus­trat­ed with the declin­ing pow­er of the nation­al­ists and met with US and British Con­suls in Xin­jiang, beseech­ing the twin pow­ers to deep­en their inter­ven­tion in Chi­na and the region. With the com­ing vic­to­ry of the Chi­nese Rev­o­lu­tion, Alptekin went into exile in 1949.

Alptekin even­tu­al­ly set­tled in Turkey, emerg­ing as the pre-emi­nent leader of the Uyghur sep­a­ratist move­ment through­out the lat­ter half of the 20th cen­tu­ry. He set out to enlist inter­na­tion­al sup­port for the cause of East Turkestan inde­pen­dence, court­ing lead­ing US offi­cials and far-right, neo-Ottoman­ist ide­o­logues in Turkey.

The Uyghur sep­a­ratist leader wrote to then-US Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon on sev­er­al occa­sions, plead­ing for him to sup­port East Turkestan sep­a­ratism. In a 1969 mis­sive to the pres­i­dent, Alptekin declared full-throat­ed sup­port for the US war on Viet­nam: “We are hope­ful and pleased that the US, as a fortress of lib­er­ty, is pro­tect­ing cap­tive nations,” he stat­ed. Altep­kin then plead­ed for his “Excel­len­cy” Nixon and the US, “the most immi­nent pro­tec­tor of cap­tive nations”, to sup­port East Turkestan inde­pen­dence.

Alptekin wrote Nixon the fol­low­ing year to warn of the evils of “Red Chi­na.” He brand­ed the coun­try “a great men­ace which the whole world as led by the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca is con­fronting. This men­ace is now in the process of evo­lu­tion to engulf the earth. If time is allowed it can upset the bal­ance of the world to dis­ad­van­tage the free nations.”

“The whole world has rea­son to be appre­hen­sive of Red Chi­na,” Alptekin insist­ed to Nixon, “for it is like­ly to be an irre­sistible [sic] threat on earth… Chi­na today is one of the biggest nations in the world where the Marx­ist teach has been imple­ment­ed… Chi­na may prove to be a greater men­ace to all the world, and this men­ace is like­ly to cause a total destruc­tion to the free nations if they are not pru­dent and fore-sight­ed.”

Alptekin advised Nixon to com­bat the “Chi­nese war of world con­quest” by sup­port­ing sep­a­ratist move­ments, name­ly that of East Turkestan nation­al­ists, and by “speed­ing up the process of the dis­mem­ber­ment of the Chi­nese empire.”

Map­ping out a detailed regime change strat­e­gy for Wash­ing­ton, Alptekin urged the US to gen­er­ate sup­port for his cause among the “free world,” set up an aca­d­e­m­ic insti­tute to study “every aspect” of minor­i­ty nation­al­i­ties liv­ing with­in Chi­na, devel­op media pro­pa­gan­da tar­get­ing minor­i­ty nation­al­i­ties by oper­at­ing “a radio net­work beam­ing at these peo­ples in their respec­tive lan­guages”; “devise a plan to secure [the] col­lab­o­ra­tion” of minor­i­ty nation­al­i­ties and “train the chil­dren of the non-Chi­nese exiles abroad.”

In 1970, Alptekin trav­elled to Wash­ing­ton to meet with mem­bers of US Con­gress and address the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Forg­ing bonds with fascis­tic, eth­no-suprema­cist Turk­ish nation­al­ists

While appeal­ing for Washington’s sup­port, Alptekin devel­oped strong ties with the Turk­ish far-right. Their bonds rest­ed on a sol­id foun­da­tion of anti-com­mu­nist zeal and pan-Tur­kic, neo-Ottoman­ist nation­al­ism.

On numer­ous occa­sions, Alptekin met with Alparslan Türkes a fascis­tic, ultra-nation­al­ist who believed ardent­ly in Turk­ish eth­nic supe­ri­or­i­ty over minori­ties like Kurds and Arme­ni­ans, and for whom the erad­i­ca­tion of com­mu­nism among the Tur­kic pop­u­la­tions of Sovi­et Cen­tral Asia and Xin­jiang was “the dream he had most cher­ished”.

Türkes was long-time leader of the far-right Nation­al­ist Action Par­ty (MHP) and its para­mil­i­tary arm, the Grey Wolves. Accord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Post, he head­ed a mur­der­ous group of “right-wing ter­ror­ists” who are “blind­ly nation­al­ist, fas­cist or near­ly so, and bent on the exter­mi­na­tion of the Com­mu­nists.” The fascis­tic mil­i­tant group killed numer­ous left-wing activists, stu­dents, Kurds, and noto­ri­ous­ly attempt­ed to assas­si­nate Pope John Paul II.

With mil­i­tary train­ing from the US, Türkes co-found­ed the Turk­ish cell of Oper­a­tion Glad­io, the US and NATO-backed net­work of “stay behind” anti-com­mu­nist para­mil­i­tary groups that car­ried out numer­ous acts of ter­ror and sab­o­tage across Europe.

Alptekin appears to have shared the hate­ful pol­i­tics of Türkes and the Turk­ish far-right, often express­ing anti-Armen­ian views includ­ing denial of the Armen­ian geno­cide and claims that Arme­ni­ans were mur­der­ers of inno­cent Turks.

The Turk­ish right-wing has embraced the East Turkestan sep­a­ratist move­ment with open arms, appeal­ing to them as a key base of polit­i­cal sup­port. “The mar­tyrs of East Turkestan are our mar­tyrs,” stat­ed Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan, then may­or of Istan­bul, as he inau­gu­rat­ed a park named in hon­or of Alptekin, fol­low­ing the death of the Uyghur nation­al­ist in 1995.

In recent decades, the Uyghur sep­a­ratist move­ment has deep­ened its con­nec­tions with Wash­ing­ton and the US nation­al secu­ri­ty state. The WUC and its affil­i­ate orga­ni­za­tions — includ­ing the Uyghur Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion, Uyghur Human Rights Project, and Cam­paign for Uyghurs — are made up of indi­vid­u­als with direct ties to the US gov­ern­ment, mil­i­tary, and regime change estab­lish­ment.

Inspired by pro-free mar­ket col­or rev­o­lu­tions spawned by the US gov­ern­ment in the for­mer Sovi­et republics of Cen­tral Asia, the WUC’s regime change net­work has set out a clear goal of desta­bi­liz­ing Chi­na and top­pling its gov­ern­ment.

With vow to destroy Chi­na, WUC lead­ers earn West­ern adu­la­tion and sup­port

In 2004, Erkin Alptekin was named the inau­gur­al pres­i­dent of the WUC. He is the son of the far-right, ultra-nation­al­ist father fig­ure of the Uyghur sep­a­ratist move­ment, Isa Yusuf Alptekin, whose back­ground is explored lat­er in this arti­cle. From 1971 to 1995, Erkin Alptekin worked for the US gov­ern­ment-fund­ed RFE/RL media net­work.

Speak­ing at the funer­al of his father, in 1995, the junior Alptekin out­lined his anti-com­mu­nist, sep­a­ratist views and artic­u­lat­ed his desire to destroy Chi­na: “Ten years ago no one believed that the USSR would fall apart now you can see that. Many Tur­kic coun­tries have their free­dom now. Today the same sit­u­a­tion applies to Chi­na. We believed in the not too dis­tant future we will see the fall of Chi­na and the inde­pen­dence of East Turkestan.”

The WUC describes Alptekin as “close friend” of the Dalai Lama, the U.S‑backed, CIA-fund­ed fig­ure­head for Tibetan sep­a­ratism. “We are work­ing very close­ly with the Dalai Lama,” Alptekin told The Wash­ing­ton Post in 1999. “He is a very good exam­ple for us.”

In 2006, Erkin Alptekin was suc­ceed­ed as WUC Pres­i­dent by Rebiya Kadeer, a self-described mul­ti-mil­lion­aire real estate and trad­ing entre­pre­neur who prof­it­ed off of China’s eco­nom­ic reforms of the 1980s and claims to have once been the sev­enth wealth­i­est indi­vid­ual in the coun­try. Accord­ing to The New York Times, Kadeer’s “[d]issidence brought the end of her Audi, her three vil­las and her far-flung busi­ness empire”. Kadeer’s hus­band, SIdik Rouzi, worked for US gov­ern­ment media out­lets Voice of Amer­i­ca and Radio Free Asia.

Dur­ing her tenure as WUC Pres­i­dent, Kadeer met with then-US Pres­i­dent George W. Bush on sev­er­al occa­sions. As Bush waged his ille­gal war on Iraq and per­se­cut­ed Mus­lim Amer­i­can lead­er­ship under the aus­pices of his so-called “war on ter­ror,” Kadeer appealed to the US head of state to take up the cause of Uyghur Mus­lims. “I was deeply hon­ored to meet with the Pres­i­dent,” Kadeer stat­ed.. She “expressed grat­i­tude for Pres­i­dent Bush’s demon­strat­ed com­mit­ment to pro­mot­ing free­dom and demo­c­ra­t­ic reform in the PRC.”

At the 2007 Democ­ra­cy & Secu­ri­ty Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence in Prague, Bush praised Kadeer as a human rights defend­er in his address before the gath­er­ing. The con­fer­ence was orga­nized by the Prague Secu­ri­ty Stud­ies Insti­tute, a think tank that aims to advance free-mar­ket soci­eties in post-com­mu­nist states, and the Adel­son Insti­tute for Strate­gic Stud­ies, an Israeli out­fit named for ultra-Zion­ist Repub­li­can casi­no baron Shel­don Adel­son. Con­fer­ence part­ners includ­ed the US gov­ern­ment and NATO.

Kadeer kept close rela­tion­ships with the Dalai Lama and Vaclav Hav­el, the leader of the ‘Vel­vet Rev­o­lu­tion’ which brought down Czechoslovakia’s com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment. Hav­el was a “major pro­po­nent of NATO” and instru­men­tal to the West­ern mil­i­tary alliance’s east­ward expan­sion. Kadeer described Hav­el as “an uncom­pro­mis­ing advo­cate for truth, jus­tice and peace” and point­ed to his polit­i­cal accom­plish­ments as an exam­ple to be emu­lat­ed for Chi­na. “Mr. Havel’s vision for the Czech peo­ple […] speaks to Chi­nese democ­rats today”, wrote Kadeer, fol­low­ing Havel’s death, and “con­tains […] the seeds of a new era for polit­i­cal reform in Chi­na.”

The cur­rent Pres­i­dent of WUC is Dolkun Isa, win­ner of the 2019 Democ­ra­cy Award from the NED. In 2016, Isa received a human rights award from the far-right Vic­tims of Com­mu­nism Memo­r­i­al Foun­da­tion, which was estab­lished by the US gov­ern­ment in 1993. In his accep­tance speech, Isa empha­sized “the Uyghurs’ resis­tance to com­mu­nism” and that “we will not stop our work until we con­sign this destruc­tive ide­ol­o­gy, in the words of Ronald Rea­gan, to ‘the ash heap of his­to­ry.’”

Isa reg­u­lar­ly lob­bies US and West­ern politi­cians to inten­si­fy their new Cold War agen­da by enact­ing eco­nom­ic sanc­tions and curb­ing ties with Chi­na.. Among those he has met with in recent years are Trump admin­is­tra­tion White House offi­cials, right-wing Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz, and the fer­vent­ly anti-Chi­na act­ing Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence, Richard Grenell.

In Novem­ber 2019, Isa attend­ed the Hal­i­fax Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Forum, a gath­er­ing con­vened by NATO and the Cana­di­an Depart­ment of Nation­al Defence. There, he met with lead­ing West­ern polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary fig­ures.

In Jan­u­ary 2020, Isa was host­ed at an event orga­nized by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, a right-wing British Israeli lob­by group. At the event, Isa met with with the ultra-Zion­ist orga­ni­za­tion Bnei Aki­va, whose leader called for the Israeli Army “to take the fore­skins of 300 Pales­tini­ans” amid Israel’s pun­ish­ing 2014 assault on the besieged Gaza Strip.

Omer Kanat serves as the WUC’s Chair­man of the Exec­u­tive Com­mit­tee. Kanat helped found the WUC and has been a per­ma­nent fix­ture in its exec­u­tive lead­er­ship. The vet­er­an oper­a­tive has a lengthy his­to­ry of work with the US gov­ern­ment, from serv­ing as senior edi­tor of Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur Ser­vice from 1999 to 2009 to cov­er­ing the US wars on Iraq and Afghanistan and inter­view­ing the Dalai Lama for the net­work.

In an inter­view with The Gray­zone edi­tor Max Blu­men­thal at a 2018 NED awards cer­e­mo­ny in the US Capi­tol build­ing, Kanat took cred­it for fur­nish­ing many of the claims about intern­ment camps in Xin­jiang to West­ern media. He con­ced­ed, how­ev­er, that the WUC did not know how the oft-repeat­ed “mil­lions detained” claim was arrived at aside from “West­ern media esti­mates.”

Prepar­ing for a col­or rev­o­lu­tion, WUC off­shoots staff up with nation­al secu­ri­ty state oper­a­tives

Estab­lished in 1998, the Uyghur Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion (UAA) is a Wash­ing­ton D.C.-based affil­i­ate of the WUC. A long time grantee of the NED, the UAA has received mil­lions of dol­lars in fund­ing. Accord­ing to its pub­licly avail­able tax fil­ings, the group works close­ly with the US gov­ern­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly the US State Depart­ment, Con­gres­sion­al-Exec­u­tive Com­mis­sion on Chi­na (CECC), and US Congress’s Human Rights Com­mis­sion.

“The Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy has been excep­tion­al­ly sup­port­ive of UAA,” stat­ed Nury Turkel, for­mer UAA Pres­i­dent, “pro­vid­ing us with invalu­able guid­ance and assis­tance” along with “essen­tial fund­ing.”

Turkel cred­it­ed the NED with enabling the UAA increase its cred­i­bil­i­ty and expand its influ­ence. Among the top achieve­ments he cit­ed was a meet­ing with the new Kry­gyzs­tan gov­ern­ment “with­in weeks of [the for­mer government’s] fall from pow­er” fol­low­ing the US-engi­neered Tulip “col­or rev­o­lu­tion” which brought a pro-West­ern regime to pow­er.

Speak­ing at the 5th Con­gress of the UAA, in 2006, Turkel con­firmed the regime change agen­da of the UAA, UHRP and broad­er Uyghur sep­a­ratist move­ment, stat­ing that “as we wit­nessed the ‘Tulip Rev­o­lu­tion’ and the top­pling the for­mer gov­ern­ment of Kyr­gyzs­tan, our hopes were again rein­forced.”

The UAA’s lead­er­ship con­sists of US nation­al secu­ri­ty state oper­a­tors includ­ing employ­ees of the US gov­ern­ment, Radio Free Asia, and mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al com­plex.

Kuz­zat Altay, the nephew of Reibya Kadeer, is the cur­rent pres­i­dent of the UAA. Altay is also the founder of the Uyghur Entre­pre­neurs Net­work, which claims to offer Uyghur Amer­i­cans with guid­ance to “start their own busi­ness”.

In 2019, his busi­ness net­work has orga­nized an event in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the FBI, the fed­er­al law enforce­ment agency noto­ri­ous for its sur­veil­lance of Mus­lim Amer­i­cans and ensnar­ing count­less men­tal­ly trou­bled young Mus­lim Amer­i­can men in man­u­fac­tured ter­ror plots.

Past pres­i­dents of UAA include Kadeer; Alim Seytoff, a for­mer Radio Free Asia cor­re­spon­dent and cur­rent Direc­tor of RFA’s Uyghur Ser­vice; and Ilshat Has­san Kok­bore, who has worked at Booz Allen Hamil­ton since 2008.

...

The main project spun out of the UAA and the NED is the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP). The UHRP was found­ed by the UAA in 2004 with the NED as the prin­ci­pal source of fund­ing. The NED grant­ed the UHRP a whop­ping $1,244,698 between 2016 and ’19.

The UHRP is staffed by WUC lead­ers like Omer Kanat and Nury Turkel, along with for­mer US gov­ern­ment offi­cials and senior mem­bers of the NED.

Dr. Elise Ander­son serves as UHRP’s Senior Pro­gram Office for Research and Advo­ca­cy. In 2019, Ander­son served as the Liu Xiaobo Fel­low, occu­py­ing a posi­tion at the Con­gres­sion­al-Exec­u­tive Com­mis­sion on Chi­na named for the far-right Chi­nese dis­si­dent who sup­port­ed colo­nial­ism, US mil­i­tarism and the “West­ern­i­sa­tion” of Chi­na.

Ander­son states that from 2012 to 2016, she was “based out of Ürüm­chi, the region­al cap­i­tal of Xin­jiang,” con­duct­ing research for her doc­tor­ate. The extent of her activ­i­ties in the region are unclear, as Anderson’s CV indi­cates that dur­ing this time she was also work­ing for the US gov­ern­ment as “Ürüm­chi War­den for the US Embassy in Bei­jing, Chi­na, 2014–16.”

Louisa Coan Greve, the for­mer vice pres­i­dent of NED, today serves as UHRP’s Direc­tor of Glob­al Advo­ca­cy. Greve for­mer­ly worked as Vice Pres­i­dent of the NED.

Rushan Abbas, the US nation­al secu­ri­ty state’s favorite “human rights activist”

Anoth­er influ­en­tial orga­ni­za­tion spun out of the WUC net­work is the Cam­paign for Uyghurs. This group is head­ed by Rushan Abbas, the for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent of the UAA. Pro­mot­ed sim­ply as a Uyghur “human rights activist” by West­ern media out­lets includ­ing the sup­pos­ed­ly adver­sar­i­al Democ­ra­cy Now!, Abbas is, in fact, a long­time US gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary oper­a­tive.

Abbas boasts in her bio of her “exten­sive expe­ri­ence work­ing with US gov­ern­ment agen­cies, includ­ing Home­land Secu­ri­ty, Depart­ment of Defense, Depart­ment of State, and var­i­ous US intel­li­gence agen­cies.”

While work­ing for the mil­i­tary con­trac­tor L3 Tech­nolo­gies, Abbas served the US gov­ern­ment and the Bush administration’s so-called war on ter­ror as a “con­sul­tant at Guan­tanamo Bay sup­port­ing Oper­a­tion Endur­ing Free­dom.” Abbas “also worked as a lin­guist and trans­la­tor for sev­er­al fed­er­al agen­cies includ­ing work for the US State Depart­ment in Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba and for Pres­i­dent George W. Bush and for­mer First Lady Lau­ra Bush”. Like so many of her col­leagues, Abbas enjoyed a stint at Radio Free Asia.

While Abbas once shared her his­to­ry of col­lab­o­ra­tion with the US gov­ern­ment in the open, she has attempt­ed to scrub bio­graph­ic infor­ma­tion from her online pres­ence fol­low­ing a dis­as­trous pub­lic­i­ty appear­ance in Decem­ber 2019. Dur­ing a Reddit’s “Ask Me Any­thing” ques­tion and answer forum, par­tic­i­pants blast­ed Abbas as a “CIA asset” and fre­quent US gov­ern­ment col­lab­o­ra­tor, prompt­ing her attempt to dis­ap­pear her bio from the inter­net.

Besides col­lab­o­rat­ing with the US gov­ern­ment, Abbas’ pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence con­sists of aid­ing the expan­sion of US cap­i­tal­ism in the glob­al south. She boasts work with con­sult­ing firms such as ISI Con­sul­tants which “assists US com­pa­nies to grow their busi­ness in Mid­dle East and African mar­kets.” Abbas claims to have “over 15 years of expe­ri­ence in glob­al busi­ness devel­op­ment, strate­gic busi­ness analy­sis, busi­ness con­sul­tan­cy and gov­ern­ment affairs through­out the Mid­dle East, Africa, CIS regions, Europe, Asia, Aus­tralia, North Amer­i­ca and Latin Amer­i­ca.”

Cel­e­brat­ing the Gray Wolves, propos­ing US and Turk­ish mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion

Along with their exten­sive ties to Wash­ing­ton, the WUC and Uyghur sep­a­ratist move­ment has main­tained close con­nec­tions with the Turk­ish far-right.

In 2015, mem­bers of the MHP-affil­i­at­ed Grey Wolves for­mer­ly led by Alparslan Türkes attacked South Kore­an tourists in Turkey, mis­tak­ing them for Chi­nese cit­i­zens, in protest of the sit­u­a­tion in Xin­jiang.

Turk­ish MHP par­ty leader Devlet Bahçeli defend­ed the attacks. “How are you going to dif­fer­en­ti­ate between Kore­an and Chi­nese?” the right­ist politi­cian ques­tioned. “They both have slant­ed eyes. Does it real­ly mat­ter?” Bahceli’s racist remarks coin­cid­ed with the dis­play of a Grey Wolves ban­ner at party’s Istan­bul head­quar­ters read­ing, “We crave Chi­nese blood.”

The Grey Wolves and Uyghur mil­i­tants were blamed by Thailand’s nation­al police and an IHS-Jane’s ana­lyst of car­ry­ing out a 2015 bomb­ing of a reli­gious shrine in Thai­land that killed 20 peo­ple. The attack was intend­ed as revenge against the Thai government’s deci­sion to repa­tri­ate a group of Uyghur Mus­lims to Chi­na. Bei­jing had claimed the Uyghurs were en route to Turkey, Syr­ia or Iraq to join extrem­ist groups fight­ing in the region such as the al-Qae­da-affil­i­at­ed East Turkestan Islam­ic Move­ment (ETIM), or Turkestan Islam­ic Par­ty (TIP).

Months before the bomb­ing, a group of 200 pro­test­ers wav­ing East Turkestan flags attacked the Thai con­sulate in Istan­bul in response to the Uyghur repa­tri­a­tion. The group was report­ed­ly led by the Grey Wolves and East Turkestan Cul­ture and Sol­i­dar­i­ty Asso­ci­a­tion.. The lat­ter orga­ni­za­tion was head­ed by Sey­it Tüm­turk, who served as WUC Vice Pres­i­dent from 2008 to 2016 and belonged to the organization’s found­ing pan­theon.

The WUC con­tin­ues to pub­lish arti­cles on its web­site that praise and cel­e­brate Alparslan Türkes, the far-right, ultra-nation­al­ist founder of the Grey Wolves and long-time MHP par­ty leader. Its web­site also pro­motes endorse­ments of East Turkestan sep­a­ratism by cur­rent lead­ers of the MHP and Grey Wolves.

While build­ing links with the Turk­ish far-right, lead­ing WUC rep­re­sen­ta­tives have appealed to Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Erdo­gan to take an inter­ven­tion­ist role in Chi­na akin to Turkey’s actions in Libya and Syr­ia, where it sup­port­ed the regime change efforts of the US, West and an array of extrem­ist proxy groups.

Writ­ing in the Wall Street Jour­nal in 2012, Nury Turkel argued that Turkey can play a lead­ing role in “ral­ly­ing democ­ra­cies” to pres­sure Chi­na on Xin­jiang: “As a long­stand­ing ally of the US and a neigh­bor of Europe, Turkey is unique­ly well-sit­u­at­ed to do this.”

As a first step in this strat­e­gy, Turkel pro­posed that Turkey “should orga­nize a ‘friends of Uighurs’ con­fer­ence with demo­c­ra­t­ic allies – sim­i­lar to the ones orga­nized for Libya and Syr­ia – dis­cussing Ankara’s vision and pol­i­cy objec­tives with respect to the Uighur peo­ple in Chi­na.”

Oth­er lead­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of WUC have vocal­ly endorsed Turk­ish mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion­ism. The polit­i­cal state­ments of Sey­it Tüm­turk, who served as WUC Vice Pres­i­dent, under­score the extrem­ist and mil­i­tant pol­i­tics behind WUC’s care­ful­ly cul­ti­vat­ed image as a “peace­ful and non­vi­o­lent” human rights orga­ni­za­tion.

In 2018, Tüm­turk declared that Chi­nese Uyghurs view Turk­ish “state requests as orders.” He then pro­claimed that hun­dreds of thou­sands of Chi­nese Uyghurs were ready to enlist in the Turk­ish army and join Turkey’s ille­gal and bru­tal inva­sion of North­ern Syr­ia “to fight for God” – if ordered to do so by Erdo­gan.

Short­ly after Tumturk’s com­ments, Uyghur mil­i­tants dressed in Turk­ish mil­i­tary fatigues and on the Turk­ish side of the Syr­i­an bor­der released a video in which they threat­ened to wage war against Chi­na:

“Lis­ten you dog bas­tards, do you see this? We will tri­umph!” one fight­er exclaimed. “We will kill you all. Lis­ten up Chi­nese civil­ians, get out of our East Turkestan. I am warn­ing you. We shall return and we will be vic­to­ri­ous.”

...

———–

“Inside the World Uyghur Con­gress: The US-backed right-wing regime change net­work seek­ing the ‘fall of Chi­na’” by Ajit Singh; The Gray Zone; 03/05/2020

As this inves­ti­ga­tion estab­lish­es, the WUC is not a grass­roots move­ment, but a US gov­ern­ment-backed umbrel­la for sev­er­al Wash­ing­ton-based out­fits that also rely heav­i­ly on US fund­ing and direc­tion. Today, it is the main face and voice of a sep­a­ratist oper­a­tion ded­i­cat­ed to desta­bi­liz­ing the Xin­jiang region of Chi­na and ulti­mate­ly top­pling the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.”

Yep, the WUC isn’t just some grass­roots move­ment. It’s a regime-change umbrel­la orga­ni­za­tion that appears to be work­ing as an exten­sion of US for­eign pol­i­cy with the NED, an orga­ni­za­tion that has assumed the role the CIA played in covert oper­a­tions years ago. And it appears that the NED’s work with the WUC has been accel­er­at­ing in recent years, with over $1.284 mil­lion in fund­ing for the WUC from the NED since 2016 alone. $1.2 mil­lion can go a lot way when it’s sim­ply fund­ing a pro­pa­gan­da out­fit. And don’t for­get: Judy Shel­ton has been the chair of the NED since 2017, so she is almost cer­tain­ly deeply involved in these WUC oper­a­tions:

...
At the heart of this move­ment is the World Uyghur Con­gress (WUC), an inter­na­tion­al Uyghur orga­ni­za­tion that claims to be engaged in a “peace­ful, non­vi­o­lent, and demo­c­ra­t­ic” strug­gle for “human rights.” The WUC con­sid­ers China’s north­west­ern Xin­jiang region to be East Turkestan, and sees its Uyghur Mus­lim inhab­i­tants not as Chi­nese cit­i­zens but instead as mem­bers of a pan-Tur­kic nation stretch­ing from Cen­tral Asia to Turkey.

...

From its incep­tion, the WUC has been backed by the Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy (NED). With mil­lions in US tax­pay­er mon­ey, the NED and its sub­sidiaries have backed oppo­si­tion par­ties, “civ­il soci­ety” groups, and media orga­ni­za­tions in coun­tries tar­get­ed by the US for regime change.

Philip Agee, the late CIA whistle­blow­er, described the work of the NED as a more sophis­ti­cat­ed ver­sion of the old-fash­ioned covert oper­a­tions that Lan­g­ley used to engi­neer. “Nowa­days,” Agee explained, “instead of hav­ing the CIA going around behind the scenes and try­ing to manip­u­late the process by insert­ing mon­ey here and giv­ing instruc­tions secret­ly and so forth, they have now a side­kick, which is this Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy, NED.”

Agee’s assess­ment was con­firmed by Allen Wein­stein, a for­mer Trot­sky­ist and found­ing mem­ber of the NED. Wein­stein told the Wash­ing­ton Post in 1991, “A lot of what we do today was done covert­ly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

When the WUC was found­ed in 2004, the NED’s then-senior Asia pro­gram offi­cer, Louisa Coan Greve, praised the move as a “great accom­plish­ment.”

The NED has pro­vid­ed the WUC with mil­lions of dol­lars in fund­ing, includ­ing $1,284,000 since 2016 alone, and mil­lions of dol­lars in addi­tion­al fund­ing to WUC-affil­i­ate orga­ni­za­tions. The grants are ear­marked for train­ing Uyghur activists and youth in media advo­ca­cy and lob­by­ing “to raise aware­ness of and sup­port for Uyghur human rights,” with a par­tic­u­lar focus on US Con­gress, Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, and the Unit­ed Nations.

In 2018, the NED pro­vid­ed the WUC and its off­shoots with close to $665,000, accord­ing to the for­mer organization’s web­site.

The NED has played a direct role in mold­ing the direc­tion and pol­i­tics of the WUC. Besides hon­ey­comb­ing WUC-affil­i­at­ed orga­ni­za­tions with NED oper­a­tives like Coan Greve, the NED has spon­sored and orga­nized annu­al “Lead­er­ship Train­ing Sem­i­nars” for the WUC since 2007.

Many lead­ing mem­bers of the WUC have also worked in senior posi­tions for Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty (RFE/RL). These US gov­ern­ment-run news agen­cies were cre­at­ed by the CIA dur­ing the Cold War to project pro­pa­gan­da into Chi­na and the Sovi­et Union, and to stir up oppo­si­tion to com­mu­nism on these coun­tries’ fron­tiers.

...

One of the orga­ni­za­tions in the WUC umbrel­la is the Uyghur Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion (UAA), which works with NED on the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP). The UHRP has received $1.244 mil­lion from the NED from 2016–2019 alone and a for­mer VP of the NED, Louis Coan Greve, cur­rent­ly serves as UHRP’s Direc­tor of Glob­al Advo­ca­cy:

...
Prepar­ing for a col­or rev­o­lu­tion, WUC off­shoots staff up with nation­al secu­ri­ty state oper­a­tives

Estab­lished in 1998, the Uyghur Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion (UAA) is a Wash­ing­ton D.C.-based affil­i­ate of the WUC. A long time grantee of the NED, the UAA has received mil­lions of dol­lars in fund­ing. Accord­ing to its pub­licly avail­able tax fil­ings, the group works close­ly with the US gov­ern­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly the US State Depart­ment, Con­gres­sion­al-Exec­u­tive Com­mis­sion on Chi­na (CECC), and US Congress’s Human Rights Com­mis­sion.

...

