Category Archives: Socialism

US Pirates of the Caribbean

“American global power right now is seen as a farce. It has been devastated by a virus and shown to be a lying cheat over its attempt to smear China and the World Health Organization. Its sanctioning against nations struggling with a deadly disease is barbaric terrorism; and while millions of Americans are facing poverty, the US is sending warships and warplanes to all corners of the world.”
sputniknews.com
May 21, 2020

You have to be amused at this headline: “US masses planes at Japan airbase to show foes and allies it can handle coronavirus,” reports Reuters.

So, let’s get this straight. At a time when the US is leading the world with deaths and infections from the disease, the Pentagon views flexing muscles with warplanes in the Asia Pacific is somehow a demonstration of American potency.

While the American public is crying out for more resources to cope with the pandemic, Washington sees fit to ramp up militarism not just in the Asia Pacific, but also in the Arctic region, the Persian Gulf and the Caribbean.

US warships despatched to the Caribbean are said to be on a mission to counter-narcotic trafficking. Few people will buy that pretext. The military force is deployed as a threat to Venezuela and its socialist government which the Trump administration has openly targeted for regime change.

A failed coup attempt earlier this month involving a private US mercenary outfit may or may not have had official support from the White House.

But one thing is clear: when Russia proposed a statement of support for Venezuela at the UN Security Council this week in which the failed coup was denounced as a violation of the UN charter forbidding aggression, the draft statement was “killed” by Washington’s envoy.

The implication is that Washington’s public position sees nothing wrong with aggression despite the flagrant violation of international law that it involves.

In that case, it could be expected that the US will attempt to block Iranian oil tankers en route to Venezuela. If aggression is acceptable to Washington then why not also a bit of high-seas piracy?

Five Iranian-flagged tankers are due to dock in the South American country in the coming days. They are reportedly ferrying $45 million worth of gasoline to alleviate Venezuela’s crippled economy as it struggles like many other nations to control the coronavirus pandemic.

Venezuela is a major exporter of crude oil but due to US sanctions its capacity to refine fuel has been decimated. This has caused severe shortages for Venezuelan transport which has, in turn, exacerbated the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both Venezuela and Iran have warned the US to not interfere in the sea passage of the oil tankers. Both countries have been burdened with American sanctions, but they are legally entitled to conduct bilateral trade. If US warships impede the transport, then it will be viewed by Venezuela and Iran as an act of piracy. We might add that the rest of the world will view it that way too. An act of piracy compounding acts of economic aggression under heartless US sanctions.

Given the pandemic crisis, Iran’s supply of vital fuel to Venezuela is not merely a normal trade transaction, but a courageous act of solidarity and humanitarian aid.

The Trump administration has mischievously indicated it will do something to stop the Iranian ships reaching Venezuela. What that something is open to guesswork. Will it use its warships in the Caribbean to mount a blockade?

Iran has warned it will retaliate. Perhaps by attacking American warships in the Persian Gulf, where skirmishing has already taken place.

Venezuela says it is sending naval forces to escort the Iranian tankers once they arrive in its territorial waters.

In the next coming days, a showdown awaits which could have explosive repercussions, not least because the Iranian tankers are reckoned to contain 1.5 million barrels of gasoline.

The US head of Southern Command, Admiral Craig Faller, this week played down the probability of an armed confrontation with the Iranian vessels.

He is quoted as saying: “You have to ask yourself what interest Iran has in Venezuela, where we have seen recent indications of Iranian military and state support?”

Eh, let’s guess Admiral Faller, maybe simply an act of solidarity by two nations who are under the boot of American imperialism and illegal sanctions that amount to a crime against humanity.

American global power right now is seen as a farce. It has been devastated by a virus and shown to be a lying cheat over its attempt to smear China and the World Health Organization. Its sanctioning against nations struggling with a deadly disease is barbaric terrorism; and while millions of Americans are facing poverty, the US is sending warships and warplanes to all corners of the world.Washington won’t dare do piracy in the Caribbean at this juncture. Because it can’t afford another fiasco. Its global image is already in tatters.

