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The Swedish Alternative: Coronavirus as a Grand Gamble

As draconian lockdowns, punitive regimes and surveillance become the norm of the coronavirus world, Sweden has treaded more softly in the field.  This is certainly in contrast to its Scandinavian cousins, Denmark and Norway.  The rudiments of a life uninterrupted generally remain in place. Cafes, restaurants and shops, for the most part, remain open and stocked.  As do gyms and cinemas.  Vibrant after-ski parties persist, much to the bemused horror of those across the border.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, embracing the principle of voluntariness over coercion, has issued warnings to citizens to keep travel down to a minimum, avoiding anything …

Change Is In The Air

Quite literally.

In a single week air pollution cleared up, housing was found for the homeless, evictions were banned, the stock market ceased being the gauge of social well being, water shut-offs ended, jails were emptied, debt peonage was suspended, universal basic income was proposed by “free market” die-hards, people started caring about the elderly and front-line workers, personal competition gave way to mutual aid networks, kids abandoned digital serfdom to go outside to play, and Donald Trump outflanked Bernie Sanders to the left, calling for public equity in bailed-out corporations, in other words, public profit.

The only restrained observation one can …

Gaia’s Revenge?

There is a meme circulating online with a biblical quote that contains a message from Solomon’s god accepting the consecration of the temple as a place he will receive his sacrifice. Solomon’s god claims to have sent drought, locust and epidemics to drive his people to repentance and obedience. An obvious message for believers in the midst of a pandemic?

On the other side, amongst the enlightened, there are those who would ascribe this contagion as some sort of “Gaia’s Revenge,” with the earth extracting payment from this errant species that has so decimated this planet over the course of the …

As Israel’s Netanyahu uses Coronavirus to Consolidate Power, his Chief Rival Caves In

Benny Gantz, the former Israeli general turned party leader, agreed late last week to join his rival Benjamin Netanyahu in an “emergency government” to deal with the coronavirus epidemic.

Two weeks ago he had won a wafer-thin majority vote in the parliament that gave him first shot at trying to put together a coalition government.

Instead he has conceded to Netanyahu, who will remain prime minister for the next 18 months. Gantz is supposed to take over in late 2021, though Netanyahu has a formidable reputation for double-dealing.

Over the past year Gantz fought three hotly contested, though indecisive, general elections in which …

WTC7 Was Expertly Prepared For Demolition Prior to 9/11

What seemed to allow this deadly night to descend was that the intellectual patterns that were supposed to be in charge of things, that should comprehend the threat and lead the fight against it, were paralyzed.

Robert M. Pirsig, Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals, pg 305

Later in the day on 9/11/2001 a third building, WTC Building 7, descended at nearly free-fall speed with such perfect symmetry as to serve as a textbook example of excellence in prepared demolition. The official reason for the collapse of the 47 story, steel-framed skyscraper was given in 2008 by Shyam Sunder …

The Decade Of Transformation Is Here: Remaking The Economy For The People

The pandemic, economic collapse and the government’s response to them are going to not only determine the 2020 election but define the future for this decade and beyond. People are seeing the failure of the US healthcare nonsystem and the economy. The government was able to provide trillions for big business and Wall Street without asking the usual, “Where will we get the money?” However, the rescue bill recently passed by Congress provides a fraction of what most people need to get through this period. Once again, a …

The Happy State

Imagine if you will the following: Country A has a government which provides its citizens with free and adequate housing and two special daily pills free of charge. The first pill contains all daily nutritional requirements while the second pill guarantees a sense of happiness and contentment throughout the day and night. Our question then is: would such a state of affairs be both good and desirable?

On first thought, many would argue that the universal provision of housing and food is a general good. They are goods which are required for the furtherance of human happiness. Without them we would …

This Novel Flu-nancial Crisis: COVID-1984?

 All this I was told, for while the operation was performing, I lay in a profound sleep, by the force of that soporiferous medicine infused into my liquor.