The UAA’s lead­er­ship con­sists of US nation­al secu­ri­ty state oper­a­tors includ­ing employ­ees of the US gov­ern­ment, Radio Free Asia, and mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al com­plex.

Kuz­zat Altay, the nephew of Reibya Kadeer, is the cur­rent pres­i­dent of the UAA. Altay is also the founder of the Uyghur Entre­pre­neurs Net­work, which claims to offer Uyghur Amer­i­cans with guid­ance to “start their own busi­ness”.

In 2019, his busi­ness net­work has orga­nized an event in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the FBI, the fed­er­al law enforce­ment agency noto­ri­ous for its sur­veil­lance of Mus­lim Amer­i­cans and ensnar­ing count­less men­tal­ly trou­bled young Mus­lim Amer­i­can men in man­u­fac­tured ter­ror plots.

Past pres­i­dents of UAA include Kadeer; Alim Seytoff, a for­mer Radio Free Asia cor­re­spon­dent and cur­rent Direc­tor of RFA’s Uyghur Ser­vice; and Ilshat Has­san Kok­bore, who has worked at Booz Allen Hamil­ton since 2008.

...

The main project spun out of the UAA and the NED is the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP). The UHRP was found­ed by the UAA in 2004 with the NED as the prin­ci­pal source of fund­ing. The NED grant­ed the UHRP a whop­ping $1,244,698 between 2016 and ’19.

...

Louisa Coan Greve, the for­mer vice pres­i­dent of NED, today serves as UHRP’s Direc­tor of Glob­al Advo­ca­cy. Greve for­mer­ly worked as Vice Pres­i­dent of the NED.
...

There’s also the Cam­paign for Uyghurs, head­ed by Rushan Abbas, a fig­ure who lit­er­al­ly worked as a con­sul­tant for the US’s Guan­tanamo Bay oper­a­tions dur­ing the Bush admin­is­tra­tion:

...
Rushan Abbas, the US nation­al secu­ri­ty state’s favorite “human rights activist”

Anoth­er influ­en­tial orga­ni­za­tion spun out of the WUC net­work is the Cam­paign for Uyghurs. This group is head­ed by Rushan Abbas, the for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent of the UAA. Pro­mot­ed sim­ply as a Uyghur “human rights activist” by West­ern media out­lets includ­ing the sup­pos­ed­ly adver­sar­i­al Democ­ra­cy Now!, Abbas is, in fact, a long­time US gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary oper­a­tive.

Abbas boasts in her bio of her “exten­sive expe­ri­ence work­ing with US gov­ern­ment agen­cies, includ­ing Home­land Secu­ri­ty, Depart­ment of Defense, Depart­ment of State, and var­i­ous US intel­li­gence agen­cies.”

While work­ing for the mil­i­tary con­trac­tor L3 Tech­nolo­gies, Abbas served the US gov­ern­ment and the Bush administration’s so-called war on ter­ror as a “con­sul­tant at Guan­tanamo Bay sup­port­ing Oper­a­tion Endur­ing Free­dom.” Abbas “also worked as a lin­guist and trans­la­tor for sev­er­al fed­er­al agen­cies includ­ing work for the US State Depart­ment in Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba and for Pres­i­dent George W. Bush and for­mer First Lady Lau­ra Bush”. Like so many of her col­leagues, Abbas enjoyed a stint at Radio Free Asia.

While Abbas once shared her his­to­ry of col­lab­o­ra­tion with the US gov­ern­ment in the open, she has attempt­ed to scrub bio­graph­ic infor­ma­tion from her online pres­ence fol­low­ing a dis­as­trous pub­lic­i­ty appear­ance in Decem­ber 2019. Dur­ing a Reddit’s “Ask Me Any­thing” ques­tion and answer forum, par­tic­i­pants blast­ed Abbas as a “CIA asset” and fre­quent US gov­ern­ment col­lab­o­ra­tor, prompt­ing her attempt to dis­ap­pear her bio from the inter­net.

Besides col­lab­o­rat­ing with the US gov­ern­ment, Abbas’ pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence con­sists of aid­ing the expan­sion of US cap­i­tal­ism in the glob­al south. She boasts work with con­sult­ing firms such as ISI Con­sul­tants which “assists US com­pa­nies to grow their busi­ness in Mid­dle East and African mar­kets.” Abbas claims to have “over 15 years of expe­ri­ence in glob­al busi­ness devel­op­ment, strate­gic busi­ness analy­sis, busi­ness con­sul­tan­cy and gov­ern­ment affairs through­out the Mid­dle East, Africa, CIS regions, Europe, Asia, Aus­tralia, North Amer­i­ca and Latin Amer­i­ca.”
...

Anothe past WUC pres­di­ent, Rebiya Kadeer, is mar­ried to a for­mer employ­ee of the US gov­ern­ment media out­lets Voice of Amer­i­ca and Radio Free Asia. And the cur­rent pres­i­denct, Dolkun ISA, is the win­ner of the NED’s 2019 Democ­ra­cy Award:

...
In 2006, Erkin Alptekin was suc­ceed­ed as WUC Pres­i­dent by Rebiya Kadeer, a self-described mul­ti-mil­lion­aire real estate and trad­ing entre­pre­neur who prof­it­ed off of China’s eco­nom­ic reforms of the 1980s and claims to have once been the sev­enth wealth­i­est indi­vid­ual in the coun­try. Accord­ing to The New York Times, Kadeer’s “[d]issidence brought the end of her Audi, her three vil­las and her far-flung busi­ness empire”. Kadeer’s hus­band, SIdik Rouzi, worked for US gov­ern­ment media out­lets Voice of Amer­i­ca and Radio Free Asia.

...

The cur­rent Pres­i­dent of WUC is Dolkun Isa, win­ner of the 2019 Democ­ra­cy Award from the NED. In 2016, Isa received a human rights award from the far-right Vic­tims of Com­mu­nism Memo­r­i­al Foun­da­tion, which was estab­lished by the US gov­ern­ment in 1993. In his accep­tance speech, Isa empha­sized “the Uyghurs’ resis­tance to com­mu­nism” and that “we will not stop our work until we con­sign this destruc­tive ide­ol­o­gy, in the words of Ronald Rea­gan, to ‘the ash heap of his­to­ry.’”

Isa reg­u­lar­ly lob­bies US and West­ern politi­cians to inten­si­fy their new Cold War agen­da by enact­ing eco­nom­ic sanc­tions and curb­ing ties with Chi­na.. Among those he has met with in recent years are Trump admin­is­tra­tion White House offi­cials, right-wing Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz, and the fer­vent­ly anti-Chi­na act­ing Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence, Richard Grenell.
...

But the WUC and its umbrel­la groups don’t just have deep ties to the US nation­al secu­ri­ty state. The founder of the Uyghur sep­a­ratist move­ment, Isa Yusuf Alptekin, was an ally of the Chi­nese nation­al­ists who received US sup­port dur­ing WWII and seen as prime can­di­dates for Xin­jiang’s provin­cial admin­is­tra­tion:

...
The Far-Right Roots of the Uyghur “Human Rights” Move­ment

Behind its care­ful­ly con­struct­ed human rights brand, the Uyghur sep­a­ratist move­ment emerged from ele­ments in Xin­jiang which view social­ism as “the ene­my of Islam,” and which sought Washington’s sup­port from the out­set, pre­sent­ing them­selves as eager foot-sol­diers for US hege­mo­ny.

The found­ing father of this sep­a­ratist move­ment was Isa Yusuf Alptekin. His son, Erkin Alptekin, found­ed the WUC and served as the organization’s inau­gur­al pres­i­dent. The senior Alptekin is referred to as “our late leader” by the WUC and cur­rent Pres­i­dent Dolkun Isa.

Born at the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry, Alptekin was the son of a local gov­ern­ment Xin­jiang offi­cial. He received a large­ly Islam­ic edu­ca­tion as a youth, as his fam­i­ly intend­ed for him to be a reli­gious schol­ar.

Dur­ing the Chi­nese Civ­il War that raged between the nation­al­ists and com­mu­nists from 1945 to ’49, Alptekin served under the nation­al­ist Kuom­intang (KMT) admin­is­tra­tion in Xin­jiang. Through­out this peri­od, the KMT received mas­sive mil­i­tary and eco­nom­ic back­ing from the Unit­ed States — includ­ing bil­lions of dol­lars in cash and mil­i­tary hard­ware, along with the deploy­ment of tens of thou­sands of US marines — in an effort to quash the Chi­nese rev­o­lu­tion.

At the same time, accord­ing to his­to­ri­an Lin­da Ben­son, Alptekin “became more active in both the Guo­min­dang [sic] and nation­al lev­el pol­i­tics … and met sev­er­al times with [KMT leader] Chi­ang Kai-shek per­son­al­ly.” For Alptekin and fel­low trav­el­ers advanc­ing Tur­kic nation­al­ism and the region’s even­tu­al inde­pen­dence, “equal­ly impor­tant was the neces­si­ty of pro­tect­ing the land they called East Turkestan from Sovi­et and Chi­nese com­mu­nism, both of which were viewed as real and present dan­gers to Islam­ic peo­ples.”

For the KMT, Uyghur activists like Alptekin made prime can­di­dates for Xinjiang’s provin­cial admin­is­tra­tion. As Ben­son explained, “[t]he essen­tial qual­i­fi­ca­tion for such appointees… was that they be anti-Com­mu­nist and anti-Sovi­et.” In his mem­oirs, Alptekin revealed that he “sought to elim­i­nate all Rus­sians and left­ists in the gov­ern­ment,” and said that “schools were also encour­aged to include reli­gious instruc­tion in their cur­ricu­lum.”
...

Alptekin went on to devel­op deep ties to the Turk­ish far right, in part because he shares their pan-Tur­kic, neo-Ottoman­ist ide­ol­o­gy. An ide­ol­o­gy that calls for break­ing Xin­jiang province off of Chi­na and mak­ing it part of some sort of pan-Tur­kic empire. Giv­en that the ide­o­log­i­cal foun­da­tions of Erodogan’s gov­ern­ment is root­ed in this pan-Tur­kic, neo-Ottoman­ist ide­ol­o­gy, it’s a reminder that Turkey is going to inevitably be involved in the cur­rent Chi­na destabliza­tion push:

...
Forg­ing bonds with fascis­tic, eth­no-suprema­cist Turk­ish nation­al­ists

While appeal­ing for Washington’s sup­port, Alptekin devel­oped strong ties with the Turk­ish far-right. Their bonds rest­ed on a sol­id foun­da­tion of anti-com­mu­nist zeal and pan-Tur­kic, neo-Ottoman­ist nation­al­ism.

On numer­ous occa­sions, Alptekin met with Alparslan Türkes a fascis­tic, ultra-nation­al­ist who believed ardent­ly in Turk­ish eth­nic supe­ri­or­i­ty over minori­ties like Kurds and Arme­ni­ans, and for whom the erad­i­ca­tion of com­mu­nism among the Tur­kic pop­u­la­tions of Sovi­et Cen­tral Asia and Xin­jiang was “the dream he had most cher­ished”.

Türkes was long-time leader of the far-right Nation­al­ist Action Par­ty (MHP) and its para­mil­i­tary arm, the Grey Wolves. Accord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Post, he head­ed a mur­der­ous group of “right-wing ter­ror­ists” who are “blind­ly nation­al­ist, fas­cist or near­ly so, and bent on the exter­mi­na­tion of the Com­mu­nists.” The fascis­tic mil­i­tant group killed numer­ous left-wing activists, stu­dents, Kurds, and noto­ri­ous­ly attempt­ed to assas­si­nate Pope John Paul II.

With mil­i­tary train­ing from the US, Türkes co-found­ed the Turk­ish cell of Oper­a­tion Glad­io, the US and NATO-backed net­work of “stay behind” anti-com­mu­nist para­mil­i­tary groups that car­ried out numer­ous acts of ter­ror and sab­o­tage across Europe.

Alptekin appears to have shared the hate­ful pol­i­tics of Türkes and the Turk­ish far-right, often express­ing anti-Armen­ian views includ­ing denial of the Armen­ian geno­cide and claims that Arme­ni­ans were mur­der­ers of inno­cent Turks.

The Turk­ish right-wing has embraced the East Turkestan sep­a­ratist move­ment with open arms, appeal­ing to them as a key base of polit­i­cal sup­port. “The mar­tyrs of East Turkestan are our mar­tyrs,” stat­ed Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan, then may­or of Istan­bul, as he inau­gu­rat­ed a park named in hon­or of Alptekin, fol­low­ing the death of the Uyghur nation­al­ist in 1995.
...

Per­haps the most chill­ing part of this his­to­ry in the cur­rent con­text is the cel­e­bra­tion by the WUC of Alparslan Türkes, the founder of the fas­cist Grey Wolves, and what appears to be a dri­ve to mil­i­ta­rize the Uygar sep­a­ratist move­ment, in part by send­ing Uygar’s to fight in places like Syr­ia and calls for Turkey to play a sim­i­lar role in Xin­jiang that it played in Syr­ia and Libya. It’s like a call for civ­il war:

...
Cel­e­brat­ing the Gray Wolves, propos­ing US and Turk­ish mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion

Along with their exten­sive ties to Wash­ing­ton, the WUC and Uyghur sep­a­ratist move­ment has main­tained close con­nec­tions with the Turk­ish far-right.

In 2015, mem­bers of the MHP-affil­i­at­ed Grey Wolves for­mer­ly led by Alparslan Türkes attacked South Kore­an tourists in Turkey, mis­tak­ing them for Chi­nese cit­i­zens, in protest of the sit­u­a­tion in Xin­jiang.

Turk­ish MHP par­ty leader Devlet Bahçeli defend­ed the attacks. “How are you going to dif­fer­en­ti­ate between Kore­an and Chi­nese?” the right­ist politi­cian ques­tioned. “They both have slant­ed eyes. Does it real­ly mat­ter?” Bahceli’s racist remarks coin­cid­ed with the dis­play of a Grey Wolves ban­ner at party’s Istan­bul head­quar­ters read­ing, “We crave Chi­nese blood.”

...

The WUC con­tin­ues to pub­lish arti­cles on its web­site that praise and cel­e­brate Alparslan Türkes, the far-right, ultra-nation­al­ist founder of the Grey Wolves and long-time MHP par­ty leader. Its web­site also pro­motes endorse­ments of East Turkestan sep­a­ratism by cur­rent lead­ers of the MHP and Grey Wolves.

While build­ing links with the Turk­ish far-right, lead­ing WUC rep­re­sen­ta­tives have appealed to Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Erdo­gan to take an inter­ven­tion­ist role in Chi­na akin to Turkey’s actions in Libya and Syr­ia, where it sup­port­ed the regime change efforts of the US, West and an array of extrem­ist proxy groups.

Writ­ing in the Wall Street Jour­nal in 2012, Nury Turkel argued that Turkey can play a lead­ing role in “ral­ly­ing democ­ra­cies” to pres­sure Chi­na on Xin­jiang: “As a long­stand­ing ally of the US and a neigh­bor of Europe, Turkey is unique­ly well-sit­u­at­ed to do this.”

As a first step in this strat­e­gy, Turkel pro­posed that Turkey “should orga­nize a ‘friends of Uighurs’ con­fer­ence with demo­c­ra­t­ic allies – sim­i­lar to the ones orga­nized for Libya and Syr­ia – dis­cussing Ankara’s vision and pol­i­cy objec­tives with respect to the Uighur peo­ple in Chi­na.”

...

Oth­er lead­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of WUC have vocal­ly endorsed Turk­ish mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion­ism. The polit­i­cal state­ments of Sey­it Tüm­turk, who served as WUC Vice Pres­i­dent, under­score the extrem­ist and mil­i­tant pol­i­tics behind WUC’s care­ful­ly cul­ti­vat­ed image as a “peace­ful and non­vi­o­lent” human rights orga­ni­za­tion.

In 2018, Tüm­turk declared that Chi­nese Uyghurs view Turk­ish “state requests as orders.” He then pro­claimed that hun­dreds of thou­sands of Chi­nese Uyghurs were ready to enlist in the Turk­ish army and join Turkey’s ille­gal and bru­tal inva­sion of North­ern Syr­ia “to fight for God” – if ordered to do so by Erdo­gan.

...

Short­ly after Tumturk’s com­ments, Uyghur mil­i­tants dressed in Turk­ish mil­i­tary fatigues and on the Turk­ish side of the Syr­i­an bor­der released a video in which they threat­ened to wage war against Chi­na:

“Lis­ten you dog bas­tards, do you see this? We will tri­umph!” one fight­er exclaimed. “We will kill you all. Lis­ten up Chi­nese civil­ians, get out of our East Turkestan. I am warn­ing you. We shall return and we will be vic­to­ri­ous.”
...

So that was our look at how the NED is real­ly the chief spon­sor of the WUC and its off­shoots. It’s part of a a rela­tion­ship with the US nation­al secu­ri­ty state that goes back decades and appears to have deep­ened in recent years with sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the NED since 2016. And, again, it was none oth­er than Judy Shel­ton — the gold bug who is poised to ascend to the Fed­er­al Reserve board of gov­er­nors and will then become a top can­di­date to chair the Fed ‑who was appoint­ed to be chair of the NED in Jan­u­ary of 2017. Was Shel­ton select­ed for that role with the desta­bi­liza­tion cam­paign in mind? And in the con­text of this glob­al pan­dem­ic and self-inflict­ed glob­al eco­nom­ic shock, is the Chi­na desta­bi­liza­tion cam­paign now part of a broad far glob­al eco­nom­ic desta­bi­liza­tion cam­paign that could trans­form the glob­al econ­o­my and soci­eties? These are the kinds of dis­turb­ing ques­tions we have to ask giv­en that we’re liv­ing in an era when the far right dom­i­nates gov­ern­ments across the plan­et.

Robert Mer­cer’s Anti-Fed/pro-Gold Stan­dard Con­fer­ence. Fea­tur­ing Judy Shel­ton

Now here’s a Bloomberg arti­cle from 2016 about Robert Mer­cer’s back­ground and beliefs. Part of what jumps out about Mer­cer in the arti­cle is that he’s so secre­tive the pro­file had to be large­ly based on anony­mous insights by the peo­ple who know him and even those insights are some­what con­tra­dic­to­ry. In oth­er words, even Mer­cer’s friends and asso­ciates don’t real­ly know his beliefs. But one con­sis­tent pic­ture that emerges is that Mer­cer is a hard core far right ide­o­logue when it comes to eco­nom­ics and finance and he appears to have devel­oped a deep loathing of mod­ern finance. The guy even oppos­es frac­tion­al reserve bank­ing. And not only is he an advo­cate of return­ing to the gold stan­dard but he’s also the chief spon­sor of the “Jack­son Hole Sum­mit”, an ‘counter-con­fer­ence’ held in 2015 at the same time the Fed­er­al Reserve held its annu­al gath­er­ing in Jack­son Hole Wyoming. Mer­cer’s ‘counter-con­fer­ence’ was ded­i­cat­ed to attack­ing the exis­tence of the Fed and pro­mot­ing a return to the gold stan­dard. So, of course, we find that Judy Shel­ton was one of the speak­ers.

So while Robert Mer­cer’s beliefs might be some­what obscured by his extreme secre­cy, it’s unam­bigu­ous clear that he seri­ous­ly wants to see the cur­rent finan­cial sys­tem col­lapse and be replaced with a gold stan­dard:

Bloomberg

What Kind of Man Spends Mil­lions to Elect Ted Cruz?
Robert Mer­cer is one of the wealth­i­est, most secre­tive, influ­en­tial, and reac­tionary Repub­li­cans in the coun­try.

By Zachary Mider
Jan­u­ary 20, 2016, 4:45 AM CST

In 2010, Arthur Robin­son, a research chemist, decid­ed to run for Con­gress in south­ern Ore­gon. Robin­son, now 73, was not your aver­age can­di­date. In a lab on a sheep ranch in the Siskiy­ou Moun­tains, he’s spent the last cou­ple of years col­lect­ing thou­sands of vials of human urine. Fund­ed by pri­vate donors, he claims his work holds the key to extend­ing the human life span and wrest­ing con­trol of med­i­cine from what he calls the “med­ical-indus­tri­al-gov­ern­ment com­plex.” He has some unusu­al ideas. Accord­ing to his month­ly newslet­ter, nuclear radi­a­tion can be good for you and cli­mate sci­ence is a hoax. In his spare time, he buys unwant­ed pipe organs from church­es and reassem­bles them on his prop­er­ty.

Robin­son was new to pol­i­tics and had lit­tle mon­ey of his own. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic incum­bent, Peter DeFazio, had held office for more than 20 years and eas­i­ly out­spent him. But six weeks before the elec­tion, a bar­rage of ads hit the air­waves, por­tray­ing DeFazio as a pup­pet of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­er­ship. Robin­son lost, but the $600,000 in ads helped him turn in the best per­for­mance by a Repub­li­can in the dis­trict in decades.

When the ads first appeared, Robin­son says he had no idea who’d paid for them. Even­tu­al­ly the Wash­ing­ton oper­a­tives who bought them revealed they were work­ing for Robert Mer­cer, a com­put­er pro­gram­mer and hedge fund man­ag­er in New York. Robin­son knew Mer­cer slight­ly, as a donor to his research projects and a sub­scriber to his newslet­ter. Once, he’d even vis­it­ed Mer­cer at his extrav­a­gant man­sion on Long Island Sound. He says they’ve nev­er dis­cussed pol­i­tics.

Mer­cer is one of the most enig­mat­ic and pow­er­ful forces in U.S. pol­i­tics. Begin­ning around the time of Robinson’s race, Mer­cer has put at least $32 mil­lion behind con­ser­v­a­tive can­di­dates for office, includ­ing $11 mil­lion for a group sup­port­ing Texas Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz’s cam­paign for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion. So far, Mer­cer is the biggest sin­gle donor in the race. Work­ing with his daugh­ter Rebekah, he’s spent tens of mil­lions more to advance a con­ser­v­a­tive agen­da, invest­ing in think tanks such as the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, the media out­let Breitbart.com, and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, a data com­pa­ny that builds psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­files of vot­ers. Groups he funds have attacked the sci­ence of glob­al warm­ing, pub­lished a book crit­i­cal of Hillary Clin­ton, and bankrolled a doc­u­men­tary cel­e­brat­ing Ayn Rand.

Mer­cer, 69, has nev­er spo­ken pub­licly about his polit­i­cal pri­or­i­ties and declined a request to be inter­viewed for this sto­ry. This account is based on inter­views with more than two dozen peo­ple who have spent time with Mer­cer or worked on his polit­i­cal efforts, very few of whom were will­ing to speak on the record. He’s tight-lipped even with his friends. That’s made him an object of intense spec­u­la­tion. Some allies pri­vate­ly say they think he’s pro-life and opposed to gay mar­riage, and oth­ers say the oppo­site. Repub­li­can oper­a­tives gos­sip about what lit­tle scraps of infor­ma­tion they can glean—his the­atri­cal Christ­mas galas, his habit of whistling to him­self dur­ing busi­ness meet­ings. Oth­er pow­er­ful con­ser­v­a­tives court him: Free­dom Part­ners, the net­work over­seen by the broth­ers Charles and David Koch, some­times caters events with cook­ies from Ruby et Vio­lette, a bak­ery owned by Rebekah and her two sis­ters.

Mer­cer is the co-chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of one of the country’s largest and most secre­tive hedge funds, Renais­sance Tech­nolo­gies, but peo­ple who’ve spent time with him say he hasn’t shown any inter­est in advanc­ing its agen­da in Wash­ing­ton. They say he dis­dains the estab­lish­ment wing of the Repub­li­can Par­ty, which he sees as too cozy with Big Busi­ness and Wall Street. Unlike many of his peers in New York finan­cial cir­cles, he doesn’t shrink from the cul­ture wars. He’s sup­port­ed a cam­paign for the death penal­ty in Nebras­ka and fund­ed ads in New York crit­i­cal of the so-called ground-zero mosque. He and Rebekah have also direct­ed mon­ey to an anti-abor­tion group and a Chris­t­ian col­lege, though peo­ple who know the father and daugh­ter say they don’t talk about reli­gion.

A sur­pris­ing amount of Mercer’s atten­tion and mon­ey finds its way to some of the most unusu­al fringes of the right wing. He’s attend­ed and fund­ed an annu­al con­fer­ence orga­nized by Jane Ori­ent, an Ari­zona physi­cian and activist who recent­ly sug­gest­ed in an opin­ion arti­cle that ele­ments in the U.S. gov­ern­ment might have tak­en part in the San Bernardi­no mas­sacre. Mer­cer mon­ey also found its way to an Ida­ho activist named Fred Kel­ly Grant, who trav­els the coun­try encour­ag­ing legal chal­lenges to envi­ron­men­tal laws, which he says are part of a sin­is­ter plot by the Unit­ed Nations to depop­u­late rur­al Amer­i­ca.

“He’s a very inde­pen­dent thinker,” says Sean Fiel­er, a con­ser­v­a­tive donor in New Jer­sey who’s worked with Mer­cer on advo­cat­ing a return to the gold stan­dard. “He’s a guy with his own ideas, and very devel­oped ideas, and I wouldn’t want to speak on his behalf.”

Four peo­ple who’ve dis­cussed the mat­ter with him say Mer­cer is pre­oc­cu­pied with the country’s mon­e­tary and bank­ing sys­tems, which he sees as hope­less­ly com­pro­mised by gov­ern­ment med­dling. He was the main finan­cial backer of the Jack­son Hole Sum­mit, a con­fer­ence that took place in Wyoming last August to advo­cate for the gold stan­dard, two of these peo­ple said. His name wasn’t any­where on the agen­da. Accord­ing to video shot at the event, he sat with Rebekah toward the back of the audi­ence, an unob­tru­sive, sil­ver-haired gen­tle­man with dark brows, wire-rimmed glass­es, a navy suit, and a red tie. At din­ner that night, he sat at a table while oth­er guests chat­tered around him, soft­ly whistling to him­self.

Mercer’s rapid emer­gence as a polit­i­cal force was helped along by the U.S. Supreme Court, which held in Cit­i­zens Unit­ed v. FEC in Jan­u­ary 2010 that inde­pen­dent polit­i­cal spend­ing is pro­tect­ed by the First Amend­ment. The rul­ing opened the door for unlim­it­ed elec­tion spend­ing by indi­vid­u­als and cor­po­ra­tions, most of which end­ed up being fun­neled through the groups that have become known as super PACs. Eight months after Cit­i­zens Unit­ed, Mer­cer fund­ed one of the country’s first super-PACs to sup­port Robinson’s bid in Ore­gon.

Crit­ics warned that Cit­i­zens Unit­ed would bring about a new era of cor­po­rate influ­ence in pol­i­tics, with com­pa­nies and busi­ness­peo­ple buy­ing elec­tions to pro­mote their finan­cial inter­ests. So far, that hasn’t hap­pened much; big cor­po­ra­tions, for instance, still play a neg­li­gi­ble role in pres­i­den­tial elec­tion spend­ing. Instead, a small group of bil­lion­aires has flood­ed races with ide­o­log­i­cal­ly tinged con­tri­bu­tions. The result has been a shift in pow­er away from the polit­i­cal par­ties and toward the whims of the donors them­selves. In part, this explains the large num­ber and vari­ety of can­di­dates field­ed by the Repub­li­cans in 2016.

...

A month after the Cal­i­for­nia con­fer­ence, the Mer­cers head­ed to Jack­son Hole. Every sum­mer top offi­cials at the Fed­er­al Reserve gath­er in the Wyoming resort com­mu­ni­ty with many of the world’s top econ­o­mists to dis­cuss mon­e­tary pol­i­cy. But the Mer­cers went instead to the Jack­son Hole Sum­mit, a “counter-con­fer­ence” they fund­ed through a non­prof­it group called the Amer­i­can Prin­ci­ples Project. The summit’s pur­pose was to ques­tion the very pur­pose of the Fed, call­ing for an end to gov­ern­ment involve­ment in the mon­ey sup­ply and a return to the gold stan­dard. Steve Lone­gan, an APP activist from New Jer­sey, opened the event by wav­ing a dol­lar bill in the air. “Today, my friends, this lit­tle piece of paper in our pock­et is manip­u­lat­ed, its val­ue deter­mined, and under­mined rou­tine­ly, by a bunch of unelect­ed, unac­count­able bureau­crats who are meet­ing right now a few miles away,” he said. “Amer­i­ca needs to wake up to this threat!”

The U.S. turned away from the gold stan­dard dur­ing the Great Depres­sion and dropped its last links in 1971. It’s dif­fi­cult to find a main­stream econ­o­mist who advo­cates for it; a 2012 sur­vey of econ­o­mists at top U.S. uni­ver­si­ties failed to turn up a sin­gle sup­port­er. Yet it’s a par­tic­u­lar inter­est of Mercer’s, say sev­er­al peo­ple who’ve dis­cussed the mat­ter with him.

Mer­cer is also a pas­sion­ate crit­ic of a cen­tral ele­ment of the mod­ern finan­cial sys­tem known as frac­tion­al reserve bank­ing, these peo­ple said. Essen­tial­ly, it’s the prac­tice of banks lend­ing out their depos­i­tors’ mon­ey to oth­ers. Banks have been doing this for hun­dreds of years, but a few out-of-the-main­stream econ­o­mists con­sid­er it a form of fraud—akin to con­jur­ing cur­ren­cy out of thin air. Accord­ing to one asso­ciate, a thinker said to be influ­en­tial with Mer­cer is Mur­ray Roth­bard, the late econ­o­mist who called the mod­ern bank­ing sys­tem “a shell game, a Ponzi scheme.” It’s unclear how Mercer’s views on the bank­ing sys­tem square with his hedge fund activ­i­ties; it emerged in the Sen­ate tax inves­ti­ga­tion that Renais­sance, to boost returns, some­times sought lever­age of as much as 20 times the val­ue of its assets from giant banks such as Bar­clays.

...

