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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

15 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
  11. Here’s a pair of sto­ries that high­light how tempt­ing the cur­rent coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic is going to make pow­er grabs for every author­i­tar­i­an and aspir­ing-author­i­tar­i­an gov­ern­ment on the plan­et. It also high­lights how when gov­ern­ments do engage in these pow­er grabs they aren’t going to get much inter­na­tion­al push back, in large part because so many gov­ern­ments these days are author­i­tar­i­an or aspir­ing-author­i­tar­i­an gov­ern­ments:

    Vik­tor Orban’s far right Hun­gar­i­an gov­ern­ment pulled off the ulti­mate coro­n­avirus-pow­er grab. The Hun­gar­i­an par­lia­ment just passed a bill that gives Orban effec­tive rule-by-decree pow­ers. No elec­tions and no ral­lies can be held and there is no sun­set clause on these pow­ers. Orban can rule by decree indef­i­nite­ly. That real­ly hap­pened. In an EU mem­ber state.

    So what is the rest of the EU doing in response? There’s been some lim­it­ed out­cry and warn­ings and that’s about it. It’s what we should expect based on the EU’s treat­ment of Orban’s increas­ing­ly author­i­tar­i­an gov­ern­ment lead­ing up to this point. And there has­n’t been much more response from else­where in the world. Orban’s pow­er grab was basi­cal­ly giv­en the world’s bless­ing in the form of rel­a­tive silence. And now that’s prob­a­bly what we should prob­a­bly expect if we see future pow­er grabs as the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic plays out based on this prece­dent

    The Guardian

    The world must not let Vik­tor Orbán get away with his pan­dem­ic pow­er-grab

    If Hungary’s dra­con­ian exper­i­ment proves suc­cess­ful, then oth­er illib­er­al coun­tries will be tempt­ed to fol­low suit

    Péter Krekó
    Wed 1 Apr 2020 06.20 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Thu 2 Apr 2020 07.38 EDT

    The Hun­gar­i­an par­lia­ment, which has a two-thirds major­i­ty in favour of the prime min­is­ter, Vik­tor Orbán, passed a bill on Mon­day 30 March that extend­ed his already strong pow­ers. The bill, not sup­port­ed by most oppo­si­tion MPs, gives par­lia­men­tary autho­ri­sa­tion to pro­long the state of emer­gency the gov­ern­ment declared on 11 March in light of the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. As a result, the few remain­ing checks and bal­ances in Hun­gary will cease to exist, with the gov­ern­ment rul­ing by decree with hard­ly any legal super­vi­sion. No elec­tions and no ral­lies can be held. Hun­gary has become a text­book case of how coro­n­avirus can be abused for author­i­tar­i­an ends.

    There is no sun­set clause in the text, so the state of emer­gency will be in force for as long as the gov­ern­ment wants. Changes to the crim­i­nal code mean the pub­li­ca­tion of facts that inter­fere with the “suc­cess­ful pro­tec­tion” of the pub­lic could be pun­ished by five years in prison – a clear mes­sage to jour­nal­ists. The gov­ern­ment now also wants to effec­tive­ly take over the run­ning of local munic­i­pal­i­ties through super­vis­ing the deci­sions of direct­ly elect­ed lead­ers.

    The con­sti­tu­tion­al court could the­o­ret­i­cal­ly over­rule the deci­sions imple­ment­ed dur­ing the state of emer­gency, but giv­en that its rights have been curbed and it has been stuffed with pro-gov­ern­ment loy­al­ists in recent years, we can­not expect that it will serve as an effec­tive coun­ter­weight to the cabinet’s pow­er. Like­wise, although the par­lia­ment could offi­cial­ly ter­mi­nate the state of emer­gency, it won’t. Orbán’s Fidesz-KDNP has a com­fort­able and loy­al major­i­ty; there has been not a sin­gle case in the past 10 years when Fidesz MPs have not sup­port­ed a gov­ern­men­tal deci­sion.

    Why is Orbán doing this? For two rea­sons. The first is to label the oppo­si­tion as the “sup­port­ers of the coro­n­avirus”, instead of sup­port­ers of the peo­ple, win­ning the polit­i­cal debate in advance.

    Sec­ond: he sees this as the ide­al oppor­tu­ni­ty for a pow­er grab. When death is in the air, peo­ple tend to ral­ly around their nation­al flag, and their atten­tion is nar­rowed. While the oppo­si­tion and the free media cov­ered the enabling act wide­ly, the aver­age Hun­gar­i­an has seemed less con­cerned. He or she is more inter­est­ed now in where to buy face masks.

    Strate­gi­cal­ly, Orbán knows that this is the per­fect time to act: every coun­try is deal­ing with how to save the lives of their cit­i­zens and at the same time avoid total eco­nom­ic col­lapse. In times of such crises, coun­tries are becom­ing more inward-look­ing. For­eign pol­i­cy, in gen­er­al, becomes less impor­tant. Human rights and the rule of law in oth­er coun­tries are issues of lit­tle impor­tance for most politi­cians and cit­i­zens.

    ...

    The nature of extra­or­di­nary legal mea­sures is that they are easy to intro­duce, but hard to undo. The “ral­ly around the flag” effect won’t last for ever. And as the eco­nom­ic con­se­quences of the pan­dem­ic become worse, Orbán may become increas­ing­ly unpop­u­lar – and the sit­u­a­tion more des­per­ate. The temp­ta­tion to keep the emer­gency mea­sures in place may become even stronger as the 2022 elec­tions approach.

    ———–

    “The world must not let Vik­tor Orbán get away with his pan­dem­ic pow­er-grab” by Péter Krekó; The Guardian; 04/01/2020

    “The nature of extra­or­di­nary legal mea­sures is that they are easy to intro­duce, but hard to undo. The “ral­ly around the flag” effect won’t last for ever. And as the eco­nom­ic con­se­quences of the pan­dem­ic become worse, Orbán may become increas­ing­ly unpop­u­lar – and the sit­u­a­tion more des­per­ate. The temp­ta­tion to keep the emer­gency mea­sures in place may become even stronger as the 2022 elec­tions approach.

    Yep, it’s not just a pow­er grab. It’s a pow­er grab in the con­text of a col­laps­ing glob­al econ­o­my which is exact­ly the kind of sce­nario that makes pow­er grabs super extra dan­ger­ous. And it’s not like the Hun­gar­i­an oppo­si­tion was sup­port­ive of the par­lia­ment indef­i­nite­ly hand­ing over this pow­er to Orban. A major­i­ty of oppo­si­tion MPs opposed it. We’ll see how many oppo­si­tion MPs are left in par­lia­ment after this is over. Or whether or not there even will be a par­lia­ment now that elec­tions have been sus­pend­ing and Orban can rule by decree:

    ...
    The Hun­gar­i­an par­lia­ment, which has a two-thirds major­i­ty in favour of the prime min­is­ter, Vik­tor Orbán, passed a bill on Mon­day 30 March that extend­ed his already strong pow­ers. The bill, not sup­port­ed by most oppo­si­tion MPs, gives par­lia­men­tary autho­ri­sa­tion to pro­long the state of emer­gency the gov­ern­ment declared on 11 March in light of the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. As a result, the few remain­ing checks and bal­ances in Hun­gary will cease to exist, with the gov­ern­ment rul­ing by decree with hard­ly any legal super­vi­sion. No elec­tions and no ral­lies can be held. Hun­gary has become a text­book case of how coro­n­avirus can be abused for author­i­tar­i­an ends.

    There is no sun­set clause in the text, so the state of emer­gency will be in force for as long as the gov­ern­ment wants. Changes to the crim­i­nal code mean the pub­li­ca­tion of facts that inter­fere with the “suc­cess­ful pro­tec­tion” of the pub­lic could be pun­ished by five years in prison – a clear mes­sage to jour­nal­ists. The gov­ern­ment now also wants to effec­tive­ly take over the run­ning of local munic­i­pal­i­ties through super­vis­ing the deci­sions of direct­ly elect­ed lead­ers.
    ...

    And don’t for­get that Hun­gary isn’t just a mem­ber of the EU. Orban’s Fidesz par­ty is a mem­ber of the con­ser­v­a­tive Euro­pean Peo­ple’s Par­ty (EPP) with­in the EU par­lia­ment. So how did the rest of the EPP par­ties across the EU respond to the pow­er grab? Don’t for­get that the EPP has been threat­en­ing to throw out Fidesz for years now due to all of the pre­vi­ous anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic actions by the par­ty and yet it nev­er actu­al­ly gets thrown out because Fidesz’s sup­port for the EPP is still seen as nec­es­sary. But there’s no doubt the EPP has put Fidesz on thin ice. At least offi­cial­ly. So how did the EPP respond to this? With an oblique mes­sage about the need to respect democ­ra­cy that did­n’t men­tion Hun­gary at all:

    Politi­co

    Rule by decree in Hun­gary reopens wounds on Euro­pean cen­ter right

    Lead­ers of the Euro­pean People’s Par­ty stay away from cho­rus of con­dem­na­tion of Hun­gar­i­an PM.

    By MAÏA DE LA BAUME and LILI BAYER
    03/31/2020 09:16 PM EDT

    From U.S. Repub­li­cans to Euro­pean Greens, politi­cians far and wide con­demned Hun­gar­i­an Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orbán’s move to rule by decree — but not lead­ers of the polit­i­cal fam­i­ly that sus­pend­ed him last year.

    While reac­tion piled up from around the world fol­low­ing the Hun­gar­i­an par­lia­men­t’s deci­sion to hand broad pow­ers to Orbán’s gov­ern­ment to han­dle the coro­n­avirus cri­sis with­out an end date, the top offi­cials in the cen­ter-right Euro­pean Peo­ple’s Par­ty (EPP) were con­spic­u­ous­ly silent.

    Orbán’s move brought back to the sur­face deep divi­sions with­in Europe’s most pow­er­ful polit­i­cal alliance — between nation­al mem­ber par­ties who want to kick out the self-declared cham­pi­on of “illib­er­al democ­ra­cy,” those who want to keep him in, and those who think he just wants a fight and is best ignored.

    The EPP sus­pend­ed Orbán’s rul­ing Fidesz par­ty last March over con­cerns about the rule of law in Hun­gary and his clash­es with EU insti­tu­tions on migra­tion and oth­er issues. But Fidesz has remained a mem­ber of the EPP group in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and the EPP has been unable to agree on any fur­ther steps. That seems unlike­ly to change despite the fresh tor­rent of crit­i­cism direct­ed at Fidesz.

    Some 24 hours after Mon­day’s Hun­gar­i­an par­lia­ment vote, EPP Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk broke his silence with a tweet that avoid­ed con­demn­ing Fidesz and sug­gest­ed those con­cerned about democ­ra­cy dur­ing the coro­n­avirus cri­sis should look beyond Budapest.

    “This is a crit­i­cal moment for our democ­ra­cy, not only for each coun­try but for Europe as a whole. This is why we have to be very pre­cise and very trans­par­ent when we’re assess­ing the state of emer­gency. It’s real­ly impor­tant to know every detail, not only in Hun­gary,” Tusk said as part of a series of tweets about the coro­n­avirus cri­sis.

    The brief state­ment by the for­mer Euro­pean Coun­cil pres­i­dent reflect­ed a long-run­ning EPP strat­e­gy of point­ing to oth­er gov­ern­ments with rule-of-law prob­lems when asked about Fidesz.

    Man­fred Weber, the leader of the EPP group in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and an avid Twit­ter user, made no com­ment at all on the Hun­gar­i­an mea­sures.

    Late on Tues­day after­noon, the EPP group’s Twit­ter account issued a state­ment that appeared crit­i­cal of Orbán’s move but did not name him, his par­ty or his coun­try. “A virus will not change our val­ues. Emer­gency mea­sures can require the unusu­al cur­tail­ing of civ­il lib­er­ties. But this must always be lim­it­ed in time, restrict­ed to what is absolute­ly nec­es­sary, trans­par­ent and pro­por­tion­ate,” the group tweet­ed.

    Under the new Hun­gar­i­an law, indi­vid­u­als who pub­li­cize what are viewed as untrue or dis­tort­ed facts — and which could inter­fere with the pro­tec­tion of the pub­lic, or could alarm or agi­tate a large num­ber of peo­ple — now face sev­er­al years in jail. No by-elec­tions can be held while the leg­is­la­tion remains in force, and Orbán’s gov­ern­ment will be able to sus­pend the enforce­ment of cer­tain laws. The new rules can only be lift­ed with a two-thirds vote of the par­lia­ment and a pres­i­den­tial sig­na­ture.

    The Hun­gar­i­an gov­ern­ment has dis­missed con­cerns about the law, argu­ing it is pro­por­tion­ate to the chal­lenges the coun­try faces and not­ing that there is a mech­a­nism to rescind it.

    “My sug­ges­tion to every­one: read the law!” MEP Tamás Deutsch, a found­ing mem­ber of Fidesz, told POLITICO, declar­ing that there was no basis in the text for the wide­spread “lies” and “exag­ger­a­tions” about it.

    “This law does noth­ing to weak­en democ­ra­cy,” he said.

    But politi­cians across Europe swift­ly weighed in to denounce the mea­sure. Soon after it was passed, for­mer Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Mat­teo Ren­zi wrote that “after what Orbán has done today, the Euro­pean Union MUST act and make him change his mind. Or, sim­ply, expel Hun­gary from the Union.” (There is no for­mal mech­a­nism for expelling a mem­ber coun­try from the EU.)

    Ren­zi, a for­mer leader of Italy’s cen­ter left, is a polit­i­cal oppo­nent of the EPP. But there was also plen­ty of crit­i­cism of Orbán from promi­nent fig­ures in nation­al mem­ber par­ties of the EPP itself.

    For­mer Swedish Prime Min­is­ter Carl Bildt said that “this brings back mem­o­ries from dark peri­ods in the his­to­ry of Europe.”

    Nor­bert Röttgen, the chair of the Bun­destag’s for­eign affairs com­mit­tee and a can­di­date to lead Ger­many’s gov­ern­ing Chris­t­ian Democ­rats (CDU), tweet­ed that Orbán’s state of emer­gency law “effec­tive­ly elim­i­nates oppo­si­tion” and is “a breach of basic prin­ci­ples” that the EU can­not accept.

    “The @EU_Commission has to act imme­di­ate­ly,” Röttgen added. “The EU26, includ­ing #Ger­many, have to demon­strate that they will not tol­er­ate this abuse of the #Coro­na-cri­sis.”

    Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Ursu­la von der Leyen, who is also a promi­nent CDU fig­ure, did­n’t men­tion Hun­gary by name but said on Tues­day that “any emer­gency mea­sures must be lim­it­ed to what is nec­es­sary and strict­ly pro­por­tion­ate. They must not last indef­i­nite­ly.”

    ...

    In the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, the Social­ists and Democ­rats group, the cen­trist Renew Europe group and the Greens all issued state­ments express­ing con­cern about the new­ly-approved leg­is­la­tion, as did some nation­al offi­cials, includ­ing Ger­man Min­is­ter of State for Europe Michael Roth, a Social Demo­c­rat.

    Dis­ap­proval of the leg­is­la­tion also came from a bloc of north­ern Euro­pean EPP par­ties that has long felt uncom­fort­able with Fidesz’s mem­ber­ship of the alliance.

    “Orbán has cre­at­ed an author­i­tar­i­an regime,” said Aura Sal­la, who chairs the par­ty coun­cil of Fin­land’s Nation­al Coali­tion Par­ty.

    “None of these pow­ers he has tak­en to him­self are need­ed to fight coro­na,” she told POLITICO, adding that “in the EU, free par­lia­men­tary democ­ra­cy is one of the core val­ues and we can­not look the oth­er way. The EU must react, we should freeze EU fund­ing for Hun­gary.”

    “I can­not speak on behalf of the EPP Par­ty but our par­ty ... want­ed to let them go long time ago and now the EPP should take the final deci­sion,” she said.

    But oth­er EPP fig­ures argued that fan­ning the flames with Orbán would only ben­e­fit the Hun­gar­i­an leader at a time when the EU is grap­pling with an unprece­dent­ed health and eco­nom­ic cri­sis.

    “The pri­or­i­ty is the coro­n­avirus not Vik­tor Orbán,” said one EPP insid­er, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty. “Right now I believe peo­ple don’t care about Orbán, they care about the coro­n­avirus.”

    The insid­er said Orbán’s emer­gency law was “wor­ri­some.” But “Orbán has an excuse and he is wait­ing for us to say some­thing,” he said. “It’s the only thing he cares about… If we react, we make his day. If we react, we play his game.”

    ————–

    “Rule by decree in Hun­gary reopens wounds on Euro­pean cen­ter right” by MAÏA DE LA BAUME and LILI BAYER; Politi­co; 03/31/2020

    “While reac­tion piled up from around the world fol­low­ing the Hun­gar­i­an par­lia­men­t’s deci­sion to hand broad pow­ers to Orbán’s gov­ern­ment to han­dle the coro­n­avirus cri­sis with­out an end date, the top offi­cials in the cen­ter-right Euro­pean Peo­ple’s Par­ty (EPP) were con­spic­u­ous­ly silent.

    As we can see, it’s not that there was­n’t out­cry with­in Europe’s polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment. There was a lot of out­cry. Just con­spic­u­ous­ly not from the EPP’s lead­er­ship. EPP Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk issued a tweet that did­n’t con­demn Fidesz. Tusk used to be the Euro­pean Coun­cil pres­i­dent and he still could­n’t bring him­self to con­demn this.

    ...
    Orbán’s move brought back to the sur­face deep divi­sions with­in Europe’s most pow­er­ful polit­i­cal alliance — between nation­al mem­ber par­ties who want to kick out the self-declared cham­pi­on of “illib­er­al democ­ra­cy,” those who want to keep him in, and those who think he just wants a fight and is best ignored.

    The EPP sus­pend­ed Orbán’s rul­ing Fidesz par­ty last March over con­cerns about the rule of law in Hun­gary and his clash­es with EU insti­tu­tions on migra­tion and oth­er issues. But Fidesz has remained a mem­ber of the EPP group in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and the EPP has been unable to agree on any fur­ther steps. That seems unlike­ly to change despite the fresh tor­rent of crit­i­cism direct­ed at Fidesz.