— Gulliver’s Travels, “A Voyage to Lilliput,” Jonathan Swift, 1726

Disclaimer:  Any criticisms of the pre-existing condition uncomfortably known as the United States government herein, are absolutely accidental, merely incidental, or entirely intentional.  Moresoever be it known that, as this author is aware of — not that I’m an “authority” technically speaking, but that’s another story, or the story of how I’m not an “authority,” technically speaking, and, in writing — it has come …

Beyond Chutzpah: US Charges Venezuela with Nacro-Terrorism

According to the parable, the ungrateful son takes out a life insurance policy on his parents, murders them to collect, and is caught and found guilty. At his sentencing, the judge asks if he has anything to say on his behalf. The son replies: “Have mercy upon me because I am an orphan.” That’s chutzpah.

US Attorney General Barr’s indictments on March 26 against the government of Venezuela for narco-terrorism go beyond chutzpah. For starters, William P. Barr was chief counsel for the CIA airline Southern Air Transport implicated in the 1980s for running illicit …

The Coronavirus: a Wake-up Call from Mother Nature

Once the panic, grief, and worldwide turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic has eventually subsided (as it certainly will in due course), our biggest and most important challenge will be not how or if we survived the relatively short term upheavals to our lives, but whether as individuals and societies we learn from the experience and modify our behaviour in the long term.

Without attempting to downplay the individual trauma of people losing loved ones unexpectedly, if we wish to try and minimise the occurrence of future similar events, we need to examine the underlying causes of the current pandemic.

This has not …

Tim Keenan: From Combat Zones in Vietnam to Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Review of Tim Keenan's book The Good Hike.

It took Vietnam Veteran Tim Keenan 172 days to hike the legendary Appalachian Trail. Apart from wanting to test his athletic abilities, he hoped to get some relief for his post-traumatic-stress-syndrome (PTSD).

For Keenan, the unforeseen consequences of firing a rifle started with shooting a small bird with a BB gun when he was a boy. He recalls being excited about shooting a living creature, but had no idea how lousy he’d feel after doing it. Those feelings of anxiety and regret intensified later while in Vietnam combat zones and …

Education Cannot Solve Poverty and Inequality

One of the long-standing stubborn myths about education in American culture is that education is “the great equalizer” and that education is the way to overcome poverty and inequality at the individual and societal levels.

The facts show, however, that poverty and inequality are generally increasing every year despite the fact that there are more college-educated people than ever. Indeed, many people with college degrees are unemployed or underemployed. And many are stuck in jobs that have little to do with their degrees. Never mind the massive debt load oppressing many students, college graduates, and their families. In 2020, millions of …

Barbaric Decisions: Coronavirus, Refusing Bail and Julian Assange

To expose another human being to serious illness, and to the threat of losing their life, is grotesque and quite unnecessary.  This is not justice, it is a barbaric decision.

— Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, March 26, 2020

Social distancing is not a word that seems to have reached certain parts of the British legal system.  Granted, it is an odd one, best refashioned as an anti-social act for the sake of preservation.  Marooned in some state of legal obliviousness, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser had little time for the bail application made by counsel for Julian Assange.  The WikiLeaks publisher had …

COVID-19 in America: An Avoidable Crisis and Loss of Untold Numbers of Lives

Major hoarders who have warehouses full of needed hospital PPE supplies knew what to do: why didn't our federal and state governments know?

President Trump claimed he used the word “hoax” about the news coverage, not the virus. But he continued to downplay and minimize it, such as saying on March 6, 2020: “I just think this is something that you can never really think is going to happen.”

I suppose he was unaware that The CDC issued a “Pandemic Influenza Plan Update” in 2017.

Twenty-seventeen. Two years before we saw the first cases of this particular novel COVID-19 in January 2020. And yet our federal and state governments did nothing. WHY? Why did we get caught with our pants down and wind up …

Vigil for Peace in Yemen, a New Norm

For the past three years, several dozen New Yorkers have gathered each Saturday at Union Square, at 11:00 a.m. to vigil for peace in Yemen.

