Tag Archives: Covid-19

corona marginalia: ivermectin disinfo

Earlier this week, BBC News put out a “reality check” report entitled “Ivermectin: How false science created a Covid ‘miracle’ drug”. Authors of the piece, Rachel Schraer and Jack Goodman, aim to convince us that although, as they quietly concede, ivermectin has been “recommended by health authorities in some countries”, including “in India, South Africa, Peru and much of the rest of Latin America, as well as in Slovakia”, claims to the drug’s efficacy in the treatment of covid are actually misplaced. In establishing this claim they turn to the work of a single group of scientists – Dr Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, Dr James Heathers, Dr Nick Brown and Dr Kyle Sheldrick – who “formed a group looking deeper into ivermectin studies after biomedical student Jack Lawrence spotted problems with an influential study from Egypt.”

In common with journalists Rachel Schraer and Jack Goodman, I have no specialist training in medicine. Unlike them, however, I was trained in a scientific discipline, and do have a fairly good eye when it comes to spotting bad science and sloppy scientific reporting. So I am immediately alerted whenever I read any media report that casts doubt on a wide range of earlier research studies, and especially when it relies on a single new study; still more so when the study in question is unreferenced and strangely peripheral.

Of course, had the new work represented the largest or latest meta-study of its kind, close attention to it would be perfectly understandable, but in this case again the new study is neither the largest nor the most recent (more on this below). Moreover, the group behind the study – a group that formed over Twitter and whose lead author, Jack Lawrence, remains a student – have not yet published even a research paper together, but just a letter; one that advocates for changes in clinical trial methodology.

Without providing clear references, the authors of the study claim to “reveal that more than a third of 26 major trials of the drug [ivermectin] for use on Covid have serious errors or signs of potential fraud.” Yet, even if verifiable, this represents fewer than ten trials, which is a comparatively small fraction (less than 15%) once all major trials are taken into consideration rather than this apparently arbitrary sample – again, more on this below. Importantly, the entire BBC article is framed as if the scientific debate over ivermectin is all just a fight between “anti-vaccine activists” who “hype” the use of a “miracle” drug, versus this dispassionate “group of independent scientists”. This again is gross distortion.

Like me, Dr John Campbell is not an “anti-vaccine activist”. Unlike me and BBC journalists Rachel Schraer and Jack Goodman, he is a highly trained medical professional who holds a PhD in nursing and has decades of experience both as a medical practitioner and as a teacher. Throughout the last two years, John Campbell has tirelessly sifted through volumes of medical research papers in order to present the latest findings about covid on his Youtube channel. By virtue of the clarity and integrity of his almost daily content so assiduously collected and analysed, his small channel has grown rapidly and now enjoys over a million subscribers.

One of the treatments John Campbell has regularly discussed is ivermectin, and in his latest upload (embedded above) he tries to understand why the BBC has bothered to produce this article, which is devoid of references to any of the allegedly discredited studies (making it hard to check the veracity of these claims), while failing to reference a far larger real-time meta-analysis [click here] based on 64 fully referenced studies (as opposed to the mysterious 26 – and with the flawed Egyptian study already excluded) that indicate clear benefits of using the drug to treat covid patients:

[Quoted directly from the study linked above.]

Another reason why John Campbell has over a million subscribers is that he takes a fully detached and thus scientifically-informed position and is only very seldom sidetracked by politics, preferring to stick to what published research shows. However, the determination of the effectiveness of any drug relies on large-scale trials and these are generally overseen by the pharmaceutical manufacturers themselves. Unfortunately, no such large-scale trials have yet been conducted to test the efficacy of ivermectin in the treatment of covid.

As the BBC piece mentions in passing: “In February, Merck – one of the companies that makes the drug – said there was ‘no scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against Covid-19’.”

But of course, this puts the cart before the horse. So John Campbell is understandably dismayed to learn that Merck & Co., the company given the original approval for the manufacture and sale of ivermectin, has said that it has absolutely no intention of conducting clinical trials. Could it be, as he tentatively suggests, that ivermectin is so cheap and easily available that there is just a lack of profit motive to carry out such further trials? Without genuine investigation journalism this will likely remain a rhetorical question.