    Some 24 hours after Mon­day’s Hun­gar­i­an par­lia­ment vote, EPP Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk broke his silence with a tweet that avoid­ed con­demn­ing Fidesz and sug­gest­ed those con­cerned about democ­ra­cy dur­ing the coro­n­avirus cri­sis should look beyond Budapest.

    “This is a crit­i­cal moment for our democ­ra­cy, not only for each coun­try but for Europe as a whole. This is why we have to be very pre­cise and very trans­par­ent when we’re assess­ing the state of emer­gency. It’s real­ly impor­tant to know every detail, not only in Hun­gary,” Tusk said as part of a series of tweets about the coro­n­avirus cri­sis.

    The brief state­ment by the for­mer Euro­pean Coun­cil pres­i­dent reflect­ed a long-run­ning EPP strat­e­gy of point­ing to oth­er gov­ern­ments with rule-of-law prob­lems when asked about Fidesz.
    ...

    The EPP’s leader with­in the EU par­lia­ment, Man­fred Weber of Ange­la’s Merkel’s CDU, made no com­ment at all. But the twit­ter account for the EPP group in the par­lia­ment did even­tu­al­ly issue a tweet. A tweet that did­n’t Orban or Fidesz or Hun­gary:

    ...
    Man­fred Weber, the leader of the EPP group in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and an avid Twit­ter user, made no com­ment at all on the Hun­gar­i­an mea­sures.

    Late on Tues­day after­noon, the EPP group’s Twit­ter account issued a state­ment that appeared crit­i­cal of Orbán’s move but did not name him, his par­ty or his coun­try. “A virus will not change our val­ues. Emer­gency mea­sures can require the unusu­al cur­tail­ing of civ­il lib­er­ties. But this must always be lim­it­ed in time, restrict­ed to what is absolute­ly nec­es­sary, trans­par­ent and pro­por­tion­ate,” the group tweet­ed.
    ...

    And then there’s Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Ursu­la von der Leyen, also from Merkel’s CDU. She issued a state­ment. It did­n’t men­tion Hun­gary. Von Der Leyen is one of the top offi­cials in the entire EU and that was her response:

    ...
    Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Ursu­la von der Leyen, who is also a promi­nent CDU fig­ure, did­n’t men­tion Hun­gary by name but said on Tues­day that “any emer­gency mea­sures must be lim­it­ed to what is nec­es­sary and strict­ly pro­por­tion­ate. They must not last indef­i­nite­ly.”
    ...

    Now, there were some EPP mem­bers or for­mer offi­cials who did come out and con­demn Orban and Fidesz. But they hap­pen to be from the same EPP group that already want­ed to kick Fidesz out of the EPP. So it’s not exact­ly an act of polit­i­cal courage. It would be like the nev­er-Trumpers call­ing for a repu­di­a­tion of Trump for the umpteenth time after he acts like a wannabe dic­ta­tor. But at least there was that. The EPP at least was­n’t 100% fine with it. Just all of its top lead­ers:

    ...
    But politi­cians across Europe swift­ly weighed in to denounce the mea­sure. Soon after it was passed, for­mer Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Mat­teo Ren­zi wrote that “after what Orbán has done today, the Euro­pean Union MUST act and make him change his mind. Or, sim­ply, expel Hun­gary from the Union.” (There is no for­mal mech­a­nism for expelling a mem­ber coun­try from the EU.)

    Ren­zi, a for­mer leader of Italy’s cen­ter left, is a polit­i­cal oppo­nent of the EPP. But there was also plen­ty of crit­i­cism of Orbán from promi­nent fig­ures in nation­al mem­ber par­ties of the EPP itself.

    For­mer Swedish Prime Min­is­ter Carl Bildt said that “this brings back mem­o­ries from dark peri­ods in the his­to­ry of Europe.”

    Nor­bert Röttgen, the chair of the Bun­destag’s for­eign affairs com­mit­tee and a can­di­date to lead Ger­many’s gov­ern­ing Chris­t­ian Democ­rats (CDU), tweet­ed that Orbán’s state of emer­gency law “effec­tive­ly elim­i­nates oppo­si­tion” and is “a breach of basic prin­ci­ples” that the EU can­not accept.

    “The @EU_Commission has to act imme­di­ate­ly,” Röttgen added. “The EU26, includ­ing #Ger­many, have to demon­strate that they will not tol­er­ate this abuse of the #Coro­na-cri­sis.”

    ...

    Dis­ap­proval of the leg­is­la­tion also came from a bloc of north­ern Euro­pean EPP par­ties that has long felt uncom­fort­able with Fidesz’s mem­ber­ship of the alliance.

    “Orbán has cre­at­ed an author­i­tar­i­an regime,” said Aura Sal­la, who chairs the par­ty coun­cil of Fin­land’s Nation­al Coali­tion Par­ty.

    “None of these pow­ers he has tak­en to him­self are need­ed to fight coro­na,” she told POLITICO, adding that “in the EU, free par­lia­men­tary democ­ra­cy is one of the core val­ues and we can­not look the oth­er way. The EU must react, we should freeze EU fund­ing for Hun­gary.”

    “I can­not speak on behalf of the EPP Par­ty but our par­ty ... want­ed to let them go long time ago and now the EPP should take the final deci­sion,” she said.
    ...

    And note the response to that anti-Fidesz EPP bloc from an anony­mous EPP insid­er who warns that con­demn­ing Orban and Fidesz would only play into Orban’s hands. Don’t con­demn to Orban’s pow­er grabs because he’ll only use that con­dem­na­tion to grab more:

    ...
    But oth­er EPP fig­ures argued that fan­ning the flames with Orbán would only ben­e­fit the Hun­gar­i­an leader at a time when the EU is grap­pling with an unprece­dent­ed health and eco­nom­ic cri­sis.

    “The pri­or­i­ty is the coro­n­avirus not Vik­tor Orbán,” said one EPP insid­er, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty. “Right now I believe peo­ple don’t care about Orbán, they care about the coro­n­avirus.”

    The insid­er said Orbán’s emer­gency law was “wor­ri­some.” But “Orbán has an excuse and he is wait­ing for us to say some­thing,” he said. “It’s the only thing he cares about… If we react, we make his day. If we react, we play his game.”
    ...

    And that anony­mous EPP insid­er’s view is clear­ly the dom­i­nant EPP view when it comes to Fidesz. At least with­in the lead­er­ship. CDU-dom­i­nat­ed lead­er­ship. That’s the prece­dent being estab­lished here by the EPP’s CDU-dom­i­nat­ed lead­er­ship: far right pow­er grabs will be respond­ed to with strate­gic silence by Europe’s con­ser­v­a­tive lead­er­ship. Strate­gic silence pred­i­cat­ed on the nation that these pow­er grabs are intend­ed to pro­voke a response that will allow for an even great pow­er grab. That’s the polit­i­cal­ly strat­e­gy we are see­ing play out right before our eyes. A lit­er­al fas­cist strate­gic appease­ment strat­e­gy. Don’t oppose fas­cist pow­er grabs because they’ll just grab more. It’s the kind of anti-fas­cist strat­e­gy only a fas­cist could love.

    Final­ly, don’t for­get that this is all hap­pen­ing in the con­text of a glob­al moment where the far right is in charge almost every­one on the plan­et. If the EU’s top lead­er­ship starts tol­er­at­ing open­ly fas­cist sus­pen­sions of democ­ra­cy that’s going to get some gener­ic out­cry (if that) from oth­er world pow­ers and that’s about it.

    So it’s going to be impor­tant to keep in mind that when the EPP open­ly appeas­es this sus­pen­sion of democ­ra­cy by Orban and Fidesz they might be appeas­ing their future selves too. We’re posed to see one EU econ­o­my col­lapse after anoth­er as the whole globe is forced to halt in the face of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. That’s going to cre­ate a lot of sit­u­a­tion for poten­tial pow­er grabs. How many of the EU’s sup­pos­ed­ly ‘cen­trist’ right-wing politi­cians would jump at the chance to fol­low in Orban’s foot­steps if the cri­sis con­di­tions were just right? We’ll find out because the whole EU is going to vul­ner­a­ble to right-wing pow­er grabs as this coro­na cri­sis plays out now that the EPP lead­er­ship — some of whom are top EU lead­ers like the EU Com­mis­sion­er — just made clear that coro­n­avirus pow­er grabs are going to be strate­gi­cal­ly tol­er­at­ed.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 4, 2020, 9:35 pm
  12. Here’s an arti­cle that might be grim­ly appro­pri­ate for an East­er Sun­day. It’s by Ben­jamin Teit­el­baum, the author of the upcom­ing book War for Eter­ni­ty about the far right Tra­di­tion­al­ist move­ment. A move­ment that hap­pens to include key fas­cist the­o­reti­cians past and present like Julius Evola, Alexan­dr Dug­in, and Steve Ban­non. It wor­ships strong­men and mil­i­tarism like all fas­cist strains, but Tra­di­tion­al­ism hates moder­ni­ty with extra zeal­ous­ness and has a strong ten­den­cy to infuse its dog­ma with reli­gious apoc­a­lyt­pic over­tones. It’s like the fas­cist id of dif­fer­ent soci­eties man­i­fest­ing with cre­ative flair.

    Teit­el­baum man­aged to inter­view both Dug­in and Ban­non for his book and those inter­views were recent enough to get their opin­ions on the mean­ing and impli­ca­tions of the COVID-19 glob­al cri­sis. As we should expect, both Ban­non and Dug­in have embraced the idea that the cri­sis is reveal­ing the dan­gers of “glob­al­iza­tion”. By “glob­al­ism”, both Ban­non and Dug­in would be using a def­i­n­i­tion of “glob­al­ism” rou­tine­ly used by the far right that man­ages to inter­twine the obvi­ous gross down­side of glob­al­ized neolib­er­al­ism and multi­na­tion­al cor­po­ratism that destroys soci­eties with ‘lib­er­al’ pro­gres­sive val­ues like equal­i­ty for women or reli­gious minori­ties and sec­u­lar­ism that actu­al­ly makes soci­ety bet­ter for every­one (every­one but fas­cists). It’s the ol’ far right bait and switch. The bait and switch that dev­as­tat­ed local economies that are a result of glob­al­ism and the off­shoring of jobs are some­how the fault of left­ists fight­ing for greater equal­i­ty and sec­u­lar­ism. It’s a bait and switch at the core of Trump’s appeal and with COVID-19 there’s the poten­tial for extend­ing this trick to apoc­a­lyp­tic lev­els. Tra­di­tion­al­ist fas­cists like Ban­non and Dug­in have a seem­ing­ly apoc­a­lyp­tic cri­sis that fore­tells the com­ing of a new age. A new fas­cist Tra­di­tion­al­ist age. And every new age needs a huge cri­sis. That makes the Tra­di­tion­al­ist fas­cists extra dan­ger­ous right now.

    So it’s at least nice to hear that Teit­el­baum found that sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences still exist­ed between Ban­non and Dug­in. Dug­in views the US as irre­deemably a force for cor­rupt­ing lib­er­al­ism that must be weak­ened and the coro­n­avirus is like a “divine rep­ri­mand” that will force the US to choose between “lib­er­al­ism and life”. Ban­non, on the oth­er hand, sees the glob­al pan­dem­ic as an affir­ma­tion of his war on Chi­na that includes a push to dis­en­tan­gle the US and Chi­nese economies as fast as pos­si­ble as part of his envi­sioned exis­ten­tial war between the West and Chi­na. Ban­non’s desired full spec­trum war on Chi­na is a much eas­i­er sell when return­ing as much man­u­fac­tur­ing to the US from Chi­na as pos­si­ble takes on a new pub­lic health dimen­sion. And Ban­non is con­vinced there’s a Tra­di­tion­al­ist core to the US that can be awak­ened and take over the coun­try and he’s appar­ent­ly made var­i­ous out­reach attempts in recent years to Dug­in to sell him on the idea, includ­ing a meet­ing in 2018. Dug­in views the col­lapse of the US as inevitable. So that’s appar­ent­ly the cur­rent schism with­in Tra­di­tion­al­ist fas­cism exem­pli­fied by Ban­non and Dug­in’s big dis­agree­ment: whether or not there is any hope of the US becom­ing an open­ly fas­cist Tra­di­tion­al­ist soci­ety to help ush­er in the col­lapse of the cur­rent age and the fas­cist new Gold­en Age:

    The Nation

    Covid-19 Is the Cri­sis Rad­i­cal ‘Tra­di­tion­al­ists’ Have Been Wait­ing For
    Steve Ban­non, Putin pro­tégé Alexan­dr Dug­in, and oth­er high-pro­file right-wing oper­a­tives are all adher­ents to this obscure yet pow­er­ful ide­ol­o­gy.

    By Ben­jamin Teit­el­baum
    April 8, 2020

    “It is a kind of divine rep­ri­mand, a divine decree against human­i­ty,” the thick­ly accent­ed voice on the phone told me on March 17, 2020.

    At first, his words sound­ed like a pre­dictable response to the coro­n­avirus dis­as­ter from a reli­gious zealot—like the ser­mons of fun­da­men­tal­ists who saw in HIV epi­demics or Sep­tem­ber 11 God’s redress for moral impi­ety. But the per­son I was speak­ing to by phone from my iso­lat­ed moun­tain home in Col­orado saw a dif­fer­ent kind of ret­ri­bu­tion at play: “It is a kind of pun­ish­ment” he con­tin­ued, “for glob­al­iza­tion.”

    Russ­ian philoso­pher and polit­i­cal oper­a­tive Alexan­dr Dug­in thinks in unusu­al ways. Labeled impre­cise­ly as a right-wing extrem­ist, a neo-fas­cist, or a pop­ulist, he is instead apt to iden­ti­fy with the incon­spic­u­ous label of “Tra­di­tion­al­ism.” In oth­er words: He sees him­self as fight­ing against the entire­ty of the mod­ern world.

    Tra­di­tion­al­ism is a rad­i­cal doctrine—so rad­i­cal that schol­ars of the far right like myself had often dis­missed it as an obscure curios­i­ty devoid of high-lev­el polit­i­cal con­se­quence. Some of its ear­ly right-wing adher­ents believed a race of ethe­re­al Aryans once lived in the North Pole, and advo­cat­ed estab­lish­ing a celi­bate patri­archy of war­rior-priests in place of democ­ra­cy. It often sounds more like make-believe than pol­i­tics; Dun­geons and Drag­ons for racists, as a for­mer stu­dent of mine once put it.

    But dis­miss­ing Tra­di­tion­al­ism is no longer an option, now that Dug­in and his ilk are gain­ing excep­tion­al influ­ence through­out the globe. These ide­o­logues infused a major polit­i­cal par­ty in Hun­gary, Vladimir Putin’s gov­ern­ment, and lat­er Don­ald Trump’s and Jair Bolsonaro’s admin­is­tra­tion through fig­ures like Steve Ban­non and Ola­vo de Car­val­ho, a rene­gade astrologer and philoso­pher who advis­es the Brazil­ian gov­ern­ment on for­eign and domes­tic pol­i­cy.

    I have been speak­ing with them for near­ly two years while research­ing my book War for Eter­ni­ty, and have watched as they tried (strug­gled) to col­lab­o­rate in advanc­ing a vision stranger than mere nation­al­ism or pop­ulism, broad­er than the fate of any one nation. But some now see the coro­n­avirus as offer­ing them a rare oppor­tu­ni­ty for advance.

    ...

    Always with a cap­i­tal T, Tra­di­tion­al­ism fus­es the teach­ings of select reli­gious faiths to con­demn the mod­ern world on account of its sec­u­lar­ism and lack of all kinds of bor­ders and bound­aries. It was orig­i­nal­ly a philo­soph­i­cal and spir­i­tu­al school, its pri­ma­ry patri­arch hav­ing been a French con­vert to Islam named René Guénon (1886–1951), though Tra­di­tion­al­ism was rad­i­cal­ized and car­ried into reac­tionary pol­i­tics by an Ital­ian thinker and Mus­soli­ni col­lab­o­ra­tor named Julius Evola. It sees time as mov­ing in cycles rather than lin­ear­ly, from a Gold­en Age to a Dark Age of col­lapse, and abrupt­ly back to gold again, on and on.

    Save for a tran­si­to­ry moment of cat­a­clysm, time is equal to destruc­tion in this view, and past, present, and future lose their mean­ing in a cycle where our his­to­ry is also our des­tiny. Mean­while, the decline of soci­ety accord­ing to Tra­di­tion­al­ism per­tains to the spread of mate­ri­al­ism and homog­e­niza­tion at the expense of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty and hier­ar­chy (that also explains why Tra­di­tion­al­ism cul­ti­vates an uncom­mon apoc­a­lyp­tic yearn­ing.)

    If dur­ing the Gold­en Age soci­ety is strat­i­fied, and dif­fer­ent peo­ple fol­low sep­a­rate social and reli­gious paths, the rise of dark­ness entails the com­plete break­down of dif­fer­ence and a lev­el­ing of glob­al human­i­ty in pur­suit of its basest wants. It is the fusion of these beliefs and their asso­ci­a­tion with cyclic­i­ty that sep­a­rates Tra­di­tion­al­ists on the right from more main­stream reli­gious con­ser­v­a­tives like Ross Douthat. Indeed, lat­ter-day Tra­di­tion­al­ists use this lens to regard glob­al­ism and the seem­ing­ly chaot­ic cir­cu­la­tion of mon­ey, goods, pow­er, and peo­ples as tokens of a deca­dent sec­u­lar­ism and a sign that collapse—and with it a turn­ing of the ages—is near.

    That’s how Steve Ban­non sees it, at least. I spoke with the for­mer cam­paign chair­man and spe­cial advis­er to Don­ald Trump dur­ing an open­ing in his sched­ule, now dom­i­nat­ed by activ­i­ties relat­ed to the coro­n­avirus out­break (he has been host­ing a dai­ly radio pro­gram devot­ed to the top­ic since Jan­u­ary 25). What we are wit­ness­ing now, he claims, is the turn­ing of this Dark Age—the Kali Yuga, as he calls it, refer­ring to Hinduism’s account of cyclic time. The signs of this are a con­ver­gence of three immi­nent cat­a­stro­phes:

    “You have a mas­sive pan­dem­ic. Two, you have an eco­nom­ic cri­sis, and part of that is these per­tur­ba­tions of trav­el and ser­vice econ­o­my, that’s hor­rif­ic, but then deep­er you have a sys­temic issue, one is the sup­ply chain—we don’t make any of the med­i­cines here, we don’t make any of the gloves. But deep­er than that is the glob­al­iza­tion project, that we have essen­tial­ly shipped every­thing to Chi­na, the man­u­fac­tur­ing. We don’t make any­thing. So we have this sys­tem that can col­lapse quite quick­ly. And now we’ve trig­gered some­thing that might be far big­ger than the first two: We’re in a finan­cial firestorm, a finan­cial cri­sis.