Now, however, due to the coronavirus, the vigil for peace is radically altered. Last week, in recognition of the city’s coming shelter in place program, participants were asked to hold individual vigils at their respective homes on the subsequent Saturday mornings. Normally, during the public vigils, one or more participants would provide updates on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the ongoing war, and U.S. complicity. As COVID-19 threatens to engulf war-torn Yemen, it is even more …

America is Now Democratic Socialist

The Failure of Neoliberal Free Enterprise

Take careful notice – as of March 2020, the United States is operating as a more than strict Democratic Socialist system. The government is regulating aspects of American life — economic, social, and medical. The Federal Reserve is printing money and making it available to financial and commercial industries and the public. Americans are being told what to do, what to produce and where they can go.

The Covid-19 epidemic has proven the final test for the capitalist system, which had a temporary rescue by neoliberal free enterprise. After the Reagan administration changed the economic landscape so that budget deficits drove …

Why is the U.S. so Exceptionally Vulnerable to Covid-19?

The United States has become the new center of the global coronavirus pandemic, with over 86,000 cases, more than China or Italy. More than a thousand Americans have already died, but this is surely only the very beginning of this deadly collision between the U.S.’s uniquely inadequate public healthcare system and a real pandemic.

On the other hand, China and South Korea, which both have universal public health systems that cover the …

The Forms of Isolation

As we hunker down wherever we are, we are collectively having radically differing experiences of isolation.

Humanity, on any given day, is experiencing reality in very different ways. As a writer writing about the world around me and about things that have happened in the past, I spend a lot of time imagining what it’s like to be someone else. There are key moments in my own life that caused this innate tendency to become more obsessive later. Chief among those moments are those times when I lost close friends to an early death, and when close friends went off to …

The War on Death

OK, I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news. The good news is mainly for authoritarians who missed all the fun during the War on Terror. The news is … welcome to the War on Death!

Yes, that’s right, global capitalism (a/k/a “the world”) is now at war with Death … which is great news for authoritarians! No more bothersome critical thinking. The time for questioning our leaders is over. It’s time to shut up and follow orders. We’re in a global state of emergency, folks! We’re talking lockdowns, soldiers in the streets, abrogation of our constitutional rights, …

Goodbye Gabbard

The Democratic establishment is deriving some delusionary cheer from it.  The line of candidates for the presidential nomination has thinned, many falling out and proceeding, suicidally, to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden.

The case of Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard is particularly telling.  At points, she has spoken with sober detachment on the US imperium.  Herself an Iraq War veteran, she preferred to eschew military intervention and regime change tools of foreign policy.  The US record on that matter is lengthy, ignominious and bloody.  Peter Harris, writing in The National Interest, suggested the ideas of a realist at play, at …

Eight Day Journey from Hong Kong to Chile, Covid-19 on my Tail

Imagine that you are in Hong Kong, in a city where “you are actually not supposed to be”, in the first place. You are ready to go home, to South America. But just two days before your departure, via Seoul and Amsterdam, your first Sky Team carrier, Korean Air, unceremoniously decides to cancel all flights from the territory.

Several Korean religious freaks, apparently, are to blame.

On 22 February, 2020, Mail Online, reported:

More than half of all South Korea’s coronavirus cases are linked to a secretive ultra-religious cult whose leader believes he is immortal.

Just reading that, I knew I may get royally …

BJP and Israel: Hindu Nationalism is Ravaging India’s Democracy

It was only a matter of time before the anti-Muslim sentiment in India turned violent.

A country that has historically prided itself on  its diversity and tolerance, and for being ‘the largest democracy in the world’ has, in recent years, exhibited the exact opposite qualities – chauvinism, racism, religious intolerance, and, at times, extreme violence.

The latest round of  violence ensued on February 23, one day before US President Donald Trump arrived in Delhi on his first official visit to India.

Trump is a beloved figure among Hindu nationalists, especially supporters of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has ruled

Our leaders are terrified. Not of the virus, of us!