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Additional:

Last month, John Campbell also looked into and deconstructed the Australian Government’s frankly bizarre excuses for imposing restrictions on the prescription of ivermectin for the treatment of covid-19:

And last week he provided a very in-depth comparison of the cost, safety and efficacy of ivermectin to the new antiviral drug, molnupiravir:

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Please note: I have not been trained as a medical professional and do not claim to have expert knowledge of this subject. This article is in no way intended to provide medical advice of any kind.

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corona marginalia: origin unknown #2

Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, and other health officials testified before the US Senate on May 11th 2021. They answered questions on ongoing Covid-19 prevention measures and guidance, however, Fauci was also directly challenged by Senator Rand Paul about the origins of the virus and specifically his part in gain-of-function research on SARS viruses and with regards to collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV):

When asked by Paul, “Do you fund Dr. Baric’s gain-of-function research?” Fauci made the following admission (italics are mine), “Dr. Baric does not do gain-of-function research, and if it is, it’s according to the guidelines and it is being conducted in North Carolina, not in China.” [from 2:10 mins]

The full exchange between Paul and Fauci is reprinted below. A complete transcript of the Senate hearing is available here: https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/dr-fauci-cdc-director-testify-before-senate-on-covid-19-guidelines-transcript

Sen. Rand Paul:

Dr. Fauci, We don’t know whether the pandemic started in a lab in Wuhan or evolved naturally, but we should want to know. Three million people have died from this pandemic, and that should cause us to explore all possibilities. Instead, government authorities, self-interested in continuing gain-of-function research say there’s nothing to see here. Gain-of-function research, as you know, is juicing up naturally occurring animal viruses to infect humans. To arrive at the truth, the US government should admit that the Wuhan Virology Institute was experimenting to enhance the coronavirus’ ability to infect humans.

Juicing up super-viruses is not new. Scientists in the US have long known how to mutate animal viruses to infect humans. For years, Dr. Ralph Baric, a virologist in the US, has been collaborating with Dr. Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Virology Institute, sharing his discoveries about how to create super-viruses. This gain-of-function research has been funded by the NIH. The collaboration between the US and the Wuhan Virology Institute continues. Doctors Baric and Shi worked together to insert bat virus spike protein into the backbone of the deadly SARS virus and then use this man-made super-virus to infect human airway cells.

Think about that for a moment. The SARS virus had a 15% mortality. We’re fighting a pandemic that has about a 1% mortality. Can you imagine if a SARS virus that’s been juiced up and had viral proteins added to it, to the spike protein, if that were released accidentally?

Dr. Fauci, do you still support funding of the NIH funding of the lab in Wuhan?

Dr. Anthony Fauci: [1:50 mins]

Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect that the NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Sen. Rand Paul: [2:05 mins]

Do they fund Dr. Baric?

Dr. Anthony Fauci: [2:10 mins]
We do not fund gain-

Sen. Rand Paul:

Do you fund Dr. Baric’s gain-of-function research?

Dr. Anthony Fauci: [2:15 mins]

Dr. Baric does not do gain-of-function research, and if it is, it’s according to the guidelines and it is being conducted in North Carolina, not in China.

Sen. Rand Paul: [2:25 mins]

You don’t think concerning a bat virus spike protein that he got from the Wuhan Institute into the SARS virus is gain of function?

Dr. Anthony Fauci:

That is not…

Sen. Rand Paul: [2:30 mins]

You would be in the minority because at least 200 scientists have signed a statement from the Cambridge Working Group saying that it is gain-of-function.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: [2:40 mins]

Well, it is not. If you look at the grant and you look at the progress reports, it is not gain-of-function, despite the fact that people tweet that, they write about it-

Sen. Rand Paul: [2:50 mins]

Do you support sending money to the Wuhan Virology Institute?