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

US pandemic cover-up responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands

Saving Wall Street, not lives

The deliberate efforts by the federal government to muzzle scientists and downplay the disease, combined with massive delays in the roll-out of testing, led states to begin restrictions far too late.

Source

http://www.wsws.org

Andre Damon

May 22, 2020

 

On Wednesday, researchers from Columbia University released a study showing that the massive US death toll, now approaching 100,000, is a direct consequence of decisions made by the Trump administration.

The study, posted on medRxiv.org, found that if the United States had begun social distancing and other control measures just two weeks earlier, it would have saved the lives of 54,000 people. The implementation of such measures one week earlier would have saved 36,000 lives.

These figures quantify the consequences of the Trump administration’s efforts in January and February to minimize the threat posed by the pandemic. Despite clear evidence and warnings by scientists, Trump and his cabinet members systematically downplayed the significance of the disease. As late as February 28, Trump was still claiming that the coronavirus “is going to disappear” like “a miracle.” Trump condemned those saying that COVID-19 was rapidly spreading throughout the country, declaring, “This is their new hoax.”

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

But within the government, leading scientists had been ringing the alarm for nearly two months in a futile attempt to make the White House take the most basic measures to prepare for a major pandemic. “Public health officials were fully aware of the emerging threat of COVID-19 by early January 2020,” wrote Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, in a whistleblower complaint.

In a subsequent interview, Bright added “I knew that all of the signs for a pandemic were present. A novel virus, causing significant mortality, and spreading. All the signs were there. It was just a matter of time before that virus left China.”

Bright’s statements tear apart the administration’s claims that “no one could have predicted” the pandemic, and that to the extent the response was delayed in the United States, it was because China lied about the spread of the disease.

Rather, the Trump administration, Bright said, was “intent on downplaying this catastrophic threat.”

The deliberate efforts by the federal government to muzzle scientists and downplay the disease, combined with massive delays in the roll-out of testing, led states to begin restrictions far too late.

New York State implemented its stay-at-home order on March 22, more than two months after community transmission began in the United States in mid-January. Lockdowns in most US cities came three and a half months after Chinese researchers discovered the virus, prompting fears of a global pandemic.

While the Trump administration and the media blame China for delaying the release of information, it now emerges that as many as 50,000 deaths were caused by the White House’s decision to postpone as long as possible the ordering of a lockdown.

Chinese scientists announced a cluster of unexplained illnesses on December 31, and the announcement was widely reported in the United States, including by Reuters, the Associated Press and the New York Times.

The World Socialist Web Site, on the basis of only publicly available data, was able to warn on January 24 that “evidence has emerged that person-to-person infection is occurring.” Four days later, the WSWS wrote, “The outbreak has exposed the enormous vulnerability of contemporary society to new strains of infectious disease, dangers for which no capitalist government has adequately prepared.”

But for months, US officials did nothing to prepare for the coming pandemic. It was not until nearly eight weeks after the first public statements by Chinese health officials that any systematic testing for COVID-19 began in the US.

Even as Trump did nothing to prepare for the spread of COVID-19, he imposed a travel ban on China against the advice of the World Health Organization and his own scientific advisors. Within the federal government, Bright and other scientists within the administration were desperately warning that a travel ban would not prevent the disease from entering the United Sates.

Why, despite the warnings of scientists within his administration, did Trump implement a purely cosmetic measure, whose aim would be to construct the narrative that COVID-19 would be kept out of the country?

Driving the White House’s response to the pandemic from the beginning was not the threat of COVID-19 to human lives, but its impact on the stock market. The White House was well aware that the pandemic would have a devastating impact. But it would come under conditions where Wall Street was already under tremendous strain. The markets had been artificially inflated through years of ultra-low interest rates and “quantitative easing,” which had fueled a massive rise in indebtedness that was undermining corporate profitability and threatening a collapse of the already wildly inflated stock market.