    The crash­ing econ­o­my, he explains, is born of liq­uid­i­ty and sol­ven­cy prob­lems. Under­ly­ing it all is “glob­al­iza­tion”: in his view, the inabil­i­ty of states to erect mean­ing­ful bor­ders reg­u­lat­ing move­ment of peo­ple and the pro­duc­tion of goods.

    Alexan­dr Dug­in speaks in sim­i­lar terms, though at times with glee pierc­ing through. “The present cos­mic cycle is approach­ing its end.” He knew that the turn­ing was approach­ing, he tells me; the reign of democ­ra­cy, the inabil­i­ty of most polit­i­cal sys­tems to debate any­thing oth­er than mate­r­i­al wealth, the loss of com­mu­ni­ty born of mass migra­tion. The coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic has sim­ply laced our already-chaot­ic chan­nels of exchange with poi­son.

    Dug­in is often described as a major influ­ence on Putin’s expan­sion­ist for­eign pol­i­cy. He has sel­dom held an offi­cial posi­tion in gov­ern­ment, and plen­ty of his actions have been buf­foon­ish and kooky. But his books and com­men­tary have sat­u­rat­ed Russia’s mil­i­tary intel­li­gentsia for decades—like Ban­non, his impact on pol­i­tics is eas­i­ly over- and under­es­ti­mat­ed. Tra­di­tion­al­ism inspired Dug­in to fight moder­ni­ty through geopol­i­tics and con­ven­tion­al war­fare, deem­ing his native Rus­sia and Eura­sia a bas­tion of Tra­di­tion, and the Unit­ed States the ves­sel of dev­il­ish glob­al­ism. In addi­tion to tracts offer­ing philo­soph­i­cal and spir­i­tu­al jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for reject­ing lib­er­al­ism, he has also used protest and diplo­ma­cy to push Russ­ian mil­i­tary incur­sion in Geor­gia and Ukraine, and increased union among Rus­sia, Turkey, Iran, and Chi­na.

    The goal is to break the world­wide hege­mo­ny of the Unit­ed States, he explains. It is to do away with the homog­e­niz­ing impact of cen­tral­ized polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al rule, and instead allow for a frag­ment­ing of the globe into bound­ed, local com­mu­ni­ties. There could be echoes of left-wing anti-impe­ri­al­ism and cul­tur­al rel­a­tivism in their rhetoric—were it not also infused with con­tempt for democ­ra­cy, a spir­i­tu­al devo­tion to prece­dent, and trans­par­ent align­ment with the expan­sion­ist ambi­tions of a mil­i­tary state.

    It’s sur­pris­ing, then, that Dug­in and Ban­non have been attempt­ing to col­lab­o­rate, and met in secre­cy in Rome in Novem­ber 2018. Dug­in and Ban­non may rep­re­sent oppos­ing inter­ests at the lev­el of nation­al pol­i­tics, but they also rec­og­nized a deep­er bond as two Tra­di­tion­al­ists who emerged into pow­er inde­pen­dent­ly of each oth­er at rough­ly the same his­tor­i­cal moment. Their com­mu­ni­ca­tions have nonethe­less relat­ed to geopol­i­tics: Ban­non has been lob­by­ing Dug­in to switch his alle­giances and embrace the Unit­ed States, to use his plat­form of soft but pow­er­ful influ­ence to advo­cate Russia’s return to the Judeo-Chris­t­ian West and rejec­tion of Chi­na.

    The effort is less for­mal and pub­lic than Bannon’s ill-fat­ed “Move­ment”; that might make it all the more aus­pi­cious. And its moti­va­tions are also pro­fes­sion­al: Ban­non is being paid rich­ly by fugi­tive Chi­nese bil­lion­aire Guo Wen­gui to under­mine the Com­mu­nist Par­ty of Chi­na on all fronts, but this blunts Bannon’s poten­tial part­ner­ship with Dug­in. The Russ­ian philoso­pher regards the Unit­ed States as essen­tial­ly and for­ev­er a pro­gres­sive, impe­r­i­al, lib­er­al state, where­as Ban­non believes the coun­try is pos­sessed of a deep­er, pre­mod­ern core. And their var­i­ous agree­ments and dis­agree­ments are now moti­vat­ing diver­gent respons­es to the coro­n­avirus out­break.

    Bannon’s ear­ly atten­tion to the virus (a wel­come alter­na­tive to ini­tial dis­missal of the pan­dem­ic on Fox News and oth­er con­ser­v­a­tive media) derived from his focus on Chi­na. He claims to have had insight in 2019 into the tur­moil in Wuhan dur­ing the dis­cov­ery and attempts to mit­i­gate the virus. His mes­sag­ing since has often stuck to straight­for­ward report­ing, cou­pled with praise for politi­cians who were tak­ing the cause seri­ous­ly (most­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nors, in fact). But he has not been shy to place blame for the out­break on the CCP, call­ing it not the “Chi­nese virus” as Trump has done but the “Com­mu­nist Par­ty virus.”

    The Sinophile Dug­in, who has lived inter­mit­tent­ly in Shang­hai, speaks in no such terms. He tells me, “We see now that, deal­ing with the coro­n­avirus, the first reac­tion is to return from glob­al­iza­tion to more con­crete local soci­ety. It is a refusal of the lib­er­al dog­ma­tism that mar­kets and open­ness could solve every­thing.” This, accord­ing to Dug­in, places onus on the West to aban­don sec­u­lar­ism, embrace the col­lec­tive (read the state) over the indi­vid­ual, and sta­sis over move­ment. And while he stopped short of cel­e­brat­ing the mass pan­dem­ic that is killing tens of thou­sands through­out the globe, he nonethe­less praised the coronavirus’s abil­i­ty to clar­i­fy what he sees as truth: “Amer­i­ca must choose now between life and lib­er­al­ism.”

    When I relay some of this to Ban­non, he push­es back. The West is going to come out on top, he says, sound­ing like a typ­i­cal Amer­i­can con­ser­v­a­tive. Our social mod­el of open, free soci­ety will pro­duce more inno­va­tion to address the cri­sis, while China’s dic­ta­tor­ship will lose legit­i­ma­cy for its cov­er-ups and cor­rup­tion. Echoes of Dug­in and stan­dard Tra­di­tion­al­ism reemerged, how­ev­er, as Ban­non began to describe what reforms need­ed to be tak­en now. “Shut it all down,” he says. “Take dra­con­ian action.… when you have to go through hell, go through it as fast as pos­si­ble.” Enforce pro­hi­bi­tions on move­ment and com­merce, in oth­er words: Free and open soci­eties may make it out on top, but not by being free and open.

    Before long, our con­ver­sa­tion is about the ways root­less, soul­less, indi­vid­u­al­ism is going to be pun­ished by death, and where bold action of the strong­man and the col­lec­tive, and rev­er­ence for his­to­ry per­son­i­fied by mobi­liza­tion on behalf of our elders, will be reward­ed. Sens­ing that he felt some rev­er­ence for the moment, I asked, “Will we be at a bet­ter place, on the oth­er side?”

    He took a rare pause before speak­ing, slow­ly. “We’ll be in a dif­fer­ent place. I think it will be the begin­ning of us get­ting to a bet­ter place.… I think you’ll have a much more unit­ed, a stronger sense of com­mu­ni­ty when we’ve come through this, because the only way we’re going to come through this is the sense of com­mu­ni­ty. We’ve all got to pull togeth­er in this thing, or we’re not all going to get through it. I think we’ll see that. “

    Yes, he sees some­thing to be gained here. As for Dug­in? His part­ing words to me were reveal­ing: “The virus is a sign of the end of times.”

    “Did he mean ‘end times’?” I thought to myself, start­ing to edit Dugin’s effec­tive but bro­ken Eng­lish in my mind. But moments after I hung up with him I real­ized he may have been mak­ing a delib­er­ate Tra­di­tion­al­ist ref­er­ence to an end of our faith in progress and integration—that our exper­i­ment of craft­ing a world increas­ing­ly free and inter­con­nect­ed is receiv­ing a bru­tal rebuke; that we will soon learn to give up on progress, on his­to­ry or “time,” and a return to a more vir­tu­ous eter­ni­ty. I don’t think he is the only one, in that case.

    ———-

    “Covid-19 Is the Cri­sis Rad­i­cal ‘Tra­di­tion­al­ists’ Have Been Wait­ing For” by Ben­jamin Teit­el­baum; The Nation; 04/08/2020

    “Tra­di­tion­al­ism is a rad­i­cal doctrine—so rad­i­cal that schol­ars of the far right like myself had often dis­missed it as an obscure curios­i­ty devoid of high-lev­el polit­i­cal con­se­quence. Some of its ear­ly right-wing adher­ents believed a race of ethe­re­al Aryans once lived in the North Pole, and advo­cat­ed estab­lish­ing a celi­bate patri­archy of war­rior-priests in place of democ­ra­cy. It often sounds more like make-believe than pol­i­tics; Dun­geons and Drag­ons for racists, as a for­mer stu­dent of mine once put it.

    Dun­geons and Drag­ons for racists. That’s one way to describe Tra­di­tion­al­ism, where the bru­tal­i­ties of fas­cism get merged with fan­tasies about a glo­ri­ous hyper-author­i­tar­i­an past return­ing again as part of some grand cos­mic cycle. It’s a fas­cist reli­gion that por­trays pro­gres­sivism as the last gasps of a decay­ing cor­rupt lib­er­al order that’s about to col­lapse and ush­er in a new far right Gold­en Age. A vision where this fas­cist Gold­en Age is inevitable. It has to hap­pen and we’re just wait­ing for to see the signs. Signs of that Gold­en Age cos­mic turn­ing event that dou­ble as a grand oppor­tu­ni­ty to pro­mote fas­cism. Ban­non calls it the Kali Yuga. The end of glob­al­ism — by which he means glob­al trade and sec­u­lar­ism — and the dawn of a new fas­cist far right Tra­di­tion­al­ist Gold­en Age. Medieval tech­no-Nazi futur­ism. That’s Dun­geons and Drag­ons for racists and it’s already the dom­i­nant phi­los­o­phy in the major gov­ern­ments of the world in one form or anoth­er. Unit­ing those dif­fer­ent forms of Tra­di­tion­al­ist Dun­geons and Drag­ons for racists is one of Ban­non’s chal­lenges to help bring about that new fas­cist Gold­en Age. He’s like a rich Bizarro-Fro­do. Bizarro-Fro­do Ban­non work­ing for Sauron to bring about an age when the nations of the world are unit­ed by a where soci­eties are held togeth­er by an Tra­di­tion­al­ist phi­los­o­phy. A Tra­di­tion­al­ist phi­los­o­phy that’s root­ed in a deeply held ‘Us against the World’ trib­al­ism, which isn’t exact­ly amenable for turn­ing into a glob­al unit­ing force. But that’s Ban­non’s chal­lenge which is why he’s kind of an Alt-Fro­do:

    ...
    Always with a cap­i­tal T, Tra­di­tion­al­ism fus­es the teach­ings of select reli­gious faiths to con­demn the mod­ern world on account of its sec­u­lar­ism and lack of all kinds of bor­ders and bound­aries. It was orig­i­nal­ly a philo­soph­i­cal and spir­i­tu­al school, its pri­ma­ry patri­arch hav­ing been a French con­vert to Islam named René Guénon (1886–1951), though Tra­di­tion­al­ism was rad­i­cal­ized and car­ried into reac­tionary pol­i­tics by an Ital­ian thinker and Mus­soli­ni col­lab­o­ra­tor named Julius Evola. It sees time as mov­ing in cycles rather than lin­ear­ly, from a Gold­en Age to a Dark Age of col­lapse, and abrupt­ly back to gold again, on and on.

    Save for a tran­si­to­ry moment of cat­a­clysm, time is equal to destruc­tion in this view, and past, present, and future lose their mean­ing in a cycle where our his­to­ry is also our des­tiny. Mean­while, the decline of soci­ety accord­ing to Tra­di­tion­al­ism per­tains to the spread of mate­ri­al­ism and homog­e­niza­tion at the expense of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty and hier­ar­chy (that also explains why Tra­di­tion­al­ism cul­ti­vates an uncom­mon apoc­a­lyp­tic yearn­ing.)

    If dur­ing the Gold­en Age soci­ety is strat­i­fied, and dif­fer­ent peo­ple fol­low sep­a­rate social and reli­gious paths, the rise of dark­ness entails the com­plete break­down of dif­fer­ence and a lev­el­ing of glob­al human­i­ty in pur­suit of its basest wants. It is the fusion of these beliefs and their asso­ci­a­tion with cyclic­i­ty that sep­a­rates Tra­di­tion­al­ists on the right from more main­stream reli­gious con­ser­v­a­tives like Ross Douthat. Indeed, lat­ter-day Tra­di­tion­al­ists use this lens to regard glob­al­ism and the seem­ing­ly chaot­ic cir­cu­la­tion of mon­ey, goods, pow­er, and peo­ples as tokens of a deca­dent sec­u­lar­ism and a sign that collapse—and with it a turn­ing of the ages—is near.

    That’s how Steve Ban­non sees it, at least. I spoke with the for­mer cam­paign chair­man and spe­cial advis­er to Don­ald Trump dur­ing an open­ing in his sched­ule, now dom­i­nat­ed by activ­i­ties relat­ed to the coro­n­avirus out­break (he has been host­ing a dai­ly radio pro­gram devot­ed to the top­ic since Jan­u­ary 25). What we are wit­ness­ing now, he claims, is the turn­ing of this Dark Age—the Kali Yuga, as he calls it, refer­ring to Hinduism’s account of cyclic time. The signs of this are a con­ver­gence of three immi­nent cat­a­stro­phes:

    “You have a mas­sive pan­dem­ic. Two, you have an eco­nom­ic cri­sis, and part of that is these per­tur­ba­tions of trav­el and ser­vice econ­o­my, that’s hor­rif­ic, but then deep­er you have a sys­temic issue, one is the sup­ply chain—we don’t make any of the med­i­cines here, we don’t make any of the gloves. But deep­er than that is the glob­al­iza­tion project, that we have essen­tial­ly shipped every­thing to Chi­na, the man­u­fac­tur­ing. We don’t make any­thing. So we have this sys­tem that can col­lapse quite quick­ly. And now we’ve trig­gered some­thing that might be far big­ger than the first two: We’re in a finan­cial firestorm, a finan­cial cri­sis.

    The crash­ing econ­o­my, he explains, is born of liq­uid­i­ty and sol­ven­cy prob­lems. Under­ly­ing it all is “glob­al­iza­tion”: in his view, the inabil­i­ty of states to erect mean­ing­ful bor­ders reg­u­lat­ing move­ment of peo­ple and the pro­duc­tion of goods.

    Alexan­dr Dug­in speaks in sim­i­lar terms, though at times with glee pierc­ing through. “The present cos­mic cycle is approach­ing its end.” He knew that the turn­ing was approach­ing, he tells me; the reign of democ­ra­cy, the inabil­i­ty of most polit­i­cal sys­tems to debate any­thing oth­er than mate­r­i­al wealth, the loss of com­mu­ni­ty born of mass migra­tion. The coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic has sim­ply laced our already-chaot­ic chan­nels of exchange with poi­son.
    ...

    And win­ning over Dug­in to a world­view where a fas­cist MAGA Amer­i­ca is lead­ing a Tra­di­tion­al­ist force in the world is one of Ban­non’s top goals. It would allow for a the mar­riage of the apoc­a­lyp­tic visions of the East and West Tra­di­tion­al­ist fas­cist schools work­ing to bring about a fas­cist Gold­en Age:

    ...
    The goal is to break the world­wide hege­mo­ny of the Unit­ed States, he explains. It is to do away with the homog­e­niz­ing impact of cen­tral­ized polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al rule, and instead allow for a frag­ment­ing of the globe into bound­ed, local com­mu­ni­ties. There could be echoes of left-wing anti-impe­ri­al­ism and cul­tur­al rel­a­tivism in their rhetoric—were it not also infused with con­tempt for democ­ra­cy, a spir­i­tu­al devo­tion to prece­dent, and trans­par­ent align­ment with the expan­sion­ist ambi­tions of a mil­i­tary state.

    It’s sur­pris­ing, then, that Dug­in and Ban­non have been attempt­ing to col­lab­o­rate, and met in secre­cy in Rome in Novem­ber 2018. Dug­in and Ban­non may rep­re­sent oppos­ing inter­ests at the lev­el of nation­al pol­i­tics, but they also rec­og­nized a deep­er bond as two Tra­di­tion­al­ists who emerged into pow­er inde­pen­dent­ly of each oth­er at rough­ly the same his­tor­i­cal moment. Their com­mu­ni­ca­tions have nonethe­less relat­ed to geopol­i­tics: Ban­non has been lob­by­ing Dug­in to switch his alle­giances and embrace the Unit­ed States, to use his plat­form of soft but pow­er­ful influ­ence to advo­cate Russia’s return to the Judeo-Chris­t­ian West and rejec­tion of Chi­na.

    The effort is less for­mal and pub­lic than Bannon’s ill-fat­ed “Move­ment”; that might make it all the more aus­pi­cious. And its moti­va­tions are also pro­fes­sion­al: Ban­non is being paid rich­ly by fugi­tive Chi­nese bil­lion­aire Guo Wen­gui to under­mine the Com­mu­nist Par­ty of Chi­na on all fronts, but this blunts Bannon’s poten­tial part­ner­ship with Dug­in. The Russ­ian philoso­pher regards the Unit­ed States as essen­tial­ly and for­ev­er a pro­gres­sive, impe­r­i­al, lib­er­al state, where­as Ban­non believes the coun­try is pos­sessed of a deep­er, pre­mod­ern core. And their var­i­ous agree­ments and dis­agree­ments are now moti­vat­ing diver­gent respons­es to the coro­n­avirus out­break.
    ...