Dr. Anthony Fauci:

We do not send money now to the Wuhan Virology Institute.

Sen. Rand Paul: [2:55 mins]

Do you support sending money? We did under your tutelage. We were sending it through EcoHealth. It was a sub-agency and a sub-grant. Do you support that the money from NIH that was going to the Wuhan Institute.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: [3:10 mins]

Let me explain to you why that was done. The SARS-CoV-1 originated in bats in China. It would have been irresponsible of us if we did not investigate the bat viruses and the serology to see who might have been infected in China.

Sen. Rand Paul: [3:30 mins]

Or perhaps it would be irresponsible to send it to the Chinese government that we may not be able to trust with this knowledge and with this incredibly dangerous viruses.

Government scientists like yourself who favour gain-of-function research maintain the disease arose naturally.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: [3:45 mins]

I don’t favour gain-of-function research in China. You are saying things that are not correct.

Sen. Rand Paul: [3:50 mins]

Government defenders of gain-of-function, such as yourself, say that COVID-19 mutations were random and not designed by man. But interestingly, the technique that Dr. Baric developed forces mutations by serial passage through cell culture that the mutations appear to be natural. In fact, Dr. Baric named the technique the “No See ’em” technique, because the mutations appear naturally. Nicholas Baker in the New York Magazine said, “Nobody would know if the virus had been fabricated in a laboratory or grown in nature.” Government authorities in the US, including yourself, unequivocally deny that COVID-19 could have escaped a lab, but even Dr. Shi in Wuhan wasn’t so sure. According to Nicholas Baker, Dr. Shi wondered could this new virus have come from her own laboratory. She checked her records frantically and found no matches. “That really took a load off my mind,” she said. “I had not slept for days.”

The director of the gain-of-function research in Wuhan couldn’t sleep because she was terrified that it might be in her lab. Dr. Baric, an advocate of gain-of-function research admits the main problem that the Institute of Virology has is the outbreak occurred in close proximity. What are the odds? Baric responded, “Could you rule out a laboratory escape? The answer in this case is probably not.”

Will you in front of this group, categorically say that the COVID-19 could not have occurred through serial passage in a laboratory.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: [5:20 mins]

I do not have any accounting of what the Chinese may have done, and I’m fully in favour of any further investigation of what went on in China. However, I will repeat again, the NIH and NIAID categorically has not funded gain-of-function research to be conducted in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Sen. Rand Paul: [5:45 mins]

But you do support it in the US. We have 11 labs doing it, and you have allowed it here. We have a committee to do it, but the committee is granted every exemption. You’re fooling with Mother Nature here. You’re allowing super-viruses to be created with a 15% mortality. It’s very dangerous. I think it was a huge mistake to share this with China. It’s a huge mistake to allow this to continue in the United States. We should be very careful to investigate where this virus came from.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: [6:10 mins]

I fully agree that you should investigate where the virus came from. But again, we have not funded gain-of-function research on this virus in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. No matter how many times you say it, it didn’t happen.

Sen. Rand Paul: [6:25 mins]

You’re parsing words. You’re parsing words. There was research done with Dr. Shi and Dr. Baric. They have collaborated on gain-of-function research where they enhance the SARS virus to infect human airway cells. They did it by merging a new spike protein on it. That is gain-of-function. That was joint research between the Wuhan Institute and Dr. Baric. You can’t deny it.

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No research has yet turned up any evidence of an intermediate host for Covid-19 and this leads many scientists to question official claims of zoonotic origins of the virus. On Thursday [Aug 5th], a very detailed and referenced summary of the latest findings was published as an extended article by Counterpunch. The conclusions of authors Jonathan Latham, editor of Independent Science News and Allison Wilson, Science Director at The Bioscience Resource Project, are as follows:

To date, both the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) in New York have refused requests by Congress and others, to allow public access to their existing coronavirus samples and their viral databases. These may hold answers to all the origin questions. But if publicly-funded virologists will not share the samples they already have, and are apparently unwilling to face the conclusions public access might entail, why should anyone reward them to collect more? Indeed, how can research into the origins of COVID-19 meaningfully proceed if virologists will neither share their data nor follow where it leads when they do?