———–

“What Kind of Man Spends Mil­lions to Elect Ted Cruz?” by Zachary Mider; Bloomberg; 01/20/2016

Four peo­ple who’ve dis­cussed the mat­ter with him say Mer­cer is pre­oc­cu­pied with the country’s mon­e­tary and bank­ing sys­tems, which he sees as hope­less­ly com­pro­mised by gov­ern­ment med­dling. He was the main finan­cial backer of the Jack­son Hole Sum­mit, a con­fer­ence that took place in Wyoming last August to advo­cate for the gold stan­dard, two of these peo­ple said. His name wasn’t any­where on the agen­da. Accord­ing to video shot at the event, he sat with Rebekah toward the back of the audi­ence, an unob­tru­sive, sil­ver-haired gen­tle­man with dark brows, wire-rimmed glass­es, a navy suit, and a red tie. At din­ner that night, he sat at a table while oth­er guests chat­tered around him, soft­ly whistling to him­self.”

Robert Mer­cer lit­er­al­ly paid for an whole ‘counter-sum­mit’ to troll the Fed and call for a return to the abo­li­tion of the Fed and a return to the gold stan­dard. He hides a lot about him­self but there’s no hid­ing the fact that he real­ly does want to see this hap­pen:

...
A month after the Cal­i­for­nia con­fer­ence, the Mer­cers head­ed to Jack­son Hole. Every sum­mer top offi­cials at the Fed­er­al Reserve gath­er in the Wyoming resort com­mu­ni­ty with many of the world’s top econ­o­mists to dis­cuss mon­e­tary pol­i­cy. But the Mer­cers went instead to the Jack­son Hole Sum­mit, a “counter-con­fer­ence” they fund­ed through a non­prof­it group called the Amer­i­can Prin­ci­ples Project. The summit’s pur­pose was to ques­tion the very pur­pose of the Fed, call­ing for an end to gov­ern­ment involve­ment in the mon­ey sup­ply and a return to the gold stan­dard. Steve Lone­gan, an APP activist from New Jer­sey, opened the event by wav­ing a dol­lar bill in the air. “Today, my friends, this lit­tle piece of paper in our pock­et is manip­u­lat­ed, its val­ue deter­mined, and under­mined rou­tine­ly, by a bunch of unelect­ed, unac­count­able bureau­crats who are meet­ing right now a few miles away,” he said. “Amer­i­ca needs to wake up to this threat!”

The U.S. turned away from the gold stan­dard dur­ing the Great Depres­sion and dropped its last links in 1971. It’s dif­fi­cult to find a main­stream econ­o­mist who advo­cates for it; a 2012 sur­vey of econ­o­mists at top U.S. uni­ver­si­ties failed to turn up a sin­gle sup­port­er. Yet it’s a par­tic­u­lar inter­est of Mercer’s, say sev­er­al peo­ple who’ve dis­cussed the mat­ter with him.
...

And note how none oth­er than the god­fa­ther of anar­cho-cap­i­tal­ism — Mur­ray Roth­bard — is said to be influ­en­tial with Mer­cer:

...
Mer­cer is also a pas­sion­ate crit­ic of a cen­tral ele­ment of the mod­ern finan­cial sys­tem known as frac­tion­al reserve bank­ing, these peo­ple said. Essen­tial­ly, it’s the prac­tice of banks lend­ing out their depos­i­tors’ mon­ey to oth­ers. Banks have been doing this for hun­dreds of years, but a few out-of-the-main­stream econ­o­mists con­sid­er it a form of fraud—akin to con­jur­ing cur­ren­cy out of thin air. Accord­ing to one asso­ciate, a thinker said to be influ­en­tial with Mer­cer is Mur­ray Roth­bard, the late econ­o­mist who called the mod­ern bank­ing sys­tem “a shell game, a Ponzi scheme.” It’s unclear how Mercer’s views on the bank­ing sys­tem square with his hedge fund activ­i­ties; it emerged in the Sen­ate tax inves­ti­ga­tion that Renais­sance, to boost returns, some­times sought lever­age of as much as 20 times the val­ue of its assets from giant banks such as Bar­clays.

...

It’s worth recall­ing some­one else who was deeply influ­enced by Roth­bard: Hans Her­mann Hoppe, an advo­cate of “vol­un­tary slav­ery” con­tracts and a return to the monar­chy. Anar­cho-cap­i­tal­ists for monar­chy. That’s the kind of fanati­cism we’re deal­ing with and these are the peo­ple with the hands on the levers of pow­er. And in the case of Shel­ton, she’s poised to dra­mat­i­cal­ly increase her grip on the levers of pow­er once the Repub­li­cans give her the green light to join the Fed board of gov­er­nors.

Also keep in mind that the fact that Shel­ton spoke at this ‘anti-Fed’ event was­n’t a secret when she was made the chair of the NED in 2017. It high­lights the real­i­ty that there’s prob­a­bly A LOT more sup­port than is pub­licly acknowl­edged with­in the GOP for blow­ing up the Fed and return­ing to the gold stan­dard. And nev­er for­get: when we are talk­ing about end­ing the Fed­er­al return­ing to the gold stan­dard we are implic­it­ly talk­ing about bring­ing about a mas­sive finan­cial and eco­nom­ic col­lapse. So if he seems like Trump and the GOP are try­ing to blow up the econ­o­my, well, maybe they are lit­er­al­ly try­ing to do exact­ly that.

J. Kyle Bass: The Bil­lion­aire Prep­per Who Has Mixed Feel­ings About the Gold Stan­dard But Strong Feel­ings about the Col­lapse of Soci­ety

Ok, now here’s a piece from August of 2019 about J. Kyle Bass encour­ag­ing investors to buy gold and real estate in prepa­ra­tion for what he expect­ed to be a major eco­nom­ic war between the Trump admin­is­tra­tion in Chi­na and his ongo­ing pre­dic­tion of the col­lapse of Chi­na’s econ­o­my.

Now, as we’ll see in the fourth arti­cle, Bass isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly an advo­cate of return­ing to the gold stan­dard. In 2012, when he was also encour­ag­ing investors to buy gold, he came out and said he did­n’t think a gold stan­dard prac­ti­cal. But he went on to sug­gest that economies should instead be linked to a bas­ket of goods and ser­vices. Now, that could be inter­pret­ed in a lot of ways. But it’s not hard to imag­ine that he’s envi­sion­ing some­thing like a ‘gold or sil­ver or cop­per or [insert com­mod­i­ty here]’ stan­dard, which could eas­i­ly become just a new ver­sion of gold stan­dard. At a min­i­mum, it sounds like a call to reject fiat cur­ren­cies and return to the old way of doing things, just with­out gold being the sole stan­dard. But, again, that’s a hard state­ment to inter­pret.

But as we’ll see in the fifth arti­cle below, Bass also appears to be a kind of bil­lion­aire dooms­day prep­per, with a large stock­pile of weapons, explo­sives, gold, plat­inum, and even mil­lions of nick­els. It sounds like he expects nick­els to even­tu­al­ly be worth more than 5 cents, which is basi­cal­ly a dooms­day bet. He even has a Humvee with a but­ton he can push that will drop a bunch of tacks on the road behind him. These are all clas­sic traits of rich gold bugs who are expect­ing the end of civ­i­liza­tion.

So when we hear Bass advis­ing investors to buy gold in antic­i­pa­tion of a deep­en­ing trade war between the US and Chi­na, it’s impor­tant to keep in mind that this is some­one who has been active­ly prepar­ing for some sort of dooms­day sce­nario and who might want to want to see some sort of fun­da­men­tal shift in the econ­o­my that back to some­thing very anal­o­gous to the gold stan­dard.

The fol­low­ing arti­cle also notes that Bass’s invest­ment firm, Hay­man Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, is a hedge fund that spe­cial­izes in “glob­al event-dri­ven oppor­tu­ni­ties”. So it’s a hedge fund that makes big bets about geopo­lit­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties, which makes it the kind of hedge fund that groups that want to make those geopo­lit­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties a real­i­ty might want to part­ner with:

Mar­ket­Watch

Kyle Bass says Wall Street investors should ignore G‑20 and brace for a fresh round of Trump tar­iffs

Exclu­sive: Bass says ‘I don’t imag­ine any­thing get­ting done,’ and tells investors to buy gold, real estate

By Chris Matthews
Pub­lished: June 26, 2019 at 4:58 p.m. ET

Investors are laser-focused on this weekend’s G‑20 meet­ing in Japan, but famed hedge-fund man­ag­er Kyle Bass pre­dict­ed that noth­ing of impor­tance will be achieved there, and that investors should pre­pare for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to slap tar­iffs on every last dol­lar of Chi­nese imports.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping are expect­ed to meet on the side­lines of the G‑20 gath­er­ing, set to kick off Fri­day in Osa­ka, and investors are increas­ing­ly hope­ful that it will result in an eas­ing of U.S.-China trade ten­sions and the resump­tion of nego­ti­a­tions to roll back exist­ing import duties.

“I don’t imag­ine any­thing get­ting done,” Kyle Bass, man­ag­ing direc­tor of Hay­man Cap­i­tal Part­ners told Mar­ket­Watch in an exclu­sive inter­view. While both par­ties may agree to sched­ule new talks, in an effort to boost investor sen­ti­ment, Bass said it’s in nei­ther Trump’s nor Xi’s inter­est to actu­al­ly reach a deal.

“Xi believes he can wait out Trump’s tenure,” with the idea that he won’t be re-elect­ed in 2020 and Xi does not face an elec­tion. Mean­while, it’s in Trump inter­est to avoid any deal unless it includes Bei­jing agree­ing to robust enforce­ment mech­a­nisms and changes to Chi­nese law that would give a trade deal real teeth. “If Trump agrees to an imper­fect deal he’ll be attacked from both the left and the right,” a sit­u­a­tion the pres­i­dent will seek to avoid head­ing into his reelec­tion cam­paign, Bass said.

Both sides, how­ev­er, will see ben­e­fit in issu­ing com­mu­niqués that cre­ate the appear­ance of progress, to boost stock mar­kets and buy time, he said.

Bass said he expects Pres­i­dent Trump to ulti­mate­ly place tar­iffs on the remain­ing $300 bil­lion in goods import­ed annu­al­ly that aren’t yet taxed, as the pres­i­dent will be forced to fol­low through on this threat once its appar­ent that progress isn’t being made.

How­ev­er, Bass is san­guine about the effects of these tar­iffs on the U.S. econ­o­my and stock mar­ket, point­ing out that the $100 to $150 bil­lion would be raised annu­al­ly from 25% levies on all Chi­nese imports is just a frac­tion of the size of both the U.S. and Chi­nese economies.

Despite a con­sis­tent ratch­et­ing up of tar­iff lev­els over the past 18 months, the S&P 500 index reached record highs last week, while the Dow Jones Indus­tri­al Aver­age is rough­ly 1% from its record high reached last Octo­ber.

Bass is the founder and prin­ci­pal of Hay­man Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, a hedge fund focused on glob­al event-dri­ven oppor­tu­ni­ties and is based in Dal­las, Texas. In 2008 Bass suc­cess­ful­ly bet against the U.S. sub-prime mort­gage cri­sis by pur­chas­ing cred­it default swaps which increased in val­ue as the real estate bub­ble burst.

What should wor­ry investors, how­ev­er, Bass said, is a Chi­nese econ­o­my that will con­tin­ue to slow as ris­ing wages, insur­ance and ship­ping costs are rob­bing Chi­na of its long­time advan­tage as the world’s cheap­est source of man­u­fac­tured goods. “It’s cheap­er to make prod­ucts in Mex­i­co,” and ship them to the Unit­ed States in many cas­es, he said.

As this advan­tage has all but dis­ap­peared, so has the Chi­nese government’s abil­i­ty to con­tin­ue to prop up growth with gov­ern­ment-direct­ed lend­ing and infra­struc­ture spend­ing. He said that when you com­bine cen­tral and local gov­ern­ment spend­ing, Chi­na is run­ning bud­get deficits of 10% of its gross domes­tic prod­uct, or GDP, at the same time that it is evolv­ing into an econ­o­my with a trade deficit, rather than the sur­plus­es that marked China’s eco­nom­ic rise.

He said China’s growth has cre­at­ed mas­sive demand for for­eign oil, basic mate­ri­als and food, which must be pur­chased with U.S. dol­lars, turn­ing it into a “twin deficit” coun­try, where any fur­ther gov­ern­ment stim­u­lus will put sig­nif­i­cant down­ward pres­sure on the val­ue of the ren­min­bi while encour­ag­ing wealthy Chi­nese to do what­ev­er they can to move their wealth to more sta­ble economies.

China’s fos­sil fuel imports, for instance, have risen from $27.9 bil­lion in 2015 to $46.5 bil­lion last year, an increase of 67%, accord­ing to Fact­Set.

A ham­strung and dol­lar-thirsty Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, there­fore, will be forced to pre­side over an ever slow­ing econ­o­my, and this down­turn will help drag the U.S. into a mild reces­sion by the mid­dle of 2020, Bass pre­dict­ed.

He advised aver­age investors to pre­pare for this down­turn by adding to their gold and real estate hold­ings. “It’s no secret why bit­coin which I don’t own, and gold are start­ing to do well again,” he said. “Every­one sees the writ­ing on the wall.”

“You have to own real assets, and the best thing is to be lev­ered in real assets, like apart­ment build­ings,” argu­ing that it’s an invest­ment that will pro­vide both steady income and will have the chance to appre­ci­ate in val­ue as the Fed moves to low­er inter­est rates in response.

Low­er inter­est rates tend to be good for real estate, as it reduces the cost of bor­row­ing to finance pur­chas­es, and Bass pre­dict­ed the Fed­er­al Reserve will be forced to low­er inter­est rates to near zero by the mid­dle of next year.

...

———–

“Kyle Bass says Wall Street investors should ignore G‑20 and brace for a fresh round of Trump tar­iffs” By Chris Matthews; Mar­ket­Watch; 06/26/2019

“Bass is the founder and prin­ci­pal of Hay­man Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, a hedge fund focused on glob­al event-dri­ven oppor­tu­ni­ties and is based in Dal­las, Texas. In 2008 Bass suc­cess­ful­ly bet against the U.S. sub-prime mort­gage cri­sis by pur­chas­ing cred­it default swaps which increased in val­ue as the real estate bub­ble burst.”

A hedge fund focused on glob­al event-dri­ven oppor­tu­ni­ties. It’s cer­tain­ly an inter­est­ing approach to invest­ing and there’s noth­ing inher­ent­ly wrong with it. But it does become a lot more ques­tion­able when the big glob­al even-dri­ven oppor­tu­ni­ty your hedge fund is bet­ting on is the col­lapse of Chi­na and the head of your fund is coor­di­nat­ing with fig­ures like Steve Ban­non to help make that hap­pen. Nonethe­less, he was pre­dict­ing a big down­turn in Chi­na (as he had been pre­dict­ing for years) and would make gold and real estate good invest­ments going for­ward. So while Bass may not be an overt gold stan­dard advo­cate, his invest­ment strat­e­gy is cer­tain­ly poised to prof­it mas­sive­ly from the kind of eco­nom­ic tur­moil and col­lapse the gold stan­dard advo­cates would love to see:

...
What should wor­ry investors, how­ev­er, Bass said, is a Chi­nese econ­o­my that will con­tin­ue to slow as ris­ing wages, insur­ance and ship­ping costs are rob­bing Chi­na of its long­time advan­tage as the world’s cheap­est source of man­u­fac­tured goods. “It’s cheap­er to make prod­ucts in Mex­i­co,” and ship them to the Unit­ed States in many cas­es, he said.

As this advan­tage has all but dis­ap­peared, so has the Chi­nese government’s abil­i­ty to con­tin­ue to prop up growth with gov­ern­ment-direct­ed lend­ing and infra­struc­ture spend­ing. He said that when you com­bine cen­tral and local gov­ern­ment spend­ing, Chi­na is run­ning bud­get deficits of 10% of its gross domes­tic prod­uct, or GDP, at the same time that it is evolv­ing into an econ­o­my with a trade deficit, rather than the sur­plus­es that marked China’s eco­nom­ic rise.

He said China’s growth has cre­at­ed mas­sive demand for for­eign oil, basic mate­ri­als and food, which must be pur­chased with U.S. dol­lars, turn­ing it into a “twin deficit” coun­try, where any fur­ther gov­ern­ment stim­u­lus will put sig­nif­i­cant down­ward pres­sure on the val­ue of the ren­min­bi while encour­ag­ing wealthy Chi­nese to do what­ev­er they can to move their wealth to more sta­ble economies.

China’s fos­sil fuel imports, for instance, have risen from $27.9 bil­lion in 2015 to $46.5 bil­lion last year, an increase of 67%, accord­ing to Fact­Set.

A ham­strung and dol­lar-thirsty Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, there­fore, will be forced to pre­side over an ever slow­ing econ­o­my, and this down­turn will help drag the U.S. into a mild reces­sion by the mid­dle of 2020, Bass pre­dict­ed.

He advised aver­age investors to pre­pare for this down­turn by adding to their gold and real estate hold­ings. “It’s no secret why bit­coin which I don’t own, and gold are start­ing to do well again,” he said. “Every­one sees the writ­ing on the wall.”

“You have to own real assets, and the best thing is to be lev­ered in real assets, like apart­ment build­ings,” argu­ing that it’s an invest­ment that will pro­vide both steady income and will have the chance to appre­ci­ate in val­ue as the Fed moves to low­er inter­est rates in response.
...

Now here’s a 2012 piece about Bass — who sits on the board of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas — encour­ag­ing the uni­ver­si­ty to take phys­i­cal poses­sion of $1 bil­lion in gold coins sit­ting in its endow­ment fund. The ratio­nale is that it’s cheap­er to hold it them­selves than pay for stor­age. And it’s dur­ing an inter­view where he dis­cuss­es this advice that he gave to the uni­ver­si­ty where he men­tions that, while he’s not in favor of return­ing the the gold stan­dard, he is an advo­cate of tying economies to a bas­ket of goods and ser­vices. Is that a call for end­ing fiat cur­ren­cy and mod­ern finance? It’s unclear, but every­thing else about the guy cer­tain­ly points in that direc­tion:

Busi­ness Insid­er

Kyle Bass Explains Why He Had The Uni­ver­si­ty Of Texas Take Phys­i­cal Deliv­ery Of $1 Bil­lion In Sol­id Gold

Linette Lopez
Mar 12, 2012, 2:30 PM

We already know that Hay­man Cap­i­tal’s Kyle Bass is get­ting ready for the worst. Case in point, he keeps all kinds of weapons on his Texas com­pound and he’s buy­ing up nick­els because he believes the coins will even­tu­al­ly be worth more than 5 cents. (Learn more about Bass’ fas­ci­nat­ing quirks here).

He’s also bull­ish on gold, and he remind­ed CNBC why in an inter­view today:

“The pat­tern is set, we’re going to con­tin­ue to mon­e­tize fis­cal deficits by expand­ing cen­tral bank bal­ance sheets... I call it cre­at­ing mon­ey out of thin air.”

He believes this so ful­ly that while he was on the board of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas, he had them take phys­i­cal deliv­ery of $1 bil­lion in gold. You can watch him explain why in the video below (via CNBC), but in a nut­shell, he fig­ured out that it would be much cheap­er to store it.

And for the record, Bass does­n’t advo­cate going back to the gold stan­dard, he thinks that’s imprac­ti­cal. Instead, he believes our econ­o­my should be tied to a bas­ket of goods and ser­vices.

———–

“Kyle Bass Explains Why He Had The Uni­ver­si­ty Of Texas Take Phys­i­cal Deliv­ery Of $1 Bil­lion In Sol­id Gold” by Linette Lopez; Busi­ness Insid­er; 03/12/2012

“And for the record, Bass does­n’t advo­cate going back to the gold stan­dard, he thinks that’s imprac­ti­cal. Instead, he believes our econ­o­my should be tied to a bas­ket of goods and ser­vices.”

He’s not in favor of a gold stan­dard. But is he in favor of a not-only-gold stan­dard of a bas­ket of com­modi­ties instead? If so, that’s still large­ly the same prin­ci­ple. And that makes him essen­tial­ly in line with fig­ures like Robert Mer­cer and Judy Shel­ton. It also rais­es the ques­tion of what oth­er com­modi­ties he would like to see in the bas­ket of goods and ser­vices. Espe­cial­ly since he appears to have stock­piles of gold, plat­inum, tens of mil­lions of nick­els, explo­sives, and guns:

Busi­ness Insid­er

10 Fas­ci­nat­ing Facts About The Fab­u­lous Life Of Hedge Fun­der Kyle Bass

Linette Lopez Nov 23, 2011, 10:10 AM

Michael Lewis’ book, Boomerang starts at the home of Texas hedge fund man­ag­er, Kyle Bass.
If you don’t know about Bass, you should. He man­ages Hay­man Cap­i­tal, and made a ton of mon­ey pre­dict­ing the sub­prime mort­gage crises. Now he’s bet­ting all of his mon­ey that sov­er­eign debt will be the next big thing to take down the world.

He start­ed off bet­ting against Por­tu­gal, Ire­land, Italy, Switzer­land and Greece back in 2008 (not bad a bad call, obvi­ous­ly).

Today, he’s hav­ing an excel­lent day. That’s because since then, he bet a ton of mon­ey against France. And you know what rat­ings agen­cies are say­ing about France today.

That aside though, Kyle Bass’s worst day is still a great day for most peo­ple any­way. Let’s just put it this way, he’s an inter­est­ing man with a lot of toys.

Kyle Bass learned to love trad­ing by play­ing Risk as a child.

Michael Lewis won­dered how a Tex­an who had bare­ly left the coun­try could be so inter­est­ed in the debt of for­eign coun­tries, espe­cial­ly Ice­land— which was Bass’ first obses­sion.

Very sim­ple. Bass loves Risk, and Ice­land was his favorite place to put troops because they’re easy to defend there.

Source: Boomerang, by Michael Lewis

He has a plan for when every thing crash­es — buy guns and gold.

He even told his mom:

You need phys­i­cal gold.” He explained that when the next cri­sis struck, the gold futures mar­ket was like­ly to seize up, as there were more out­stand­ing futures con­tracts than avail­able gold. Peo­ple who thought they owned gold would find they owned pieces of paper instead.

Source: Boomerang, by Michael Lewis

Aside from gold bricks, he also keeps plat­inum bars.

Some is in his desk at Hay­man, some is in vaults in Hous­ton.

Source: Boomerang, by Michael Lewis

Some things he col­lects are a lit­tle strange— like nick­els.

Yes. Nick­els. The coins (From Boomerang):

“The val­ue of the met­al in a nick­el is worth six point eight cents,” he said. “Did you know that?..I just bought a mil­lion dol­lars’ worth of them,” he said, and then, per­haps sens­ing I couldn’t do the math: “twen­ty mil­lion nick­els.”...

“How do you buy twen­ty mil­lion nick­els?”

“Actu­al­ly, it’s very dif­fi­cult,” he said, and then explained that he had to call his bank and talk them into order­ing him twen­ty mil­lion nick­els. The bank had final­ly done it, but the Fed­er­al Reserve had its own ques­tions. “The Fed appar­ent­ly called my guy at the bank,” he says. “They asked him, ‘Why do you want all these nick­els?’ So he called me and asked, ‘Why do you want all these nick­els?’ And I said, ‘I just like nick­els.’”

He pulled out a pho­to­graph of his nick­els and hand­ed it to me. There they were, piled up on giant wood­en pal­lets in a Brink’s vault in down­town Dal­las.

Source: Boomerang, by Michael Lewis

This is less strange— Bass also has a ton of semi-auto­mat­ic weapons.

Lat­est issue U.S. Army sniper rifle with infared scopes.

Source: Boomerang, by Michael Lewis

Also explo­sives that he buys online and has Fed-Exed to his house.

He blows up beaver dams on his prop­er­ty with them some­times.

Source: Boomerang, by Michael Lewis

Speak­ing of his prop­er­ty, he has a 41,000 square foot ranch house out­side Dal­las.

With thou­sands of acres of land attached.

Source: Boomerang, by Michael Lewis

And how does he get around that land? With a U.S. Army Jeep!

To match the guns, nat­u­ral­ly.

Source: Boomerang, by Michael Lewis

But the jeep isn’t his only vehi­cle. He goes to work in a tricked out Hum­mer.

Lewis says that there’s a but­ton you can push in the car that will auto­mat­i­cal­ly coat the road behind it with giant tacks...cartoon style.

Source: Boomerang, by Michael Lewis

...

————-

“10 Fas­ci­nat­ing Facts About The Fab­u­lous Life Of Hedge Fun­der Kyle Bass: by Linette Lopez; Busi­ness Insid­er; 11/23/2011

“He has a plan for when every thing crash­es — buy guns and gold.”

And that appears to be the meta-theme here: Bass is expect­ing a day when every­thing crash­es and plan­ning for it. That was back in 2011. And here we are in 2020, with Bass teamed up with Steve Ban­non in push­ing for the col­lapse of Chi­na.

Again, we have to ask: are we look­ing a plan to col­lapse a lot more than just Chi­na? The grand col­lapse the far right has been pre­dict­ing and dream­ing of for decades? A col­lapse of the whole finan­cial sys­tem that wipes out the val­ue of almost every­thing that isn’t a phys­i­cal item like gold or real estate or guns and forces an col­lapse in pub­lic spend­ing and the pos­si­ble dep­u­ti­za­tion of far right mili­tias to keep order? Let’s hope that’s not the case. But we can’t ignore the gross incom­pe­tence on dis­play by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion in address­ing the COVID-19 epi­dem­ic, where one mis­take after anoth­er has tak­en place that can only end up extend­ing the eco­nom­ic cri­sis. The incred­i­ble bungling of the devel­op­ment of test kits. The lack of pre­pared­ness for basic med­ical sup­plies like masks or ven­ti­la­tors. It’s as if the Trump admin­is­tra­tion would like to see the pan­dem­ic go for as long as pos­si­ble. Con­sid­er­ing that the world is right now run by the kind of peo­ple who have been pre­dict­ing and hop­ing for a giant col­lapse for decades and the stars have aligned with them being in pow­er across the globe, this is their big chance to make that col­lapse hap­pen. And make a lot of mon­ey doing it. Well, ‘mon­ey’ in the form of gold. And guns. And explo­sives, etc. All of the stuff that will have val­ue after they screw up the econ­o­my so much that mon­ey has no val­ue. While the idea of a planned glob­al eco­nom­ic and social col­lapse might seem like an unthink­able sce­nario to most peo­ple, the far right has been think­ing about lit­tle else for decades and right now is their big chance to make that hap­pen. Thanks to the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic gov­ern­ments are being essen­tial­ly forced to shut­ter their economies. It’s the kind of sit­u­a­tion that requires sound, sane lead­er­ship to make it through this which means all the far right needs to do to bring about a sus­tained glob­al eco­nom­ic col­lapse is just to a so-so half-assed job at man­ag­ing the sit­u­a­tion. In oth­er words, gov­ern­ments right now have the per­fect cov­er for let­ting every­thing col­lapse. Just blame it on the virus when every­thing goes to hell. So if the worst case sce­nario real­ly does pan out and we end up with a col­lapsed and frozen glob­al econ­o­my head­ing into 2021, don’t for­get that the far right is run­ning the show right now and they would con­sid­er that worst case sce­nario a best case sce­nario.

Discussion

10 comments for “Is the Economic Meltdown as Good as Gold? Maybe for the Far Right Powers that Be”

  1. The dol­lar is on a tear. Here’s why that’s trou­bling
    By Paul R. La Mon­i­ca, CNN Busi­ness
    Updat­ed 11:17 AM EDT, Fri March 20, 2020

    https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/03/20/investing/strong-dollar-coronavirus/index.html

    Posted by Roberto Maldonado | March 21, 2020, 11:20 am
  2. @RobertoMaldonado: That’s actu­al­ly a great arti­cle for high­light­ing the cur­rent stress on the sys­tem and why the cur­rent fiat-based sys­tem — where the dol­lar plays a gold-like glob­al safe-haven role and medi­um for inter­na­tion­al com­merce — real­ly is a func­tion­al upgrade from the gold stan­dard. It also indi­rect­ly under­scores the incred­i­ble finan­cial prize that could be gained by those in pos­ses­sion of large stores of gold if a return to the gold stan­dard was ever achieved. Instead of the world flock­ing to dol­lars it would be flock­ing to gold right now. With the cur­rent sys­tem, the dol­lar’s safe-haven sta­tus is dri­ven in part by a col­lec­tive faith/assumption that the US, as the world’s pre­vail­ing eco­nom­ic super-pow­er, will act in a rel­a­tive­ly com­pe­tent and respon­si­ble man­ner to keep its econ­o­my afloat, an assump­tion that is being increas­ing­ly upend­ed by the nihilis­tic gov­ern­ing ide­ol­o­gy of the Repub­li­can Par­ty and their bil­lion­aire donor base. And, yes, the dol­lar’s pre­vail­ing safe-haven sta­tus is also main­tained in large part by the fact that the US has a glob­al mil­i­tary suprema­cy. But faith in the rel­a­tive com­pe­tence of the US sys­tem of gov­ern­ment and lead­er­ship — or rather, faith that the US gov­ern­ment won’t f*ck things up so bad­ly as to debase the sys­tem or result in some sort of nation­al default — is a big fac­tor play­ing the dol­lar’s pre­vail­ing sta­tus because main­tain­ing momen­tum and not have an ultra‑f*ck up moment is kind of key to main­tain­ing a safe-haven cur­ren­cy. You don’t have to do great all the time, just don’t supreme­ly mess up at all ever. Do that and your safe-haven sta­tus will prob­a­bly remain intact. There’s a big psy­cho­log­i­cal ele­ment to this aspect of the econ­o­my and that’s why we have to be on guard for a strate­gic ultra‑f*ck up right now because this is as good of an excuse as the far right will ever have and induc­ing big psy­cho­log­i­cal shocks is a far right spe­cial­ty.