    And note that when the arti­cle men­tions Jair Bol­sonaro’s advi­sor Ola­vo de Car­val­ho as anoth­er exam­ple of a Tra­di­tion­al­ist fas­cist philoso­pher hav­ing the ear of the major world leader, it’s worth not­ing that there was a video of de Car­val­ho released on Twit­ter on March 23 where he talked about COVID-19 in terms of the Book of Rev­e­la­tions of the Lady of Fati­ma prophe­cy and described it as a fake hoax epi­dem­ic being per­pe­trat­ed by Putin’s Rus­sia. So when the arti­cle talks about Ban­non try­ing to bridge an East-West Tra­di­tion­al­ist divide with Dug­in, de Car­val­ho’s com­ments are an exam­ple of that divide. A divide Alt-Fro­do Ban­non is try­ing to heal, so a ‘unit­ed we stand sep­a­rate­ly (under cryp­to-fas­cist author­i­tar­i­an rule)’ phi­los­o­phy can reign supreme:

    ...
    But dis­miss­ing Tra­di­tion­al­ism is no longer an option, now that Dug­in and his ilk are gain­ing excep­tion­al influ­ence through­out the globe. These ide­o­logues infused a major polit­i­cal par­ty in Hun­gary, Vladimir Putin’s gov­ern­ment, and lat­er Don­ald Trump’s and Jair Bolsonaro’s admin­is­tra­tion through fig­ures like Steve Ban­non and Ola­vo de Car­val­ho, a rene­gade astrologer and philoso­pher who advis­es the Brazil­ian gov­ern­ment on for­eign and domes­tic pol­i­cy.

    I have been speak­ing with them for near­ly two years while research­ing my book War for Eter­ni­ty, and have watched as they tried (strug­gled) to col­lab­o­rate in advanc­ing a vision stranger than mere nation­al­ism or pop­ulism, broad­er than the fate of any one nation. But some now see the coro­n­avirus as offer­ing them a rare oppor­tu­ni­ty for advance.
    ...

    Note that Ola­vo de Car­val­ho and Dug­in held a debate back in 2011 (audio here and great overview by Pro­fes­sor Michael Miller­man here) that fleshed out this divide between de Car­val­ho and Dug­in and it’s in that debate where de Car­val­ho makes clear that Ban­non’s quest to unite the Tra­di­tion­al­ists will require win­ning out the West­ern Tra­di­tion­al­ist chau­vin­ists like de Car­val­ho who are not very inter­est­ed in find­ing com­mon cause with Russ­ian fas­cists. Over­all, the episode high­lights how fas­cism is a force that both unites the West­ern far right with the Russ­ian far right at the same time there’s a real endur­ing divide. A real endur­ing divide that endures because the West­ern and Russ­ian far right both have world­views that are root­ed in the assump­tion that the oth­er side is plot­ting to destroy it. A glob­al com­mu­ni­ty of move­ments root­ed in deep seat­ed ‘us against the world’ irra­tional para­noia is what Steve Ban­non is out to unite. He has­n’t done it so far but the coro­n­avirus is only going to make it eas­i­er for Steve to pull it off. Noth­ing like a big glob­al emer­gency to unite the patho­log­i­cal­ly frac­tious pow­er­mon­gers.

    And that’s part of what makes this both a ter­ri­fy­ing sto­ry and a great sto­ry for East­er: Steven Ban­non, some­one close­ly aligned with the fas­cist fac­tion of the Vat­i­can hier­ar­chy has­n’t yet unit­ed the Tra­di­tion­al­ist fas­cists. He’s work­ing on it but he has­n’t yet won over Alek­san­dr Dug­in, the chief Tra­di­tion­al­ist fas­cist the­o­reti­cian of the Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian far right. They have dif­fer­ing views of how pro­gres­sive sec­u­lar­ism and the spir­it of equal­i­ty and see­ing our com­mon human­i­ty need to be crushed to ush­er in a new Gold­en Age of far right tech­no mys­ti­cal fas­cism. Alt-Fro­do has­n’t yet suc­ceed­ed in unit­ing these dark forces. It’s 2020 so this is as good as the good news gets. Hap­py East­er.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 12, 2020, 10:23 pm
  13. Oh look at that: Ammon Bundy held a spe­cial East­er ser­vice designed to be in defi­ance of Ida­ho’s social dis­tanc­ing orders. He even livestreamed it:

    CNN

    Ammon Bundy hosts East­er ser­vice despite state order against mass gath­er­ings

    Andy Rose
    5:46 p.m. ET, April 12, 2020

    As he promised, Ida­ho ranch­er Ammon Bundy – who once led an armed occu­pa­tion of fed­er­al land in Ore­gon – orga­nized an East­er Sun­day church ser­vice in vio­la­tion of a statewide order on mass gath­er­ings.

    A livestream of the ser­vice showed dozens of peo­ple in fold­ing chairs sit­ting togeth­er in Bundy’s indus­tri­al ware­house in the small city of Emmett, about 30 miles north­west of Boise, where a hand­made sign read­ing “Defy Mar­tial Law” was placed in front of the speaker’s podi­um.

    After the group watched a pre­cord­ed praise video, Bundy briefly addressed the group, say­ing, “When you believe in Christ ... you will nev­er infringe upon your neigh­bor’s rights.”

    There were no signs on the livestream of any­one attempt­ing to chal­lenge or inter­rupt the ser­vice. Wayne Hoff­man with the con­ser­v­a­tive Ida­ho Free­dom Foun­da­tion – a group that has called the ban on gath­er­ings uncon­sti­tu­tion­al – also was invit­ed to speak.

    Bundy did not offi­cial­ly announce the venue for the ser­vice until just hours before it start­ed. He told CNN last week he wasn’t con­cerned about get­ting coro­n­avirus.

    ...

    ———–

    “Ammon Bundy hosts East­er ser­vice despite state order against mass gath­er­ings” by Andy Rose; CNN; 04/12/2020

    There were no signs on the livestream of any­one attempt­ing to chal­lenge or inter­rupt the ser­vice. Wayne Hoff­man with the con­ser­v­a­tive Ida­ho Free­dom Foun­da­tion – a group that has called the ban on gath­er­ings uncon­sti­tu­tion­al – also was invit­ed to speak.”

    There were no signs of any­one attempt­ing to chal­lenge or inter­rupt the ser­vice. Because of course there was­n’t. Ammon Bundy can clear­ly do what­ev­er he wants. That’s basi­cal­ly an estab­lished legal prece­dent at this point. He has some sort of spe­cial mili­tia pro­tect­ed priv­i­leges that he invokes by threat­en­ing vio­lence. Ammon declares some­thing to be uncon­sti­tu­tion­al and then gets a bunch of peo­ple togeth­er who declare their will­ing­ness to shoot any author­i­ties who get in their way and they’re allowed to just keep doing what they’re doing. That’s lit­er­al­ly how it works. Over and over. And this time was no dif­fer­ent. As the fol­low­ing piece notes, Ammon has been brag­ging about how he’s received the con­tact infor­ma­tion of hun­dreds of peo­ple who are will­ing to — phys­i­cal­ly, if nec­es­sary — stand up for those com­mit­ted to vio­lat­ing the state’s “stay-at-home” orders:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    News

    Ammon Bundy And His Out­law COVID Meet-Up Crew Are Host­ing An East­er Potluck

    By Matt Shuham
    April 10, 2020 11:46 a.m.

    The anti-gov­ern­ment activist Ammon Bundy and a crew of Ida­hoans angry at the state government’s anti-coro­n­avirus orders are fight­ing back — with an East­er ser­vice, fol­lowed by a potluck.

    For weeks, Bundy, who’s best known for lead­ing the 10-day armed occu­pa­tion of a wildlife refuge in Ore­gon, has been hold­ing crowd­ed meet­ings meant to defy Ida­ho Gov. Brad Little’s ® recent order against large gath­er­ings.

    The lat­est, on Thurs­day night, includ­ed upwards of 70 peo­ple crammed into a room no larg­er than a bas­ket­ball court. Speak­ers per­for­ma­tive­ly coughed and wheezed, shared a micro­phone and, at one point, rec­om­mend­ed that those with flu symp­toms drink ton­ic water. (Qui­nine has not been proven effec­tive against the dis­ease at all.)

    Toward the end of Thursday’s meet­ing, a for­mer state sen­ate can­di­date and mar­ket­ing con­sul­tant in Bundy’s crew announced the lat­est effort to “fur­ther snub our noses in the faces of all these morons who are telling us what we can and can­not do”: An East­er ser­vice, fol­lowed by a potluck.

    “Bring your own food, bring your own chair,” said Diego Rodriguez, who also pre­viewed an attack ad against Lit­tle and asked for dona­tions to get the ad on Rush Limbaugh’s show.

    “Your dol­lar will go fur­ther right now than it can ever go in the his­to­ry of time!” Rodriguez exclaimed at one point on Thurs­day.

    Rodriguez said he’d be deliv­er­ing the “very short” ser­mon Sun­day.

    “I don’t care if you’re Chris­t­ian, Catholic, Mor­mon, athe­ist, Lib­er­tar­i­an, hare-brained con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist,” he said — all are wel­come.

    “Our goal is to get enough peo­ple togeth­er and secure our rights,” Bundy told CNN, describ­ing the ser­vice. “We are not try­ing to pro­voke, we want peo­ple to be able to wor­ship.”

    Bundy, who lives in the small town of Emmett, Ida­ho, said he’d received the con­tact infor­ma­tion of hun­dreds of peo­ple who were will­ing to — phys­i­cal­ly, if nec­es­sary — stand up for those com­mit­ted to vio­lat­ing the state’s “stay-at-home” orders, which Lit­tle announced late last month.

    ...

    ———–

    “Ammon Bundy And His Out­law COVID Meet-Up Crew Are Host­ing An East­er Potluck” by Matt Shuham; Talk­ing Points Memo; 04/10/2020

    “Bundy, who lives in the small town of Emmett, Ida­ho, said he’d received the con­tact infor­ma­tion of hun­dreds of peo­ple who were will­ing to — phys­i­cal­ly, if nec­es­sary — stand up for those com­mit­ted to vio­lat­ing the state’s “stay-at-home” orders, which Lit­tle announced late last month.”

    Hun­dreds of vol­un­teers to phys­i­cal­ly stand up for those com­mit­ted to vio­lat­ing Ida­ho’s “stay-at-home” order. That sure sounds like Ammon is angling for anoth­er armed stand-off. The East­er gath­er­ing was just like dan­gling bait. It rais­es the ques­tion of just how many guns were at that East­er ser­vice. Was it a spe­cial East­er ser­mon for the hun­dreds of vol­un­teers who con­tact­ed Ammon? Who knows, but as Ammon makes clear in the fol­low­ing arti­cle from a few weeks ago, he’s per­fect­ly will­ing to engage in anoth­er armed stand­off over this issue. He real­ly
    does view these stay-at-home orders as some sort of egre­gious con­sti­tu­tion­al vio­la­tion and he’s will­ing to have a shootout over it. It’s a point/threat he’s been reit­er­at­ing for weeks now:

    Ida­ho Press

    Amid stay-home order, Ammon Bundy hosts meet­ing; calls on Ida­hoans to defend rights

    By RYAN SUPPE
    Mar 27, 2020

    EMMETT — Ammon Bundy host­ed on Thurs­day a meet­ing in Emmett, where he called on atten­dees to pledge to defend Ida­hoans who are pres­sured to com­ply with a stay-home order enact­ed this week by Gov. Brad Lit­tle.

    Reached by phone Fri­day, Bundy said the gath­er­ing was about dis­cussing the state’s self-iso­la­tion order.

    “We dis­cussed with each oth­er whether our rights can be tak­en by an order from a gov­er­nor or an agency, and if they can be, what good are our rights?” Bundy said.

    Lit­tle on Wednes­day issued a statewide stay-home order for all Ida­hoans for 21 days. The order requires all res­i­dents “to self-iso­late at home if you can, not just if you are sick,” accord­ing to the governor’s office.

    Bundy said self-iso­la­tion dur­ing the spread of the new coro­n­avirus is “not a bad thing.”

    “I’m not sure it’s war­rant­ed com­plete­ly to even ask that, but that’s not the argu­ment here,” he said. “If it was a guide­line, I would applaud it. It’s not, it’s an order.”

    A 19-minute video of Thursday’s two-hour meet­ing, record­ed live and post­ed on a pub­lic Face­book account, shows Bundy pledg­ing to help pro­vide legal, polit­i­cal and phys­i­cal defense to peo­ple who are pres­sured by the “author­i­ties” or any­body else to com­ply with the order.

    “I will be there,” Bundy said. “I will bring as many peo­ple as we can. We will form a legal defense for you, a polit­i­cal defense for you, and we will also, if nec­es­sary, pro­vide a phys­i­cal defense for you, so that you can con­tin­ue in your rights.”

    Bundy asked meet­ing atten­dees to sign a piece of paper, pro­vide their con­tact infor­ma­tion and “agree that, as some­one decides to stand, we form a legal and polit­i­cal and phys­i­cal defense.” Bundy said he knows “a lot of good peo­ple” that have “a tremen­dous amount of legal capa­bil­i­ties,” and there are peo­ple who are “very effec­tive at polit­i­cal” defense.

    “If you are with­in your rights, act­ing, and you are receiv­ing pres­sure or force from any­body … that this is the peo­ple that you con­tact,” he said, refer­ring to the pledge paper. “What their job is, is to acti­vate every­body in the sit­u­a­tion.”

    Bundy said the “sit­u­a­tion” could be “so and so needs (us) to go down to his busi­ness,” or “so and so (needs us) to file suit, griev­ance.” Bundy also said that a “bad actor,” or some­one who infringes on peo­ples’ rights, could be tar­get­ed for protests at their homes.

    “We need to find out who’s the bad actor here,” he said. “We need to go to his house and act in that way.”

    Bundy told the Ida­ho Press he’s not opposed to weapons being used in a sit­u­a­tion where “phys­i­cal defense” is required.

    “When someone’s rights are being vio­lat­ed for what­ev­er rea­son … then thou­sands of peo­ple come and sur­round that per­son and bring a tremen­dous, a lot of atten­tion and bring account­abil­i­ty to the bad actors,” he said. “The First Amend­ment is secured by the Sec­ond Amend­ment.”

    Ear­li­er on Thurs­day, Bundy, who lives near Emmett, post­ed a Face­book video invit­ing “all the peo­ple of Ida­ho” to come to a “people’s meet­ing.”

    “The last time it was ille­gal to meet togeth­er as a peo­ple on this land was before the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War,” said Bundy, wear­ing a cow­boy hat and film­ing him­self. “Since we won our inde­pen­dence, it has nev­er been ille­gal to assem­ble as a peo­ple.”

    In 2016, Bundy helped lead the armed occu­pa­tion of the Mal­heur Nation­al Wildlife Refuge. He also par­tic­i­pat­ed in an armed stand­off with fed­er­al law enforce­ment at his father’s Neva­da ranch in 2014.

    The Thurs­day meet­ing was held in an indus­tri­al build­ing in Emmett, which Bundy owns and leas­es. The video shows more than a dozen peo­ple in atten­dance, both sit­ting and stand­ing, and they most­ly appeared to be keep­ing some dis­tance from one anoth­er. Bundy said he plans to host anoth­er meet­ing next week at the same loca­tion.

    The meet­ing like­ly vio­lates the state’s stay-home order. At a Fri­day press con­fer­ence, Lit­tle said he has the author­i­ty to out­law pub­lic gath­er­ings, even polit­i­cal gath­er­ings. He said gath­er­ings are dis­cour­aged and are “frankly in vio­la­tion of this stay-home order.”

    ...

    ———–

    “Amid stay-home order, Ammon Bundy hosts meet­ing; calls on Ida­hoans to defend rights” by RYAN SUPPE; Ida­ho Press; 03/27/2020

    “A 19-minute video of Thursday’s two-hour meet­ing, record­ed live and post­ed on a pub­lic Face­book account, shows Bundy pledg­ing to help pro­vide legal, polit­i­cal and phys­i­cal defense to peo­ple who are pres­sured by the “author­i­ties” or any­body else to com­ply with the order.

    Sur­prise! The guy who nev­er found a sit­u­a­tion that could­n’t be solved with the threat of dead­ly force just found a new sit­u­a­tion requir­ing the threat of dead­ly force. Or rather, a sit­u­a­tion requir­ing the offer of the threat of dead­ly force. An offer to any­one who wants armed pro­tec­tion from author­i­ties while they defy the gov­er­nor’s stay-at-home order:

    ...
    “I will be there,” Bundy said. “I will bring as many peo­ple as we can. We will form a legal defense for you, a polit­i­cal defense for you, and we will also, if nec­es­sary, pro­vide a phys­i­cal defense for you, so that you can con­tin­ue in your rights.”

    Bundy asked meet­ing atten­dees to sign a piece of paper, pro­vide their con­tact infor­ma­tion and “agree that, as some­one decides to stand, we form a legal and polit­i­cal and phys­i­cal defense.” Bundy said he knows “a lot of good peo­ple” that have “a tremen­dous amount of legal capa­bil­i­ties,” and there are peo­ple who are “very effec­tive at polit­i­cal” defense.

    “If you are with­in your rights, act­ing, and you are receiv­ing pres­sure or force from any­body … that this is the peo­ple that you con­tact,” he said, refer­ring to the pledge paper. “What their job is, is to acti­vate every­body in the sit­u­a­tion.”

    ...

    Bundy told the Ida­ho Press he’s not opposed to weapons being used in a sit­u­a­tion where “phys­i­cal defense” is required.

    “When someone’s rights are being vio­lat­ed for what­ev­er rea­son … then thou­sands of peo­ple come and sur­round that per­son and bring a tremen­dous, a lot of atten­tion and bring account­abil­i­ty to the bad actors,” he said. “The First Amend­ment is secured by the Sec­ond Amend­ment.”

    Ear­li­er on Thurs­day, Bundy, who lives near Emmett, post­ed a Face­book video invit­ing “all the peo­ple of Ida­ho” to come to a “people’s meet­ing.”

    “The last time it was ille­gal to meet togeth­er as a peo­ple on this land was before the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War,” said Bundy, wear­ing a cow­boy hat and film­ing him­self. “Since we won our inde­pen­dence, it has nev­er been ille­gal to assem­ble as a peo­ple.”
    ...