The abject failure of the WHO and also of established science, in China and elsewhere, to genuinely investigate the origin question can thus be explained. The problem is not lack of data. As this article and the creative approaches of members of DRASTIC, and others, have shown, there is plenty of valuable data waiting to be brought forth. Rather, the obstacle is simply a deep and broad fear on the part of the scientific establishment that the trail might lead to a lab leak.

The lack of outrage, or even concern, among the rank and file of the scientific community at the flagrant obstructionism of the WIV and the EHA demonstrates the extent of this fear as clearly as could be wished.

The underlying problem is that academic science is enmeshed in a wider transnational Pandemic Virus Industrial Complex (PVIC) that has sought to suppress lab origin theories and within which the WIV and the EHA are just minor cogs.

The important consequence of this is that outbreak origin investigations are always challenging. They require people who are expert but are either not conflicted or who have demonstrated their independence. Consequently, the best data and analysis on the origin of SARS-CoV-2 will continue to come, we predict, mainly from individuals acting independently of established institutions.

Click here to read the full article entitled “Phylogeographic Mapping of Newly Discovered Coronaviruses Pinpoints the Direct Progenitor of SARS-CoV-2 Originating in Mojiang, China”, published by Counterpunch on August 5th.

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Burning Blogger relaunches… but bigger and better than before

The Burning Blogger of Bedlam was one of a pair of WordPress sites I had followed before they abruptly fell victim to the censorship purge of 2018/9; the other being Scott Creighton’s American Everyman which Scott soon after relaunched as Nomadic Everyman.  After a short spell running his Youtube channel and thanks to the technical assistance of a friend who managed to recover his deleted articles, two years on creator Saj Awan has now relaunched the Burning Blogger fully intact and on a new platform.

Saj has also kindly allowed me to reprint an abridged version of his excellent return post BURNING BLOGGER is Back: Now Let’s Talk Censorship & Free Speech…

I got de-platformed. Deleted. Taken down. Censored. Given the middle finger by the Internet Police. A site – a vast archive – that had been running for about seven years was very suddenly no more.

And that was that.

That was almost two years ago.

Like Thanos clicking his finger and erasing certain people from existence, the Thought Police had clicked their own god-like fingers… and hundreds of pages of research, articles and content were gone.

Without warning. And without any real right of reply… or means for appeal.

That was kind of shitty.

But, as you can see, I’m back. It’s taken over a year-and-a-half And a lot of work. And an ENORMOUS amount of help from a certain friend and supporter, who made it his mission to ensure that I not only came back online, but with a far better platform than I had before.

I don’t think I’m meant to mention him by name here: so let’s just call him ‘Mr Stark’, and let’s just say that without all the work he put into finding and establishing the right platform and the right set-up, as well as all the security issues, technical knowledge and design knowledge that he exercised on my behalf, as well as all the guidance he has given me, this would not have been possible.

He really went above and beyond what I would’ve even asked of him.

Also, thanks to him, I am not only back here now with this shiny new website, but we were also able to salvage and restore the entirety of the old archive from the previous site – despite the fact that WordPress had deleted my old site without giving me any warning or opportunity to do a proper final back-up of my content.

Meaning that nothing has been lost… except time.

So yeah, Thought Police – you got me. But it wasn’t a K.O. And, to quote a certain someone: “You should’ve gone for the head…” […]

I’m a big sci-fi kind of guy, so that whole waking-up-in-a-different-reality-or-timeline trope is pretty familiar to me. And that’s kind of what it’s felt like. Everything has changed so abruptly in so short a space of time – it’s pretty surreal.

Which just shows how quickly – the relative blinking of an eye – vast change can occur on a mass level. It’s kind of scary.

But it happens. And here we all are now: living in a bad screenplay.