    But again, note how the arti­cle describes a sit­u­a­tion that demon­strates the rel­a­tive util­i­ty of a fiat-based ‘gold stan­dard’ com­pared to an actu­al gold stan­dard: right now, in this peri­od of glob­al finan­cial tumult, the world is flee­ing to the safe haven of the dol­lar result­ing in a sharp rise in dol­lar demand and the val­ue of the dol­lar. In turn, there’s now a short­age of dol­lars for inter­na­tion­al needs needs dol­lars to con­duct inter­na­tion­al com­merce because that’s the norm that every­one uses and peo­ple trust dol­lars more than every­thing else. That dol­lar short­age is threat­en­ing to lock up inter­na­tion­al com­merce and, ta-da!, the Fed is mag­i­cal­ly print­ing more dol­lars and loan­ing them out to five major cen­tral banks via swap lines.

    Yes, such a mag­i­cal mon­ey cre­ation move by the Fed is the kind of thing gold bugs decry. It increas­es the amount of dol­lars in cir­cu­la­tion and there­fore increas­es infla­tion­ary pres­sure on the dol­lar. But when there’s a short­age of dol­lars lock­ing up inter­na­tion­al finance and the safe-haven cur­ren­cy is spik­ing in val­ue, cre­at­ing infla­tion­ary pres­sure on that safe-haven cur­ren­cy by increas­ing its sup­ply is exact­ly what you want to do to hold the sys­tem togeth­er and some­thing you can’t do with a gold stan­dard:

    CNN
    Busi­ness

    The dol­lar is on a tear. Here’s why that’s trou­bling

    By Paul R. La Mon­i­ca,
    Updat­ed 11:17 AM EDT, Fri March 20, 2020

    New York (CNN Business)Even though the nov­el coro­n­avirus has the Unit­ed States essen­tial­ly in lock­down mode, the Amer­i­can dol­lar con­tin­ues to be viewed as the world’s safest and most sta­ble cur­ren­cy.

    The val­ue of the green­back is surg­ing, up more than 7% against a bas­ket of oth­er cur­ren­cies — such as the euro, British pound and Swiss franc — since hit­ting the low­est point of 2020 on March 9.

    But this strong demand from oth­er coun­tries around the world has cre­at­ed a liq­uid­i­ty crunch — essen­tial­ly a dol­lar short­age. There are wor­ries that this could fur­ther dis­rupt glob­al finan­cial mar­kets.

    “This col­lapse in glob­al activ­i­ty leaves a lot of peo­ple with US dol­lar lia­bil­i­ties to finance, and not enough dol­lars com­ing in to do it,” said Kit Juck­es, a strate­gist at Soci­ete Gen­erale, in a report.

    “It does­n’t mat­ter that they don’t owe these dol­lars to Americans...what mat­ters is that they need dol­lars and need them now,” Juck­es added.

    That appears to be the main ratio­nale behind moves from the Fed­er­al Reserve to roll out new dol­lar loans (known as swap lines) with five major cen­tral banks on Sun­day Sun­day and an expan­sion of the pro­gram with nine oth­er cen­tral banks on Thurs­day.

    The Fed announced fur­ther plans Fri­day to step up the fre­quen­cy of dol­lar swaps with The Bank of Cana­da, the Bank of Eng­land, the Bank of Japan, the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank and the Swiss Nation­al Bank.

    The arrange­ments will now be dai­ly — as opposed to just week­ly — start­ing Mon­day and will last until at least the end of April.

    “Any stress in whole­sale fund­ing mar­kets is get­ting noticed, and any­thing done to address it mat­ters. Expand­ing the swap lines to more coun­tries could con­tin­ue to improve cur­ren­cy fund­ing con­straints,” said Lau­ren Good­win, econ­o­mist and mul­ti-asset port­fo­lio strate­gist at New York Life Invest­ments, in a report.

    The resur­gent dol­lar may cre­ate anoth­er big prob­lem for giant US multi­na­tion­al com­pa­nies that are already star­ing to strug­gle from low­er demand abroad as a result of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic.

    A strong dol­lar makes US exports more expen­sive — and there­fore less com­pet­i­tive — than for­eign made goods.

    Ben­e­fits to a strong dol­lar as well

    Still, the demand for the dol­lar is also a good psy­cho­log­i­cal sign.

    It shows that investors around the globe are still in con­fi­dent in Amer­i­ca’s sta­tus is the world’s lead­ing econ­o­my and the dol­lar as a reserve cur­ren­cy for the world.

    “The dol­lar is ral­ly­ing because it is a safe haven cur­ren­cy. And that has some ben­e­fits,” said Brent Schutte, chief invest­ment strate­gist at North­west­ern Mutu­al Wealth Man­age­ment Com­pa­ny.

    With that in mind, Schutte said investors should not wor­ry about what the dol­lar will do to cor­po­rate prof­its. A stronger dol­lar also makes import­ed goods cheap­er for Amer­i­can con­sumers.

    “The US is still the num­ber one eco­nom­ic pow­er on the plan­et. There is a rea­son that the dol­lar and Trea­sury bonds are con­sid­ered the health­i­est in the world. This is unavoid­able and in the long run it is not harm­ful,” said Ric Edel­man, founder of Edel­man Finan­cial Engines, a com­pa­ny that pro­vides advice for 401(k) plans.

    Still, some experts ques­tion if the dol­lar can ral­ly much fur­ther from these lev­els.

    It might be time for the dol­lar to give back some of its gains — espe­cial­ly as oth­er coun­tries begin to real­ize that they need to prop up their own cur­ren­cies.

    ...

    ———–

    “The dol­lar is on a tear. Here’s why that’s trou­bling” by Paul R. La Mon­i­ca; CNN; 03/20/2020

    The val­ue of the green­back is surg­ing, up more than 7% against a bas­ket of oth­er cur­ren­cies — such as the euro, British pound and Swiss franc — since hit­ting the low­est point of 2020 on March 9.”

    A 7% surge over a week and a half. It’s is a mas­sive move for some­thing like the dol­lar but also a reflec­tion of the extreme stress on the glob­al finan­cial sys­tem. That’s part of why the dol­lar’s surge should­n’t be sole­ly seen as a sign of the dol­lar’s reign­ing safe-haven sta­tus. It’s a sign of both that safe-haven sta­tus and the extreme finan­cial stress on the sys­tem at the moment. A stress-induced safe-haven surge that threat­ens to arti­fi­cial­ly exac­er­bate that stress by induc­ing a short­age of dol­lars avail­able for inter­na­tion­al com­merce. If we were still using the gold stan­dard there would­n’t real­ly be a solu­tion to this sit­u­a­tion. Let­ting every­thing grind a halt would be the solu­tion:

    ...
    But this strong demand from oth­er coun­tries around the world has cre­at­ed a liq­uid­i­ty crunch — essen­tial­ly a dol­lar short­age. There are wor­ries that this could fur­ther dis­rupt glob­al finan­cial mar­kets.

    ...

    That appears to be the main ratio­nale behind moves from the Fed­er­al Reserve to roll out new dol­lar loans (known as swap lines) with five major cen­tral banks on Sun­day Sun­day and an expan­sion of the pro­gram with nine oth­er cen­tral banks on Thurs­day.

    The Fed announced fur­ther plans Fri­day to step up the fre­quen­cy of dol­lar swaps with The Bank of Cana­da, the Bank of Eng­land, the Bank of Japan, the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank and the Swiss Nation­al Bank.
    ...

    If we were on the gold stan­dard right now, we would just have to watch while nations slash spend­ing to buy up gold so they can con­duct inter­na­tion­al com­merce and all join in an col­lec­tive demand-death spi­ral. But in this case, the Fed can just cre­ate and print out as many dol­lars as it deems nec­es­sary and loans it out to oth­er cen­tral banks. The mon­ey can be paid back lat­er and inter­na­tion­al com­merce can avoid a dol­lar crunch. It’s just a bet­ter more flex­i­ble sys­tem. Or, at least, it’s bet­ter for the gen­er­al pub­lic. The gold stan­dard is obvi­ous­ly great for the peo­ple who already have the gold. Espe­cial­ly dur­ing a time a this.

    This exam­ple of the Fed just print­ing the nec­es­sary mon­ey as need­ed is just one exam­ple of the supe­ri­or­i­ty of the fiat-based sys­tem we’re see­ing on dis­play. The oth­er major exam­ple is the big pro­posed fis­cal stim­u­lus pro­grams under con­sid­er­a­tion. Just print up the mon­ey and give it to peo­ple. This is exact­ly the kind of emer­gency where you want that kind of capa­bil­i­ty and you can’t do that with gold.

    But there are lim­its to the mag­ic mon­ey print­ing abil­i­ties. Psy­cho­log­i­cal lim­its. If the US print­ed up tril­lions and tril­lions of dol­lars over and over and things did­n’t real­ly improve, that’s when we might cross that psy­cho­log­i­cal lim­it. And that’s the kind of sit­u­a­tion we need to be on guard against right now. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion is talk­ing about some sort of lim­it­ed direct-to-pub­lic cash hand­outs which would be great pol­i­cy at the moment. But if we end up with a sus­tained glob­al depres­sion that’s the kind of sit­u­a­tion where we should expect a GOP-led gov­ern­ment to be blow­ing tril­lions on bailouts for the rich while doing every­thing they can to ulti­mate­ly min­i­mize the finan­cial assis­tance for the gen­er­al pub­lic beyond some min­i­mal amount. And that’s exact­ly the kind of sit­u­a­tion where we could see them cross­ing those psy­cho­log­i­cal lim­its and debas­ing the per­ceived safe-haven sta­tus of the dol­lar. All they need to do is waste mas­sive amounts of mon­ey by bailout out the wrong groups — like just bailout out the banks with­out bail­ing out the pub­lic and small busi­ness­es, etc — and just f*ck up mas­sive­ly with­out get­ting any eco­nom­ic trac­tion. If they do thagtin a big enough way we’re going to hit a tip­ping point where investors look­ing for some­thing they per­ceive to be safer. More impor­tant­ly, we could hit a sit­u­a­tion where the dol­lar is no longer the default cur­ren­cy of inter­na­tion­al com­merce and that’s when its safe haven sta­tus will real­ly be over, espe­cial­ly if some­one like Judy Shel­ton is on the Fed board of gov­er­nors.

    Also keep in mind that if Joe Biden wins in 2020 the GOP will almost switch back to sab­o­tag­ing the econ­o­my just like they did to Barack Oba­ma’s admin­is­tra­tion after the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis. We already know how they’ll act in the mid­dle of a mas­sive his­toric eco­nom­ic emer­gency if there’s a Demo­c­rat in office. There is a very recent prece­dent we can learn from and the only rea­son­able les­son to take from that prece­dent is that the GOP real­ly will be out to cause as deep a depres­sion as pos­si­ble if Biden wins. They lit­er­al­ly tried to do exact­ly that just a decade ago and today’s GOP is even cra­zier than the GOP of 2009. Peo­ple like Robert Mer­cer, Steve Ban­non, and Stephen Miller are now high­ly influ­en­tial fig­ures in the GOP and craft­ing White House pol­i­cy. Some­how the GOP got even cra­zier.

    So if Trump wins reelec­tion, we’re look­ing at a high like­li­hood of some­one like Judy Shel­ton not just join­ing the Fed board of gov­er­nors but actu­al­ly becom­ing the Chair of the Fed. In the mid­dle of what could be a very deep reces­sion or depres­sion. And if Biden wins we get to watch the GOP go into eco­nom­ic sab­o­tage mode. Again.

    On the plus side, if the dol­lar’s safe-haven sta­tus can sur­vive a time like this, well, that’s going to be one pow­er­ful exam­ple of why it’s rel­a­tive­ly safe that should help dur­ing future crises. It will have sur­vived COVID-Trump. That’ll be a pret­ty sol­id track record.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 21, 2020, 3:26 pm
  3. Here’s a pair of arti­cles that under­score just how wild­ly pop­u­lar and main­stream the idea of end­ing the Fed­er­al Reserve and return­ing to the gold stan­dard is with­in the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment. It’s not just for fringe cranks like Robert Mer­cer. Main­stream cranks are sup­port­ers too:

    First, here’s a politi­co arti­cle from August of 2015 about the Fed’s annu­al Jack­son Hole Sum­mit, an annu­al gath­er­ing start­ed in 1982 that’s described as the ‘Davos’ of the cen­tral bank­ing world. The arti­cle men­tions oth­er counter-con­fer­ences tak­ing place in Jack­son Hole at the same time, includ­ing the sum­mit paid for by Robert Mer­cer ded­i­cat­ed to chal­leng­ing the very idea of cen­tral bank­ing and call­ing for a return to the gold stan­dard.

    As we’ve seen, Judy Shel­ton was one of the speak­ers at this 2015 counter-con­fer­ence, which is less than two years before she was made the head of the Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy. But it’s worth not­ing the keynote speak­er at the con­fer­ence: It was none oth­er than for­mer Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Jim DeMint, who was at the time the head of Her­itage Foun­da­tion. That’s who gave the keynote speech at Robert Mer­cer’s gold stan­dard con­fer­ence. The pres­i­dent of the pre­mier US con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment think-tank that’s basi­cal­ly the mouth­piece of the GOP’s bil­lion­aire mega-donor cranks. Like the Koch brother(s). Jim DeM­int’s words in 2015 had the weight of the oli­garchy behind them. And they sound a lot like Robert Mer­cer when it comes to whether or not the Fed should exist at all. No, accord­ing to DeMint. Just return to the gold stan­dard.

    Oh, but it turns out DeMint was­n’t the orig­i­nal keynote speak­er. No, that role was orig­i­nal­ly sched­uled for Alan Greenspan. Yes, the long-time and much-cel­e­brat­ed head of the Fed was going to be the keynote speak­er at Robert Mer­cer’s gold-stan­dard counter-con­fer­ence and when he had to pull out they found the pres­i­dent of the pre­mier con­ser­v­a­tive think-tank instead. That’s how main­stream these ideas are for the GOP’s bil­lion­aire mega-donor cranks:

    Politi­co

    Activists jolt the Fed’s moun­tain get­away

    By JENNIFER LIBERTO
    08/28/2015 07:06 PM EDT

    As a tumul­tuous week in the mar­kets came to a close, cen­tral bankers meet­ing in the Grand Tetons on Fri­day to dis­cuss infla­tion con­front­ed an unfa­mil­iar sight: Hun­dreds of crit­ics from the left and right gath­er­ing to attack the cen­tral bank’s poli­cies at its sum­mer get­away in the moun­tains.

    The shock­ing appear­ance of activists at the usu­al­ly qui­et retreat is a sign of a grow­ing bat­tle over when and whether the Fed should raise inter­est rates. That cru­cial deci­sion is mak­ing the cen­tral bank even more of a polit­i­cal tar­get for pop­ulist anger. With crit­ics like Sens. Eliz­a­beth War­ren and Rand Paul tak­ing sharp­er swipes at the Fed, pro­test­ers are becom­ing embold­ened.

    Both lib­er­al and con­ser­v­a­tive crit­ics of the bank have orga­nized “counter con­fer­ences” on mon­e­tary pol­i­cy held at the same time and place — the first time in more than 30 years that any­one has sched­uled events com­pet­ing with the sym­po­sium host­ed annu­al­ly by the Kansas City Fed.

    “The econ­o­my has not ful­ly recov­ered and inter­est rates should not be raised when racial dis­par­i­ties exist,” said Shawn Sebas­t­ian, a pol­i­cy advo­cate for the Fed Up Coali­tion of the Cen­ter for Pop­u­lar Democ­ra­cy, point­ing to con­tin­ued high­er-than-aver­age unem­ploy­ment rates for black Amer­i­cans.

    And the crowd­ed jux­ta­po­si­tion of the bankers and activists in a small resort area makes for some awk­ward encoun­ters.

    Sebas­t­ian spot­ted Rich­mond Fed Pres­i­dent Jef­frey Lack­er at the check-in desk at the Jack­son Lodge this week and went right up to him.

    “I gave him our agen­da and invit­ed him, per­son­al­ly, to come to our con­fer­ence,” Sebas­t­ian said. “He hand­ed the agen­da back to me and said he had seen it and was, ‘well pre­pared for this kind of thing.’”

    As Fed offi­cials hear from cen­tral bankers from Switzer­land and Chile Fri­day, they are doing so prac­ti­cal­ly next door to a work­shop called “Do Black Lives Mat­ter to the Fed?” spon­sored by Sebas­tian’s group, which wants rates to stay low until wage growth and unem­ploy­ment improve, espe­cial­ly for minori­ties. Mean­while, a con­ser­v­a­tive group, the Amer­i­can Prin­ci­ple Project, is hold­ing a sep­a­rate con­fer­ence sev­er­al miles away that includes speak­ers push­ing for tighter mon­e­tary pol­i­cy and high­er inter­est rates, as well a return to the gold stan­dard.

    The atmos­phere is very dif­fer­ent than when the Kansas City Fed start­ed hold­ing the retreat in Jack­son Hole in 1982, back when fly-fish­ing enthu­si­ast Paul Vol­ck­er was in charge of the cen­tral bank. The sym­po­sium has always been held in late August and billed as an exclu­sive, invi­ta­tion-only affair in the mid­dle of a nation­al park. Over the years, it’s grown to be one of the more high-pro­file Fed events, even being called the Davos for cen­tral banks.

    The head of the Fed usu­al­ly attends, although Chair Janet Yellen is skip­ping this year. The event tends to be cov­ered by the media because, in past years, Fed chiefs like Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan have used the occa­sion to broad­cast sig­nif­i­cant mon­e­tary-pol­i­cy shifts.

    The event is fair­ly cloaked in secre­cy. Its dates weren’t announced until ear­ly this spring.

    “When I first start­ed ask­ing about it, back in Novem­ber, they were very secre­tive. I had to go and ask the lodge what week­ends were avail­able and from that, I was able to deter­mine the right week­end,” said Steve Lone­gan, pol­i­cy direc­tor for the Amer­i­can Prin­ci­ple Project, which was pro­hib­it­ed by lodge staff from hold­ing a con­fer­ence at the same place as the Fed sym­po­sium. His group is down the road at the Hotel Ter­ra and Dia­mond Cross Ranch.

    “I was told by the lodge staff that the Fed had the whole build­ing, because of secu­ri­ty pur­pos­es,” he said.

    ...

    Mean­while, cen­tral bankers fly­ing into the Jack­son Hole Air­port — basi­cal­ly the main entry to the area for con­fer­ence-goers — may have passed the Amer­i­can Prin­ci­ple Pro­jec­t’s table adver­tis­ing its event high­light­ing the prob­lems of loose mon­e­tary pol­i­cy.

    “The goal of our con­fer­ence is to chal­lenge the Fed’s mon­e­tary pol­i­cy and edu­cate the Amer­i­can peo­ple on the widen­ing income gap dri­ven by the failed poli­cies of the Fed­er­al Reserve sys­tem,” said Lone­gan, whose con­fer­ence includes speak­ers like Rep. Scott Gar­rett, a New Jer­sey Repub­li­can, and the out­spo­ken bro­ker and Euro Pacif­ic Cap­i­tal CEO Peter Schiff. Schiff’s ses­sion is called, “Mon­e­tary Roach Motel — No Exit from the Fed’s Stim­u­lus.” There’s a pan­el on inter­na­tion­al mon­e­tary reform, which includes mem­bers of British Par­lia­ment, and a few speak­ers who want a return to the gold stan­dard.

    The APP had orig­i­nal­ly signed on for­mer Fed chief Alan Greenspan as their main speak­er. Greenspan pulled out, Lone­gan said, so now for­mer Sen. Jim DeMint, pres­i­dent of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, is the keynote speak­er.

    “It’s not easy to put togeth­er a counter con­fer­ence to the most pow­er­ful orga­ni­za­tion on the plan­et earth,” Lone­gan said. “You have to have speak­ers who have the guts to put their names out there.”

    ———–

    “Activists jolt the Fed’s moun­tain get­away” by JENNIFER LIBERTO; Politi­co; 08/28/2015

    The APP had orig­i­nal­ly signed on for­mer Fed chief Alan Greenspan as their main speak­er. Greenspan pulled out, Lone­gan said, so now for­mer Sen. Jim DeMint, pres­i­dent of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, is the keynote speak­er.”

    You almost could­n’t find more cre­den­tialed fig­ures with­in the Amer­i­can con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment to speek at an anti-Fed con­fer­ence than the pres­i­dent of the Her­itage Foud­na­tion and Alan Greenspan. It’s a reminder that hav­ing top notch right-wing cre­den­tials these days is most­ly about send­ing sig­nals about one’s will­ing­ness and abil­i­ty to irre­spon­si­bly pro­mote far right ide­o­log­i­cal garbage with a smile.

    So what did Jim DeMint talk about dur­ing his keynote address? Well, based on this col­umn he wrote for the Dai­ly Sig­nal pub­lished dur­ing con­fer­ence, it sounds like he talked about exact­ly what we would expect him to talk about dur­ing a keynote address at Robert Mer­cer’s anti-Fed con­fer­ence: DeMint talked about how we should and the Fed entire­ly and return to the gold stan­dard, call­ing Amer­i­ca’s mon­e­tary sys­tem the “Achilles heel” of the world’s eco­nom­ic sys­tem.

    DeMint attempts to make an argu­ment that his­tor­i­cal evi­dence sug­gests the Fed has actu­al­ly made reces­sions in US longer and worse. He argues there’s no evi­denece the Fed has actu­al­ly helped stem reces­sions or stim­u­late the econ­o­my. His argu­ments appeared to hinge on the idea that it was unfair not to fac­tor in the Fed’s first 30 years up through WWII when com­par­ing the boom/bust cycles of the pre and post-Fed peri­ods. DeMint, of course, does­n’t men­tion that that the Fed had a much more lim­it­ed role until it embraced Keyn­sian­ism years into the Great Depres­sion after first tak­ing a lim­it­ed role so it’s kind of garbage analy­sis to group the first 30 years of the Fed’s exis­tence with its post-WWII exis­tence. But that’s to be expect­ed because the push to end cen­tral bank­ing and return to the gold stan­dard isn’t a push dri­ven by high qual­i­ty eco­nom­ic ideas or his­tor­i­cal analy­sis. It’s based on garbage analy­sis.

    DeMint also tries to some­how dis­miss the argu­ment that Paul Vol­ck­er and Alan Greenspan’s tenures as Fed pres­i­dent — a peri­od of 1979–2013 known as the “Great Mod­er­a­tion” — involved Vol­ck­er’s aggres­sive war on infla­tion and Greenspan’s embrace of Mil­ton Fried­man-style mon­e­tarism and that there­fore the insti­t­u­a­tion of the Fed­er­al Reserve isn’t some rad­i­cal enti­ty that will inevitably lead to hyper-infla­tion. DeMint scoffs and points out that while the vari­abil­i­ty in the infla­tion rate may have been low­er dur­ing this peri­od than the pre­ced­ing 1948–1979 peri­od, the aver­age infla­tion rate dur­ing the “Great Mod­er­a­tion” was 3.74% com­pared to 3.56% dur­ing the pre­ced­ing 30 years. It was 0.18% high­er. That’s DeM­int’s rebut­tal in the piece below that pre­sum­ably reflect­ed what he talked about dur­ing his Jack­son Hole counter-con­fer­ence keynote address. A triv­ial nudge in infla­tion.

    And don’t for­get that the 1979–2012 peri­od reflects the era when the US’s debt lev­els just explod­ed almost entire­ly as a result of the US’s deci­sion to go down the path fo Reaganom­ic and right-wing eco­nom­ic the­o­ries. Sup­ply-side eco­nom­ics failed and debt explod­ed as a con­se­quence. Let­ting orga­ni­za­tions like the Her­itage Foun­da­tion write tax pol­i­cy and enact mas­sive tax cuts for the wealthy and large cor­po­ra­tions at the same time there was a mas­sive flow of wealth to the top did­n’t pay for itself. And when debt explodes the mon­ey sup­ply explodes. That’s what the mon­e­tary the­o­ries espoused by peo­ple like Jim DeMint or Mil­ton Fried­man tell us must hap­pen. But it did­n’t hap­pen Because those eco­nom­ic the­o­ries are wrong. And we’ve known these eco­nom­ic ideas are wrong for quite some time. That’s why DeMInt is rely­ing on garbage argu­ments in his keynote address.

    And if that garbage analy­sis is tak­en seri­ous­ly we will no longer treat the mon­ey sup­ply as a pub­lic util­i­ty but instead return con­trol of the mon­ey sup­ply into the hands of the bil­lion­aire crank class. Espe­cial­ly those with major stakes in gold. It’s iron­ic that nation­al­ism is often the ral­ly­ing cry for return­ing to the gold stan­dard since it’s actu­al­ly a sys­tem that basi­cal­ly hands con­trol of the mon­ey sup­ply to the glob­al super-rich (the real ‘Glob­al­ists’ who are large­ly very right-wing) instead of treat­ing the mon­ey sup­ply like a pub­lic util­i­ty like it should be treat­ed. But iron­ic or not, the bil­lion­aire cranks behind the mod­ern con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment clear­ly want a return to the gold stan­dard which is why we real­ly have to be on guard for schemes to accom­plish that now that an admin­is­tra­tion run by and for those bil­lion­aire cranks is over­see­ing the man­aged col­lapse of the glob­al econ­o­my:

    The Dai­ly Sig­nal

    Is the Fed Nec­es­sary?

    Jim DeMint
    August 27, 2015

    The Fed­er­al Reserve opened its annu­al sym­po­sium in Jack­son Hole, Wyo., Thurs­day. Its experts have assem­bled to dis­cuss “infla­tion dynam­ics.” Con­cur­rent­ly, anoth­er group of econ­o­mists and finan­cial experts is meet­ing just down the road. They’re dis­cussing mon­e­tary pol­i­cy, as well, but they’re con­sid­er­ing ques­tions nev­er raised at Fed symposia—questions like: “Do we real­ly need the Fed?”

    It’s a ques­tion worth ask­ing. America’s mon­e­tary sys­tem is the Achilles heel of the world’s eco­nom­ic sys­tem.

    Some­thing is seri­ous­ly wrong when tril­lions of new dol­lars are cre­at­ed out of thin air to bail out big banks, “stim­u­late” the econ­o­my and buy gov­ern­ment debt. And some­thing is dan­ger­ous­ly wrong when the polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment is afraid even to dis­cuss it.

    The com­mon assumption—in finan­cial as well as polit­i­cal circles—is that America’s cen­tral bank, the Fed­er­al Reserve—not only can manip­u­late mon­e­tary pol­i­cy to keep the econ­o­my rolling, but that it must, if we are to avoid eco­nom­ic ruin. But ample evi­dence sug­gests that this assump­tion is dead wrong.

    Before review­ing that evi­dence, let’s start with a basic ques­tion: “Who decides what mon­ey is worth?” The cor­rect answer is: “We do—the peo­ple who use mon­ey to buy and sell things.” As con­sumers, we decide how much mon­ey we are will­ing to trade for things we want. As sell­ers, we decide how much mon­ey we require for pro­vid­ing a giv­en prod­uct or ser­vice.

    Mon­ey is a proxy for some­thing of val­ue, and it can—and should—work as a mar­ket com­mod­i­ty. In a free mar­ket, the dol­lar price of prod­ucts and ser­vices changes based on sup­ply and demand – based on how we per­ceive the val­ue of goods and ser­vices. This dynam­ic is good and healthy for our econ­o­my. But when the actu­al val­ue of mon­ey is altered by a cen­tral com­mit­tee in Wash­ing­ton it is not healthy… in fact, it can be dan­ger­ous.

    Faith in the Fed is built on three arro­gant con­ceits: that gov­ern­ment can cre­ate wealth; that des­ig­nat­ed experts pos­sess the per­fect knowl­edge required to manip­u­late mon­ey for the com­mon good, and that mar­kets can­not sort them­selves out with­out the coer­cive influ­ence of tech­nocrats.

    But the Fed’s track record offers no evi­dence that the nation’s appoint­ed gurus of mon­e­tary pol­i­cy can either spur real eco­nom­ic growth or halt eco­nom­ic down­turns.

    His­tor­i­cal­ly, mon­ey growth is almost per­fect­ly relat­ed to infla­tion, and near com­plete­ly divorced from real eco­nom­ic growth. In oth­er words, increas­ing the mon­ey sup­ply increas­es the prices of the food, machines, and build­ings we buy, but in the end, it doesn’t give us more food, machines, and build­ings.

    As for halt­ing down­turns, The Great Depres­sion, the great stagfla­tion of the 1970s, the S&L cri­sis, and the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis all occurred on the Fed’s watch. Some argue that the Depres­sion shouldn’t count, because the Fed was just get­ting start­ed. This con­ve­nient­ly allows them to throw out about 30 years of data—and if you do that, it cer­tain­ly looks bet­ter for the Fed, because reces­sions were more fre­quent before World War II than after.

    But incon­ve­nient­ly for those who argue the Fed was too young to work its mag­ic in the late ‘30s, Mil­ton Fried­man and Anna Schwartz demon­strat­ed in A Mon­e­tary His­to­ry of the Unit­ed States, that it was a major play­er, even in its infan­cy. More­over, Fried­man showed that the Fed actu­al­ly wors­ened – if not caused – the Great Depres­sion.

    Look­ing at the entire Fed­er­al Reserve peri­od, then, we see a dif­fer­ent pic­ture.

    In 1986 Christi­na Romer pub­lished a paper in the Amer­i­can Eco­nom­ic Review titled “Is the Sta­bi­liza­tion of the Post­war Econ­o­my a Fig­ment of the Data?” Its answer to that ques­tion was pret­ty much “yes.”

    In that paper, and in sub­se­quent work, Romer and oth­ers pro­vid­ed evi­dence that the Fed real­ly had not tamed busi­ness cycles. Some of this research shows that, even with those Depres­sion years tossed aside, reces­sions since World War II have, on aver­age, last­ed longer than pre-war reces­sions (by almost three months) and tak­en longer to recov­er from (also by about three months).

    Faced with that evi­dence, the Fed faith­ful try to nar­row the dis­cus­sion to the Vol­ck­er and Greenspan years, the so-called Great Mod­er­a­tion. “See,” they say, “The Fed tamed infla­tion.” But while the vari­abil­i­ty in infla­tion came down dur­ing those “glo­ry days,” the aver­age annu­al rate of infla­tion actu­al­ly increased—from 3.56 per­ent in 1948–1978 to 3.74 per­cent from 1979–2013.