    But the offer isn’t lim­it­ed to armed pro­tec­tion from author­i­ties. Ammon is also appar­ent­ly offer­ing to take his group to protest the homes of “bad actors”. Who exact­ly would fall under the “bad actor” cat­e­go­ry remains unclear but it pre­sum­ably the local offi­cials with the temer­i­ty of expect­ing peo­ple to actu­al­ly adhere to stay-at-home orders:

    ...
    Bundy said the “sit­u­a­tion” could be “so and so needs (us) to go down to his busi­ness,” or “so and so (needs us) to file suit, griev­ance.” Bundy also said that a “bad actor,” or some­one who infringes on peo­ples’ rights, could be tar­get­ed for protests at their homes.

    “We need to find out who’s the bad actor here,” he said. “We need to go to his house and act in that way.”
    ...

    Yes, a few weeks ago we had Ammon Bundy first make this new pledge of armed stand­offs and we’re already had a bla­tant livestreamed East­er provo­ca­tion intend­ed to taunt author­i­ties into tak­ing some sort of action. So as we can see, Ammon is clear­ly in the mood for a new armed stand­off. And why not? He’s Ammon Bundy. Con­se­quence-free armed stand­offs with author­i­ties are what he does.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 13, 2020, 7:53 pm
  14. LIBERATE MINNESOTA!— Don­ald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020

    LIBERATE MICHIGAN!— Don­ald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020

    LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amend­ment. It is under siege!— Don­ald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020

    Those were three of the dec­la­ra­tions Pres­i­dent Trump decid­ed to tweet out on Fri­day. These three states, which all just hap­pen to have Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nors, sud­den­ly became the tar­get of calls for “lib­er­a­tion” by the Pres­i­dent. Vir­gini­a’s gov­er­nor just issued a state-wide stay-at-home order. It was just anoth­er day in the mid­dle of the Trump pan­dem­ic response. A response that varies wild­ly from day to day but is con­sis­tent­ly crazy. Don’t for­get that it was just on Mon­day when Trump declared he had “total author­i­ty” over deci­sions of whether or not states reopen their economies, only to acknowl­edge the next day that it’s state gov­er­nors that actu­al­ly have the author­i­ty over reopen­ing their states. So this call for the “lib­er­a­tion” of states took place at the end of a week that start­ed off with Trump vac­il­lat­ing over whether or not he has “total author­i­ty” over the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic response. It’s like he was sav­ing face for fail­ing to assert total author­i­ty.

    But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle makes clear, anoth­er part of what made Trump’s “lib­er­a­tion” com­ments to dis­turb­ing is that these “lib­er­a­tion” com­ments were tak­ing place at the same time a series of right-wing protests were crop­ping up in states around the US. Right-wing protests that appear to be coor­di­nat­ed by the Repub­li­can Par­ty and wealthy donors. Basi­cal­ly the Tea Par­ty for Coro­n­avirus.

    White House eco­nom­ic advi­sor Stephen Moore is also open­ly back­ing these protests and is offer­ing the the protest groups advice and legal sup­port should pro­test­ers be arrest­ed and pros­e­cut­ed. Recall that Trump nom­i­nat­ed Moore for a posi­tion on the Fed­er­al Reserve board of gov­er­nors last year as part of his dri­ve to get a Gold Stan­dard sup­port­er on the board before Moore with­drew his nom­i­na­tion and Trump nom­i­nat­ed gold bug Judy Shel­ton in his place. Moore is on the White House­’s coun­cil for reopen­ing the econ­o­my and referred to these lock­down pro­tes­tors as “mod­ern day Rosa Parks”. Yep.

    Also recall how groups financed by the GOP mega-donors — like Free­dom­Works, ALEC, and the US Cham­ber of Com­merce — are already putting togeth­er ini­tia­tives call­ing for the reopen­ing of the US econ­o­my. Mea­sures back by these groups for encour­ag­ing the reopen­ing includ­ing lift­ing lia­bil­i­ties for com­pa­nies if employ­ees catch the coro­n­avirus while at work.

    So one of Trump’s top eco­nom­ic crank advi­sors is help­ing to orches­trate these protests in coor­di­na­tion with state lev­el Repub­li­can par­ty orga­ni­za­tions and mega-donor think-tanks. Just like the Tea Par­ty. It’s the kind con­ver­gence of bad actors that sug­gests we’re look­ing at the con­tours of a like­ly nation­al­ized GOP cam­paign for the elec­tions in Novem­ber based around chan­nel­ing the pub­lic anger over the virus. A GOP cam­paign to run on the idea of reopen­ing economies regard­less of the pub­lic health risks. That deci­sion will be effec­tive­ly put up to vot­ers. In oth­er words, if Trump wins reelec­tion his win will be por­trayed as a pub­lic man­date to reopen economies whether or not there’s an ongo­ing COVID-19 pub­lic health risk. It’s the key sub­text of Trump’s “lib­er­a­tion” tweets: It’s real­ly about lib­er­at­ing the politi­cians and their back­ers who want to reopen the econ­o­my regard­less of the pub­lic health risks from the con­se­quences of that deci­sion:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Ral­lies against stay-at-home orders grow as Trump sides with pro­test­ers
    Pro­test­ers out­side the state­house in Colum­bus, Ohio, on Mon­day.

    By Toluse Olorun­ni­pa, Shawn Boburg and Arelis R. Hernán­dez
    April 17, 2020 at 9:04 PM EDT

    Pro­test­ers at state capi­tols across the coun­try this week expressed their deep frus­tra­tion with the stay-at-home orders that are meant to stem the spread of the nov­el coro­n­avirus, push­ing a mes­sage that is rapid­ly coa­lesc­ing among the nation’s con­ser­v­a­tives: Reopen the coun­try.

    Groups ral­lied in at least six states this week, and protests are planned in four more in com­ing days. On Fri­day, Pres­i­dent Trump encour­aged pro­test­ers in Michi­gan, Min­neso­ta and Vir­ginia who this week vio­lat­ed stay-at-home orders and social dis­tanc­ing guide­lines to march against Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nors.

    “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” Trump tweet­ed. “LIBERATE MINNESOTA,” he con­tin­ued. “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amend­ment. It is under siege!”

    Trump’s tweets come as the right-wing media has ampli­fied the protests and con­ser­v­a­tive groups have formed plans to joint­ly press for a reopen­ing of the econ­o­my. The groups include sev­er­al vet­er­ans of the tea par­ty era, activism that was pow­ered by a net­work of right-wing and cor­po­rate financiers inter­est­ed in reduc­ing tax­es and reg­u­la­tions on indus­try.

    Pro­test­ers railed against poli­cies that call for nonessen­tial busi­ness­es and schools to be closed, restau­rants lim­it­ed to car­ry­out ser­vice and peo­ple to stay large­ly in their homes except for emer­gen­cies. They argue that the nation has sac­ri­ficed the econ­o­my, with unem­ploy­ment at record lev­els, and peo­ple have upend­ed their lives for some­thing many do not see as an exis­ten­tial threat to soci­ety.

    “I think there’s a boil­ing point that has been reached and exceed­ed,” said Stephen Moore, a con­ser­v­a­tive econ­o­mist. Moore is a mem­ber of both the White House coun­cil to reopen the coun­try and a coali­tion of con­ser­v­a­tive lead­ers and activists seek­ing to push gov­ern­ment offi­cials to relax stay-at-home orders.

    “I call these peo­ple the mod­ern-day Rosa Parks — they are protest­ing against injus­tice and a loss of lib­er­ties,” Moore said of the pro­test­ers.

    Moore said the protests have been spon­ta­neous and orga­nized at the local lev­el, but he said his group has been offer­ing them advice and legal sup­port should pro­test­ers be arrest­ed and pros­e­cut­ed.

    The protests come as gov­er­nors in Texas, Min­neso­ta and Ver­mont on Fri­day announced dates to ease cer­tain restric­tions.

    In Michi­gan, hun­dreds of peo­ple clogged traf­fic in cars or marched in the snow to protest against Gov. Gretchen Whit­mer (D), who last week added addi­tion­al restric­tions to the state’s stay-at-home order. Pro­test­ers waved Amer­i­can flags, Trump flags and an occa­sion­al Con­fed­er­ate flag. Many screamed “Lock her up!” and “We will not com­ply!”

    Protest lead­ers said the demon­stra­tions evolved organ­i­cal­ly into a col­lec­tive call for rolling back emer­gency mea­sures that they think infringe on per­son­al free­doms and fur­ther dec­i­mate the econ­o­my.

    “I feel ter­ri­ble about the lives lost, but at some point we have to say ‘Mis­sion accom­plished’ and come up with the next phase of this that doesn’t have us con­tin­u­ous­ly locked inside our homes,” said Matthew Seely of the Michi­gan Con­ser­v­a­tive Coali­tion, which orga­nized the protests.

    Michi­gan has been one of the states hit hard­est by the virus, with more than 30,000 con­firmed cas­es and over 2,200 deaths.

    State incor­po­ra­tion records show the non­prof­it coali­tion also goes by anoth­er name: Michi­gan Trump Repub­li­cans. The group’s pres­i­dent, Rosanne Ponkows­ki, iden­ti­fied her­self as a home­mak­er last year in fed­er­al cam­paign finance records. But the group’s oth­er direc­tors are long­time GOP insid­ers, accord­ing to state records. They include Mar­i­an Sheri­dan, the state Repub­li­can Party’s vice chair of “grass roots” efforts.

    Sheri­dan has “worked in Michi­gan grass roots for the last 10 years” and start­ed her polit­i­cal career as a tea par­ty leader and orga­niz­er, accord­ing to the state GOP’s web­site.

    Sheri­dan, Ponkows­ki and the Michi­gan Repub­li­can Par­ty did not respond to mes­sages.

    Social media accounts show that part of the group’s goal was to dam­age Whit­mer. A day after the protest, the Michi­gan Trump Repub­li­cans post­ed a con­ser­v­a­tive opin­ion writer’s col­umn on its Face­book page. The col­umn, which appeared in The Wash­ing­ton Post, assert­ed that the protest had all but killed Whitmer’s chances to be vice pres­i­dent.

    “Mis­sion accom­plished?” the group wrote above the link to the col­umn.

    Nicole Hem­mer, a schol­ar at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty and author of “Mes­sen­gers of the Right,” about the right-wing media, said the anti-gov­ern­ment sig­nage and argu­ment that stay-at-home orders infringe on per­son­al lib­er­ty hark back to a pri­or con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment.

    “In my mind it looks a lot like the tea par­ty,” she said. “It almost seems like an excuse for get­ting out and ral­ly­ing against politi­cians they oppose.”

    Some politi­cians believe Trump’s egging on of the pro­test­ers is dan­ger­ous.

    “The pres­i­dent is foment­ing domes­tic rebel­lion and spread­ing lies even while his own admin­is­tra­tion says the virus is real and is dead­ly and that we have a long way to go before restric­tions can be lift­ed,” said Wash­ing­ton Gov. Jay Inslee (D). A protest against his stay-at-home order, which lifts May 5, is sched­uled in Olympia this week­end.

    Tyler Miller, who orga­nized the Wash­ing­ton state protest, said he is urg­ing atten­dees to wear per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment, prac­tice phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing and not attend if they are in a high-risk cat­e­go­ry or feel­ing sick.

    Despite the grow­ing num­ber of protests, polling shows the vast major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans sup­port stay-at-home orders. Eighty-one per­cent of respon­dents in an April 8 Quin­nip­i­ac Uni­ver­si­ty poll said they would sup­port a nation­al stay-at-home order. Six­ty-eight per­cent of Repub­li­cans queried said they would sup­port a nation­wide order to stay in their homes, along with 95 per­cent of Democ­rats and 80 per­cent of Inde­pen­dents. In a Pew Research Cen­ter sur­vey, 66 per­cent of respon­dents said they are more con­cerned that restric­tions would be lift­ed too quick­ly, as opposed to not quick­ly enough. Repub­li­cans in the sur­vey were essen­tial­ly split on the ques­tion.

    Pub­lic health experts have said any pre­ma­ture eas­ing of stay-at-home orders could lead to a sec­ond wave of pan­dem­ic, eras­ing the social dis­tanc­ing progress, return­ing the pop­u­la­tion to quar­an­tine, deep­en­ing the eco­nom­ic tur­moil and result­ing in more lives lost.

    Some said they are protest­ing main­ly because of the severe eco­nom­ic impact caused by the virus. More than 22 mil­lion peo­ple have filed for unem­ploy­ment since Trump declared a nation­al emer­gency last month.

    In Ohio, where 100 pro­test­ers did not prac­tice social dis­tanc­ing as they pushed up against the glass doors of the state­house this week, Gov. Mike DeWine ® announced he was assem­bling plans to safe­ly reopen the econ­o­my ahead of the expi­ra­tion of his stay-at-home order May 1. DeWine and Amy Acton, direc­tor of the Ohio Depart­ment of Health, have said reopen­ing will come in phas­es.

    State Sen. Andrew Bren­ner ® said DeWine was right to close schools and busi­ness­es ear­ly, deci­sions that Bren­ner said are bring­ing the state clos­er to reopen­ing.

    Brenner’s dis­trict near Colum­bus is one of the fastest-grow­ing areas of the state. He said the pan­dem­ic has wiped out its eco­nom­ic gains.

    “Peo­ple are call­ing me cry­ing because they’ve lost their jobs, and the gov­ern­ment stim­u­lus checks are not going to keep peo­ple going long,” Bren­ner said, adding more peo­ple will need gov­ern­ment assis­tance. “The next thing that’s going to hap­pen is that rev­enue need­ed to main­tain vital ser­vices, such as edu­ca­tion and Med­ic­aid, will plum­met.”

    Busi­ness own­ers in Okla­homa and Ohio have filed law­suits, bemoan­ing the eco­nom­ic costs of shel­ter­ing in place. In Michi­gan, Michael Lack­o­mar called a lawyer after a run-in with state troop­ers.

    Lack­o­mar said he and his wife have left their home in the Detroit sub­urbs for their soli­tary sec­ond home on the shores of Lake Huron. But when Lack­o­mar vis­it­ed this week, two state troop­ers pound­ed on the door.

    “You know you’re not sup­posed to be here,” Lack­o­mar recalled the troop­er say­ing as he explained Whitmer’s new order, which bans peo­ple from trav­el­ing between a pri­ma­ry res­i­dence and a vaca­tion home. The troop­ers told the cou­ple to stay put or risk a $1,000 fine or mis­de­meanor charge.

    The inter­ac­tion led Lack­o­mar to rant on Face­book and then con­tact a lawyer.

    “Some­times you feel like you have no voice against the big mono­lith­ic gov­ern­ment,” said Lack­o­mar, who is one of sev­er­al Michi­gan res­i­dents suing Whit­mer. “They are try­ing to con­tain the infec­tion, but there is a line. I’m sor­ry, my rights as an indi­vid­ual don’t always take a back seat to some­one else’s fears.”

    Lackomar’s lawyer, David Helm, is argu­ing in fed­er­al court that the gov­ern­ment owes his clients com­pen­sa­tion because reg­u­la­tions have ren­dered their prop­er­ties and busi­ness­es use­less. The statewide restric­tions, he said, vio­late prop­er­ty and due process rights because most of Michigan’s coro­n­avirus cas­es are lim­it­ed to two hard-hit coun­ties in metro Detroit.

    “The entire state of Michi­gan is on house arrest. That’s a prob­lem,” said Helm, who has heard from oth­er firms con­tem­plat­ing class-action suits in Ten­nessee and Ore­gon. “We know there is a pan­dem­ic and gov­ern­ment action needs to take place, but you have to tai­lor those actions to min­i­mize con­sti­tu­tion­al infringe­ments. If left unchecked, it can lead to more dra­mat­ic reg­u­la­tions down the road. We don’t want the gov­er­nor to be in a posi­tion to make prece­dent here. We want the court to set prece­dent.”

    Whitmer’s office did not return a request for com­ment on the law­suits.

    In a news con­fer­ence this week, Whit­mer said she under­stands why peo­ple are upset about the stay-at-home order.

    “It’s OK to be frus­trat­ed. It’s OK to be angry,” Whit­mer said, adding it would be fine if peo­ple direct­ed their feel­ings at her. “I’ve got thick skin and I’m always going to defend your right to free speech.”

    In states includ­ing North Car­oli­na, activists are orga­niz­ing through closed Face­book groups that have grown quick­ly.

    Ash­ley Smith, the founder of ReOpen­NC, believes stay-at-home orders are not the right way to fight the virus.

    “We’ve dropped an atom­ic bomb on a knife fight,” she said. “Yes, there are risks, but the Con­sti­tu­tion does not guar­an­tee us a risk-free exis­tence.”

    ...

    ————

    “Ral­lies against stay-at-home orders grow as Trump sides with pro­test­ers” by Toluse Olorun­ni­pa, Shawn Boburg and Arelis R. Hernán­dez; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 04/17/2020

    “Trump’s tweets come as the right-wing media has ampli­fied the protests and con­ser­v­a­tive groups have formed plans to joint­ly press for a reopen­ing of the econ­o­my. The groups include sev­er­al vet­er­ans of the tea par­ty era, activism that was pow­ered by a net­work of right-wing and cor­po­rate financiers inter­est­ed in reduc­ing tax­es and reg­u­la­tions on indus­try.

    Tea Par­ty vet­er­ans are behind these ‘spon­ta­neous’ protests that all sud­den­ly cropped in mul­ti­ple states at the same time. One of the groups is the “Michi­gan Trump Repub­li­cans” and one of the direc­tors for this group just hap­pens to include Mar­i­an Sheri­dan, the state Repub­li­can Party’s vice chair of “grass roots” efforts. What a coin­ci­dence:

    ...
    Protest lead­ers said the demon­stra­tions evolved organ­i­cal­ly into a col­lec­tive call for rolling back emer­gency mea­sures that they think infringe on per­son­al free­doms and fur­ther dec­i­mate the econ­o­my.

    “I feel ter­ri­ble about the lives lost, but at some point we have to say ‘Mis­sion accom­plished’ and come up with the next phase of this that doesn’t have us con­tin­u­ous­ly locked inside our homes,” said Matthew Seely of the Michi­gan Con­ser­v­a­tive Coali­tion, which orga­nized the protests.

    ...