But I don’t want to talk about the pandemic or the lockdowns here. I want to use this first new post to talk about the take-down of the old site, about the censorship purges in general, and about where we are right now in regard to censorship, free speech and society; especially in light of the events of the last few months.

Firstly, concerning my own takedown: WordPress had the right to terminate my site. It was in the small print all along.

Ironically, I had already published an article several months earlier (now that the entire archive has been restored, see it here), predicting that my site would be shut down – as part of a censorship purge.

As I highlighted then, WordPress’s censorship purge seemed to have originated with an article in the New York Times in which it specifically condemned WordPress and Automattic for allowing ‘conspiracy theorists’ to keep their content on its platform. In this instance, they were specifically focusing on the Sandy Hook business; but of course there was always going to be a broader implication beyond just that specific subject.

The piece, titled ‘This Company Keeps Lies About Sandy Hook on the Web’, went out of its way to demonise WordPress/Automattic for its lack of censorship.

As I wrote back then: ‘That’s Sandy Hook today. Tomorrow it could be something else – 9/11 perhaps. Because it seems odd to me that Sandy Hook would be the only issue – and that other conspiracy claims about other events will go unpenalised…’

For the record, I’ve never written about Sandy Hook – so that couldn’t have been the reason for my site being taken down.

I requested to know what my violation had been: and was told by the ‘community guardians’ that they were under no obligation to specify.

‘Community Guardians’ – how Orwellian does that sound?

The takedown of my site didn’t occur in isolation. WP had been removing sites for some months: the first I was aware of being the American Everyman blog – a site that covered many of the same subjects as mine. I was a subscriber to and reader of that site – and when it was simply gone one day, I in fact published an article on my site about the censorship escalation and the likelihood of The Burning Blogger of Bedlam also being taken down.

So I knew it was probably coming: or I was at least alive to the danger of it.

Scott Creighton – author of the American Everyman site – was understandably furious at the time. He suggested that his site had been on a ‘list’ of sites that WP had been directed to remove from their platform.

I suspect he was right: and that the Burning Blogger of Bedlam was on that list too. Another WP blogger – and friend of mine – informed me that another popular WP blog (that would fall loosely into the ‘alternative’ media category) – Jon Rappaport’s blog – had also disappeared from the web at the same time as my site disappeared. Jon Rappaport here says the same thing happened to him as happened to me. “On May 11, 2019, WordPress suddenly took down my blog after 10 years of continuous operation. There was no warning or advance notice of any kind…

I’ve checked again: and if Rappaport’s site was taken down on May 11th, then this would’ve been about three days after mine.

So, clearly, this was a coordinated action targeting more than one site/author. […]

There was nothing on my website that would qualify as ‘hate speech’. Nothing that would qualify as racism or sexism or any other kind of prejudice, for example. There wouldn’t be – because I don’t really have any of those sorts of views: and, in fact, much of my content over the years has been specifically about countering or debunking some of those who do perpetuate those views.

So I’m pretty sure the reason the ‘community guardians’ told me they were under no obligation to specify my violations is because there was nothing they could easily flag me up on… at least nothing that wouldn’t simply sound like censorship. If they could’ve flagged me up on something more concrete – say, some kind of hate speech, anti-Semitism, racism or some kind of incitement – they would’ve specified it. […]

It isn’t a left or right thing: of the sites I’ve seen taken down, they’re a mixture of right and left leaning.

And again, WP has the right to remove things from its platform, as do You Tube and other platforms: but it is worth noting what they were removing and asking why.

It’s difficult to see it as anything other than shutting down certain perspectives: and this is something that has been happening across the board now.

In fact, in the less-than-two-years since my old site was taken down, the censorship has escalated massively: first with the COVID pandemic and then more recently with the 2020 Presidential Election and the Storming of the Capitol – both of which were used to justify mass censorship sweeps and takedowns; in the latter case it targeted mostly extreme right-wing voices or platforms and in the former it was more generally about shutting down dissenting voices in regard to the lockdowns and the origins of the pandemic.

We appear to now be in an era of maximum censorship, as far as the Internet age goes.