    And look­ing at the full era of the Fed, the record is even worse. The aver­age rate of infla­tion runs about three times high­er than what it was before (less than one-half a per­cent­age point from 1790–1912, as best we can tell).

    Some econ­o­mists will argue that’s not a problem—that high­er aver­age infla­tion is okay because we don’t have as many wild price swings any more. But most peo­ple under­stand that high­er infla­tion is prob­lem­at­ic, that not every­thing bal­ances out. They real­ize that not every­one gets an auto­mat­ic raise every year just because the Con­sumer Price Index has gone up.

    But the fun­da­men­tal prob­lem with the Fed isn’t its track record. It’s the fact that cen­tral­iza­tion of mon­e­tary and finan­cial pow­er can be just as dam­ag­ing to our free­doms as cen­tral­iza­tion of polit­i­cal pow­er. It cre­ates the per­cep­tion among Amer­i­cans that their eco­nom­ic futures are out of their con­trol. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this per­cep­tion is increas­ing­ly accu­rate.

    ...

    ———-

    “Is the Fed Nec­es­sary?” by Jim DeMint; The Dai­ly Sig­nal; 08/27/2015

    “The com­mon assumption—in finan­cial as well as polit­i­cal circles—is that America’s cen­tral bank, the Fed­er­al Reserve—not only can manip­u­late mon­e­tary pol­i­cy to keep the econ­o­my rolling, but that it must, if we are to avoid eco­nom­ic ruin. But ample evi­dence sug­gests that this assump­tion is dead wrong.”

    Jim DeMint, pres­i­dent of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion which is kind of the top of the heap of right-wing ‘think’-tanks, wants to ques­tion the basic assump­tions that led to the cre­ation of cen­tral bank­ing. That was the top­ic of this col­umn he pub­lished at the same time of his keynote speech. It’s pret­ty clear that this was the mes­sage of his keynote address. A mes­sage that was large­ly an ahis­tor­i­cal attempt to argue that his­toric data showed the era of cen­tral bank­ing was actu­al­ly less sta­ble than its gold-stan­dard pre­de­ces­sor. Because that’s the kind of garbage keynote address one should expect from a gold-stan­dard con­fer­ence financed by Robert Mer­cer:

    ...
    Faith in the Fed is built on three arro­gant con­ceits: that gov­ern­ment can cre­ate wealth; that des­ig­nat­ed experts pos­sess the per­fect knowl­edge required to manip­u­late mon­ey for the com­mon good, and that mar­kets can­not sort them­selves out with­out the coer­cive influ­ence of tech­nocrats.

    But the Fed’s track record offers no evi­dence that the nation’s appoint­ed gurus of mon­e­tary pol­i­cy can either spur real eco­nom­ic growth or halt eco­nom­ic down­turns.

    His­tor­i­cal­ly, mon­ey growth is almost per­fect­ly relat­ed to infla­tion, and near com­plete­ly divorced from real eco­nom­ic growth. In oth­er words, increas­ing the mon­ey sup­ply increas­es the prices of the food, machines, and build­ings we buy, but in the end, it doesn’t give us more food, machines, and build­ings.

    As for halt­ing down­turns, The Great Depres­sion, the great stagfla­tion of the 1970s, the S&L cri­sis, and the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis all occurred on the Fed’s watch. Some argue that the Depres­sion shouldn’t count, because the Fed was just get­ting start­ed. This con­ve­nient­ly allows them to throw out about 30 years of data—and if you do that, it cer­tain­ly looks bet­ter for the Fed, because reces­sions were more fre­quent before World War II than after.

    But incon­ve­nient­ly for those who argue the Fed was too young to work its mag­ic in the late ‘30s, Mil­ton Fried­man and Anna Schwartz demon­strat­ed in A Mon­e­tary His­to­ry of the Unit­ed States, that it was a major play­er, even in its infan­cy. More­over, Fried­man showed that the Fed actu­al­ly wors­ened – if not caused – the Great Depres­sion.

    Look­ing at the entire Fed­er­al Reserve peri­od, then, we see a dif­fer­ent pic­ture.

    In 1986 Christi­na Romer pub­lished a paper in the Amer­i­can Eco­nom­ic Review titled “Is the Sta­bi­liza­tion of the Post­war Econ­o­my a Fig­ment of the Data?” Its answer to that ques­tion was pret­ty much “yes.”

    In that paper, and in sub­se­quent work, Romer and oth­ers pro­vid­ed evi­dence that the Fed real­ly had not tamed busi­ness cycles. Some of this research shows that, even with those Depres­sion years tossed aside, reces­sions since World War II have, on aver­age, last­ed longer than pre-war reces­sions (by almost three months) and tak­en longer to recov­er from (also by about three months).

    Faced with that evi­dence, the Fed faith­ful try to nar­row the dis­cus­sion to the Vol­ck­er and Greenspan years, the so-called Great Mod­er­a­tion. “See,” they say, “The Fed tamed infla­tion.” But while the vari­abil­i­ty in infla­tion came down dur­ing those “glo­ry days,” the aver­age annu­al rate of infla­tion actu­al­ly increased—from 3.56 per­ent in 1948–1978 to 3.74 per­cent from 1979–2013.
    ...

    And note the per­verse nature of the the fun­da­men­tal mes­sage of DeM­int’s rant: that the cen­tral­iza­tion of mon­e­tary pow­er — via the cre­ation of a cen­tral bank — is as dam­ag­ing to our free­doms as the cen­tral­iza­tion of polit­i­cal pow­er. Cen­tral banks are like polit­i­cal dic­ta­tor­ships. That was Jim DeM­int’s fun­da­men­tal mes­sage as pres­i­dent of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion:

    ...
    But the fun­da­men­tal prob­lem with the Fed isn’t its track record. It’s the fact that cen­tral­iza­tion of mon­e­tary and finan­cial pow­er can be just as dam­ag­ing to our free­doms as cen­tral­iza­tion of polit­i­cal pow­er. It cre­ates the per­cep­tion among Amer­i­cans that their eco­nom­ic futures are out of their con­trol. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this per­cep­tion is increas­ing­ly accu­rate.
    ...

    And this bizarre 2015 col­umn pub­lished in the Dai­ly Sig­nal by the pres­i­dent of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion in the last week of August 2015 is now ter­ri­fy­ing­ly rel­e­vant. It’s rel­e­vant because it’s a reflec­tion of what Jim DeMint talked about dur­ing the keynote of address of Robert Mer­cer’s gold-stan­dard con­fer­ence and we are now look­ing at a man­aged eco­nom­ic col­lapse of the glob­al econ­o­my by the same peo­ple who brought us that con­fer­ence. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion is the cul­mi­na­tion of the rise of the overt Nazi wing of the GOP. The Mercer/Bannon/Trump era. And months into the Trump cam­paign, Jim DeMint spoke on behalf the think-tank of the GOP’s mega-donor base. The very peo­ple who are going to bring us out of this his­toric mess as long as the GOP is in con­trol. And DeMint called for an end to cen­tral bank­ing and a return to the gold stan­dard. The Mercer/Bannon wing and Koch/mega-donor wing are large­ly on the same page. Break and pri­va­tize the mon­ey sup­ply, hand it back to the glob­al super-rich entire­ly, and sell it as nation­al­ism. That’s the plan the pow­ers that be had head­ing into this mess so hope­ful­ly they came up with a new plan. A new plan that was­n’t con­coct­ed by the pow­ers that be like Steve Ban­non or Charles Koch.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 22, 2020, 9:42 pm
  4. Health experts’ real fear is that this SARs-like virus will dev­as­tate the poor, devel­op­ing world par­tic­u­lar­ly africa.

    What if the UR were about a longer-term goal of dis­cred­it­ing chi­na in the eyes of African peo­ples? This is par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant giv­en the inroads that Chi­nese cap­i­tal has made in Africa par­tic­u­lar­ly in the past 2 decades and the increased ten­sion in US impe­ri­al­ist cir­cles over this fact, which has been evinced since at least 2012 and the KONY fias­co.

    By plac­ing this at the doorstep of “Chi­na” and then let­ting the MSM do its thing, they cre­ate a trail of “evi­dence” that will lat­er be used in a mas­sive pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign aimed at Chi­na, once this thing real­ly takes hold in Africa.

    This would fit your own sce­nar­ios as well as the UR would not hes­i­tate to “scratch two itch­es” — African geno­cide and the dis­cred­it­ing (if not desta­bi­liza­tion) of Chi­na on a mas­sive scale.

    If this plays out as I think it will, the Chi­nese will take a huge hit in Africa in terms of that coun­try’s out­reach efforts and attempts to build soft-pow­er struc­tures there.

    Keep up the good work and the good fight.

    Posted by TGWE | March 23, 2020, 8:01 pm
  5. This glob­al eco­nom­ic collapse/pandemic is the frac­tal love lit­ter of the Fourth Reich and the Flight Cap­i­tal Nephews of the Third Reich. Dave has been call­ing this for decades.

    Posted by Christian A Beck | March 23, 2020, 8:27 pm
  6. @TGWE: That’s def­i­nite­ly an inter­est­ing top­ic to bring up that’s been large­ly ignored in much of the cov­er­age: what is going to hap­pen to con­ti­nent of Africa as this plays out? It’s not sim­ply a basic human­i­tar­i­an ques­tion. It’s also pret­ty fun­da­men­tal to the whole glob­al response to this out­break. If civ­i­liza­tion is going to lock itself down for the pur­pose of halt­ing the spread of this virus that plan isn’t going to work very well if the virus ends up rag­ing across the con­ti­nent.

    But if the Under­ground Reich or Steve Ban­non or some oth­er elite Nazi fas­cist had a plan of releas­ing the virus in Chi­na with the full expec­ta­tion that it would sweep Africa and get blamed on Chi­na, it may not be play­ing out as expect­ed. Why? Because at this point, now that Chi­na appears to be past the worst of the out­break and is reopen­ing itself back up Chi­na is now the best posi­tioned coun­try to pro­vide assis­tance to the rest of the world, includ­ing its many African client states. This is hap­pen­ing at the same to Europe con­tin­ues to be heav­i­ly hit and the US appears to be on track to eclips­ing Europe soon in terms of the num­ber of cas­es. But while things appear to be on track to get worse before they get bet­ter in the US, the sit­u­a­tion is ready to explode in Africa. Will we see a form of good­will com­pe­ti­tion between Chi­na and the West in terms of rac­ing to be the most help­ful for Africa? We’ll see, but if that good­will race is going hap­pen it bet­ter hap­pen soon because Africa is poised to be the new glob­al epi­cen­ter:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    The coro­n­avirus could dev­as­tate Africa
    The continent’s gov­ern­ments are not well-pre­pared to fight a pan­dem­ic.

    By Phillip Carter III
    Phillip Carter III is pres­i­dent of the Mead Hill Group and a senior fel­low at the Pop­u­la­tion Insti­tute. A career For­eign Ser­vice offi­cer, he pre­vi­ous­ly served as ambas­sador to Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, and as deputy to the com­man­der for civ­il mil­i­tary engage­ment at the U.S. Africa Com­mand.
    March 18, 2020 at 6:00 AM EDT

    I spent most of my career as a For­eign Ser­vice offi­cer in Africa, and I served as deputy to the com­man­der for civ­il mil­i­tary engage­ment at the U.S. Africa Com­mand dur­ing the Ebo­la cri­sis of 2014. And now I fear what the nov­el coro­n­avirus could mean for the health and pros­per­i­ty of vir­tu­al­ly every nation in Africa. On Mon­day, the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion report­ed that the num­ber of con­firmed cas­es had surged to 126 in Egypt, 48 in Alge­ria, and 51 in South Africa, where Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa just declared a “nation­al emer­gency.” The same day, Benin, Soma­lia, Liberia and Tan­za­nia report­ed their first cas­es, bring­ing to 27 the total num­ber of African coun­tries report­ing cas­es.

    If the coro­n­avirus gains a sol­id foothold, Africa could quick­ly replace Europe as the new cen­ter of the pan­dem­ic. Many African coun­tries lack the infra­struc­ture and per­son­nel need­ed to fight a dead­ly out­break. Warn­ing of “crit­i­cal gaps in readi­ness,” the WHO has assured the African Union that it will do its part. It has already ramped up mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion on the con­ti­nent, but that’s only a first step. The WHO’s region­al direc­tor for Africa recent­ly warned that covid-19 has “cast a spot­light on the short­com­ings in health sys­tems in the African region.”

    Despite the recent increase in cas­es, the actu­al sit­u­a­tion in Africa is prob­a­bly worse. So far, the num­ber of report­ed infec­tions in Africa is still low com­pared with Europe and Chi­na. And the sit­u­a­tion could change swift­ly. Rel­a­tive to Europe, Africa’s air traf­fic is quite low, but with large num­bers of Chi­nese work­ers still trav­el­ing between Africa and Chi­na — and inter­nal trans­mis­sion like­ly in sev­er­al coun­tries — the risk of spread is sub­stan­tial. Accord­ing to a study in the Lancet, Egypt, Alge­ria and South Africa face the high­est risk of impor­ta­tion from Chi­na. But the two most pop­u­lous coun­tries in Africa — Nige­ria and Ethiopia — also have a high risk of impor­ta­tion. Africa, of course, is also threat­ened by impor­ta­tion from Europe. John Nken­ga­song, direc­tor of the Africa Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, warns that ear­ly detec­tion and con­tain­ment are cru­cial. The WHO reports that only eight coun­tries on the con­ti­nent are pre­pared to deal with a major out­break.

    Experts hope that covid-19, like some ear­li­er coro­n­avirus out­breaks, will abate when the weath­er turns warm and humid, but some of the most pop­u­lous and vul­ner­a­ble coun­tries in Africa — notably Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa — have rel­a­tive­ly tem­per­ate cli­mates. It is also pos­si­ble that Africa’s youth­ful age struc­ture will makes it less vul­ner­a­ble to an out­break, but the toll on Africa’s elder­ly pop­u­la­tion could still be extreme­ly high.

    ...

    In the bat­tle against glob­al con­ta­gions, sub-Saha­ran Africa could prove to be the weak link. Pro­tract­ed con­flicts, esca­lat­ing ter­ror­ism and a ris­ing tide of refugees and dis­placed peo­ple com­pound the chal­lenge. The Africa Cen­ter for Strate­gic Stud­ies reports that the con­ti­nent now has more than 25 mil­lion forcibly dis­placed peo­ple. That’s a near­ly five­fold increase since 2005.

    Improv­ing health sys­tems in Africa should be a glob­al pri­or­i­ty. What hap­pens in Africa — like what hap­pened in Wuhan, Chi­na — will have glob­al impli­ca­tions. African gov­ern­ments must do their part. Cor­rup­tion, poor gov­er­nance and a lack of trust in pub­lic insti­tu­tions make con­tain­ment and pre­ven­tion dif­fi­cult. But African gov­ern­ments, par­tic­u­lar­ly those fight­ing major ter­ror­ism threats, require inter­na­tion­al assis­tance.

    The Unit­ed States, in par­tic­u­lar, should ramp up its sup­port, but the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has large­ly shunned Africa up to now. Despite an upsurge of ter­ror­ism in the African Sahel, the Defense Depart­ment report­ed­ly wants to with­draw some of the 6,000 U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel sta­tioned on the con­ti­nent. The president’s fis­cal 2021 bud­get pro­posed dras­tic cut­backs in for­eign assis­tance, includ­ing a $3 bil­lion cut in glob­al health funds, much of which would be spent in Africa. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion even pro­posed major cuts for the two agen­cies — the WHO and the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion — that can help stem the spread of covid-19 in Africa.

    The stakes are high for Africa. In mak­ing his nation­al dis­as­ter dec­la­ra­tion, South African Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa said, “Nev­er before in the his­to­ry of our democ­ra­cy have we been con­front­ed by such a severe sit­u­a­tion.” But the stakes are also high for the world. If the coro­n­avirus isn’t con­tained there, Africa could be the source of future out­breaks, and any hope that this pan­dem­ic will be erad­i­cat­ed any­time soon will like­ly fade. As demon­strat­ed by ear­li­er out­breaks of HIV/AIDS, Zika and Ebo­la, what hap­pens in Africa can have a glob­al impact. By strength­en­ing Africa’s health-care sys­tems, we can mit­i­gate the impact of this pan­dem­ic, and help ward off future pan­demics as well.

    ———–

    “The coro­n­avirus could dev­as­tate Africa” by Phillip Carter III; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 03/18/2020

    “The stakes are high for Africa. In mak­ing his nation­al dis­as­ter dec­la­ra­tion, South African Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa said, “Nev­er before in the his­to­ry of our democ­ra­cy have we been con­front­ed by such a severe sit­u­a­tion.” But the stakes are also high for the world. If the coro­n­avirus isn’t con­tained there, Africa could be the source of future out­breaks, and any hope that this pan­dem­ic will be erad­i­cat­ed any­time soon will like­ly fade. As demon­strat­ed by ear­li­er out­breaks of HIV/AIDS, Zika and Ebo­la, what hap­pens in Africa can have a glob­al impact. By strength­en­ing Africa’s health-care sys­tems, we can mit­i­gate the impact of this pan­dem­ic, and help ward off future pan­demics as well.”

    Yep, there’s no con­tain­ing the coro­n­avirus if the world just let’s it burn out of con­trol in Africa. So are we going to see a big push by the devel­oped world to help African coun­tries when they inevitably suc­cumb to the virus? Hope­ful­ly, but it prob­a­bly won’t include much help from the US if the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s gen­er­al shun­ning of Africa thus far is a sign of what to expect:

    ...
    The Unit­ed States, in par­tic­u­lar, should ramp up its sup­port, but the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has large­ly shunned Africa up to now. Despite an upsurge of ter­ror­ism in the African Sahel, the Defense Depart­ment report­ed­ly wants to with­draw some of the 6,000 U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel sta­tioned on the con­ti­nent. The president’s fis­cal 2021 bud­get pro­posed dras­tic cut­backs in for­eign assis­tance, includ­ing a $3 bil­lion cut in glob­al health funds, much of which would be spent in Africa. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion even pro­posed major cuts for the two agen­cies — the WHO and the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion — that can help stem the spread of covid-19 in Africa.
    ...

    And with Europe engulfed in its own lock­down at the moment, it’s pos­si­ble we’re going to see Chi­na as the one coun­try that’s actu­al­ly well posi­tioned to pro­vide sub­stan­tial assis­tance to African nations. Sure, the WHO and oth­er inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions that will be pro­vid­ing assis­tance in Africa do indi­rect­ly count as the West pro­vid­ing Africa assis­tance, but in terms of direct assis­tance from, say, the US to the African nations to help deal with the coro­n­avirus out­break it remains very unclear if the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is going to have any inter­est in pro­vid­ing that assis­tance at all. After all, Trump’s polit­i­cal brand is lit­er­al­ly based on acts of wan­ton dis­re­gard and cru­el­ty towards oth­er nations, espe­cial­ly African nations. So it’s kind of hard to imag­ine there’s going to be a big round of US assis­tance for African nations in the near future.
    Chi­na, on the oth­er, is already mak­ing a very big deal about its assis­tance to Africa to help fight the virus:

    RFI

    Chi­na makes mas­sive dona­tion of med­ical sup­plies to fight coro­n­avirus in Africa

    Issued on: 23/03/2020 — 16:14 Mod­i­fied: 23/03/2020 — 16:14

    Ethiopia start­ed dis­trib­ut­ing China’s dona­tions of med­ical sup­plies to oth­er African states today. To fight the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, tens of thou­sands of test kits and pro­tec­tive suits will be deliv­ered across Africa in the com­ing weeks.

    The African Union already received 2,000 test kits from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and is expect­ing anoth­er 10,000 of them along with oth­er cru­cial med­ical sup­plies need­ed to fight the spread of Covid-19 across the con­ti­nent.

    The dis­tri­b­u­tion of the med­ical equip­ment donat­ed is cen­tralised by the African Union’s Cen­tres for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (Africa CDC) in Ethiopia.

    Jack Ma, Chi­nese tech bil­lion­aire and co-founder of the Aliba­ba online shop­ping plat­form, promised to donate, via his foun­da­tions, 20,000 test kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 pro­tec­tive suits to each of the 54 African states.

    “We can­not assume this con­ti­nent of 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple will bliss­ful­ly escape the cri­sis. The world can­not afford the unthink­able con­se­quences of a COVID-19 pan­dem­ic in Africa,” he said in a state­ment.

    Ma pledged a total of 1.1 mil­lion coro­n­avirus test kits, 6 mil­lion masks and 60,000 med­ical pro­tec­tive suits and face shields the African con­ti­nent. On Sun­day 22 March, Ethiopia received 1.5 mil­lion test kits, 5.4 mil­lion face masks and tens of thou­sands of med­ical sup­plies.

    Thank you @JackMa & the @AlibabaGroup for send­ing the first wave of #COVID-19 pre­ven­tion mate­ri­als. Sup­port includes 1.1million test­ing kits,6million masks & 60,000 pro­tec­tive suits to be dis­trib­uted through­out Africa. Dis­tri­b­u­tion to oth­er coun­tries will begin as of tomor­row. pic.twitter.com/tHsiwoWFjY— Abiy Ahmed Ali ???? (@AbiyAhmedAli) March 22, 2020

    ...

    Ma’s dona­tions of med­ical sup­plies to fight coro­n­avirus extend­ed to the Unit­ed States, and a num­ber of coun­tries in Europe (Italy, France for exam­ple), Asia (Pak­istan, Laos among oth­ers), Latin Amer­i­ca (Brazil, Cuba and 22 more).

    Coro­n­avirus creep­ing on Africa

    Although there are still few­er coro­n­avirus infec­tions in Africa than in oth­er parts of the world, WHO fig­ures show that the con­ti­nent now has more than 1,300 cas­es of Covid-19 in 43 coun­tries and 40 deaths across the con­ti­nent (Italy reg­is­tered 5,476 deaths).

    Egypt is the worst-hit with more than 294 cas­es and six deaths, fol­lowed by South Africa with 274 cas­es and Algeria’s 201 con­firmed cas­es.

    World Health Organ­i­sa­tion (WHO) direc­tor gen­er­al, Tedros Adhanom Ghe­breye­sus, warned that offi­cial fig­ures like­ly did not reflect the full pic­ture.

    “The rapid evo­lu­tion of Covid-19 in Africa is deeply wor­ri­some and a clear sig­nal for action,” said Dr Mat­shidiso Moeti, WHO’s region­al direc­tor for Africa.

    “But we can still change the course of this pan­dem­ic. Gov­ern­ments must draw on all of their resources and capa­bil­i­ties and strength­en their response.”

    More wor­ry­ing is that 12 African coun­tries have record­ed local trans­mis­sions. The WHO said gov­ern­ments must pre­vent local trans­mis­sion from evolv­ing into a worst-case sce­nario of wide­spread sus­tained com­mu­ni­ty trans­mis­sion.

    Such a sce­nario will present a major chal­lenge to coun­tries with weak health sys­tems as they do not have suf­fi­cient resources to cope with a large influx of patients need­ing iso­la­tion and inten­sive care.

    “Across the region, near­ly 26 mil­lion peo­ple are liv­ing with HIV. Over 58 mil­lion chil­dren have stunt­ed growth due to mal­nu­tri­tion. So, it is pos­si­ble that younger peo­ple will be more at risk in Africa than in oth­er parts of the world,” WHO’s Moeti added.

    ———–

    “Chi­na makes mas­sive dona­tion of med­ical sup­plies to fight coro­n­avirus in Africa”; RFI; 03/23/2020

    Jack Ma, Chi­nese tech bil­lion­aire and co-founder of the Aliba­ba online shop­ping plat­form, promised to donate, via his foun­da­tions, 20,000 test kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 pro­tec­tive suits to each of the 54 African states.”

    As we can see, Jack Ma, is mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant dona­tions to African nations that actu­al­ly exceed what the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment itself is donat­ing. And Ma isn’t lim­it­ing the offer to Africa. He’s even made offer to donate equip­ment to pret­ty much every nation, includ­ing Europe and the US:

    ...
    The African Union already received 2,000 test kits from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and is expect­ing anoth­er 10,000 of them along with oth­er cru­cial med­ical sup­plies need­ed to fight the spread of Covid-19 across the con­ti­nent.

    The dis­tri­b­u­tion of the med­ical equip­ment donat­ed is cen­tralised by the African Union’s Cen­tres for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (Africa CDC) in Ethiopia.

    ...

    Ma pledged a total of 1.1 mil­lion coro­n­avirus test kits, 6 mil­lion masks and 60,000 med­ical pro­tec­tive suits and face shields the African con­ti­nent. On Sun­day 22 March, Ethiopia received 1.5 mil­lion test kits, 5.4 mil­lion face masks and tens of thou­sands of med­ical sup­plies.

    ...

    Ma’s dona­tions of med­ical sup­plies to fight coro­n­avirus extend­ed to the Unit­ed States, and a num­ber of coun­tries in Europe (Italy, France for exam­ple), Asia (Pak­istan, Laos among oth­ers), Latin Amer­i­ca (Brazil, Cuba and 22 more).
    ...

    If Chi­na plays its cards right, it could end up being the chief glob­al assis­tant to the rest of the world. It’s the kind of sce­nario that would dri­ve the ffar right insane.

    So that’s a sig­nif­i­cant dynam­ic that’s unfold­ing at the moment: Chi­na is poised to be the world’s chief helper while cas­es grow in Europe and the US con­tin­ues to errat­i­cal­ly fol­low Trump’s lat­est whims. We now have Trump call­ing for send­ing the US back to work by East­er Sun­day in a cou­ple of weeks. Is that call by Trump pri­mar­i­ly dri­ven by eco­nom­ic con­cerns or is the fact that Chi­na is now ‘lead­ing’ the world in respond­ing to the epi­dem­ic a moti­vat­ing fac­tor too? It’s unclear at this point, but it will prob­a­bly become clear­er as we see Chi­na embrace the role of the world coro­na-sav­ior as the US con­tin­ues to strug­gle just to get ven­ti­la­tors and test kits:

    The Finan­cial Times

    From cov­er-up to glob­al donor: China’s soft pow­er play
    With its econ­o­my show­ing signs of life, Bei­jing aims to restore a rep­u­ta­tion dam­aged by coro­n­avirus

    James Kyn­ge and Hud­son Lock­ett in Hong Kong
    March 24, 2020, 12:00am

    Just one month ago, Chi­na appeared to be reel­ing under the impact of the coro­n­avirus epi­dem­ic. Its econ­o­my was in freefall and the death of a whistle­blow­er doc­tor from Wuhan had unleashed an online revolt against the country’s com­mu­nist author­i­ties.

    Just how quick­ly the sit­u­a­tion has changed was demon­strat­ed last week by Alek­san­dar Vucic. With the virus now clas­si­fied as a pan­dem­ic and its epi­cen­tre hav­ing shift­ed from Asia to Europe, the Ser­bian pres­i­dent issued a pub­lic appeal that has become a much-need­ed pro­pa­gan­da boost for Bei­jing.

    Cit­ing the “cen­ten­ni­al and strong-as-steel friend­ship” between Ser­bia and Chi­na, he called on his “broth­er and friend” Xi Jin­ping, his Chi­nese coun­ter­part, to assist in bat­tling the dis­ease.

    “I am ask­ing that you send us any­thing you can,” Mr Vucic was quot­ed as say­ing. “We need every­thing, from masks, gloves to ven­ti­la­tors, lit­er­al­ly every­thing, and most of all we need your knowl­edge and peo­ple who would be will­ing to come here and help.”

    It was just what Chi­na had been look­ing for — an oppor­tu­ni­ty to start refram­ing its role from that of the coun­try that accel­er­at­ed the virus’s spread through cov­er-ups, to that of the mag­nan­i­mous glob­al pow­er offer­ing lead­er­ship at a time of pan­ic and per­il in much of the rest of the world.

    “Chi­na is try­ing to turn its health cri­sis into a geopo­lit­i­cal oppor­tu­ni­ty,” says Yu Jie, senior research fel­low on Chi­na at Chatham House, a UK think-tank. “It is launch­ing a soft pow­er cam­paign aimed at fill­ing the vac­u­um left by the Unit­ed States.”

    The aim of its new pro­pa­gan­da push, ana­lysts say, is most­ly to repair the seri­ous dam­age that the pan­dem­ic — which orig­i­nat­ed in Chi­na — has done to its rep­u­ta­tion at home and abroad. Chi­na is intent on show­ing itself as a respon­si­ble pow­er, just as it did in the after­math of the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis when Beijing’s eco­nom­ic stim­u­lus helped lift glob­al demand.

    But this time, it is also dis­play­ing a much hard­er edge. Where­as in 2008 Bei­jing co-ordi­nat­ed its efforts with those of the US, Chi­na is now mix­ing its human­i­tar­i­an dona­tions to hard-hit coun­tries with sting­ing tirades against the US. The impres­sion giv­en is that of a ris­ing super­pow­er try­ing to show the incum­bent which is the more impor­tant nation.

    While US pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump lash­es out over the “Chi­nese virus” as he fights crit­i­cism and a mar­ket melt­down at home, Chi­na has launched a high-tem­po pro­gramme of pan­dem­ic diplo­ma­cy, win­ning head­lines around the world for the good deeds it is doing in Europe, Africa and else­where.

    Bei­jing has much ground to make up. Many peo­ple around the world blame Chi­na for mul­ti­ple mis-steps that helped make the coro­n­avirus such a potent threat. But with its econ­o­my start­ing to bounce back after a dis­as­trous three months and its finan­cial mar­kets becom­ing a refuge for skit­tish glob­al cap­i­tal, there is a chance that Bei­jing may end up enhanc­ing its inter­na­tion­al stand­ing — some­thing that would have seemed unthink­able a month ago.

    China’s play rests upon its claim to have all but halt­ed the virus’s spread domes­ti­cal­ly. In spite of scep­ti­cism over the accu­ra­cy of offi­cial sta­tis­tics, the num­ber of peo­ple new­ly-infect­ed with coro­n­avirus each day has fall­en to dou­ble dig­its recent­ly. In coun­tries such as Italy, Spain, Iran and Ger­many, the new case count is run­ning at well over 1,000 a day.