Trump and his advisers knew that the impact of the pandemic would trigger a market selloff, which could only be contained and reversed through the infusion of trillions of dollars in cash from the Federal Reserve and Treasury. In order to gain time, the White House suppressed information and misled the public while this bailout could be prepared.

An article by Edward Luce in the Financial Times last week provided a window into this process. “Nothing could be allowed to frighten the Dow Jones,” the Times wrote, explaining the thinking of the Trump administration. “Any signal that the US was bracing for a pandemic—including taking actual steps to prepare for it—was discouraged.”

The Financial Times quoted one person close to the White House as saying, “Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] had been arguing that testing too many people, or ordering too many ventilators, would spook the markets and so we just shouldn’t do it.”

Amid the public silence, there was furious activity in the background as lawmakers were preparing what would be the largest government bailout of major corporations in history. The Trump administration was playing for time, keeping the public in the dark while a complex program for bailing out Wall Street could be put into motion.

This time was used to write what would become an 800-page bill known as the CARES Act, which created the framework for a multitrillion-dollar bailout of the financial system by the Federal Reserve and the funneling of hundreds of billions of dollars into major corporations from the Treasury.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the bill on March 25. Within two days, the CARES Act passed the Senate with a unanimous vote and the House with a voice vote. It was signed into law the same day. In other words, the largest redistribution of public funds in human history took just 48 hours.

An article in Foreign Affairs notes that this bailout would “blur the lines, never clear to begin with, between the public and private sectors and transfer a large portion of the global economy onto government balance sheets. This level of spending has no precedent in history—not even close. Not in war. Not in peacetime. Not ever.”

As soon as this bailout was secured, the media immediately changed its tone. It turned from focusing on images of mass death and overcrowded hospitals to “hopeful signs” and “silver linings” in order to declare that the pandemic was all but over and that workers should get back on the job.

Even as 1,500 Americans continue to die every day from COVID-19, all 50 states have reopened businesses, sending workers back to work in unsafe conditions and setting the stage for a massive resurgence of the disease.

The same total disregard for human life that prompted the White House to downplay the pandemic and hamper the federal response is at work in the back-to-work campaign.

Amid warnings by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield that the United States faces a major resurgence of COVID-19, Trump declared yesterday, “Whether it’s an ember or a flame… we’re not closing our country.”

In other words, no matter how high the death toll climbs, the needs of society will not be allowed to interfere with the profit-making of Wall Street. The priority of the government will continue to be the interests of financial oligarchy, not saving lives.

This is why the fight against the pandemic must be waged not only on the medical front, but on the political front as well. The struggle against COVID-19 is inseparable from the broadest possible fight against the criminal policies of the Trump administration and its supine enablers in the Democratic Party.

As the Socialist Equality Party wrote in its recent statement, “Build rank-and-file factory and workplace committees to prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus and save lives,” workers must:

Form rank-and-file safety committees in every factory, office and workplace. These committees, democratically controlled by workers themselves, should formulate, implement, and oversee measures that are necessary to safeguard the health and lives of workers, their families and the broader community.

There can be no “business as usual!” The pandemic exposes the urgent necessity for a complete restructuring of the processes of production, distribution and economic activity in general. The lives of working people and their families must not be sacrificed in the interests of corporate profits and the private wealth of billionaire oligarchs.

We urge all those who agree with these demands to draw the necessary political conclusions and take up the fight for socialism.

 

US Headed For Another ‘Tanker War’ With Iran – This Time Off Venezuela’s Coast

Up your sanctions America, this world does not belong to you alone.  Learn to share the planet ye greedy bastards!

Iranian state TV has announced at least five Iranian-flagged tankers are transporting fuel to Venezuela through the Atlantic Ocean and plan to break the American blockade on the Latin American country.

Iran has warned that any US attempt at intercepting its fuel tankers “would have serious repercussions for the Trump administration ahead of the November elections.”