Facebook, Twitter and Google have actually been upfront about this, as far as this COVID crisis goes, having said very early in the crisis that they were working with the WHO to address “misinformation”. “Misinformation” presumably includes anything that veers too much into the realm of ‘conspiracy’ insinuation or anything that overtly questions or contradicts official narratives.

Extraordinarily, in some countries – including Hungary and China – the authorities were threatening not just fines, but JAIL TIME, for anyone considered to be spreading ‘fake news’ about the pandemic. Again, ‘fake news’, I’m assuming, includes any arguments or theories that contradict the official narratives.

So, while my site was taken down long before the pandemic started or the 2020 election cycle began, it was clearly an indicator of things to come: a sign of the direction things were moving in in regards to free speech and the Internet.

You have to wonder what the Internet is going to look like in a few years time, as far as diversity of perspective or plurality information-sources is concerned.

Because one very palpable danger is that what we end up with (and what they want) is a strictly binary dynamic: whereby you have the ‘respectable’ mainstream media/news/analysis platforms on one side and the rabid, crackpot ‘conspiracy’ or ‘alternative’ media on the other side – with all of the intelligent, balanced middle-ground removed completely.

That is essentially what we’ve been reduced to already, with – to cite one current example – the binary dynamic of the Pro-Trump crowd versus the Mainstream Media: one extreme or the other, with all of the balanced, reasonable middle-ground missing entirely.

That entire election melodrama was the absolute epitome of this binary dynamic – and dumbing down of all sides – being demonstrated. Everyone – and not just individuals, but the media itself – was either on one team or the other: there was no middle ground at all, no balanced perspective or honest commentary.

And I think that’s where they want us.

In that scenario, people in general only have one extreme or the other – you’re either with the corporate-controlled mainstream or you’re with the crackpots: and there is no reasonable, balanced perspective or journalism in the center or even on the fringes.

That makes it harder for people to form reasoned, balanced views: but it also makes it easier for people to be divided into easy labels based on which of the two echo chambers they reside in. And it helps create or amplify the US versus THEM society, where no one is interested in mutual advantage or common good, only in their team.

It means too that people are more liable to be indoctrinated entirely: by either the extreme crackpot side or the mainstream media side.

And that is essentially where we are now. Hence, you have “Racist” Trumpists vs “Evil Democrats”, “Conspiracy Nuts” vs “Lamestream Media”, Maskers vs “Anti-Vaxxers”, SJWs vs Alt-Right Propagandists, and so and so forth – with everyone from ‘Antifa’, ‘Q-Anon’ and god-knows-who-else in the mix too.

And everyone’s intelligence-level goes down the toilet, while society slowly burns in the background.

And all discourse descends into rabid, raving nonsense: with people more interested in which team they’re on rather than on intelligently discussing or examining information and trying to move towards honest conclusions for mutual advantage.

That’s where we are now: and this is the very strange and difficult backdrop against which the Burning Blogger comes back online; and resumes trying to make sense of the madness (or ‘bedlam’ – let’s use that word) in some kind of honest way.

[Use of bold and italic highlights as in the original]

Click here to read the full version of this article.

Saj Awan also decided to start running a podcast and so to mark the occasion of his return he invited Australian blogger James Robertson from Crimes of Empire and “the mercurial Mark” who are both fellow contributors to Truthscoop to talk about censorship, free speech, and the state of both journalism and the ‘conspiracy’-related content realm:

Lastly, I’d like personally to welcome back Saj to the world of blogging and encourage others to check out his consistently high quality content. With the big tech firms and western governments in cahoots and their censorship drive intensifying at an alarming rate, it makes a pleasant change to have such a thoughtful and independent voice back in the fold again!