    The impres­sion that Chi­na is turn­ing a cor­ner is rein­forced by eco­nom­ic data. A Chi­na Eco­nom­ic Activ­i­ty Index com­piled by the Finan­cial Times to track the country’s progress in get­ting back to work shows a steady uptick in areas such as real estate sold, pow­er plant coal con­sump­tion and traf­fic con­ges­tion. How­ev­er, cin­e­ma admis­sions, a proxy for con­sumer demand, remains very weak.

    If Chi­na can avoid a sec­ond wave of out­breaks, it will prob­a­bly become the first large coun­try to recov­er from the pan­dem­ic. Most econ­o­mists are now fore­cast­ing an unprece­dent­ed con­trac­tion in gross domes­tic prod­uct dur­ing the first quar­ter of the year, fol­lowed by a sharp snap­back in the sec­ond quar­ter.

    For instance, Louis Kui­js, head of Asia eco­nom­ics at Oxford Eco­nom­ics in Hong Kong, expects a bounce of 8 per cent for the sec­ond quar­ter from the pre­vi­ous three-month peri­od.

    If such growth mate­ri­alis­es, then Chi­na could stand as a rare exam­ple of growth in a world racked by eco­nom­ic cri­sis, boost­ing both its soft pow­er appeal and giv­ing it room to inter­vene on behalf of coun­tries that are strick­en and request assis­tance, such as Ser­bia.

    “With China’s domes­tic demand-dri­ven econ­o­my set to rebound and main­land investors avoid­ing the pan­ic that has smacked west­ern mar­kets, its econ­o­my could put a floor under glob­al growth and offer a safe haven to investors,” says Andy Roth­man, an invest­ment strate­gist at Matthews Asia, an invest­ment fund.

    The poten­tial for such “safe haven” sta­tus does not seem far fetched. Off­shore investors poured Rmb90bn ($13bn) into China’s gov­ern­ment bond and pol­i­cy bank secu­ri­ties mar­ket in the year to the end of Feb­ru­ary, accord­ing to fig­ures from the com­pa­ny that oper­ates Hong Kong’s bond trad­ing scheme with the main­land — and inflows have accel­er­at­ed fur­ther in March, traders said. This brought total for­eign own­er­ship of sov­er­eign ren­min­bi bonds to a record Rmb2.27tn.

    “Glob­al investors are not going to stop pil­ing in,” says Hay­den Briscoe, Asia-Pacif­ic head of fixed income at UBS Asset Man­age­ment. “They need a safe mar­ket that’s actu­al­ly offer­ing them a nom­i­nal yield.”

    Opin­ion dif­fers on whether Bei­jing, con­front­ed with a sharp con­trac­tion in growth in the first quar­ter, will unleash a stim­u­lus pack­age like the one that dragged the glob­al econ­o­my back to growth in the after­math of the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis. Some ana­lysts think China’s high debt lev­els pre­clude such an option but oth­ers, such as Mr Roth­man, regard such a pack­age as a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­i­ty.

    “I have no doubt that if the domes­tic econ­o­my fails to show clear signs of reawak­en­ing in April, the gov­ern­ment will step in with some of the bazooka-like mea­sures deployed dur­ing the [finan­cial cri­sis],” he says. “Inter­est rates in Chi­na are rel­a­tive­ly high, so there is room to cut [and] there is room to?.?.?.?ramp up infra­struc­ture con­struc­tion.”

    With its econ­o­my recov­er­ing, Bei­jing is at lib­er­ty to hand out assis­tance to affect­ed coun­tries — not for­get­ting to play their grat­i­tude back to home audi­ences. In the case of Ser­bia, for exam­ple, some 300m Chi­nese have watched a video in which Mr Vucic says that with­out “our Chi­nese broth­ers”, Ser­bia would be inca­pable of defend­ing itself against the virus, Chi­nese offi­cials said.

    Ser­bia has been far from the only recip­i­ent of Chi­nese good­will. In a phone con­ver­sa­tion last week, Mr Xi told Pedro Sánchez, the Span­ish prime min­is­ter, that Chi­na will do its best to pro­vide sup­port. He added that “sun­shine comes after a storm”, sug­gest­ing that the two coun­tries should step up co-oper­a­tion after the out­break is over.

    Italy, which has suf­fered more than 6,000 deaths — a high­er toll than Chi­na — appealed to its EU neigh­bours this month to send face masks for med­ical work­ers. But it was Chi­na that stepped up first. It dis­patched masks, ven­ti­la­tors and 300 inten­sive care doc­tors to sup­port over­whelmed hos­pi­tals in the coun­try.

    Lui­gi Di Maio, Italy’s for­eign min­is­ter, said last week: “We will remem­ber those who were close to us in this dif­fi­cult peri­od.”

    Watch­ing the Chi­nese exam­ple, Rus­sia has also fol­lowed suit, announc­ing on Sun­day that it was send­ing plane­loads of medics and hos­pi­tal sup­plies to Italy.

    Chi­na has made sim­i­lar over­tures — sup­ply­ing med­ical equip­ment, advice and in some cas­es staff — to sev­er­al oth­er coun­tries in Europe, Africa and the Mid­dle East. Xin­hua, the offi­cial Chi­nese news agency, report­ed that each of 54 African nations will receive 20,000 test­ing kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 pro­tec­tive suits for med­ical use from the Jack Ma Foun­da­tion, a char­i­ta­ble organ­i­sa­tion led by China’s wealth­i­est indi­vid­ual and for­mer Aliba­ba chief.

    Mr Xi lost no time in link­ing such efforts last week to the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, his sig­na­ture pol­i­cy to win influ­ence around the world by build­ing infra­struc­ture. He was quot­ed as telling Giuseppe Con­te, Italy’s prime min­is­ter, by phone that Bei­jing was will­ing to con­tribute to a “health silk road” — a clear ref­er­ence to the fact that Italy is the only coun­try in the G7 to have signed up to the BRI.

    “Chi­na is try­ing to cap­i­talise now in terms of soft pow­er,” says Joshua Kurlantz­ick, senior fel­low at the Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions, a US think-tank.

    As it por­trays itself as a sav­iour, Chi­na is also empha­sis­ing a telling dif­fer­ence between this and pre­vi­ous glob­al crises: Bei­jing is going it alone, with no hint of US co-oper­a­tion.

    Even as recent­ly as 2014, when the Ebo­la virus rav­aged west Africa, killing at least 10,000 peo­ple, the US and Chi­na co-oper­at­ed close­ly. Chi­nese and Amer­i­cans worked side by side in lab­o­ra­to­ries in Sier­ra Leone and at an air­port offload­ing emer­gency sup­plies, accord­ing to a Carter Cen­ter report.

    Bei­jing and Wash­ing­ton also joined relief efforts in the after­math of the 2004 south-east Asian tsuna­mi. Fol­low­ing the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis, both coun­tries agreed on its caus­es and took con­cert­ed mea­sures to boost glob­al demand. It was China’s $586bn stim­u­lus pro­gramme in 2009 that helped lead the world out of the down­turn.

    But after years of trade dis­putes, this time things are very dif­fer­ent, says Ryan Hass, a for­mer senior White House and state depart­ment offi­cial who is now at the Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion think-tank.

    “The spread of the coro­n­avirus has held a mir­ror up to the bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship and the image that has emerged is ugly,” says Mr Hass. “Now, lead­ers in both coun­tries are con­sumed by argu­ments over where the virus emerged and who is to blame for its spread, rather than on what must be done, col­lec­tive­ly, to stop it.”

    The clear­est exam­ple of what Mr Hass calls a “down­ward spi­ral” in US-Chi­na rela­tions has come in a bit­ter argu­ment over what to call the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. Mr Trump has repeat­ed­ly called it the “Chi­nese virus”, elic­it­ing a “strong con­dem­na­tion” from Beijing’s for­eign min­istry.

    But Mr Trump has not been unpro­voked. Zhao Lijian, a Chi­nese for­eign min­istry spokesper­son, has pushed the­o­ries — with­out pro­vid­ing sup­port­ing evi­dence — that the virus may have been hatched by the US mil­i­tary. This claim has been repeat­ed by China’s offi­cial media and by Chi­nese ambas­sadors around the world, although Cui Tiankai, China’s ambas­sador to the US, appeared to dis­tance him­self from the claim this week.

    Not con­tent with start­ing a war of words with the US pres­i­dent, China’s state media has also claimed that its author­i­tar­i­an gov­er­nance sys­tem is bet­ter suit­ed to cope with a viral out­break than demo­c­ra­t­ic sys­tems, even though this ignores the per­for­mance of Tai­wan and South Korea, which arrest­ed the virus’ spread far more effec­tive­ly than Chi­na.

    ...

    It is clear that the pan­dem­ic is com­pound­ing deep frac­tures in a US-Chi­na rela­tion­ship that has sunk to its low­est ebb since the 1989 mas­sacre of pro-democ­ra­cy demon­stra­tors around Tianan­men Square in Bei­jing. Bill Bish­op, a Wash­ing­ton-based Chi­na expert and author of the newslet­ter Sinocism, says the rela­tion­ship is approach­ing a “precipice”.

    Mr Bish­op says a tox­ic mix of eco­nom­ic down­turns in the US and Chi­na, nation­al­is­tic cit­i­zens and polit­i­cal lead­ers try­ing to deflect blame on to an exter­nal rival has the poten­tial to deep­en the cri­sis. He wrote last week: “The car­nage from the coro­n­avirus has bare­ly begun in the US.”

    ————
    “From cov­er-up to glob­al donor: China’s soft pow­er play” by James Kyn­ge and Hud­son Lock­ett; The Finan­cial Times; 03/24/2020

    If Chi­na can avoid a sec­ond wave of out­breaks, it will prob­a­bly become the first large coun­try to recov­er from the pan­dem­ic. Most econ­o­mists are now fore­cast­ing an unprece­dent­ed con­trac­tion in gross domes­tic prod­uct dur­ing the first quar­ter of the year, fol­lowed by a sharp snap­back in the sec­ond quar­ter.”

    Chi­na is lead­ing the world! At least in the area of recov­er­ing from the coro­n­avirus. It’s a real­i­ty that must have the staunch Chi­na oppo­nents livid, espe­cial­ly if Chi­na uses this oppor­tu­ni­ty to estab­lish itself as an eco­nom­ic safe-haven. But that’s what appears to be hap­pen­ing, with for­eign investors now flood­ing into Chi­nese bonds, bring­ing for­eign own­er­ship of Chi­nese sov­er­eign bonds to record highs:

    ...
    For instance, Louis Kui­js, head of Asia eco­nom­ics at Oxford Eco­nom­ics in Hong Kong, expects a bounce of 8 per cent for the sec­ond quar­ter from the pre­vi­ous three-month peri­od.

    If such growth mate­ri­alis­es, then Chi­na could stand as a rare exam­ple of growth in a world racked by eco­nom­ic cri­sis, boost­ing both its soft pow­er appeal and giv­ing it room to inter­vene on behalf of coun­tries that are strick­en and request assis­tance, such as Ser­bia.

    “With China’s domes­tic demand-dri­ven econ­o­my set to rebound and main­land investors avoid­ing the pan­ic that has smacked west­ern mar­kets, its econ­o­my could put a floor under glob­al growth and offer a safe haven to investors,” says Andy Roth­man, an invest­ment strate­gist at Matthews Asia, an invest­ment fund.

    The poten­tial for such “safe haven” sta­tus does not seem far fetched. Off­shore investors poured Rmb90bn ($13bn) into China’s gov­ern­ment bond and pol­i­cy bank secu­ri­ties mar­ket in the year to the end of Feb­ru­ary, accord­ing to fig­ures from the com­pa­ny that oper­ates Hong Kong’s bond trad­ing scheme with the main­land — and inflows have accel­er­at­ed fur­ther in March, traders said. This brought total for­eign own­er­ship of sov­er­eign ren­min­bi bonds to a record Rmb2.27tn.

    “Glob­al investors are not going to stop pil­ing in,” says Hay­den Briscoe, Asia-Pacif­ic head of fixed income at UBS Asset Man­age­ment. “They need a safe mar­ket that’s actu­al­ly offer­ing them a nom­i­nal yield.”
    ...

    Then there was the Pres­i­dent of Ser­bia mak­ing pub­lic appeals specif­i­cal­ly to Chi­na for help. And when Italy appealed to its EU neigh­bors for help, it was Chi­na who respond­ed first with actu­al assis­tance. Chi­na had an oppor­tu­ni­ty and clear­ly embraced it:

    ...
    Just how quick­ly the sit­u­a­tion has changed was demon­strat­ed last week by Alek­san­dar Vucic. With the virus now clas­si­fied as a pan­dem­ic and its epi­cen­tre hav­ing shift­ed from Asia to Europe, the Ser­bian pres­i­dent issued a pub­lic appeal that has become a much-need­ed pro­pa­gan­da boost for Bei­jing.

    Cit­ing the “cen­ten­ni­al and strong-as-steel friend­ship” between Ser­bia and Chi­na, he called on his “broth­er and friend” Xi Jin­ping, his Chi­nese coun­ter­part, to assist in bat­tling the dis­ease.

    “I am ask­ing that you send us any­thing you can,” Mr Vucic was quot­ed as say­ing. “We need every­thing, from masks, gloves to ven­ti­la­tors, lit­er­al­ly every­thing, and most of all we need your knowl­edge and peo­ple who would be will­ing to come here and help.”

    It was just what Chi­na had been look­ing for — an oppor­tu­ni­ty to start refram­ing its role from that of the coun­try that accel­er­at­ed the virus’s spread through cov­er-ups, to that of the mag­nan­i­mous glob­al pow­er offer­ing lead­er­ship at a time of pan­ic and per­il in much of the rest of the world.

    “Chi­na is try­ing to turn its health cri­sis into a geopo­lit­i­cal oppor­tu­ni­ty,” says Yu Jie, senior research fel­low on Chi­na at Chatham House, a UK think-tank. “It is launch­ing a soft pow­er cam­paign aimed at fill­ing the vac­u­um left by the Unit­ed States.”

    ...

    Ser­bia has been far from the only recip­i­ent of Chi­nese good­will. In a phone con­ver­sa­tion last week, Mr Xi told Pedro Sánchez, the Span­ish prime min­is­ter, that Chi­na will do its best to pro­vide sup­port. He added that “sun­shine comes after a storm”, sug­gest­ing that the two coun­tries should step up co-oper­a­tion after the out­break is over.

    Italy, which has suf­fered more than 6,000 deaths — a high­er toll than Chi­na — appealed to its EU neigh­bours this month to send face masks for med­ical work­ers. But it was Chi­na that stepped up first. It dis­patched masks, ven­ti­la­tors and 300 inten­sive care doc­tors to sup­port over­whelmed hos­pi­tals in the coun­try.

    Lui­gi Di Maio, Italy’s for­eign min­is­ter, said last week: “We will remem­ber those who were close to us in this dif­fi­cult peri­od.”

    ...

    As it por­trays itself as a sav­iour, Chi­na is also empha­sis­ing a telling dif­fer­ence between this and pre­vi­ous glob­al crises: Bei­jing is going it alone, with no hint of US co-oper­a­tion.

    Even as recent­ly as 2014, when the Ebo­la virus rav­aged west Africa, killing at least 10,000 peo­ple, the US and Chi­na co-oper­at­ed close­ly. Chi­nese and Amer­i­cans worked side by side in lab­o­ra­to­ries in Sier­ra Leone and at an air­port offload­ing emer­gency sup­plies, accord­ing to a Carter Cen­ter report.

    Bei­jing and Wash­ing­ton also joined relief efforts in the after­math of the 2004 south-east Asian tsuna­mi. Fol­low­ing the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis, both coun­tries agreed on its caus­es and took con­cert­ed mea­sures to boost glob­al demand. It was China’s $586bn stim­u­lus pro­gramme in 2009 that helped lead the world out of the down­turn.

    But after years of trade dis­putes, this time things are very dif­fer­ent, says Ryan Hass, a for­mer senior White House and state depart­ment offi­cial who is now at the Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion think-tank.
    ...

    Might we be in store for months of the US and Europe being locked down and large­ly par­a­lyzed at the same time Chi­na is run­ning around globe offer­ing every­one assis­tance? That sure looks like a like­ly sce­nario. Unless, of course, Trump has the US just aban­don the social-iso­la­tion approach and go with the ‘herd immu­ni­ty’ strat­e­gy to get the US econ­o­my up and run­ning again. But that’s a strat­e­gy that risks over­whelm­ing hos­pi­tals and lead­ing to a wave of ear­ly deaths. It’s the kind of sit­u­a­tion that does­n’t exact­ly make US assis­tance to oth­er nations any eas­i­er. Will the US being offer­ing major assis­tance to African nations at the same time US hos­pi­tals are col­laps­ing under the weight of a surge in cas­es? That seems unlike­ly. It’s extreme­ly hard to imag­ine Trump send­ing any resources for over­seas char­i­ty in Africa at the same time US emer­gency rooms are over­flow­ing.

    It’s an exam­ple why it’s unclear what could pos­si­bly pre­vent Chi­na from using the upcom­ing months to essen­tial­ly rebrand itself as a glob­al helper for those in need, espe­cial­ly for the devel­op­ing world. Unless, of course, Chi­na suf­fers a sec­ond wave that requires the coun­try to shut itself down again. Hope­ful­ly that does­n’t hap­pen, although we can be pret­ty con­fi­dent the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is very much hop­ing that sec­ond wave hap­pens and crush­es Chi­na. So hope­ful­ly the Trump admin­is­tra­tion or any­one else does­n’t take steps to ensure a sec­ond wave hap­pens but that’s also going to be a dynam­ic to watch for as this ‘race to recov­er’ plays out. One way to win that race is to just keep rein­fect­ing the com­pe­ti­tion. And vice ver­sa. It’s all an exam­ple of why the ‘herd immu­ni­ty’ approach might be the one we end up tak­ing. Not inten­tion­al­ly but sim­ply by nation repeat­ed­ly rein­fect­ing rival nations until we’re all exposed. It def­i­nite­ly won’t be an idea approach but per­haps that most like­ly.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 24, 2020, 3:53 pm
  7. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion float­ed an idea today for reopen­ing the COVID-19-shut­tered US econ­o­my and — true to form — it left a lot of observers slack jawed and won­der­ing if he is pos­si­bly seri­ous:

    Pres­i­dent Trump hint­ed dur­ing a press con­fer­ence that the admin­is­tra­tion has a plan for lift­ing the nation­al “social dis­tanc­ing” pol­i­cy that’s result­ed in an eco­nom­ic shut­down. Lift­ing it coun­ty by coun­ty. The idea is that with enough test­ing of COVID-19 cas­es it will be pos­si­ble to assess the lev­el of the out­break in each coun­ty and assign coun­ties a “high”, “medi­um”, or “low” risk lev­el. The “low” risk coun­tries would then be allowed to loosen their social dis­tanc­ing poli­cies, which pre­sum­ably means bars and restu­ar­ants and oth­er pub­lic gath­er­ings could resume.

    The idea of pool­ing test­ing data and assign­ing risk lev­els for each coun­ty isn’t a bad idea. That kind of infor­ma­tion would prob­a­bly be very use­ful dur­ing a sit­u­a­tion like this. But if the US is going to remain in a sit­u­a­tion where areas will be eco­nom­i­cal­ly shut down as long as the num­ber of COVID-19 cas­es exceeds some thresh­old than cre­at­ing a sys­tem where the “low risk” areas can resume pre­cise­ly the kind of group activ­i­ties that are known to spread this high­ly infec­tious virus is basi­cal­ly a sys­tem for ensur­ing that the “low risk” coun­ties don’t remain “low risk” as peo­ple from the “high risk” coun­ties learn where the bars have reopened and the par­ties restart­ed and decide to make a trip there. We’ve already seen that hap­pen when New York­ers flocked to Flori­da, turn­ing the state into the lat­est “hot spot” and prompt­ing the Flori­da gov­ern­ment to require all New York­ers to self-quar­an­tine for two weeks.

    When asked about that obvi­ous com­pli­ca­tion of peo­ple trav­el­ing from “high risk” to “low risk” coun­ties, the head of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s coro­n­avirus task force, Deb­o­rah Birx, said that deci­sion to restric­tion trav­el would be left up to local gov­ern­ments. More gen­er­al­ly, Birx appeared to describe a plan where, by mak­ing this coun­ty-lev­el risk infor­ma­tion avail­able, peo­ple would just col­lec­tive­ly act respon­si­bly and that’s how the spread from high risk to low risk coun­ties could be con­tained.

    Keep in mind that one of the key fea­tures of this virus that makes it so infec­tious is how peo­ple can become con­ta­gious while remain­ing asymp­to­matic for up to two weeks after infec­tion. So even if some­one is try­ing being respon­si­ble by only trav­el­ing to the “low risk” coun­ties if they don’t feel ill, they could still be con­ta­gious. It’s not real­ly pos­si­ble for peo­ple to respon­si­bly trav­el from high risk to low risk coun­ties unless there’s some rea­son to believe they’re immune to infec­tion. Now, if there’s sud­den­ly wide­spread test­ing of peo­ple using a test that picks up the pres­ence of COVID-19 anti­bod­ies then this sys­tem could actu­al­ly kind of sort of work...assuming every­one decides to be respon­si­ble. Which is obvi­ous­ly an insane assump­tion.

    When asked if there would be ways of pre­vent­ing peo­ple from trav­el­ing from high risk coun­ties to low risk coun­ties, Birx replied that, “These are dia­logues that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has to have with state and local gov­ern­ments, because state and local gov­ern­ments make those deci­sions.” So it sounds like it might be pos­si­ble for local gov­ern­ments to basi­cal­ly bar trav­el from high risk coun­ties into their coun­ties. And since the high risk coun­ties are invari­ably going to be major cities and low risk coun­ties rur­al areas, it’s a plan that could effec­tive­ly pre­vent trav­el between rur­al Amer­i­ca and large cities.

    So that’s the lat­est pro­pos­al from one of the most irre­spon­si­ble admin­is­tra­tions in his­to­ry for mov­ing the US out of this his­toric eco­nom­ic and pub­lic health emer­gency: a scheme that relies on every­one being col­lec­tive­ly respon­si­ble and maybe also cre­ates a trav­el ban between rur­al and urban Amer­i­ca:

    Politi­co

    Trump teas­es new coro­n­avirus dis­tanc­ing guide­lines based on coun­ty risk

    The pres­i­dent said his admin­is­tra­tion is prepar­ing to con­duct “robust sur­veil­lance test­ing” to deter­mine coun­ty-by-coun­ty restric­tions.

    By CAITLIN OPRYSKO
    03/26/2020 04:21 PM EDT
    Updat­ed: 03/26/2020 07:39 PM EDT

    Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Thurs­day teased a new plan to reopen swaths of the coun­try shut­tered by the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic via a tar­get­ed, coun­ty-by-coun­ty mit­i­ga­tion effort.

    In a let­ter to the nation’s gov­er­nors released by the White House, Trump out­lined a sys­tem to con­duct “robust sur­veil­lance test­ing” that would allow the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to “clas­si­fy coun­ties with respect to con­tin­ued risks posed” by the coro­n­avirus, rather than apply one set of nation­wide social dis­tanc­ing guide­lines, as the CDC did a lit­tle over a week ago.

    The promise of new guide­lines, which the pres­i­dent said his admin­is­tra­tion is still work­ing on, rep­re­sents the lat­est push by Trump to roll back restric­tions on Amer­i­cans’ activ­i­ties with the goal of blunt­ing the eco­nom­ic dev­as­ta­tion from the still-surg­ing out­break.

    Trump’s let­ter comes hours after the Depart­ment of Labor report­ed a record num­ber of unem­ploy­ment claims, and on the heels of the Sen­ate’s pas­sage of a mam­moth $2 tril­lion res­cue pack­age late Wednes­day, the dead­liest day yet in the coun­try’s bat­tle with Covid-19, the ill­ness caused by the nov­el coro­n­avirus.

    The new ini­tia­tive, how­ev­er, would require a sig­nif­i­cant ramp up of the nation’s capac­i­ty to test Amer­i­cans for the virus. And it’s unclear when states and coun­ties will be able to con­duct test­ing on that scale, after ear­li­er stum­bles ham­pered the nation’s response to the pan­dem­ic.

    In the let­ter, released fol­low­ing the pres­i­den­t’s tele­con­fer­ence with gov­er­nors on Thurs­day, Trump writes that the new guide­lines would incor­po­rate data gleaned from “expand­ed test­ing capa­bil­i­ties” to “mon­i­tor the spread of the virus through­out the coun­try.”

    Based on that data, the admin­is­tra­tion would cat­e­go­rize coun­ties as “high risk, medi­um risk and low risk.” This would allow areas less affect­ed by the virus to put in place loos­er restric­tions than ones that have been rav­aged by the ill­ness.

    It’s uncer­tain how effec­tive such labels might be in con­tain­ing the virus, how­ev­er, because asymp­to­matic car­ri­ers could move from region to region unde­tect­ed. Just this week, the admin­is­tra­tion urged any­one who’d recent­ly been in New York City, the new epi­cen­ter of the U.S. out­break, to self-quar­an­tine after health experts raised ques­tions about whether peo­ple flee­ing the city were trans­mit­ting the virus to oth­er locales.

    And before more gov­er­nors began to order the clo­sure of “nonessen­tial” busi­ness­es like bars and restau­rants in the name of social dis­tanc­ing, some state lead­ers com­plained that a patch­work of dif­fer­ent guide­lines in neigh­bor­ing states under­mined their more strin­gent restric­tions.

    In a coro­n­avirus task force brief­ing at the White House on Thurs­day evening, Dr. Deb­o­rah Birx, the administration’s coro­n­avirus response coor­di­na­tor, brushed aside con­cerns that coun­ty-by-coun­ty cri­te­ria would be eas­i­ly per­me­able. Birx said that part of the cur­rent 15-day push for social dis­tanc­ing was to mes­sage the neces­si­ty of social dis­tanc­ing to con­tain the spread while encour­ag­ing “high­ly respon­si­ble behav­ior between coun­ties.”

    “I think the Amer­i­can peo­ple can under­stand that, that they will under­stand where the virus is — because we’ll have the test­ing data — and where it isn’t, and make sure that they’re tak­ing appro­pri­ate pre­cau­tions as they move in and out of spaces,” she explained to reporters.

    Asked whether, prac­ti­cal­ly, the guide­lines could pre­vent res­i­dents from a high-risk coun­ty from trav­el­ing to a low-risk coun­ty and poten­tial­ly trans­mit­ting Covid-19, Birx punt­ed to local offi­cials.

    “These are dia­logues that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has to have with state and local gov­ern­ments, because state and local gov­ern­ments make those deci­sions,” she replied.

    Trump’s let­ter did not set a date for pub­lish­ing or imple­ment­ing the coun­ty-by-coun­ty guide­lines. But he made no men­tion of the East­er dead­line he spoke of Tues­day, when he said he’d like to have the coun­try “opened up and rar­ing to go” by the hol­i­day.

    The omis­sion might indi­cate he’s heed­ing the advice of med­ical experts, who’ve warned it’s still pre­ma­ture to lift the cur­rent nation­wide guide­lines.

    At the White House, Birx said that the tim­ing of the new cri­te­ria would depend on how quick­ly offi­cials were able to gath­er the gran­u­lar test­ing data they need.

    Trump’s lat­est pro­pos­al is also a sign of ris­ing con­fi­dence in the test­ing roll­out among mem­bers of the president’s coro­n­avirus task force — and of the administration’s hopes to use that test­ing data in a more strate­gic man­ner.

    ...

    But Birx, who served as the U.S. glob­al AIDS coor­di­na­tor before join­ing the coro­n­avirus task force, said that the coun­ty-by-coun­ty approach was one she‘d seen used to great suc­cess in con­tain­ing the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

    “What we‘re try­ing to do is to uti­lize a laser-focused approach rather than a gener­ic hor­i­zon­tal approach. And I think in the 21st cen­tu­ry we should be able to get to that,” she said, not­ing lat­er that pub­lic health offi­cials in the U.S. had so far been able to “very well define“ dif­fer­ent out­breaks and clus­ters of coro­n­avirus.

    Birx con­tin­ued: “Why am I con­fi­dent that we can do that? Because we do that in sub-Saha­ran Africa right now for HIV. That‘s how we‘re stop­ping the epi­dem­ic there. So we‘ve done it. We‘ve done it in resource-lim­it­ed set­tings. So I do believe we can trans­pose that approach here to the Unit­ed States and be able to have — we have gran­u­lar data down to a GPS coor­di­nate of a site of a clin­ic and hos­pi­tal. We think that same thing can be done in the Unit­ed States.”

    ———–

    “Trump teas­es new coro­n­avirus dis­tanc­ing guide­lines based on coun­ty risk” by CAITLIN OPRYSKO; Politi­co; 03/26/2020

    “Based on that data, the admin­is­tra­tion would cat­e­go­rize coun­ties as “high risk, medi­um risk and low risk.” This would allow areas less affect­ed by the virus to put in place loos­er restric­tions than ones that have been rav­aged by the ill­ness.

    Where’s the par­ty at? It’s just a coun­ty or two away. That appears to be the plan. At least the plan they’re think­ing about. It’s unclear how seri­ous this was but it clear­ly was­n’t just some­thing Trump made up on the spot because Deb­o­rah Birx was the one defend­ing it dur­ing the press con­fer­ence. It’s also extreme­ly unclear why this plan would­n’t result in exact­ly the kind of spread­ing from “hot spots” to “cold spots” like we’ve already seen hap­pen, but Birx brushed aside those con­cerns and assured us that peo­ple would be respon­si­ble once they have test­ing infor­ma­tion avail­able:

    ...
    It’s uncer­tain how effec­tive such labels might be in con­tain­ing the virus, how­ev­er, because asymp­to­matic car­ri­ers could move from region to region unde­tect­ed. Just this week, the admin­is­tra­tion urged any­one who’d recent­ly been in New York City, the new epi­cen­ter of the U.S. out­break, to self-quar­an­tine after health experts raised ques­tions about whether peo­ple flee­ing the city were trans­mit­ting the virus to oth­er locales.