    State incor­po­ra­tion records show the non­prof­it coali­tion also goes by anoth­er name: Michi­gan Trump Repub­li­cans. The group’s pres­i­dent, Rosanne Ponkows­ki, iden­ti­fied her­self as a home­mak­er last year in fed­er­al cam­paign finance records. But the group’s oth­er direc­tors are long­time GOP insid­ers, accord­ing to state records. They include Mar­i­an Sheri­dan, the state Repub­li­can Party’s vice chair of “grass roots” efforts.

    Sheri­dan has “worked in Michi­gan grass roots for the last 10 years” and start­ed her polit­i­cal career as a tea par­ty leader and orga­niz­er, accord­ing to the state GOP’s web­site.

    Sheri­dan, Ponkows­ki and the Michi­gan Repub­li­can Par­ty did not respond to mes­sages.
    ...

    And look at that: the social media accounts of the Michi­gan Trump Repub­li­cans straight up made clear that the pur­pose of the protest was to dam­age Gov­er­nor Whit­mer’s chances of becom­ing Joe Biden’s VP pick. It’s exact­ly the kind of polit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion you expect from a GOP mega-donor financed astro­turf group. As the gov­er­nor of the cru­cial swing state of Michi­gan, Whit­mer is clear­ly a tempt­ing pick for VP:

    ...
    Social media accounts show that part of the group’s goal was to dam­age Whit­mer. A day after the protest, the Michi­gan Trump Repub­li­cans post­ed a con­ser­v­a­tive opin­ion writer’s co-lumn on its Face­book page. The col­umn, which appeared in The Wash­ing­ton Post, assert­ed that the protest had all but killed Whitmer’s chances to be vice pres­i­dent.

    “Mis­sion accom­plished?” the group wrote above the link to the col­umn.

    Nicole Hem­mer, a schol­ar at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty and author of “Mes­sen­gers of the Right,” about the right-wing media, said the anti-gov­ern­ment sig­nage and argu­ment that stay-at-home orders infringe on per­son­al lib­er­ty hark back to a pri­or con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment.

    “In my mind it looks a lot like the tea par­ty,” she said. “It almost seems like an excuse for get­ting out and ral­ly­ing against politi­cians they oppose.”
    ...

    And then there’s White House eco­nom­ic advi­sor (and eco­nom­ic crank) Stephen Moore, who hap­pens to be a mem­ber of the White House coun­cil to reopen the coun­try and a mem­ber of a coali­tion of con­ser­v­a­tive lead­ers nad activists seek­ing to push gov­ern­ment offi­cials to relax stay-at-home poli­cies. He’s offer­ing advice and legal assis­tance for pro­tes­tors fac­ing pros­e­cu­tion and refers to these pro­tes­tors as mod­ern day Rosa Parks. Far right paid shills doing their mega-donors’ bid­ding are like Rosa Parks. Typ­i­cal far right trolling:

    ...
    Pro­test­ers railed against poli­cies that call for nonessen­tial busi­ness­es and schools to be closed, restau­rants lim­it­ed to car­ry­out ser­vice and peo­ple to stay large­ly in their homes except for emer­gen­cies. They argue that the nation has sac­ri­ficed the econ­o­my, with unem­ploy­ment at record lev­els, and peo­ple have upend­ed their lives for some­thing many do not see as an exis­ten­tial threat to soci­ety.

    “I think there’s a boil­ing point that has been reached and exceed­ed,” said Stephen Moore, a con­ser­v­a­tive econ­o­mist. Moore is a mem­ber of both the White House coun­cil to reopen the coun­try and a coali­tion of con­ser­v­a­tive lead­ers and activists seek­ing to push gov­ern­ment offi­cials to relax stay-at-home orders.

    “I call these peo­ple the mod­ern-day Rosa Parks — they are protest­ing against injus­tice and a loss of lib­er­ties,” Moore said of the pro­test­ers.

    Moore said the protests have been spon­ta­neous and orga­nized at the local lev­el, but he said his group has been offer­ing them advice and legal sup­port should pro­test­ers be arrest­ed and pros­e­cut­ed.
    ...

    And note how these protests could resist includ­ing the occa­sion­al overt far right sym­bol­ism, like a Con­fed­er­ate flag. A Con­fed­er­ate flag at a protest in Michi­gan. Now that is some seri­ous trolling:

    ...
    The protests come as gov­er­nors in Texas, Min­neso­ta and Ver­mont on Fri­day announced dates to ease cer­tain restric­tions.

    In Michi­gan, hun­dreds of peo­ple clogged traf­fic in cars or marched in the snow to protest against Gov. Gretchen Whit­mer (D), who last week added addi­tion­al restric­tions to the state’s stay-at-home order. Pro­test­ers waved Amer­i­can flags, Trump flags and an occa­sion­al Con­fed­er­ate flag. Many screamed “Lock her up!” and “We will not com­ply!”
    ...

    And note how these protests against he eco­nom­ic lock­downs now include law­suits by busi­ness own­ers over dam­ages caused by the protests. In Michi­gan, we have Michael Lack­o­mar fil­ing a suit. Tech­ni­cal­ly Lack­o­mar and his wife are two of the four one of four Michi­gan res­i­dents who just filed suit against Whit­mer’s office threat­en­ing dam­ages unless. Don’t for­get that we have already seen how Koch front groups like Free­dom­Works, ALEC, and the US Cham­ber of Com­merce are already work­ing on schemes for reopen­ing the econ­o­my that like lift­ing employ­er lia­bil­i­ty for work­ers catch­ing COVID at work. So when we see seem­ing­ly ‘grass roots’ dri­ves to sue the gov­ern­ment for dam­ages from the COVID lock­downs by small busi­ness and prop­er­ty own­ers we should keep in mind that the bil­lion­aires are going to be the most inter­est­ed in those kinds of legal prece­dents. If the own­ers of the US econ­o­my and prop­er­ty get to sue for dam­ages over this lock­down guess who gets most of those dam­ages: the mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires who own almost every­thing, of course:

    ...
    Busi­ness own­ers in Okla­homa and Ohio have filed law­suits, bemoan­ing the eco­nom­ic costs of shel­ter­ing in place. In Michi­gan, Michael Lack­o­mar called a lawyer after a run-in with state troop­ers.

    Lack­o­mar said he and his wife have left their home in the Detroit sub­urbs for their soli­tary sec­ond home on the shores of Lake Huron. But when Lack­o­mar vis­it­ed this week, two state troop­ers pound­ed on the door.

    “You know you’re not sup­posed to be here,” Lack­o­mar recalled the troop­er say­ing as he explained Whitmer’s new order, which bans peo­ple from trav­el­ing between a pri­ma­ry res­i­dence and a vaca­tion home. The troop­ers told the cou­ple to stay put or risk a $1,000 fine or mis­de­meanor charge.

    The inter­ac­tion led Lack­o­mar to rant on Face­book and then con­tact a lawyer.

    “Some­times you feel like you have no voice against the big mono­lith­ic gov­ern­ment,” said Lack­o­mar, who is one of sev­er­al Michi­gan res­i­dents suing Whit­mer. “They are try­ing to con­tain the infec­tion, but there is a line. I’m sor­ry, my rights as an indi­vid­ual don’t always take a back seat to some­one else’s fears.”

    Lackomar’s lawyer, David Helm, is argu­ing in fed­er­al court that the gov­ern­ment owes his clients com­pen­sa­tion because reg­u­la­tions have ren­dered their prop­er­ties and busi­ness­es use­less. The statewide restric­tions, he said, vio­late prop­er­ty and due process rights because most of Michigan’s coro­n­avirus cas­es are lim­it­ed to two hard-hit coun­ties in metro Detroit.

    “The entire state of Michi­gan is on house arrest. That’s a prob­lem,” said Helm, who has heard from oth­er firms con­tem­plat­ing class-action suits in Ten­nessee and Ore­gon. “We know there is a pan­dem­ic and gov­ern­ment action needs to take place, but you have to tai­lor those actions to min­i­mize con­sti­tu­tion­al infringe­ments. If left unchecked, it can lead to more dra­mat­ic reg­u­la­tions down the road. We don’t want the gov­er­nor to be in a posi­tion to make prece­dent here. We want the court to set prece­dent.”
    ...

    And as an exam­ple of how we’re look­ing at a fusion of mega-donor astro­turf groups with the far right and mili­tias, here’s an AP arti­cle from 2010 about the arrest of mem­bers of Huta­ree mili­tia over a plot to ambush and assas­si­nate law enforce­ment. A per­son named Michael Lack­o­mar was the spokesman (and coun­ty leader) for the South­east Michi­gan Vol­un­teer Mili­tia (SMVM). Lack­o­mar told reporters at the time that the Huta­ree mem­bers con­tact­ed his group when the arrests start­ed tak­ing place ask­ing for a place to hide. Huta­ree mem­bers had pre­vi­ous­ly trained with SMVM. Lack­o­mar claimed his team leader reject­ed the plea and the mili­tia was coop­er­at­ing with author­i­ties. It’s a sign of how close SMVM must have been to the Huta­ree mili­tia that they lit­er­al­ly con­tact­ed them for a place to hide.

    So is the Michi­gan mili­tia leader Michael Lack­o­mar from Michi­gan in 2010 the same Michael Lack­o­mar suing Michi­gan for dam­ages in 2020? That seems high­ly prob­a­ble based on the enor­mous over­lap between GOP activism and far right groups likes mili­tias. And that’s why it looks like one of the fig­ures now lead­ing the way on this ‘grass roots’ move­ment to open up the lock­downs no mat­ter what by try­ing to set a legal prece­dent for suing the gov­ern­ment for eco­nom­ic dam­ages over it is also a leader in a far right mili­tia:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    FBI Arrests Three in Raids on Mili­tias

    March 28, 2010 10:08 PM

    The FBI said Sun­day that agents con­duct­ed week­end raids in Michi­gan, Indi­ana and Ohio and arrest­ed at least three peo­ple, and a mili­tia leader in Michi­gan said the tar­get of at least one of the raids was a Chris­t­ian mili­tia group.

    Fed­er­al war­rants were sealed, but a fed­er­al law enforce­ment offi­cial speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty said some of those arrest­ed face gun charges and offi­cials are pur­su­ing oth­er sus­pects.

    FBI spokes­woman San­dra Berch­told said there had been activ­i­ty in two south­east Michi­gan coun­ties near the Ohio state line. She would­n’t say whether they were tied to the raids in the oth­er states.

    FBI spokesman Scott Wil­son in Cleve­land said agents arrest­ed two peo­ple Sat­ur­day after raids in two Ohio towns. A third arrest made in north­east Illi­nois on Sun­day stemmed from a raid Sat­ur­day just over the bor­der in north­west Indi­ana, both part of an ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion led by the FBI in Michi­gan, accord­ing to a state­ment from agents in Illi­nois.

    George Ponce, 18, who works at a pizze­ria next door to a home raid­ed in Ham­mond, Ind., said he and a few co-work­ers stepped out­side for a break Sat­ur­day night and saw a swarm of law enforce­ment.

    “I heard a yell, ‘Get back inside!’ and saw a squad mem­ber point­ing a rifle at us,” Ponce said. “They told us the bomb squad was going in, sweep­ing the house look­ing for bombs.”

    He said anoth­er agent was in the bush­es near the house, and law enforce­ment vehi­cles were “all over.” He esti­mat­ed that agents took more than two dozen guns from the house.

    Michael Lack­o­mar, a spokesman for the South­east Michi­gan Vol­un­teer Mili­tia, said one of his team lead­ers got a fran­tic phone call Sat­ur­day evening from mem­bers of Huta­ree, a Chris­t­ian mili­tia group, who said their prop­er­ty in south­west Michi­gan was being raid­ed by the Bureau of Alco­hol, Tobac­co, Firearms and Explo­sives.

    “They said they were under attack by the ATF and want­ed a place to hide,” Lack­o­mar said. “My team leader said, ‘no thanks.’ ”

    The team leader was coop­er­at­ing with the FBI on Sun­day, Lack­o­mar said. He said SMVM was­n’t affil­i­at­ed with Huta­ree, which states on its Web site to be “pre­pared to defend all those who belong to Christ and save those who aren’t.”

    “We believe that one day, as prophe­cy says, there will be an Anti-Christ,” the group’s Web site said. “Jesus want­ed us to be ready to defend our­selves using the sword and stay alive using equip­ment.

    An e‑mail sent to the group by The Asso­ci­at­ed Press was­n’t returned Sun­day, and phone num­bers for the group’s lead­er­ship were not imme­di­ate­ly avail­able. Berch­told, the FBI spokes­woman in Michi­gan, said she could­n’t con­firm if the raids were con­nect­ed to Huta­ree.

    Lack­o­mar said none of the raids focused on his group. Lack­o­mar said about eight to 10 mem­bers of Huta­ree trained with SMVM twice in the past three years. SMVM holds month­ly train­ing ses­sions focus­ing on sur­vival train­ing and shoot­ing prac­tice, Lack­o­mar said.

    ...

    ———–


    FBI Arrests Three in Raids on Mili­tias”; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 03/28/2010

    “Lack­o­mar said none of the raids focused on his group. Lack­o­mar said about eight to 10 mem­bers of Huta­ree trained with SMVM twice in the past three years. SMVM holds month­ly train­ing ses­sions focus­ing on sur­vival train­ing and shoot­ing prac­tice, Lack­o­mar said.

    It was just a few train­ing ses­sions with the Huta­ree mili­tia in the past three years. No big­gie. There’s no rea­son to sus­pect the SMVM might share Huta­ree’s far right views. That’s what Michael Lack­o­mar and the mili­tia move­ment were hop­ing we would believe in 2010. And if that Michael Lack­o­mar from 2010 is the same one suing for lock­down dam­ages today we’re pre­sum­ably also all expect­ed to ignore his mili­tia ties and the exten­sive ties between the far right and GOP ‘grass roots’ activism that hap­pens to activism high­ly aligned with the GOP’s mega-donor oli­garchs. We’re just sup­posed to ignore all that.

    Just as we’re all sup­posed to ignore how Stephen Moore is part of the White House coun­cil on reopen­ing the econ­o­my and active­ly encour­ag­ing these ‘grass roots’ protest. Offer­ing advice and legal help is pret­ty seri­ous­ly encour­age­ment. And as the fol­low­ing TPM piece describes, Moore has been active­ly post­ing on social media this week how he is assist­ing in these protests. In a video post­ed on YouTube page on Tues­day, Moore indi­cat­ed that he’s assist­ing a “dri­ve-in” protest in Wis­con­sin. It’s not just the GOP mega-donors behind this. It’s the White House:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    News

    Trump Advis­er Takes Heat For Liken­ing Stay-At-Home Pro­test­ers To Rosa Parks

    By Sum­mer Con­cep­cion
    April 18, 2020 3:42 p.m.

    Trump eco­nom­ic advis­er Stephen Moore faces back­lash for recent­ly com­par­ing pro­test­ers defy­ing stay-at-home orders in Michi­gan, Min­neso­ta and Vir­ginia to civ­il rights icon Rosa Parks.

    Moore, who is a mem­ber of the White House coun­cil to reopen the coun­try, told The Wash­ing­ton Post in a Fri­day night report that the stay-at-home order pro­test­ers indi­cate “a boil­ing point that has been reached and exceed­ed” and that he likens them to Park.

    “I call these peo­ple the mod­ern-day Rosa Parks — they are protest­ing against injus­tice and a loss of lib­er­ties,” Moore said.

    Moore was swift­ly derid­ed for his remarks short­ly after the Post pub­lished its report.

    ...

    How­ev­er, Moore’s com­ments to the Post weren’t the first to invoke Parks when dis­cussing pro­test­ers defy­ing stay-at-home orders.

    In a video post­ed to a lib­er­tar­i­an think tank’s YouTube page on Tues­day, Moore indi­cat­ed that he’s assist­ing an effort to plan a “dri­ve-in” to protest Wisconsin’s stay-at-home orders.

    “They’re going to shut down the Capi­tol — shh, don’t tell any­body,” Moore said. “We need to be the Rosa Parks here and protest against these gov­ern­ment injus­tices.”

    Moore then pre­dict­ed in the video that there will be “a lot more” of the stay-at-home order protests, before argu­ing that “this is a great time, gen­tle­man and ladies, for civ­il dis­obe­di­ence.”

    Moore’s lat­est remarks aren’t far off from the remarks Pres­i­dent Trump made dur­ing Friday’s White House coro­n­avirus task force brief­ing when he argued that Michi­gan, Min­neso­ta and Vir­ginia have done “too much” with social dis­tanc­ing and that the stay-at-home pro­test­ers in those states “seem to be very respon­si­ble peo­ple.”

    Moore also told CBS in a Fri­day inter­view that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion should have begun the process to reopen the econ­o­my “a week or two ago.”

    “I think we lean way too much in the direc­tion of keep­ing the econ­o­my shut down to try to save every life, not real­iz­ing that we’re caus­ing huge hard­ship for cit­i­zens — again, peo­ple at the bot­tom and busi­ness­es — and we’re going to suf­fer a big loss of liv­ing stan­dards because of this,” Moore said.

    ———–

    “Trump Advis­er Takes Heat For Liken­ing Stay-At-Home Pro­test­ers To Rosa Parks” by Sum­mer Con­cep­cion; Talk­ing Points Memo; 04/18/2020

    “Moore also told CBS in a Fri­day inter­view that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion should have begun the process to reopen the econ­o­my “a week or two ago.””

    Trump should have begun reopen­ing the econ­o­my a week or two ago. That’s what Stephen Moore is clear­ly advo­cat­ing on the White House coun­cil. And now he’s direct­ly work­ing with var­i­ous con­ser­v­a­tive groups hold­ing these protests. Protests that appears to be orches­trat­ed by the GOP’s mega-donor net­work. And Rosa Park­s’s civ­il rights protest is appar­ent­ly going to be the his­tor­i­cal event they’re going to use to brand the ‘grass roots’ protests:

    ...
    In a video post­ed to a lib­er­tar­i­an think tank’s YouTube page on Tues­day, Moore indi­cat­ed that he’s assist­ing an effort to plan a “dri­ve-in” to protest Wisconsin’s stay-at-home orders.

    “They’re going to shut down the Capi­tol — shh, don’t tell any­body,” Moore said. “We need to be the Rosa Parks here and protest against these gov­ern­ment injus­tices.”

    Moore then pre­dict­ed in the video that there will be “a lot more” of the stay-at-home order protests, before argu­ing that “this is a great time, gen­tle­man and ladies, for civ­il dis­obe­di­ence.”
    ...