File image via National Iranian Oil Tanker Company (NITC)

State-funded PressTV underscores that “Iran is shipping tons of gasoline to Venezuela in defiance of US sanctions on both countries in a symbolic move guaranteed by Tehran’s missile prowess.”

Both countries have been targeted under US sanctions and various levels of covert military action of late. President Trump has taken a personal interest in renewed pressure on Maduro, within the past months reportedly pushing his generals to go forward with a ‘naval blockade’ of the socialist nation.

State media has further emphasized that the Iranian fuel tankers will not attempt to conceal their presence or mission: “Iran has intentionally hoisted its own flag over the huge tankers which are navigating through the Atlantic before the eyes of the US Navy,” according to the report.

Reuters has also reported that US defense officials are planning a potential response:

The United States has a “high degree of certainty” that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government is paying Iran tons of gold for the fuel, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It is not only unwelcome by the United States but it’s unwelcome by the region, and we’re looking at measures that can be taken,” the official said.

The contentious issue of closer ties between Tehran and Caracas became center stage after in April a series of sanctioned Iranian Mahan Air flights landed in Venezuela to transport badly needed equipment to fix fuel refining plants for domestic gas consumption amid a severe national shortage.

Reuters Venezuela

@ReutersVzla

Exclusive: U.S. weighs measures in response to Iran fuel shipment to – source https://reut.rs/3btmGBD

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Chomsky, Sanders, Others Launch Progressive International

  • Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and Yanis Varoufakis are among the interim Council of over 40 advisors.

    Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and Yanis Varoufakis are among the interim Council of over 40 advisors. | Photo: AFP

Published 11 May 2020

In September, the Council will meet for the inaugural Summit of the PI in Reykjavik, Iceland, hosted by the Prime Minister of Iceland and the Left-Green Movement.

A coalition of left-leaning intellectuals, activists, and political leaders from around the world officially launched Monday the Progressive International with the support of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 and the Sanders Institute.

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“Never before has international solidarity been more necessary—and more absent,” General Coordinator of the PI David Adler said, adding that “only a common international front can match the scale of our crises, reclaim our institutions, and defeat a rising authoritarian nationalism.”

At launch, the Progressive International is supported by an interim Council of over 40 advisors, including Iceland’s Prime Minister Katriin Jakobsdottir, intellectual Noam Chomsky, former Greek Minister of Economy Yanis Varoufakis, author Naomi Klein, and many others.

From Latin America, political leaders such as the Ecuadorean ex-president Rafael Correa; former Brazilian presidential candidate Fernando Haddad; former Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim; Bolivian former Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera are part of the founding members.

The idea was born in December 2018, when the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25) and the Sanders Institute issued an open call proclaiming “it is time for progressives of the world to unite.”

On the launch of the group Monday, Chomsky in an interview with the Guardian said that the urgency created by the COVID-19 crisis has pushed deepening economic inequalities and the rise of the far-right.

So as autocratic neoliberalism stands as one way, “the other way is to try to dismantle the structures, the institutional structures that have been created; that have led to very ugly consequences for much of the population of much of the world, [and] are the source of this pandemic.”

Progressive International@ProgIntl

We are at a fork in the road: either we unite with progressives around the planet in a shared struggle for justice, or we surrender to the forces of nationalism and free-market fundamentalism. @yanisvaroufakis, Greek MP and PI Council member, on the mission before us:

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The activities of the initiative are divided across three pillars: the movement aimed to forge a global network; the Blueprint to develop a policy blueprint for a progressive international order;  and the Wire which offers a wire service to the world’s progressive forces.

In September, the Council will meet for the inaugural Summit of the PI in Reykjavik, Iceland, hosted by the Prime Minister of Iceland and the Left-Green Movement, to analyze the challenges of the 21st century and consider proposals from the PI membership for its strategic direction.

“The ambitions of this initiative are undoubtedly high—no higher than the present crisis demands. But the Progressive International is only as powerful as its membership, and to reclaim the world after COVID-19, we will need a powerful movement of progressive forces,” Adler added, calling forces alike to join the movement.