    And before more gov­er­nors began to order the clo­sure of “nonessen­tial” busi­ness­es like bars and restau­rants in the name of social dis­tanc­ing, some state lead­ers com­plained that a patch­work of dif­fer­ent guide­lines in neigh­bor­ing states under­mined their more strin­gent restric­tions.

    In a coro­n­avirus task force brief­ing at the White House on Thurs­day evening, Dr. Deb­o­rah Birx, the administration’s coro­n­avirus response coor­di­na­tor, brushed aside con­cerns that coun­ty-by-coun­ty cri­te­ria would be eas­i­ly per­me­able. Birx said that part of the cur­rent 15-day push for social dis­tanc­ing was to mes­sage the neces­si­ty of social dis­tanc­ing to con­tain the spread while encour­ag­ing “high­ly respon­si­ble behav­ior between coun­ties.”

    “I think the Amer­i­can peo­ple can under­stand that, that they will under­stand where the virus is — because we’ll have the test­ing data — and where it isn’t, and make sure that they’re tak­ing appro­pri­ate pre­cau­tions as they move in and out of spaces,” she explained to reporters.
    ...

    And if it turns out Amer­i­cans aren’t act­ing respon­si­bly and are instead flood­ing into low risk coun­ties from high risk coun­ties, the plan would poten­tial­ly allow local gov­ern­ments to make the deci­sion of whether to ban peo­ple from those high risk coun­ties:

    ...
    Asked whether, prac­ti­cal­ly, the guide­lines could pre­vent res­i­dents from a high-risk coun­ty from trav­el­ing to a low-risk coun­ty and poten­tial­ly trans­mit­ting Covid-19, Birx punt­ed to local offi­cials.

    “These are dia­logues that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has to have with state and local gov­ern­ments, because state and local gov­ern­ments make those deci­sions,” she replied.
    ...

    How many rur­al coun­ties might be inclined to ban trav­el­ers from the big city? We’ll find out if this plan comes into effect.

    And note the remark­ably absurd assur­ances Birx gave about why she is con­fi­dent this plan could work: a sim­i­lar plan was put in place in sub-Saha­ran African to con­trol the AIDS epi­dem­ic was pos­i­tive results. The real­i­ty that HIV is actu­al­ly very dif­fi­cult to spread and isn’t remote­ly con­ta­gious from casu­al con­tact or over the air does­n’t appear to have reg­is­tered with Birx. If HIV was as infec­tious as COVID-19 there prob­a­bly would­n’t be any peo­ple left in sub-Saha­ran Africa or most of the rest of the world:

    ...
    But Birx, who served as the U.S. glob­al AIDS coor­di­na­tor before join­ing the coro­n­avirus task force, said that the coun­ty-by-coun­ty approach was one she‘d seen used to great suc­cess in con­tain­ing the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

    “What we‘re try­ing to do is to uti­lize a laser-focused approach rather than a gener­ic hor­i­zon­tal approach. And I think in the 21st cen­tu­ry we should be able to get to that,” she said, not­ing lat­er that pub­lic health offi­cials in the U.S. had so far been able to “very well define“ dif­fer­ent out­breaks and clus­ters of coro­n­avirus.

    Birx con­tin­ued: “Why am I con­fi­dent that we can do that? Because we do that in sub-Saha­ran Africa right now for HIV. That‘s how we‘re stop­ping the epi­dem­ic there. So we‘ve done it. We‘ve done it in resource-lim­it­ed set­tings. So I do believe we can trans­pose that approach here to the Unit­ed States and be able to have — we have gran­u­lar data down to a GPS coor­di­nate of a site of a clin­ic and hos­pi­tal. We think that same thing can be done in the Unit­ed States.”
    ...

    So that was the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s high­ly ques­tion­able plan. Again, a plan to pool infor­ma­tion and rate coun­ties sounds like a great plan. That would indeed be use­ful. But a plan for selec­tive­ly ‘reopen­ing’ the low risk coun­tries is either a plan to basi­cal­ly tell all of the irre­spon­si­ble peo­ple from high risk coun­ties to go an infect the low risk coun­ties or a plan have rur­al Amer­i­ca basi­cal­ly ban trav­el from urban cen­ters.

    And let’s not for­get that this is an elec­tion year in the US. And that, per­verse­ly, means that’s a hor­ri­ble polit­i­cal incen­tive to ensure the big cities remain high risk with lots of infec­tions while rur­al areas remain low risk and rel­a­tive­ly open. Why? Because polit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion in the US isn’t geo­graph­i­cal­ly homo­ge­neous. The big cities are where the Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers are con­cen­trat­ed and rur­al areas where Repub­li­can vot­ers are con­cen­trat­ed. So if this pub­lic health emer­gency is still ongo­ing as we approach the elec­tion in Novem­ber and large cities remain locked down while rur­al areas are opened back up it’s hard to imag­ine that isn’t going to be a boon for Repub­li­cans at the polls. Peo­ple aren’t going to want to be stand­ing in line wait­ing to vote in “high risk” coun­ties on elec­tion day if there’s still a large num­ber of COVID-19 cas­es local­ly and those high risk coun­ties are going to strong­ly skew towards Demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­ties.

    Might we see the strate­gic spread­ing of COVID-19 if this kind of scheme was put in place? Well, as the fol­low­ing arti­cle reminds us, there are already groups out there plan­ning on exploit­ing the virus for polit­i­cal­ly strate­gic rea­sons. Although in this case it involves the pol­i­tics of burn­ing soci­ety down. Yep, neo-Nazis are report­ed­ly already talk­ing to each oth­er about strate­gi­cal­ly spread­ing the virus, tar­get­ing cops and Jews:

    ABC News

    White suprema­cists encour­ag­ing their mem­bers to spread coro­n­avirus to cops, Jews, FBI says
    The alert was sent to local police agen­cies by fed­er­al offi­cials.

    By Josh Mar­golin
    March 23, 2020, 12:41 PM

    Racist extrem­ist groups, includ­ing neo-Nazis and oth­er white suprema­cists, are encour­ag­ing mem­bers who con­tract nov­el coro­n­avirus dis­ease to spread the con­ta­gion to cops and Jews, accord­ing to intel­li­gence gath­ered by the FBI.

    In an alert obtained by ABC News, the FBI’s New York office reports that “mem­bers of extrem­ist groups are encour­ag­ing one anoth­er to spread the virus, if con­tract­ed, through bod­i­ly flu­ids and per­son­al inter­ac­tions.”

    The FBI alert, which went out on Thurs­day, told local police agen­cies that extrem­ists want their fol­low­ers to try to use spray bot­tles to spread bod­i­ly flu­ids to cops on the street. The extrem­ists are also direct­ing fol­low­ers to spread the dis­ease to Jews by going “any place they may be con­gre­gat­ed, to include mar­kets, polit­i­cal offices, busi­ness­es and places of wor­ship.”

    ...

    Orga­ni­za­tions that mon­i­tor the inter­net for white suprema­cist mes­sag­ing have been see­ing chat­ter for weeks that blames Jews and Jew­ish lead­ers for both the coro­n­avirus and the glob­al response, includ­ing the shut down of all but essen­tial gov­ern­ment func­tions in places like New York, New Jer­sey and Cal­i­for­nia.

    “From push­ing the idea that Jews cre­at­ed the coro­n­avirus virus to sell vac­cines to encour­ag­ing infect­ed fol­low­ers to try to spread the ill­ness to the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty and law enforce­ment, as the coro­n­avirus has spread, we have observed how white-suprema­cists, neo-Nazis and oth­ers have used this to dri­ve their own con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, spread dis­in­for­ma­tion and incite vio­lence on their online plat­forms,” said Michael Mas­ters, the head of Secure Com­mu­ni­ties Net­work, an umbrel­la group that coor­di­nates secu­ri­ty for Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions and syn­a­gogues around the coun­try.

    “While the world faces a dead­ly pan­dem­ic, it’s a stark reminder that cer­tain groups – notably the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty and law enforce­ment – must also con­tin­ue the bat­tle against those who wish to hurt or kill them,” Mas­ters con­tin­ued. “As the eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion remains frag­ile and civ­il soci­ety dis­rupt­ed, the poten­tial for the fol­low­ers of hate to act becomes more like­ly ... and more dead­ly.”

    ———–

    “White suprema­cists encour­ag­ing their mem­bers to spread coro­n­avirus to cops, Jews, FBI says” by Josh Mar­golin; ABC News; 03/23/2020

    “The FBI alert, which went out on Thurs­day, told local police agen­cies that extrem­ists want their fol­low­ers to try to use spray bot­tles to spread bod­i­ly flu­ids to cops on the street. The extrem­ists are also direct­ing fol­low­ers to spread the dis­ease to Jews by going “any place they may be con­gre­gat­ed, to include mar­kets, polit­i­cal offices, busi­ness­es and places of wor­ship.””

    The weaponiza­tion of COVID-19 by neo-Nazis: It’s anoth­er rea­son to hope that this virus’s case fatal­i­ty rate is being sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly under­count­ed by asymp­to­matic cas­es. Not that we need­ed anoth­er rea­son to hope for that. So how might a plan that would encour­age rur­al coun­ties to block trav­el from urban areas as long as those urban areas have ele­vate num­bers of infec­tions play into that agen­da? The urban cen­ters are hope­ful­ly going to tran­si­tion to “low risk” areas even­tu­al­ly. Are the neo-Nazis going to be doing what they can to ensure they remain high risk for as long as pos­si­ble? That seems like a cer­tain­ty.

    And as the fol­low­ing SPLC piece points it, the far right isn’t just hop­ing to use the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus that caus­es COVID-19 to tar­get their per­ceived ene­mies like cops, Jews, or big cities. The “accel­er­a­tionst” wing of the far right — which includes groups like Atom­waf­fen — is hop­ing COVID-19 brings about the col­lapse of soci­ety entire­ly. Because of course they are. That’s lit­er­al­ly been the prime goal of this wing of the far right for as long as its exist­ed. And in the mean time, they’re hop­ing that all of this stress not only rad­i­cal­izes aver­age whites but also rad­i­cal­izes the non-accel­er­a­tionist neo-Nazis into accel­er­a­tionists. Rad­i­cal­iz­ing the rad­i­cals. That’s a thing. So if we’re won­der­ing who might have an inter­est in spread­ing this virus around and keep­ing the cur­rent eco­nom­ic and pub­lic health emer­gency going for as long as pos­si­ble, the neo-Nazis who have long called for the col­lapse of soci­ety would be a good place to start:

    South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter

    White Suprema­cists See Coro­n­avirus as an Oppor­tu­ni­ty

    Cassie Miller
    March 26, 2020

    Far-right extrem­ists believe the intense uncer­tain­ty sur­round­ing the out­break of COVID-19 will aid their abil­i­ty to recruit new mem­bers into their move­ment.

    The pan­dem­ic has unleashed a feel­ing of col­lec­tive anx­i­ety about the econ­o­my, unem­ploy­ment, pub­lic health and an uncer­tain future. The Trump administration’s incon­sis­tent mes­sag­ing has heaped more unpre­dictabil­i­ty onto an already for­mi­da­ble cri­sis.

    The most extreme wing of white nation­al­ists and neo-Nazis believes it is poised to take advan­tage of this con­fu­sion.

    Over the past year, a fac­tion refer­ring to them­selves as “accel­er­a­tionists” has gained strength with­in the move­ment, unit­ed in their belief that our cur­rent glob­al­ly con­nect­ed, plu­ral­is­tic soci­ety is irre­deemable and “degen­er­ate.” Soci­ety, this fac­tion has argued, must be dis­man­tled by bring­ing about “sys­tem col­lapse” – specif­i­cal­ly through acts of vio­lence that will accel­er­ate its down­fall. Only then, they believe, can they build an eth­nona­tion­al­ist soci­ety in its place. Accel­er­a­tionists con­sid­er them­selves the rev­o­lu­tion­ary van­guard of the white suprema­cist move­ment.

    These far-right extrem­ists are argu­ing that the pan­dem­ic, which has thrown into ques­tion the fed­er­al government’s abil­i­ty to steer the nation through a cri­sis, sup­ports their argu­ment that mod­ern soci­ety is head­ed toward col­lapse.

    “We’ve been kind of call­ing this from day one. Even before day one. Long before the coro­n­avirus,” a white suprema­cist who goes by “Joachim” said on a recent episode of Heel­turn II, a pod­cast that is cur­rent­ly host­ed on YouTube. “We’ve been talk­ing about accel­er­a­tionism, we’ve been talk­ing about the fact that a com­plex soci­ety, a glob­al­ized world, it’s all very unsus­tain­able. And the moment that the rub­ber real­ly hits the road things start falling apart.”

    While Pres­i­dent Trump has gar­nered the sup­port of some white suprema­cists, accel­er­a­tionists view him as insuf­fi­cient­ly extreme and gen­er­al­ly incom­pe­tent. Though they have praised the president’s rhetoric – one white suprema­cist user on Telegram wrote that he was “fan­ning the flames of racial hatred by tripling down on call­ing it the Chi­nese Virus” – they have also used his incon­sis­tent mes­sag­ing about the virus to fur­ther breed dis­trust in demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions. One accel­er­a­tionist on Telegram last week wrote, “Remem­ber when the gov­ern­ment said it was con­tained?” in ref­er­ence to the coro­n­avirus, which had spread sig­nif­i­cant­ly since one of Trump advi­sors made that claim at the begin­ning of March. “That same gov­ern­ment expects you to believe every­thing they say.”

    Accel­er­a­tionists hope the gov­ern­ment botch­es their response to the virus. They hope the chaos will dri­ve more peo­ple to become frus­trat­ed by the sta­tus quo and begin push­ing for more extreme polit­i­cal posi­tions, spark polit­i­cal unrest or even begin agi­tat­ing for more rev­o­lu­tion­ary mea­sures to upend the cur­rent polit­i­cal sys­tem. While they do hope to bring new peo­ple into their move­ment, they are also look­ing to fur­ther rad­i­cal­ize those already on the far right into accept­ing their more mil­i­tant tac­tics.

    “The Dow is at 19,173,” a far-right extrem­ist post­ed on Telegram late last week. “Please Saint Coro­na, I want to beleive [sic] in you. Crash the sys­tem into the flood boards,” the post read, allud­ing to a white suprema­cist meme lion­iz­ing mass killers as “saints.” Anoth­er poster on the extrem­ist-friend­ly plat­form lament­ed that if the gov­ern­ment man­dat­ed a shel­ter-in-place order it would “flat­ten the curve not only for the dis­ease, but also for accel­er­a­tion.”

    Extrem­ists look to cap­i­tal­ize on uncer­tain­ty – and his­tor­i­cal­ly, they have ben­e­fit­ed from moments of eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal cri­sis. One study, con­duct­ed by three Ger­man econ­o­mists in 2015, found that far-right polit­i­cal par­ties ben­e­fit the most from finan­cial crash­es. These par­ties give vot­ers scape­goats to blame for eco­nom­ic pre­car­i­ty and hard­ships, includ­ing elites, immi­grants and peo­ple of col­or. The study’s researchers found that while the boost in votes was largest for “New Right” pop­ulist par­ties, fas­cist and neo-Nazi par­ties ben­e­fit­ed from finan­cial crises as well.

    While accel­er­a­tionists open­ly embrace vio­lence as a polit­i­cal tool, right now most appear con­tent to watch the coro­n­avirus cri­sis play out on its own. They, too, are shel­ter­ing in place and prepar­ing to remain in quar­an­tine. Some have not­ed that the sit­u­a­tion seems to be esca­lat­ing on its own, requir­ing no addi­tion­al involve­ment on their part to move clos­er to a cri­sis point. “We don’t need to accel­er­ate shit,” a white suprema­cist pod­cast­er told his fol­low­ers on Telegram. “It seems to be going plen­ty fast, thanks.”

    Mem­bers of the extreme right believe that most white peo­ple are sim­ply being paci­fied by mod­ern con­ve­niences. Only after these are tak­en away will they wake up to what accel­er­a­tionists see as polit­i­cal truths. Among these is the idea that a “great replace­ment,” or a “white geno­cide,” is dis­plac­ing white peo­ple while immi­grants “invade” West­ern coun­tries at the hands of “glob­al­ists” and Jews. Bren­ton Tar­rant, who this week plead­ed guilty to killing 51 peo­ple at two mosques last year in Christchurch, New Zealand, advanced this notion in his man­i­festo.

    One Telegram user whose entire chan­nel is devot­ed to COVID-19-relat­ed con­tent quot­ed a rel­e­vant pas­sage from the man­i­festo, adding mock­ing­ly: “Oh nooo the white normies. The White man has lost his sav­ings, job, & now he has no food. His bread and cir­cus­es have been can­celed. What a ter­ri­ble thing he has noth­ing left to lose. No more peace­ful sta­tus quo.”

    White suprema­cist extrem­ists hope to har­ness people’s fear and dis­trust of the gov­ern­ment in order to draw in new recruits and encour­age those already sup­port­ive of their cause to orga­nize bet­ter. On his pod­cast, “Joachim” not­ed that many peo­ple who iden­ti­fy with white suprema­cist ide­ol­o­gy are not orga­nized into a for­mal group or net­work, but this cri­sis may pro­vide the impe­tus they need. “Everyone’s like, ‘Holy shit, they put the state of Cal­i­for­nia on lock­down – this whole thing is com­ing down,’ [and] you’re see­ing a lot of peo­ple tran­si­tion from these hypo­thet­i­cal what ifs to ‘Hey, I need to find my homies local­ly that are capa­ble of sur­viv­ing it.’”

    ...

    That uneasi­ness is some­thing they hope will work in their favor.

    “We’ve def­i­nite­ly entered unchart­ed waters. And the fact that we don’t trust the gov­ern­ment at all … do you think that there’s a lot of oth­er peo­ple who do trust the gov­ern­ment? I don’t,” neo-Nazi Paul Nehlen, who was a guest on the show, not­ed.

    “Joachim” said he was pleased that “this accel­er­a­tionist per­spec­tive, which has left us on the fringe for so long, seems to be being pret­ty broad­ly embraced by just about every­body.”

    He con­tin­ued: “You’re see­ing the media’s telling peo­ple to freak out. You’re see­ing just aver­age peo­ple who are not polit­i­cal­ly active or are rel­a­tive­ly mod­er­ate and all this kind of stuff, and theyre talk­ing about the col­lapse of soci­ety. And it’s like, oh, that’s pret­ty cool.”

    ———–

    “White Suprema­cists See Coro­n­avirus as an Oppor­tu­ni­ty” by Cassie Miller; South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter; 03/26/2020

    Accel­er­a­tionists hope the gov­ern­ment botch­es their response to the virus. They hope the chaos will dri­ve more peo­ple to become frus­trat­ed by the sta­tus quo and begin push­ing for more extreme polit­i­cal posi­tions, spark polit­i­cal unrest or even begin agi­tat­ing for more rev­o­lu­tion­ary mea­sures to upend the cur­rent polit­i­cal sys­tem. While they do hope to bring new peo­ple into their move­ment, they are also look­ing to fur­ther rad­i­cal­ize those already on the far right into accept­ing their more mil­i­tant tac­tics.”

    They’re hop­ing the gov­ern­ment botch­es its response and botch­es it so bad­ly that soci­ety col­laps­es. It’s what we should have expect­ed from the “accel­er­a­tionists” and sure enough that’s exact­ly what we see. And trag­i­cal­ly, it’s not like they’re hopes are entire­ly root­ed in insan­i­ty. Major crises real­ly do his­tor­i­cal­ly increase the appeal of the far right. That’s why the accel­er­a­tionists want to col­lapse soci­ety. They’re con­vinced it will make them more pop­u­lar and his­to­ry sug­gests they might be cor­rect:

    ...
    Extrem­ists look to cap­i­tal­ize on uncer­tain­ty – and his­tor­i­cal­ly, they have ben­e­fit­ed from moments of eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal cri­sis. One study, con­duct­ed by three Ger­man econ­o­mists in 2015, found that far-right polit­i­cal par­ties ben­e­fit the most from finan­cial crash­es. These par­ties give vot­ers scape­goats to blame for eco­nom­ic pre­car­i­ty and hard­ships, includ­ing elites, immi­grants and peo­ple of col­or. The study’s researchers found that while the boost in votes was largest for “New Right” pop­ulist par­ties, fas­cist and neo-Nazi par­ties ben­e­fit­ed from finan­cial crises as well.

    ...

    Mem­bers of the extreme right believe that most white peo­ple are sim­ply being paci­fied by mod­ern con­ve­niences. Only after these are tak­en away will they wake up to what accel­er­a­tionists see as polit­i­cal truths. Among these is the idea that a “great replace­ment,” or a “white geno­cide,” is dis­plac­ing white peo­ple while immi­grants “invade” West­ern coun­tries at the hands of “glob­al­ists” and Jews. Bren­ton Tar­rant, who this week plead­ed guilty to killing 51 peo­ple at two mosques last year in Christchurch, New Zealand, advanced this notion in his man­i­festo.

    One Telegram user whose entire chan­nel is devot­ed to COVID-19-relat­ed con­tent quot­ed a rel­e­vant pas­sage from the man­i­festo, adding mock­ing­ly: “Oh nooo the white normies. The White man has lost his sav­ings, job, & now he has no food. His bread and cir­cus­es have been can­celed. What a ter­ri­ble thing he has noth­ing left to lose. No more peace­ful sta­tus quo.”

    White suprema­cist extrem­ists hope to har­ness people’s fear and dis­trust of the gov­ern­ment in order to draw in new recruits and encour­age those already sup­port­ive of their cause to orga­nize bet­ter. On his pod­cast, “Joachim” not­ed that many peo­ple who iden­ti­fy with white suprema­cist ide­ol­o­gy are not orga­nized into a for­mal group or net­work, but this cri­sis may pro­vide the impe­tus they need. “Everyone’s like, ‘Holy shit, they put the state of Cal­i­for­nia on lock­down – this whole thing is com­ing down,’ [and] you’re see­ing a lot of peo­ple tran­si­tion from these hypo­thet­i­cal what ifs to ‘Hey, I need to find my homies local­ly that are capa­ble of sur­viv­ing it.’”
    ...

    And it’s worth not­ing the polit­i­cal back­ground of one of these accel­er­a­tionsts: Paul Nehlen. Recall how Nehlen was open­ly embraced by the Steven Bannon/Trump wing of the GOP in 2016 and was at one point the lead­ing can­di­date in 2018 to win the GOP pri­ma­ry in then-House Speak­er Paul Ryan’s dis­trict after Ryan announced his retire­ment. But then Nehlen even­tu­al­ly dropped the mask too much and the GOP was forced to push him out. That’s the guy who is now appear­ing on accel­er­a­tionist neo-Nazi podocasts. A recent GOP ris­ing star:

    ...
    That uneasi­ness is some­thing they hope will work in their favor.

    “We’ve def­i­nite­ly entered unchart­ed waters. And the fact that we don’t trust the gov­ern­ment at all … do you think that there’s a lot of oth­er peo­ple who do trust the gov­ern­ment? I don’t,” neo-Nazi Paul Nehlen, who was a guest on the show, not­ed.

    “Joachim” said he was pleased that “this accel­er­a­tionist per­spec­tive, which has left us on the fringe for so long, seems to be being pret­ty broad­ly embraced by just about every­body.”

    He con­tin­ued: “You’re see­ing the media’s telling peo­ple to freak out. You’re see­ing just aver­age peo­ple who are not polit­i­cal­ly active or are rel­a­tive­ly mod­er­ate and all this kind of stuff, and theyre talk­ing about the col­lapse of soci­ety. And it’s like, oh, that’s pret­ty cool.”
    ...

    So it’s going to be inter­est­ing to hear what the “accel­er­a­tionist” take is on this Trump admin­is­tra­tion pro­pos­al to start lift­ing the lock­down coun­ty-by-coun­ty based on the lev­els of infec­tion: it’s a plan that might have a lot of appeal for those who want to see this eco­nom­ic cri­sis lift­ed as soon as pos­si­ble. But due to the weird incen­tives cre­at­ed by the plan for strate­gic chaos, it’s also a plan with immense appeal to those who would like to see the cri­sis go on for as long as pos­si­ble with the hope of col­laps­ing soci­ety.

    It’s also anoth­er reminder that while the COVID-19 virus might be seen as ‘pub­lic ene­my #1’ the moment, the mind virus that deranges peo­ple and turns them into neo-Nazis who want to burn down the world remains a much greater dan­ger viral to the gen­er­al pub­lic. Espe­cial­ly when the peo­ple infect­ed by this mind virus are plan­ning on using a very real virus to fur­ther their ‘burn down the world’ cause.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 26, 2020, 10:23 pm
  8. @Pterrafractyl–

    By the way, in the con­text of recom­bi­nant DNA and the Covid-19 virus, it might be worth con­sid­er­ing that the Nazi takeover in “Ser­pen­t’s Walk” takes place after a BW attack using recom­bi­nant DNA in the weaponized virus­es.

    Although the host is dif­fer­ent, the malady–as they way–remains, well, sim­i­lar!

    Ser­pen­t’s Walk by “Ran­dolph D. Calver­hall;” Copy­right 1991 [SC]; Nation­al Van­guard Books; 0–937944-05‑X; p. 89.

    . . . . “Yes. Well. ‘Pacov’ stands for ‘Pan­dem­ic Com­mu­ni­ca­ble Virus,’ one of the ugli­er results of mil­i­tary exper­i­men­ta­tion with recom­bi­nant DNA. Do you know what that is?” . . .

    . . . . “Very well, let me tell you in layman’s terms.” Mul­der extend­ed a hand to shush Wrench, who had start­ed to speak. “Pacov con­sists of two sep­a­rate re-work­ings of two DNA chains of exist­ing virus­es. It’s a pig­gy-back weapon, a two-stage oper­a­tion. You send in the first stage. The vec­tors . . . agents of trans­mis­sion . . . for Pacov‑1 are exten­sive. It trav­els through the air, the water, or direct­ly from per­son-to-per­son and is high­ly con­ta­gious. It spreads for hun­dreds of miles, if con­di­tions are opti­mal.  Pacov‑1 pro­duces only a mild, flu-like infec­tion that dis­ap­pears with­in a day or two. Pub­lic health author­i­ties would over­look it, nev­er con­sid­er it a seri­ous epi­dem­ic, and even if they did they’d have to look care­ful­ly to iso­late it. Once a vic­tim is over the ‘flu,’ Pacov‑1 becomes dor­mant and almost unde­tectable. A month or two lat­er, you send in the sec­ond stage: Pacov‑2 is also a virus, just as con­ta­gious as the first, and just as harm­less by itself. It reacts with Pacov‑1 to pro­duce a pow­er­ful coag­u­lant. . . . you die with­in three min­utes. No warn­ing, no vac­cine, no cure. Those not exposed to both stages remain unharmed. . . . Pacov‑2 goes inert, like Pacov‑1 with­in a week or two. Then you get your victim’s coun­try, all his prop­er­ty, in undam­aged con­di­tion. . . . and a lot of corpses to bury.” . . . .    

    Of course, I’m just a crazy con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist from Cal­i­for­nia, “Ser­pen­t’s Walk” is just a nov­el and we all know that could­n’t hap­pen in real life, could it?!

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | March 27, 2020, 5:10 pm
  9. Oh look at that: just a cou­ple days ago we had the Trump admin­is­tra­tion float the idea of a cre­at­ing coun­ty-lev­el COVID-19 risk lev­els and allow­ing low risk coun­ties to be loosen up their lock­downs but also poten­tial­ly restrict trav­el from the high risk coun­ties. High risk coun­ties that would almost cer­tain­ly be the major urban cen­ters of every state. It was basi­cal­ly a recipe for selec­tive­ly quar­an­ti­ning large cities. And now we have Trump him­self float­ing the idea of a fed­er­al­ly enforced quar­an­tine of the New York metro area, along with New Jer­sey and parts of Con­necti­cut. A fed­er­al­ly enforced quar­an­tine. It sure sound­ed like Trump was propos­ing using the mil­i­tary to ensure no one leaves New York City, some­thing that would require sus­pend­ing the Posse Comi­ta­tus Act. That was what he tweet­ed about ear­li­er on Sat­ur­day and lat­er talked about dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on the White House lawn and reit­er­at­ed that it was under con­sid­er­ing dur­ing a speech on the Naval hos­pi­tal ship the USNS Com­fort. So Trump decid­ed to make a big point to the pub­lic on a mil­i­tary ship that he was con­sid­er­ing send­ing in the mil­i­tary to quar­an­tine the tri-state area. That’s where we are.

    He declared lat­er on Sat­ur­day that he decid­ed a quar­an­tine was­n’t nec­es­sary and issued a “severe trav­el advi­so­ry” instead. But the idea is now out there. Fed­er­al­ly quar­an­ti­ning large cities with the mil­i­tary is now going to be one of things Trump is con­sid­er­ing in order to seem like a ‘strong wartime leader’. Going ‘to war’ against New York City’s spread of the Chi­nese virus. That’s now part of his ‘being a wartime pres­i­dent’ the­atri­cal reper­toire.

    And the push for enforce­ably quar­an­ti­ning large (pre­dom­i­nant­ly Demo­c­rat-con­trolled) metro areas won’t be lim­it­ed to Trump. It was appar­ent­ly Flori­da’s Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Ron DeSan­tis who put the idea of a fed­er­al quar­an­tine for New York City in Trump’s head. DeSan­tis — who is now infa­mous for decid­ing to allow Flori­da’s beach­es to remain open as Spring Break partiers filled Flori­da’s beach­es before scat­ter­ing back across the world — has appar­ent­ly decid­ed to make New York City res­i­dents the main vil­lain as his state becomes the new nation­al ‘hot spot’ for COVID-19 cas­es. So when Trump pushed this idea, he was implic­it­ly run­ning polit­i­cal cov­er or DeSan­tis as Flori­da becomes a glob­al COVID-19 infec­tion vec­tor.