    Rosa Parks brand anti-lock­down move­ment brought to you by the mili­tias and right-wing bil­lion­aires. That’s the polit­i­cal pos­ture we’re see­ing devel­op across the GOP. The bil­lion­aires and ‘grass roots’ far right have found a com­mon ground on how to best exploit the eco­nom­ic dev­as­ta­tion of the lock­down and it’s poised to be one of the sig­na­ture reelec­tion themes of the entire GOP. At least assum­ing we have a COVID elec­tion. A COVID elec­tion that, as we saw in Wis­con­sin’s pri­ma­ry last week, would sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly help Repub­li­cans win elec­tions as long as peo­ple had to vote in per­son as a result of the GOP’s war on mail-in vot­ing. The asym­me­try of the dan­ger of catch­ing the virus in an urban (Demo­c­ra­t­ic-lean­ing) vs rur­al (Repub­li­can-lean­ing) dis­trict makes vot­ing dur­ing a pan­dem­ic high­ly advan­ta­geous for Repub­li­cans and all signs are point­ing to that becom­ing a nation­al GOP strat­e­gy if COVID exists into Novem­ber.

    Trump and the GOP have a degree of the con­trol over whether or not the econ­o­my is opened but they can’t con­trol the virus. Well, they can through stay-at-home orders and lis­ten­ing to the epi­demi­ol­o­gists. But they can’t reopen the econ­o­my and con­trol the virus and that makes the prospects of a COVID-elec­tion in Novem­ber a real pos­si­bil­i­ty. The GOP wants and its donors all want to open things up ASAP.

    So it sounds like part of the US’s nation­al strate­gic plan­ning around the COVID-19 response has to include the dis­tinct pos­si­bil­i­ty that we’re going to see a big spike in coro­n­avirus cas­es fol­low­ing the elec­tion. The odds are rough­ly aligned with the odds of Trump win­ning reelec­tion because he’s kind of run­ning on the idea of just reopen­ing things no mat­ter what the pub­lic health experts rec­om­mend if he wins. Or at least he will be run­ning on that once these ‘grass root’ cam­paigns fin­ish build­ing sup­port for the idea.

    At the same time, let’s not for­get that Novem­ber is still quite a long time away in out new coro­na-time­line, where every month is like a year’s worth of emer­gen­cies and our sense of what to expect is in con­stant hyper-flux. If the US econ­o­my is still in lock­down mode in Novem­ber a huge swathe of the pub­lic is going to be going stir-crazy. Espe­cial­ly right-wing talk radio lis­ten­ers. They’re going to be going extra stir-crazy. Plus, most Amer­i­cans have no finan­cial safe­ty-net. They can’t be out of work for anoth­er sev­en months until Novem­ber. Not with­out sub­stan­tial gov­ern­ment sup­port for that entire peri­od. Month­ly wage/salary sub­si­dies from the gov­ern­ment for at least sev­en months. That has to absolute­ly hap­pen for the lock­down to real­is­ti­cal­ly con­tin­ue until Novem­ber because the vast major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans can’t afford be out of work for more than a month.

    And it’s already been a month out of work for many peo­ple. There has to be gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies for unem­ployed Amer­i­cans soon and for an indef­i­nite peri­od for the lock­down to work with­out mass pover­ty and hunger. There’s basi­cal­ly no sav­ings for most house­holds. The sin­gle $1200 checks sent out by the gov­ern­ment in the Phase III coro­na-stim­u­lus will buy a few weeks of time for the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress to deter­mine what to do about the real­i­ty that most of the US pub­lic can’t afford to be out of work for many months because the Amer­i­can econ­o­my has been trans­formed into a wage slave econ­o­my over the past forty years of Reaganomics and the vic­to­ry of the right-wing bil­lion­aire net­work of shill pol­i­cy think-tanks has result­ed in a labor force that is large­ly lack­ing a union and pow­er­less with­out an effec­tive real raise (exceed­ing infla­tion) for decades. The longer this lock­down goes the clos­er we get to see­ing the sud­den­ly laid-off just run out of sav­ings. That can’t be very far off.

    So there’s a fas­ci­nat­ing dynam­ic at work here where the lack of gen­er­al per­son­al sav­ings that has become a fea­ture of the US econ­o­my over the last gen­er­a­tion is cre­at­ing tick­ing-time-bomb of nation­al emer­gency in the form of mass per­son­al bank­rupt­cy that could hit any month now unless the gov­ern­ment pays the unem­ployed. And pay­ing the unem­ployed in a mass man­ner like this is like some sort of night­mare for the GOP mega-donors who are ulti­mate­ly call­ing the shots on this. Sev­en months of just sit­ting at home until Novem­ber could finan­cial­ly dev­as­tate a huge per­cent of the US pub­lic with­out a gov­ern­ment sub­sidy and the GOP does­n’t do gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies for the pub­lic. Ide­o­log­i­cal­ly. That’s like exis­ten­tial pain for the GOP. Sub­si­dies for the mass­es. Yuck. Blas­phe­my. The very idea prob­a­bly gives Charles Koch hives. But the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and GOP in Con­gress have to at least com­mit to pro­vid­ing pub­lic sub­si­dies to the pub­lic for at least sev­en months if the mass bank­rupt­cies will be avoid­ed before Novem­ber. Or real­ly six months since the on-time $1,200 checks are just going out. That buys a few weeks for the GOP to decide if they’ll com­mit to pay­ing the gen­er­al pub­lic month­ly quar­an­tine-checks until at least through Novem­ber if need be or if the plan is to force the econ­o­my open and just let the virus take down the vul­ner­a­ble. They clear­ly want to just open things up. That’s where they’re head­ing. And as we saw, groups like Free­dom­Works and the Cham­ber of Com­merce are ful­ly behind it and behind ideas like rais­ing legal lia­bil­i­ty for employ­ers over employ­ee covid-relat­ed lia­bil­i­ties.

    The mega-donors want to open things up to get their busi­ness empires back up and run­ning and they des­per­ate­ly hate things like pay­ing gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies to the pub­lic. That’s why they bought the GOP in the first place. To ensure it would oppose things like robust pub­lic sup­port for the unem­ployed peas­ants. So the GOP’s pay-mas­ters real­ly do have a strong ide­o­log­i­cal bias when it comes to open­ing things up now and let­ting the pub­lic health chips fall where they may vs keep­ing things locked down for as long as it takes even in the fall by pay­ing the bulk of the pub­lic month­ly checks that rough­ly cov­er their pre­vi­ous income. A giant expen­sive new pay-every­one sys­tem that pays every­one a gov­ern­ment stipend that goes on for months on end until the virus that will take an unknown amount of time is extin­guished through social dis­tanc­ing shut­downs. The GOP’s ulti­mate night­mare. Either approve that giant new open-end­ed safe­ty-net sys­tem for months on end right now or force the reopen­ing of the econ­o­my and watch the pan­dem­ic flare up again. It’s the kind of the deci­sion the GOP will only make after deep con­sul­ta­tion with the mega-donors. That’s why they’re mega-donors. So it’s real­ly a ques­tion of what the GOP mega-donors will decide when it comes to the choice between allow­ing the mega-donor’s GOP pup­pets to embark in an unprece­dent­ed large-scale open-end­ed pub­lic sup­port pro­gram at least through the end of 2020 vs just open­ing up the econ­o­my now and let­ting the virus run its course. A ques­tion that the mega-donors have answered with these fake ‘grass roots’ far right anti-lock­down protests.

    So from a pub­lic health per­spec­tive we have com­pelling rea­sons to sus­pect we could be look­ing at a COVID-elec­tion in Novem­ber where the virus is still slow­ing mak­ing its way through a large­ly locked down soci­ety. That’s just how the pan­dem­ic could pan out epi­demi­o­log­i­cal­ly. It could end soon­er but there’s no rea­son to assume so. Espe­cial­ly since it looks like the GOP and the mega-donors are ful­ly on board with just reopen­ing the econ­o­my soon no mat­ter what. Who knows what the infec­tion lev­els could look like in Novem­ber under a near-term polit­i­cal­ly-dri­ven reopen­ing sce­nario. It could be much more wide­spread in Novem­ber than cur­rent­ly.

    And that’s part of what makes a pre­ma­ture lift­ing of the coro­na-lock­down by the GOP so poten­tial­ly Machi­avel­lian: the more pre­ma­ture the reopen­ing is that results in the spread of the virus the more scary the pan­dem­ic will ulti­mate­ly be on elec­tion day in Novem­ber when the GOP is hop­ing the threat of the virus will keep more Democ­rats at home than Repub­li­cans. Every pub­lic health f#ck up by Con­gress and the Trump admin­is­tra­tion now, like reopen­ing too sonn, will only result in an extra scary elec­tion day in Novem­ber when the virus is ubiq­ui­tous. An extra scary elec­tion day that’s super extra scary in the more dense­ly packed Demo­c­ra­t­ic urban cores.

    And sure, one might argue that hav­ing an even worse pan­dem­ic on elec­tion day as a result of pre­ma­ture­ly reopen­ing is going to net-hurt the GOP as they get pun­ished at the bal­lot box, the GOP’s plan is clear­ly to run a base elec­tion that depends on base turnout, not win­ning over new vot­ers and the base will fol­low Trump off a cliff. It does­n’t real­ly mat­ter that much if the GOP has pissed off much of the elec­torate in the Novem­ber from there being an ongo­ing wide­spread pan­dem­ic as long as the GOP’s rur­al base is revved up and out to vote in max­i­mum strength for Trump like in 2016. If that hap­pens, the asym­met­ric threat the virus pos­es to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic urban cores com­pared to rur­al vot­ers can car­ry the day for the GOP. The worse the pan­dem­ic is on elec­tion day the more angry vot­ers will prob­a­bly be at Trump but the more scared they will be to go out and vote. We don’t know for cer­tain that the mega-donors are active­ly plan­ning on exploit­ing a greater pan­dem­ic on elec­tion day to help Trump and the GOP win but we do know for cer­tain that they are active­ly plan­ning on invit­ing that greater pan­dem­ic. That’s what all the astro­turf protests and law­suits are all about.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 18, 2020, 11:45 pm
  15. Fol­low­ing up on the sto­ry of the sud­den emer­gence of Tea Par­ty-style astro­turf ‘grass­roots’ anti-COVID-lock­down protests in state cap­i­tals across the US last week and the fact that White House eco­nom­ic advi­sor Stephen Moore is active­ly work­ing with and encour­ag­ing the protests, here’s a pair of arti­cles that under­score how these protests real­ly are being joint­ly orches­trat­ed by the Trump White House and the GOP mega-donor net­work of think-tanks like Free­dom­Works and ALEC:

    If it seems like all these groups are fol­low­ing the same tem­plate, it turns out the group behind the protests in Michi­gan admit­ted to pro­vid­ing that tem­plate.
    Matt Seely, a spokesper­son for the Michi­gan Con­ser­v­a­tive Coali­tion which orga­nized the protests told Buz­zFeed a cou­ple of days ago that he’s dis­trib­uted his groups tem­plate plan of action to dozens of groups in oth­er states. A tem­plate they’ve clear­ly been fol­low­ing based on the iden­ti­cal lan­guage used on social media by the dif­fer­ent protest groups that sud­den­ly popped up this week.

    But the Michi­gan Con­ser­v­a­tive Coali­tion has a part­ner in orga­niz­ing the anti-lock­down protests this week and that part­ner orga­ni­za­tion, the Michi­gan Free­dom Fund, just hap­pens to be one of the out­fits financed by the DeVos Fam­i­ly. Michi­gan Free­dom Fund is run by Greg McNeil­ly, an employ­ee of Dick DeVos’ Windquest Group finan­cial invest­ment firm. He also pre­vi­ous­ly served as cam­paign man­ag­er for Dick DeVos’s guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date. So while we’re going to hear denials from Repub­li­can oper­a­tives in the first arti­cle below that the Michi­gan Free­dom Fund isn’t run by the DeVos fam­i­ly, that’s implau­si­ble spin. McNeil­ly is also a for­mer exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Michi­gan Repub­li­can Par­ty so, at best, we can sus­pect that the Michi­gan Free­dom Fund is more a tool of the Michi­gan Repub­li­can Par­ty an than the DeVos fam­i­ly. Except we can’t real­ly say that because the DeVos fam­i­ly kind of owns the Michi­gan Repub­li­can Par­ty so even that spin isn’t avail­able. The Michi­gan Free­dom Fund is a DeVos front group and it helped devel­op the tem­plate that’s being used by astro­turf ‘grass­roots’ groups across the nation in what appears to be a rein­car­na­tion of the Tea Par­ty.

    And Bet­sy DeVos is, of course, the wife of Dick DeVos and Pres­i­dent Trump’s edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary. So the far right bil­lion­aire oli­garch edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary’s front group co-orga­nized the Michi­gan anti-coro­na-lock­down protests and shared that as a tem­plate to the rest of the states:

    Buz­zFeed News

    This Is How A Group Linked To Bet­sy DeVos Is Orga­niz­ing Protests To End Social Dis­tanc­ing, Now With Trump’s Sup­port

    Thou­sands of demon­stra­tors showed up in Michi­gan to protest the gov­er­nor’s stay-at-home order, and they’re help­ing oth­er groups orga­nize across the coun­try.

    Sal­vador Her­nan­dez Buz­zFeed News Reporter
    Post­ed on April 17, 2020, at 8:05 p.m. ET

    While thou­sands of demon­stra­tors swarmed the Michi­gan State Capi­tol to protest the gov­er­nor’s stay-at-home order Wednes­day — honk­ing horns, wav­ing flags, and bring­ing traf­fic to a halt — dozens of Face­book groups were already spring­ing up to orga­nize sim­i­lar ral­lies across the coun­try.

    “Indi­ana Cit­i­zens Against Exces­sive Quar­an­tine,” “Oper­a­tion Grid­lock Ten­nessee,” and oth­er groups with sim­i­lar names drew peo­ple call­ing an end to stay-at-home orders, mea­sures that health offi­cials say are essen­tial to stop­ping the spread of COVID-19, the dis­ease caused by the nov­el coro­n­avirus.

    Protests against the guide­lines are being planned across the coun­try. The Michi­gan Con­ser­v­a­tive Coali­tion, the same orga­ni­za­tion that planned the Lans­ing protest against Gov. Gretchen Whit­mer on Wednes­day, is help­ing orga­niz­ers.

    “You’re going to see some mas­sive protest­ing going on,” Matt Seely, a spokesper­son for the Michi­gan Con­ser­v­a­tive Coali­tion, told Buz­zFeed News. “We’ve been asked to basi­cal­ly share our tem­plate with oth­er groups to do the same thing, and we’ve done that.”

    Like the protest in Lans­ing, groups opposed to stay-at-home orders are push­ing for busi­ness­es and pub­lic spaces to reopen and for pub­lic gath­er­ings to be allowed.

    But the protest in Lans­ing, and those being planned in oth­er parts of the coun­try, have also drawn right-wing orga­ni­za­tions like mili­tia groups that oppose stay-at-home orders, call­ing them a vio­la­tion of civ­il lib­er­ties and warn­ing sup­port­ers of the pos­si­bil­i­ty of mar­tial law being imposed.

    On Fri­day, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump seemed to take a sim­i­lar tone, air­ing sup­port of groups protest­ing the orders and call­ing on peo­ple to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”

    Trump, who on Thurs­day intro­duced guide­lines for states to begin open­ing up, wrote sim­i­lar tweets regard­ing Min­neso­ta and Vir­ginia.

    ...

    A Twit­ter spokesper­son told Buz­zFeed News that, despite the pres­i­dent call­ing for the lib­er­a­tion of states, the tweets did not vio­late its rules. “The use of ‘lib­er­ate’ in the Tweets you ref­er­enced is vague and unclear, and not some­thing that allows us to reli­ably infer harm­ful phys­i­cal intent,” the spokesper­son said.

    Despite Trump’s rhetoric, the three states’ Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nors seemed unin­ter­est­ed in want­i­ng to get­ting into war of words with the pres­i­dent.

    “As the gov­er­nor of the Com­mon­wealth of Vir­ginia, I’m fight­ing a bio­log­i­cal war,” Vir­ginia Gov. Ralph Northam said dur­ing a press brief­ing Fri­day. “I do not have time to involve myself in Twit­ter wars. I will con­tin­ue to make sure that I do every­thing that I can to keep Vir­gini­ans safe and to save lives.”

    A spokesper­son for Whit­mer said the gov­er­nor’s focus was on address­ing the safe­ty of Michi­gan fam­i­lies.

    “We are all on the same team when it comes to defeat­ing COVID-19,” Robert Led­dy told Buz­zFeed News. “As the gov­er­nor has said, we’re not going to reopen Michi­gan’s econ­o­my via tweet.”

    As of Fri­day after­noon, Michi­gan has seen more than 30,00 con­firmed cas­es of COVID-19 as well as more than 2,200 deaths. In the last 24 hours, 134 peo­ple who have con­tract­ed the virus have died in the state.

    But pro­test­ers argue the finan­cial hard­ship on peo­ple has also been heavy, prompt­ing the demon­stra­tions on Wednes­day.

    “Peo­ple are at a break­ing point,” Seely said. “Peo­ple put their own fam­i­lies’ future on hold for 45 days for the bet­ter good of the coun­try and their fel­low man, and that is get­ting over­looked as if it was a triv­ial sac­ri­fice.”

    Seely said he was not sur­prised by the turnout on Wednes­day’s protest nor the num­ber of groups that have reached out hop­ing to dupli­cate the demon­stra­tion in their own com­mu­ni­ties. He said he knew of at least a dozen groups that the Michi­gan Con­ser­v­a­tive Coali­tion had helped to orga­nize protests sim­i­lar to its own “Oper­a­tion Grid­lock.”

    Orga­nized by the Michi­gan Con­ser­v­a­tive Coali­tion and the Michi­gan Free­dom Fund, the protest has drawn crit­i­cism over its links to Bet­sy DeVos’s fam­i­ly.

    “I think it’s real­ly inap­pro­pri­ate for a sit­ting mem­ber of the Unit­ed States pres­i­den­t’s cab­i­net to be wag­ing polit­i­cal attacks on any gov­er­nor,” Whit­mer said, refer­ring to the edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary.