You can almost smell the fear-laden sweat oozing from the pores of television broadcasts and social media posts as it finally dawns on our political and media establishments what the coronavirus actually means. And I am not talking about the threat posed to our health.

A worldview that has crowded out all other thinking for nearly two generations is coming crashing down. It has no answers to our current predicament. There is a kind of tragic karma to the fact that so many major countries – meaning major economies – are today run by the very men least equipped ideologically, emotionally …

Feudal Japan’s Edo and the US Empire

After the warlord period of 15th century, Japan was united by a few families and then by a shogun family.  The period is called the Edo period. They disarmed civilians and established a mild caste system. The country was closed except for a few ports controlled by the central government, travel restrictions were put in place and certain technological developments were prohibited. The Edo period also had an interesting feature called sankinkoutai. It forced regional leaders to march across the country in formal costumes along with their armies in order to alternate their residences between their home …

The Decade Of Transformation Is Here: Remaking Health Care

We’ve been writing for a while that the 2020’s would be a decade when multiple crises would come to a head and we would have an opportunity for major transformations if we were organized to mobilize and demand them. The current coronavirus pandemic, economic collapse, and falling oil prices are three events that are creating such opportunities. Each crisis shows the glaring shortcomings of healthcare, economic and environmental policies that are failing the people and planet. Nobody could have predicted that the crises would happen so quickly, but here we are.

Now, …

Why Assume There Will Be a 2020 Election?

General Smedley Butler and the ‘Wall Street Putsch’ Revisited

The upcoming American elections are just around the corner and everyone is wondering if the new president will be named Trump, Biden, Sanders or none of the above.

I can hear the incredulous reader exclaim: Wait, what does “none of the above” mean?? It’s certainly going to be one of those three, isn’t it??

It is often too easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees and in the opinion-packed world of endless talking head commentaries, every leaf and branch is scrutinized by professional opinionators so closely that many forget that the entire forest is on fire. As I’ve written …

Police State Uses Crises to Expand Its Lockdown Powers

Suspending the Constitution

You can always count on the government to take advantage of a crisis, legitimate or manufactured.

This coronavirus pandemic is no exception.

Not only are the federal and state governments unraveling the constitutional fabric of the nation with lockdown mandates that are sending the economy into a tailspin and wreaking havoc with our liberties, but they are also rendering the citizenry fully dependent on the government for financial handouts, medical intervention, protection and sustenance.

Unless we find some way to rein in the government’s power grabs, the fall-out will be epic.

Everything I have warned about for years—government overreach, invasive surveillance, martial law, abuse …

Doing Nothing or Nothing Doing?

A few years ago I wrote a piece for Labor Day suggesting that it become a “do-nothing day.”  It was a bit satirical but, of course, had a serious point as satire does.  I had little hope that my recommendation would be adopted.  Now that we are suffering from coronavirus panic and people are being told to shelter in their homes, many are no doubt suffering withdrawal symptoms from having to slow down. After all, how many cookies can you bake, television and movies watch, liquor drink, emails and texts send and receive, toilet paper rolls count, etc.?

I am well …

Business as Usual: Coronavirus, Iran and US Sanctions

Never discount the importance of venality in international relations.  While pandemics should provide the glue for a unified front in response – we keep being told of fighting this horrendous “invisible enemy” – it’s business as usual in other respects.  The United States, with a disparate, confused medical system that risks being overwhelmed, remains committed against that other country floundering in efforts to combat COVID-19: Iran.  Instead of binding the nations, the virus, as with everything else, has served as a political obstacle.

This has led to a few glaring oddities.  The first lies on the policy approach to US-led sanctions, …

Trapped by the White Man’s Devils

A certain amount of despair is, well, healthy. But that fine line between using it as a motivator and that other type of the neutering kind, or the type of despair that pushes one over the edge into depression, it’s a matter of degree. And perspective.

Denial certainly staves off despair. The huge swath of Americans who are either MAGA crazed or believers in the democratic party line of war, neoliberalism, austerity, and the facilitators of the dog eat dog mentality that is capitalism under any level of American self-declared …