    And this polit­i­cal neces­si­ty to deflect polit­i­cal out­rage over the COVID-19 out­breaks in ‘Red states’ is going to man­i­fest in every state to some extent which is only going to cre­ate a nation­wide GOP call for quar­an­ti­ning New York and Cal­i­for­nia. The Amer­i­can far right final­ly has an excuse to use the mil­i­tary to turn US cities into giant pris­ons and act like they’re defend­ing against a for­eign invad­er. All of the ‘Patri­ot’ per­son­al­i­ties that dom­i­nate mod­ern right-wing Amer­i­can dis­course like Alex Jones and Tuck­er Carl­son can explain to their grow­ing audi­ences why sus­pend­ing Posse Comi­ta­tus is required to defend against the New World Order’s viral inva­sion and this isn’t at all like the mar­tial law sce­nar­ios they’ve spent decades warn­ing their audi­ences against. “Blame it on New York (and/or Cal­i­for­nia) and the Chi­nese virus” can become the ral­ly­ing cry of GOP offi­cials for the rest of the elec­tion sea­son. The high­er the num­ber of COVID-19 cas­es in ‘Red state’ Amer­i­ca, the greater the calls for call­ing in the army to quar­an­tine New York and even­tu­al­ly Cal­i­for­nia. It’s like some sort of alter­na­tive Ser­pen­t’s Walk Nazi dream sce­nario play­ing out. So when Trump float­ed this idea it was­n’t just the ran­dom mus­ings of an addled mind. It was the strate­gic mus­ings of an addled mind that warns of many more mus­ings about fed­er­al quar­an­tines of large cities because a fas­cist dream sce­nario is tak­ing shape:

    CBS News

    Trump revers­es ear­li­er call for quar­an­tine on New York res­i­dents

    By Grace Segers
    Updat­ed on: March 28, 2020 / 8:53 PM

    Hours after Pres­i­dent Trump said he was con­sid­er­ing an “enforce­able” quar­an­tine of all res­i­dents who leave the New York metro area, includ­ing pos­si­bly parts of New Jer­sey and Con­necti­cut, Mr. Trump tweet­ed that a “quar­an­tine will not be nec­es­sary.” Mr. Trump tweet­ed that he has asked the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion and state gov­er­nors to cre­ate a “trav­el advi­so­ry.”

    Ear­li­er Sat­ur­day, Mr. Trump said that he is con­sid­er­ing declar­ing an “enforce­able” quar­an­tine affect­ing some res­i­dents of the New York met­ro­pol­i­tan area, pos­si­bly includ­ing New Jer­sey and Con­necti­cut. He called the region a “hot spot” of the coro­n­avirus out­break sweep­ing the coun­try.

    “I am giv­ing con­sid­er­a­tion to a QUARANTINE of devel­op­ing ‘hot spots’, New York, New Jer­sey, and Con­necti­cut. A deci­sion will be made, one way or anoth­er, short­ly,” Mr. Trump tweet­ed Sat­ur­day after­noon.

    Speak­ing to reporters on the White House South Lawn, Mr. Trump told reporters that he had spo­ken to Flori­da Gov­er­nor Ron DeSan­tis about the pan­dem­ic. Mr. Trump said DeSan­tis, a Repub­li­can, told the pres­i­dent that he want­ed to stop the flow of New York­ers who may be infect­ed with the new COVID-19 virus into the state.

    “We’d like to see New York quar­an­tined because it’s a hotspot — New York, New Jer­sey, maybe one or two oth­er places, cer­tain parts of Con­necti­cut quar­an­tined. I’m think­ing about that right now,” Mr. Trump said. “We might not have to do it but there’s a pos­si­bil­i­ty that some­time today we’ll do a quar­an­tine — short-term two weeks for New York, prob­a­bly New Jer­sey and parts of Con­necti­cut.”

    Mr. Trump also said “I’ll speak to the gov­er­nor about it lat­er.”

    New York Gov­er­nor Andrew Cuo­mo said a few hours lat­er on CNN that he had not spo­ken to Mr. Trump about a quar­an­tine, but said it would be a “pre­pos­ter­ous idea.”

    “I don’t believe that any fed­er­al admin­is­tra­tion could be seri­ous about phys­i­cal lock­downs of states or parts of states across this coun­try,” Cuo­mo said. “I don’t believe it’s legal. I think it would be eco­nom­ic chaos. I don’t think the Amer­i­can peo­ple would stand for it and I think it makes absolute­ly no sense and I don’t believe any pro­fes­sion­al would sup­port it.”

    Mr. Trump reit­er­at­ed in his remarks before the send off of the USNS Com­fort that he was con­sid­er­ing a quar­an­tine of the area. The Com­fort is a naval hos­pi­tal boat which is car­ry­ing over 1,000 beds and 1,200 med­ical per­son­nel to New York City.

    “I am now con­sid­er­ing, and will make a deci­sion very quick­ly, very short­ly, a quar­an­tine, because it’s such a hot area,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ll be announc­ing that one way or anoth­er fair­ly soon.”

    Mr. Trump also said that the quar­an­tine would not affect truck dri­vers pass­ing through the region, or trade in any­way.

    The chief of the Nation­al Guard, Gen­er­al Joseph Lengel, has said there is no con­sid­er­a­tion being giv­en to using the mil­i­tary to enforce a quar­an­tine. How­ev­er, he has also said that the Nation­al Guard troops called up by state gov­er­nors can be used to sup­port law enforce­ment oper­a­tions — but they are under con­trol of the gov­er­nor.

    Using active duty troops to enforce a quar­an­tine would require the pres­i­dent to sus­pend the Posse Comi­ta­tus Act, which for­bids the use of the armed ser­vices for law enforce­ment.

    Cuo­mo, a Demo­c­rat, told reporters short­ly after Mr. Trump’s first remarks on it that he had not spo­ken to the pres­i­dent about quar­an­ti­ning the metro region. Cuo­mo also said he did­n’t know what an enforce­able quar­an­tine means, but “I don’t even like the sound of it.”

    “I don’t even know what that means. I don’t know how that could be legal­ly enforce­able. And from a med­ical point of view, I don’t know what you’d be accom­plish­ing,” Cuo­mo said.

    The gov­er­nor added that there were no geo­graph­i­cal con­straints when the state required peo­ple in the city of New Rochelle to stay home.

    “So we nev­er set any geo­graph­ic con­straints, right? Manda­to­ry quar­an­tine is a scary con­cept, because it sounds like you’re say­ing to peo­ple can’t leave this dis­trict. We nev­er did that,” Cuo­mo said.

    Cuo­mo said that he spoke with Mr. Trump Sat­ur­day morn­ing about four tem­po­rary hos­pi­tal sites in New York City. Cuo­mo said there have been 728 deaths in New York, an increase of over 200 from the pre­vi­ous day. There are over 50,000 cas­es of coro­n­avirus in New York alone, with New Jer­sey fol­low­ing with 8,825 cas­es.

    Gov­er­nor Phil Mur­phy of New Jer­sey also said he had not received any infor­ma­tion from the admin­is­tra­tion about a poten­tial quar­an­tine.

    ...

    In a state­ment, Con­necti­cut Gov­er­nor Ned Lam­ont indi­cat­ed that he did not believe a fed­er­al­ly man­dat­ed quar­an­tine would be nec­es­sary.

    “Regard­ing the Pres­i­den­t’s con­sid­er­a­tion of a quar­an­tine of New York, as well as parts of Con­necti­cut and New Jer­sey, our state has already called on res­i­dents to stay at home. Fur­ther, if inter­state trav­el is absolute­ly nec­es­sary, our state has direct­ed trav­el­ers to self-quar­an­tine to pre­vent against fur­ther trans­mis­sion of the virus,” Lam­ont said.

    ...

    Mean­while, DeSan­tis announced Sat­ur­day check­points along major inter­states, such as I‑95 and I‑10, to check for dri­vers for New York and New Orleans.

    ————-

    “Trump revers­es ear­li­er call for quar­an­tine on New York res­i­dents” by Grace Segers; CBS News; 03/28/2020

    Ear­li­er Sat­ur­day, Mr. Trump said that he is con­sid­er­ing declar­ing an “enforce­able” quar­an­tine affect­ing some res­i­dents of the New York met­ro­pol­i­tan area, pos­si­bly includ­ing New Jer­sey and Con­necti­cut. He called the region a “hot spot” of the coro­n­avirus out­break sweep­ing the coun­try.”

    Send in the troops. To pro­tect us from those big city folks. That’s lit­er­al­ly the polit­i­cal angle Trump is now try­ing to hus­tle. And it appears to be part of an attempt to make the explod­ing COVID-19 out­break in Flori­da the fault of flee­ing New York­ers (and New Jer­sey and Con­necti­cut areas). And then Trump talked about this idea again on a Navy hos­pi­tal ship. This was his big talk­ing point of the day. Mil­i­tary quar­an­tines of the the tri-state area. He clear­ly sees this as a polit­i­cal win­ner:

    ...
    Speak­ing to reporters on the White House South Lawn, Mr. Trump told reporters that he had spo­ken to Flori­da Gov­er­nor Ron DeSan­tis about the pan­dem­ic. Mr. Trump said DeSan­tis, a Repub­li­can, told the pres­i­dent that he want­ed to stop the flow of New York­ers who may be infect­ed with the new COVID-19 virus into the state.

    “We’d like to see New York quar­an­tined because it’s a hotspot — New York, New Jer­sey, maybe one or two oth­er places, cer­tain parts of Con­necti­cut quar­an­tined. I’m think­ing about that right now,” Mr. Trump said. “We might not have to do it but there’s a pos­si­bil­i­ty that some­time today we’ll do a quar­an­tine — short-term two weeks for New York, prob­a­bly New Jer­sey and parts of Con­necti­cut.”

    Mr. Trump also said “I’ll speak to the gov­er­nor about it lat­er.”

    ...

    Mr. Trump reit­er­at­ed in his remarks before the send off of the USNS Com­fort that he was con­sid­er­ing a quar­an­tine of the area. The Com­fort is a naval hos­pi­tal boat which is car­ry­ing over 1,000 beds and 1,200 med­ical per­son­nel to New York City.

    “I am now con­sid­er­ing, and will make a deci­sion very quick­ly, very short­ly, a quar­an­tine, because it’s such a hot area,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ll be announc­ing that one way or anoth­er fair­ly soon.”
    ...

    And, yes, this would involve sus­pend­ing Posse Comi­ta­tus. But this will no doubt be jus­ti­fied by Trump’s ‘Patri­ot’ back­ers by fram­ing it as some sort of patri­ot­ic action to stop the Chi­nese lib­er­al viral con­spir­a­cy to destroy Trump and decent Amer­i­cans. At least that appears to be the polit­i­cal bet Trump is mak­ing:

    ...
    Mr. Trump also said that the quar­an­tine would not affect truck dri­vers pass­ing through the region, or trade in any­way.

    The chief of the Nation­al Guard, Gen­er­al Joseph Lengel, has said there is no con­sid­er­a­tion being giv­en to using the mil­i­tary to enforce a quar­an­tine. How­ev­er, he has also said that the Nation­al Guard troops called up by state gov­er­nors can be used to sup­port law enforce­ment oper­a­tions — but they are under con­trol of the gov­er­nor.

    Using active duty troops to enforce a quar­an­tine would require the pres­i­dent to sus­pend the Posse Comi­ta­tus Act, which for­bids the use of the armed ser­vices for law enforce­ment.
    ...

    And note how New York’s Gov­er­nor Cuo­mo had­n’t heard about this idea and react­ed with dis­may. Trump is behav­ing like he’s deal­ing with an unruly Demo­c­ra­t­ic-run state that needs to have the mil­i­tary called in to con­tain it. That’s lit­er­al­ly the polit­i­cal fram­ing we’re see­ing unfold with how Trump went about this on Sat­ur­day. No warn­ing to any of the (Demo­c­ra­t­ic) gov­er­nors. Deliv­ered like a threat. That’s how he’s fram­ing it which more or less guar­an­teed a dis­mayed and pissed response from those gov­er­nors. It’s being framed by Trump as a con­flict:

    ...
    New York Gov­er­nor Andrew Cuo­mo said a few hours lat­er on CNN that he had not spo­ken to Mr. Trump about a quar­an­tine, but said it would be a “pre­pos­ter­ous idea.”

    “I don’t believe that any fed­er­al admin­is­tra­tion could be seri­ous about phys­i­cal lock­downs of states or parts of states across this coun­try,” Cuo­mo said. “I don’t believe it’s legal. I think it would be eco­nom­ic chaos. I don’t think the Amer­i­can peo­ple would stand for it and I think it makes absolute­ly no sense and I don’t believe any pro­fes­sion­al would sup­port it.”

    ...

    Cuo­mo, a Demo­c­rat, told reporters short­ly after Mr. Trump’s first remarks on it that he had not spo­ken to the pres­i­dent about quar­an­ti­ning the metro region. Cuo­mo also said he did­n’t know what an enforce­able quar­an­tine means, but “I don’t even like the sound of it.”

    “I don’t even know what that means. I don’t know how that could be legal­ly enforce­able. And from a med­ical point of view, I don’t know what you’d be accom­plish­ing,” Cuo­mo said.
    ...

    And as Josh Mar­shall makes clear in the fol­low­ing post, this isn’t going to be lim­it­ed to Trump. Or Trump and Ron DeSan­tis. We are see­ing the open­ing of a rhetor­i­cal argu­ment that makes New York and Cal­i­for­nia the big vil­lains in what GOP polit­i­cal psy­chodra­ma nar­ra­tive they deploy to best exploit this mega-cri­sis and the whole GOP is going to be exploit­ing it:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Edi­tor’s Blog

    Ron DeSan­tis Pre­views the Trump­ist Line on Who’s to Blame for COVID-19

    By Josh Mar­shall
    March 28, 2020 9:30 p.m.

    The future is Gov. Ron DeSan­tis ® of Flori­da. Today the gov­er­nor who res­olute­ly refused to close the state’s beach­es or much of any of its com­merce while the coro­n­avirus spread like wild­fire across the coun­try has now decid­ed to blame New York and New York­ers. De San­tis was the first to order any­one arriv­ing from New York City area air­ports to enter a 14 day quar­an­tine. That was on Mon­day. He told reporters he was pur­su­ing the trav­el ban approach rather than a statewide lock­down because, he claimed, the cri­sis in New York proved lock­downs don’t work.

    ...

    The effort to keep New York­ers out of the state is at least under­stand­able. I think I can say that with some stand­ing since it would apply to me. For the moment New York is the most con­cen­trat­ed hotspot in the coun­try. The fear and the real­i­ty are understandable.The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Gov­er­nor of Rhode Island, Gina Rai­mon­do, yes­ter­day announced plans to bar entry to cars with New York license plates and do house to house search­es for flee­ing New York­ers. I’ll leave the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of such an effort to oth­ers. I think pub­lic author­i­ties are enti­tled to wide lat­i­tude dur­ing epi­dem­ic health emer­gen­cies. The ques­tion is whether it’s an effec­tive use of resources. In a press con­fer­ence today DeSan­tis made a great bal­ly­hoo about how a COVID-19-pos­i­tive trav­el­er from New York was inter­cept­ed at an air­port check­point yes­ter­day in Jack­sonville.

    The par­tic­u­lars of that sto­ry, if DeSantis’s account is accu­rate, are pret­ty egre­gious. But it comes after a twen­ty-four hour peri­od when Florida’s COVID-19 pos­i­tive case count went up by about a thou­sand, a 36% increase in one day. The virus is clear­ly deeply seed­ed in the state and grow­ing expo­nen­tial­ly on the ground. A few sick and scared New York­ers cer­tain­ly won’t help; but they are hard­ly the threat the state faces.

    The heart of the issue is the tight­ly wrapped con­nec­tion between incom­pe­tence, lead­er­ship fail­ure and scape­goat­ing. This is nei­ther anom­aly or para­dox. It is the norm. Gov. Raimondo’s plan to search homes for New York­ers seems more a prod­uct of pan­ic and rash think­ing. DeSantis’s gam­bit seems more polit­i­cal and for­ward look­ing, a fact under­lined by the inter­play between his and the President’s state­ments on a region­al quar­an­tine. Just as Pres­i­dent Trump now blames Chi­na for hid­ing from him the esca­lat­ing threat he ignored and denied for eight weeks DeSan­tis now seeks to shift blame for his fail­ure to take the most basic pre­ven­ta­tive actions onto flee­ing New York­ers.

    You can see at a dis­tance the evolv­ing polit­i­cal nar­ra­tive. The sor­rows that befall Flori­da and soon oth­er red states will be blamed on the sym­bol­ic cap­i­tal of dera­ci­nat­ed lib­er­al­ism, New York city, with its immi­grants, bad val­ues and dirty ways.

    The kind of griev­ance pol­i­tics which cre­at­ed Don­ald Trump and which he embod­ies and cham­pi­ons can only under­stand or con­front chal­lenge through the prism of griev­ance, blame and betray­al. This sto­ry­line, the ground­work for which has been laid for years, is rapid­ly com­ing into view for how the Amer­i­can right will explain the cri­sis of COVID-19.

    ———–

    “Ron DeSan­tis Pre­views the Trump­ist Line on Who’s to Blame for COVID-19” by Josh Mar­shall; Talk­ing Points Memo; 03/28/2020

    The heart of the issue is the tight­ly wrapped con­nec­tion between incom­pe­tence, lead­er­ship fail­ure and scape­goat­ing. This is nei­ther anom­aly or para­dox. It is the norm. Gov. Raimondo’s plan to search homes for New York­ers seems more a prod­uct of pan­ic and rash think­ing. DeSantis’s gam­bit seems more polit­i­cal and for­ward look­ing, a fact under­lined by the inter­play between his and the President’s state­ments on a region­al quar­an­tine. Just as Pres­i­dent Trump now blames Chi­na for hid­ing from him the esca­lat­ing threat he ignored and denied for eight weeks DeSan­tis now seeks to shift blame for his fail­ure to take the most basic pre­ven­ta­tive actions onto flee­ing New York­ers.

    It’s a win­ning polit­i­cal for­mu­la. A win­ning for­mu­la for prof­it­ing from fail­ure. Screw up, scape­goat to deflect, and polit­i­cal­ly prof­it from the scape­goat­ing as the con­se­quences of the screw up play out. That’s what Flori­da’s Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor is try­ing to pull off by fram­ing Flori­da’s explod­ing COVID-19 prob­lem as a threat from New York. And by appar­ent­ly con­vinc­ing Trump to make this a nation­al issue that involves call­ing in the mil­i­tary to save the US from the threat of New York, Ron DeSan­tis has man­aged to export his dia­bol­i­cal polit­i­cal for­mu­la to the rest of the US.

    As Josh Mar­shall not­ed, it’s under­stand­able for states to poten­tial­ly want to stop New York City res­i­dents from flee­ing to their state. There are going to be cir­cum­stances when you real­ly might want to quar­an­tine a major met­ro­pol­i­tan area and this might be one of those cir­cum­stances. If the gov­er­nor decides to call for fed­er­al help in enforc­ing a quar­an­tine of their own state that’s one thing. But this was a case of a gov­er­nor ask­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to quar­an­tine a dif­fer­ent state. That’s lit­er­al­ly what hap­pened. And Trump open­ly con­sid­ered that request. In pub­lic. Three times on Sat­ur­day. He made a HUUUUGE deal of the idea and want­ed to make it clear it’s some­thing he might con­sid­er. One of those ‘Trump just did some­thing incred­i­bly dan­ger­ous’ moments just hap­pened again. And this one was a big­gie.

    Tan­gen­tial­ly, for fans of Escape From New York, its worth not­ing that the hoped-for Escape from New York remake was look­ing entire­ly stalled as of last month. It was “on the shelf” accord­ing to the remake’s screen­writer Leigh Whan­nell. So that was­n’t sound­ing very promis­ing. A month is a long time ago these days, espe­cial­ly when it comes to remakes of movies about escap­ing From New York. Right now seems like exact­ly the time you would want to be film­ing an Escape From New York remake. Well, except for all the coro­na. New York is pre­sum­ably off lim­its for mak­ing films. Or maybe it’s like a one-way job. Every­one trav­el­ing to New York to film the remake will have to stay there until the coro­na is clear. Or until soci­ety col­laps­es inside the quar­an­tine zone and war­lords rule. At that point escape is real­ly the only option for the film crew. It would be a dif­fer­ent kind of remake.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 28, 2020, 10:39 pm
  10. Here’s a quick update on the cur­rent pro­jec­tions of how bad the job loss­es could be in the US from the COVID-19 eco­nom­ic lock­down: Accord­ing to pro­jec­tions by econ­o­mists at the St. Louis Fed­er­al Reserve, the unem­ploy­ment rate could peak at around 32%, well about record 24.9% hit dur­ing the Great Depres­sion. That’s not an esti­mate from some dooms­day crank econ­o­mist. That’s from the Fed. That esti­mate was arrived at based on the num­bers of peo­ple employed in the indus­tries that are pre­sum­ably being shut down or extreme­ly cur­tailed right now: 66.8 mil­lion work­ers in “occu­pa­tions with high risk of lay­off,” like sales, pro­duc­tion, food prepa­ra­tion and ser­vices. If you make some sim­ple and very plau­si­ble assump­tions about the lay­off rates for that group — that about 47 mil­lion of them will lose their job — that gets us to a 32% unem­ploy­ment lev­el:

    CNBC

    Coro­n­avirus job loss­es could total 47 mil­lion, unem­ploy­ment rate may hit 32%, Fed esti­mates

    Jeff Cox
    Pub­lished Mon, Mar 30 2020 11:40 AM EDT
    Updat­ed

    * The coro­n­avirus eco­nom­ic freeze could cost 47 mil­lion jobs and send the unem­ploy­ment rate past 32%, accord­ing to St. Louis Fed pro­jec­tions.
    * There are near­ly 67 mil­lion Amer­i­cans work­ing in jobs that are at a high risk of lay­offs, accord­ing to the analy­sis.
    * St. Louis Fed Pres­i­dent James Bullard said last week that the ini­tial esti­mates are grim but the plunge should be short-lived.

    Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans already have lost their jobs due to the coro­n­avirus cri­sis and the worst of the dam­age is yet to come, accord­ing to a Fed­er­al Reserve esti­mate.

    Econ­o­mists at the Fed’s St. Louis dis­trict project total employ­ment reduc­tions of 47 mil­lion, which would trans­late to a 32.1% unem­ploy­ment rate, accord­ing to a recent analy­sis of how bad things could get.

    The pro­jec­tions are even worse than St. Louis Fed Pres­i­dent James Bullard’s much-pub­li­cized esti­mate of 30%. They reflect the high nature of at-risk jobs that ulti­mate­ly could be lost to a gov­ern­ment-induced eco­nom­ic freeze aimed at halt­ing the coro­n­avirus spread.

    “These are very large num­bers by his­tor­i­cal stan­dards, but this is a rather unique shock that is unlike any oth­er expe­ri­enced by the U.S. econ­o­my in the last 100 years,” St. Louis Fed econ­o­mist Miguel Faria-e-Cas­tro wrote a research paper post­ed last week.

    There are a cou­ple of impor­tant caveats to what Faria-e-Cas­tro calls “back-of-the-enve­lope” cal­cu­la­tions: They don’t account for work­ers who may drop out of the labor force, thus bring­ing down the head­line unem­ploy­ment rate, and they do not esti­mate the impact of recent­ly passed gov­ern­ment stim­u­lus, which will extend unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits and sub­si­dize com­pa­nies for not cut­ting staff.

    ...

    A record 3.3 mil­lion Amer­i­cans filed ini­tial job­less claims for the week end­ed March 21. Econ­o­mists sur­veyed by Dow Jones expect anoth­er 2.65 mil­lion to join them this week. Friday’s non­farm pay­rolls count for March is expect­ed to show a decline of just 56,000, but that’s large­ly due to a sta­tis­ti­cal dis­tor­tion because of the sam­pling peri­od for the count hap­pen­ing before the gov­ern­ment imple­ment­ed social dis­tanc­ing prac­tices.

    The cen­tral part of Faria-e-Castro’s com­pi­la­tions comes from pre­vi­ous Fed research show­ing 66.8 mil­lion work­ers in “occu­pa­tions with high risk of lay­off.” They are sales, pro­duc­tion, food prepa­ra­tion and ser­vices. Oth­er research also iden­ti­fied 27.3 mil­lion peo­ple work­ing in “high con­tact-inten­sive” jobs such as bar­bers and styl­ists, air­line atten­dants, and food and bev­er­age ser­vice.

    The paper then took an aver­age of those work­ers and esti­mat­ed a loss of just over 47 mil­lion posi­tions. That would bring the U.S. unem­ploy­ment rolls to 52.8 mil­lion, or more than three times worse than the peak of the Great Reces­sion. The 30% unem­ploy­ment rate would top the Great Depres­sion peak of 24.9%.

    The one poten­tial bright side is the like­li­hood that the down­turn could be com­par­a­tive­ly brief.

    Dur­ing a CNBC inter­view last week, Bullard said the job­less num­ber “will be unpar­al­leled, but don’t get dis­cour­aged. This is a spe­cial quar­ter, and once the virus goes away and if we play our cards right and keep every­thing intact, then every­one will go back to work and every­thing will be fine.”

    ———–

    “Coro­n­avirus job loss­es could total 47 mil­lion, unem­ploy­ment rate may hit 32%, Fed esti­mates” by Jeff Cox; CNBC; 03/30/2020

    “Econ­o­mists at the Fed’s St. Louis dis­trict project total employ­ment reduc­tions of 47 mil­lion, which would trans­late to a 32.1% unem­ploy­ment rate, accord­ing to a recent analy­sis of how bad things could get.”

    47 mil­lion lay­offs. That’s the esti­mat­ed job loss from this eco­nom­ic freeze and almost all of those lost jobs are going to con­cen­trat­ed in 66 mil­lion peo­ple work­ing in the “occu­pa­tions with high risk of lay­off” like food ser­vices. While the eco­nom­ic pain is being felt nation­al­ly, it’s still con­cen­trat­ed in cer­tain areas:

    ...
    The cen­tral part of Faria-e-Castro’s com­pi­la­tions comes from pre­vi­ous Fed research show­ing 66.8 mil­lion work­ers in “occu­pa­tions with high risk of lay­off.” They are sales, pro­duc­tion, food prepa­ra­tion and ser­vices. Oth­er research also iden­ti­fied 27.3 mil­lion peo­ple work­ing in “high con­tact-inten­sive” jobs such as bar­bers and styl­ists, air­line atten­dants, and food and bev­er­age ser­vice.

    The paper then took an aver­age of those work­ers and esti­mat­ed a loss of just over 47 mil­lion posi­tions. That would bring the U.S. unem­ploy­ment rolls to 52.8 mil­lion, or more than three times worse than the peak of the Great Reces­sion. The 30% unem­ploy­ment rate would top the Great Depres­sion peak of 24.9%.
    ...

    And note that the 32% esti­mate does­n’t include peo­ple who lit­er­al­ly just drop out of the work­force entire­ly as a result of this:

    ...
    There are a cou­ple of impor­tant caveats to what Faria-e-Cas­tro calls “back-of-the-enve­lope” cal­cu­la­tions: They don’t account for work­ers who may drop out of the labor force, thus bring­ing down the head­line unem­ploy­ment rate, and they do not esti­mate the impact of recent­ly passed gov­ern­ment stim­u­lus, which will extend unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits and sub­si­dize com­pa­nies for not cut­ting staff.
    ...

    How many peo­ple are just going to give up on work­ing as a result of this? Well, that’s obvi­ous­ly going to depend heav­i­ly on how rapid­ly things bounce back and whether or not there are jobs avail­able for them when this all over. And that abil­i­ty to bounce back rapid­ly is going to depend heav­i­ly on how well nation­al lead­ers can hold things togeth­er in the mean time. That’s part of the ‘good-ish news’ mes­sage from this Fed research: this depres­sion-lev­el event can be brief...if we play our cards right:

    ...
    The one poten­tial bright side is the like­li­hood that the down­turn could be com­par­a­tive­ly brief.

    Dur­ing a CNBC inter­view last week, Bullard said the job­less num­ber “will be unpar­al­leled, but don’t get dis­cour­aged. This is a spe­cial quar­ter, and once the virus goes away and if we play our cards right and keep every­thing intact, then every­one will go back to work and every­thing will be fine.”
    ...

    And that points to per­haps the biggest chal­lenge fac­ing the US in the mid­dle of this cri­sis: play­ing our cards right. That’s going to be a chal­lenge dur­ing emer­gen­cies in more under nor­mal times, but when you have the Trump admin­is­tra­tion in con­trol of the exec­u­tive branch and Repub­li­cans in charge of the Sen­ate, ‘play­ing our cards right’ is some sort of fever dream fan­ta­sy. The GOP does­n’t do ‘play­ing our cards right’. At least not unless it’s play­ing for bil­lion­aire mega-donors. We lit­er­al­ly saw GOP Sen­a­tors try­ing to ensure bailed out cor­po­ra­tions could still fire as many work­ers as they want when craft­ing the COVID-19 eco­nom­ic sup­port pack­age. And then they bragged about the unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits they tried to strip out of the bill. That’s how the GOP plays its hand: Like a decep­tive Scrooge. And if this sit­u­a­tion requires that the par­ty actu­al­ly act in the best inter­ests of the nation, and not just in the inter­est of bil­lion­aire mega-donors, well that’s going to require some­thing from the GOP we’ve nev­er seen before.

    So as the Fed research make clear, we are in unchart­ed ter­ri­to­ry here. This is unprece­dent­ed and an unprece­dent­ed response is going to be required if we’re going to avoid a worst case sce­nario. And part of that unprece­dent­ed response requires the GOP to enter unchart­ed ter­ri­to­ry too. The unchart­ed ter­ri­to­ry of actu­al­ly being respon­si­ble and not just sell­ing the coun­try off to the par­ty’s mega-donors. Let­ting every­thing go to hell would cre­ate quite a fire-sale for those mega-donors. Will the GOP be a able to resist? His­to­ry says ‘no way, the GOP does­n’t play that way’ and so far the GOP’s response isn’t look­ing very unprece­dent­ed but we’ll see if the GOP can find its inner non-pirate. Scary times.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 30, 2020, 8:58 pm

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