    The Michi­gan Free­dom Fund was found­ed by Greg McNeil­ly, a polit­i­cal advis­er to the DeVos fam­i­ly, who has pro­vid­ed finan­cial sup­port to the orga­ni­za­tion.

    Seely said the DeVos fam­i­ly has played no role in the protests and that the Michi­gan Free­dom Fund was inde­pen­dent of the DeVos fam­i­ly, call­ing the attack a deflec­tion from Whit­mer.

    The pro­test­ers in Michi­gan have, nev­er­the­less, already caught Trump’s atten­tion.

    “I think they’re lis­ten­ing to me,” he said dur­ing a White House brief­ing. “They seem to be pro­test­ers that like me and respect this opin­ion, and my opin­ion is just the same as about all of the gov­er­nors. They all wan­na open.”

    Mean­while, more groups orga­niz­ing protests across the US con­tin­ue to show up on Face­book. Some have gar­nered only a hand­ful of sup­port­ers, while oth­ers have quick­ly built up hun­dreds of fol­low­ers.

    Penn­syl­va­ni­ans Against Exces­sive Quar­an­tine” has gar­nered more than 48,000 mem­bers, while “Min­nesotans Against Exces­sive Quar­an­tine” has more than 17,000.

    Both groups have near­ly iden­ti­cal descrip­tions.

    “Politi­cians are on a pow­er trip, con­trol­ling our lives, destroy­ing our busi­ness­es, pass­ing laws behind the cov­er of dark­ness and forc­ing us to hand over our free­doms and liveli­hood!” the pages for both groups state.

    Mean­while, anoth­er group called “Oper­a­tion Grid­lock Ten­nessee” notes that while “this has been an excel­lent reminder for every­one to prac­tice hygien­ic dili­gence — wash your hands, stay home when you are sick,” the pan­dem­ic “should not give any gov­ern­ment body the right to man­date that we close our busi­ness­es and order us to ‘shel­ter in place.’ ”

    Across the coun­try, “Oper­a­tion Los Ange­les” offers the same descrip­tion for its protest.

    [see screen­shots of Oper­a­tion Grid­lock Ten­nessee and Oper­a­tion Grid­lock Los Ange­les Face­book pages using the exact same lange in their “About” sec­tion]

    And while some groups are receiv­ing guid­ance from Michi­gan about how to orga­nize their own protests against stay-at-home orders, they too are pass­ing the play­book to oth­er states, urg­ing them to repli­cate the demon­stra­tions.

    [see screen­shot of Face­book post]

    Despite con­cerns from health offi­cials that lift­ing stay-at-home orders too ear­ly could ush­er in a new wave of infec­tions, Seely said peo­ple need­ed to start liv­ing in a “new nor­mal.”

    ...

    “This isn’t Amer­i­ca,” he said. “We need to resume life and get back to life while this plays out.”

    ———–

    “This Is How A Group Linked To Bet­sy DeVos Is Orga­niz­ing Protests To End Social Dis­tanc­ing, Now With Trump’s Sup­port” by Sal­vador Her­nan­dez; Buz­zFeed News; 04/17/2020

    ““You’re going to see some mas­sive protest­ing going on,” Matt Seely, a spokesper­son for the Michi­gan Con­ser­v­a­tive Coali­tion, told Buz­zFeed News. “We’ve been asked to basi­cal­ly share our tem­plate with oth­er groups to do the same thing, and we’ve done that.””

    Michi­gan’s astro­turf protests become a tem­plate. That’s accord­ing to Matt Seely of the Michi­gan Con­ser­v­a­tive Coali­tion. And it’s clear that some sort of tem­plate is at work since all the dif­fer­ent groups that sud­den­ly popped up are using the exact same lan­guage to describe them­selves. Just like the Tea Par­ty:

    ...
    Seely said he was not sur­prised by the turnout on Wednes­day’s protest nor the num­ber of groups that have reached out hop­ing to dupli­cate the demon­stra­tion in their own com­mu­ni­ties. He said he knew of at least a dozen groups that the Michi­gan Con­ser­v­a­tive Coali­tion had helped to orga­nize protests sim­i­lar to its own “Oper­a­tion Grid­lock.”

    ...

    Mean­while, more groups orga­niz­ing protests across the US con­tin­ue to show up on Face­book. Some have gar­nered only a hand­ful of sup­port­ers, while oth­ers have quick­ly built up hun­dreds of fol­low­ers.

    Penn­syl­va­ni­ans Against Exces­sive Quar­an­tine” has gar­nered more than 48,000 mem­bers, while “Min­nesotans Against Exces­sive Quar­an­tine” has more than 17,000.

    Both groups have near­ly iden­ti­cal descrip­tions.

    “Politi­cians are on a pow­er trip, con­trol­ling our lives, destroy­ing our busi­ness­es, pass­ing laws behind the cov­er of dark­ness and forc­ing us to hand over our free­doms and liveli­hood!” the pages for both groups state.

    Mean­while, anoth­er group called “Oper­a­tion Grid­lock Ten­nessee” notes that while “this has been an excel­lent reminder for every­one to prac­tice hygien­ic dili­gence — wash your hands, stay home when you are sick,” the pan­dem­ic “should not give any gov­ern­ment body the right to man­date that we close our busi­ness­es and order us to ‘shel­ter in place.’ ”

    Across the coun­try, “Oper­a­tion Los Ange­les” offers the same descrip­tion for its protest.

    [see screen­shots of Oper­a­tion Grid­lock Ten­nessee and Oper­a­tion Grid­lock Los Ange­les Face­book pages using the exact same lange in their “About” sec­tion]

    And while some groups are receiv­ing guid­ance from Michi­gan about how to orga­nize their own protests against stay-at-home orders, they too are pass­ing the play­book to oth­er states, urg­ing them to repli­cate the demon­stra­tions.

    [see screen­shot of Face­book post]
    ...

    And Seely’s Michi­gan Con­ser­v­a­tive Coali­tion had a part­ner in orga­niz­ing these tem­plate protests: The DeVos fam­i­ly’s Michi­gan Free­dom Fund, start­ed by DeVos fam­i­ly advi­sor Greg McNeil­ly. The Pres­i­den­t’s edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary’s front group is pro­vid­ing the tem­plate for these ‘grass­roots’ protests:

    ...
    Orga­nized by the Michi­gan Con­ser­v­a­tive Coali­tion and the Michi­gan Free­dom Fund, the protest has drawn crit­i­cism over its links to Bet­sy DeVos’s fam­i­ly.

    “I think it’s real­ly inap­pro­pri­ate for a sit­ting mem­ber of the Unit­ed States pres­i­den­t’s cab­i­net to be wag­ing polit­i­cal attacks on any gov­er­nor,” Whit­mer said, refer­ring to the edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary.

    The Michi­gan Free­dom Fund was found­ed by Greg McNeil­ly, a polit­i­cal advis­er to the DeVos fam­i­ly, who has pro­vid­ed finan­cial sup­port to the orga­ni­za­tion.

    Seely said the DeVos fam­i­ly has played no role in the protests and that the Michi­gan Free­dom Fund was inde­pen­dent of the DeVos fam­i­ly, call­ing the attack a deflec­tion from Whit­mer.
    ...

    The Michi­gan Free­dom Fund is inde­pen­dent of the DeVos fam­i­ly. Lol! That’s like say­ing Free­dom­Works is inde­pen­dent of Charles Koch. Only in the strictest, dumb­est tech­ni­cal sense. The Michi­gan Free­dom Fund is unam­bigu­ous­ly a DeVos fam­i­ly enti­ty and the fact that Matt Seely want­ed to hide is an exam­ple of how this is a bil­lion­aire-financed oper­a­tion that isn’t sup­posed to look like a bil­lion­aire financed oper­a­tion.

    Next, here’s a 2012 MLive arti­cle about the cre­ation of the Michi­gan Free­dom Fund. It was to run an ad cam­paign in sup­port of anti-union ‘right to work’ leg­is­la­tion work­ing through the state leg­is­la­ture. The piece describes how Greg McNeil­ly was the new fund’s pres­i­dent and how McNeil­ly pre­vi­ous­ly served as exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Michi­gan Repub­li­can Par­ty and was the cam­paign man­ag­er for Dick DeVos guber­na­to­r­i­al run. He also worked for Windquest Group, Dick DeVos’s invest­ment com­pa­ny. In oth­er words, he’s a long-time top trust DeVos fam­i­ly polit­i­cal oper­a­tive. So when McNeil­ly start­ed the Michi­gan Free­dom Fund in 2012, that can’t real­ly can’t be real­is­ti­cal­ly seen as any­thing oth­er McNeil­ly start­ing that fund on behalf of the DeVos polit­i­cal empire:

    MLive

    Michi­gan Free­dom Fund, head­ed by a DeVos asso­ciate, airs ads sup­port­ing right to work

    By Jonathan Oost­ing
    Updat­ed Jan 20, 2019; Post­ed Dec 05, 2012

    LANSING — A new group call­ing itself the the “Michi­gan Free­dom Fund” has begun run­ning radio and tele­vi­sion ads in sup­port of “right-to-work” leg­is­la­tion.

    The advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion, run by Greg McNeil­ly, an employ­ee of Dick DeVos’ Windquest Group, yes­ter­day announced a 60-sec­ond statewide radio ad, and The Detroit Free Press reports that one of the first tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials ran in the metro area last night.

    A right-to-work law would pro­hib­it unions from requir­ing employ­ees to pay dues as a con­di­tion of employ­ment. UAW Pres­i­dent Bob King has com­pared poten­tial leg­is­la­tion to a “war on work­ers,” and unions say it would hurt their abil­i­ty to fight for employ­ee wages and ben­e­fits.

    The new ads frame the con­tentious debate in the con­text of free­dom.

    “Join­ing a union — or choos­ing not to join — should be every indi­vid­ual work­ers choice,” Greg McNeil­ly, pres­i­dent of the Michi­gan Free­dom Fund, said in a release announc­ing the radio spots. “Work­place free­dom and equal­i­ty safe­guards work­ers’ rights to bar­gain col­lec­tive­ly and means more jobs. That’s a win-win.”

    McNeil­ly pre­vi­ous­ly served as exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Michi­gan Repub­li­can Par­ty and cam­paign man­ag­er for guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date Dick DeVos. He also works for The Windquest Group, an invest­ment firm found­ed by DeVos.

    Gov. Rick Sny­der, who has long said that right-to-work leg­is­la­tion is not on his agen­da, appeared to shift his posi­tion last night, acknowl­edg­ing that the issue is on the agen­da.

    The gov­er­nor said the dis­cus­sions with polit­i­cal and labor lead­ers are ongo­ing, but he did not rule out the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Repub­li­can law­mak­ers may attempt to intro­duce and approve right-to-work leg­is­la­tion dur­ing the cur­rent “lame-duck” ses­sion.

    ...

    Short­ly after Sny­der spoke with reporters, a large ban­ner was seen hang­ing from the state Capi­tol pro­mot­ing a Michi­gan Free­dom Fund web­site also ref­er­enced in the new com­mer­cials.

    ...

    ———-

    “Michi­gan Free­dom Fund, head­ed by a DeVos asso­ciate, airs ads sup­port­ing right to work” By Jonathan Oost­ing; MLive; 12/05/2012

    McNeil­ly pre­vi­ous­ly served as exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Michi­gan Repub­li­can Par­ty and cam­paign man­ag­er for guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date Dick DeVos. He also works for The Windquest Group, an invest­ment firm found­ed by DeVos.”

    That’s the kind of resume you get when you’re the long-time trust­ed polit­i­cal advi­sor of a fam­i­ly that owns a state’s Repub­li­can Par­ty. If you run Dick DeVos’s guber­na­to­r­i­al cam­paign you’re a foun­da­tion­al fig­ure in Michi­gan’s Repub­li­can cir­cles. That’s who set up the Michi­gan Free­dom Fund in 2012 to run anti-union ‘right to work’ ads and that’s who is now at the cen­ter of the Michi­gan ‘grass­roots’ astro­turf anti-coro­na-lock­down protests. ‘Grass­roots’ protests that appear to be fol­low­ing the Tea Par­ty mod­el and financed and orches­trat­ed by the same Tea Par­ty oli­garchs. A tem­plate where those protests become the ral­ly­ing cry for Repub­li­cans run­ning across the coun­try. Overnight near­ly all of the GOP can­di­dates start­ed run­ning as Tea Par­ty can­di­dates when the Tea Par­ty got rolled out as the new un-Bush GOP brand in the Oba­ma era. A whole bunch of astro­turf Tea Par­ty protests sud­den­ly pop up every­where that got used by the GOP can­di­dates to rebrand them­selves as insur­gent anti-estab­lish­ment pop­ulists. That was the tem­plate we saw with the Tea Par­ty and the peo­ple behind that have a new astro­turf protest move­ment.

    A big dif­fer­ence between the astro­turf rise of the Tea Par­ty and anti-coro­na-lock­down protests of today is that it’s a Repub­li­can in the White House. It’s a lot eas­i­er to run a faux anti-estab­lish­ment bil­lion­aire-financed reac­tionary polit­i­cal move­ment when there’s a Demo­c­rat in the office. Trump is the estab­lish­ment at this point. And that points to one of the big like­ly rea­sons for Trump’s trio of “LIBERATE” tweets on Fri­day: the big GOP plan hatched by the GOP bil­lion­aire mega-donors is to have the GOP run on a ‘reopen the economy...for Free­dom!’ plat­form across the nation. A nation­al­ized GOP cam­paign that por­trays the entire par­ty, includ­ing Trump, as insur­gents who are rebel­lion against an oppres­sive (lib­er­al) med­ical estab­lish­ment that is chok­ing Amer­i­ca’s future. That is such a clas­sic sleazy GOP move and all signs are that they are plan­ning on exact­ly that kind of cam­paign head­ing into the fall if the pan­dem­ic is still ongo­ing. Make reopen­ing the econ­o­my the big par­ti­san divide, with the GOP square­ly in the ‘reopen now’ camp. Cre­at­ing a big hyper-par­ti­san idi­ot­ic wedge-issue psy­chodra­ma around reopen­ing the econ­o­my that defines the con­tours of the nation­al debate and turns it into a nation­al ques­tion of whether or not peo­ple want to reopen the econ­o­my (a debate that grows more and more in Trump’s direc­tion the clos­er we get to Novem­ber as peo­ple get exhaust­ed) is exact­ly the kind of thing we should expect from the GOP. A bunch of cyn­i­cal­ly planned the­atrics involv­ing real lives and tragedy. Clas­sic GOP.

    And that’s part of what makes the involve­ment of both Stephen Moore and the DeVos fam­i­ly in the orches­tra­tion of these protests so dis­turb­ing: Trump real­ly is plan­ning on run­ning as an insur­gent against ‘Big Sci­ence and Pub­lic Health’ and lead­ing the whole GOP on a nation­al cam­paign against the med­ical estab­lish­ment advis­ing against a pre­ma­ture reopen­ing. A polit­i­cal psy-op designed to make the sci­en­tif­ic and med­ical com­mu­ni­ty the bad guys in the mind of the GOP base. Well, more so. They were already the bad guys with that bad. But as this cam­paign plays out we’re poised to see an insane demo­niza­tion of the pub­lic health estab­lish­ment if there’s still a gen­er­al stay-at-home sta­tus head­ing into the fall. That’s just how today’s GOP oper­ates. A non-stop flood of ‘they are com­ing to get you’ sto­ries to keep the base riled up. This year they are going to be doc­tors and pub­lic health offi­cials who will be pub­lic ene­my num­ber one in the minds of Repub­li­can vot­ers by the time this elec­tion is over.

    It all points to one big argu­ment for tak­ing the risk of reopen­ing the econ­o­my soon­er rather than lat­er: if we don’t reopen soon and pla­cate the mega-donors who own most of the econ­o­my, Trump and the GOP are going to demo­nize sci­ence and pub­lic health to try to win the 2020 elec­tions. That’s real­ly going to hap­pen. The whole par­ty is get­ting ready for this from the ‘grass­roots’ to the mega-donors to the White House. The writ­ing is on the wall and some of it is writ­ten by the edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary. If we’re still look­ing at a viral pan­dem­ic that keeps the econ­o­my large­ly shut down head­ing into the fall we real­ly are going to see the GOP run in a “LIBERATE” theme that makes the pub­lic health estab­lish­ment the new top ene­my.

    Plus, don’t for­get that Bet­sy DeVos’s broth­er, Erik Prince, owns his own pri­vate intel­li­gence orga­ni­za­tion that was train­ing James O’Keefe’s Project Ver­i­tas under­cov­er oper­a­tives in intel­li­gence meth­ods. So we should prob­a­bly expect some sort of BS selec­tive­ly edit­ed Project Ver­i­tas video before the end of this that some­how por­trays a pub­lic health con­spir­a­cy in the gov­ern­ment that Trump does­n’t know about. A Trumpian war against cor­rupt bureau­crats, this time bureau­crat doc­tors and sci­en­tists. That, again, would be such a clas­sic GOP move and the kind of script Steve Ban­non would write. And Steven Ban­non is actu­al­ly writ­ing the script. Or at least part of the script. That’s how dirty tricks work. They’re gen­er­al­ly proac­tive.

    So when we look at what we’re see­ing from the GOP and how that ties into the designs of the bil­lion­aire mega-donors who want to see their busi­ness reopened ASAP it becomes clear that reopen­ing things ASAP is going to be a theme that the GOP crafts its 2020 mes­sag­ing around. The goal real­ly is to reopen ASAP. These bil­lion­aires own the econ­o­my and they sure as hell don’t want the gov­ern­ment to pay the rab­ble for months on end just to live and eat. So we real­ly going to see the GOP make this a cen­tral mes­sage for the cam­paign. We real­ly do have to add ‘the polit­i­cal­ly oppor­tunis­tic demo­niza­tion of sci­ence and pub­lic health’ to the ‘costs of not reopen­ing the econ­o­my soon’ col­umn in our cost/benefits analy­sis of how to best pro­ceed for­ward on this pan­dem­ic.

    Although the GOP has long attacked sci­ence and the pub­lic health estab­lish­ment so in that sense this elec­tion prob­a­bly won’t be any­thing new. Except for the dan­ger­ous pan­dem­ic that requires sound sci­ence and pub­lic health deci­sions.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 19, 2020, 10:05 pm

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