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Sorry’s not good enough. Boris Johnson you’re a disgrace | Prof John Ashton

Update:

On March 9th, following the government’s derisory 1% pay increase offered to NHS nurses and in the midst of “the royal circus” surrounding Harry and Meghan, John Ashton spoke again to Double Down News:

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John Ashton, who was Regional Director of Public Health for North-West England for thirteen years, has been a consistently outspoken critic of the government’s ineffective response to Covid-19. As the official death toll passed hundred thousand deaths, he was invited to speak on Double Down News and the interview is embedded below with my own transcript also provided:

A hundred thousand deaths and more. A hundred thousand grieving families. The Prime Minister says he’s sorry for the deaths and he gives a half-hearted apology for what’s gone on, but doesn’t admit any mistakes – any errors – “we did what we could”, he said, despite the litany of errors. I’m sorry Boris Johnson, it doesn’t wash with me and it won’t wash with all those grieving families out there who’ve lost loved ones for no fault of their own, but because of your arrogance, your pathetic incompetence, and your unwillingness to learn from experience. I’m sorry Boris Johnson, you are a disgrace!

I really take no pleasure in saying these were all things I’ve warned about all the way through and that the fact that there have now been a hundred thousand-plus deaths is no surprise to me – it’s actually well over hundred thousand: the Office of National Statistics [ONS] came out yesterday with I think 104,000 and that I think was from up to the 7th of January. There’s been about 7,000 deaths a week during the rest of January so it’s probably somewhere between 120 and 130 thousand.

Latest graph showing excess deaths in UK released by ONS up to January 15th

One of the really telling statistics is that during the pandemic of influenza in 1918–19 the number of deaths in the United Kingdom accounted for 1% of the total deaths worldwide. This 100,000 or 120,000 is now approaching 3% of the worldwide number of deaths. And you know in those days virology was new science – we’re now supposed to have world-beating science and medicine – and we’ve neglected our public health system in the way I’ve just described over and over.

My heart goes out to all the families, all the relatives who’ve lost loved ones. And there’s more come. You know some of the commentators yesterday suggesting between 30 and 50 thousand more deaths are likely before we might get proper control over this terrible situation. And then the Prime Minister has the gall to say sorry for the deaths but not really apologising, not admitting that he’s got so much wrong. “We did everything we could”, is what he said. But the list of things they got wrong – the list of omissions as well as commissions is so long.

At the heart of this there’s been a failure of leadership. We know that public health in England has been allowed to run down over ten years: that they stopped doing regular training exercises for pandemics; that they never learnt the lessons from the 2016 exercise which showed all the weaknesses.

But the leadership is where this comes to in the end: failure to get a grip in the beginning. Boris Johnson’s preoccupation with Brexit; his distraction by his mistress and having a fortnight’s holiday with her in February; not attending five meetings of Cobra; not getting on top of the testing and tracing, of the PPE; adopting an approach to messaging that was confused and highly political; messing about with the numbers, massaging the figures; not setting a good example himself (shaking hands with people and getting infected); and then his lieutenant Cummings and many other prominent people [Robert Jenrick for instance] not doing what they were telling other people to do; so that the trust has gone, people are not following the rules – if you look at the traffic now, the traffic is much higher than it was in the first lockdown – it’s very difficult to get people to do the right thing because they’ve been let down by abysmal leadership and hypocrisy.

The litany goes on and on, you know. All those contracts given to their chums: millions and millions of pounds; putting somebody who’s a horse jumper but with no experience in charge of the testing and tracing – Dido Harding; eat out and help out and spread the virus. You know don’t listen to the scientists when they talk about having a firebreak in the Autumn half-term. Let’s have five days for Christmas! It goes on and on and on. And what does Johnson say? “We did our best.” God help us if he’d not done his best. Just think what the numbers might have been then.

I just hope that they’re held to account at some time in the future, but I don’t have much faith in our system because it seems to cover up for them. And many of the senior medics and people have been very reluctant to criticise the government even after a year of this and I’m sorry [but] unless the lessons are learnt we’ll continue to make mistakes, and it’s really important to call a spade a spade and to identify what they’ve got wrong.

We’re still on 1,500 deaths a day, that’s likely to go on for some days, we don’t know how the vaccine story’s going to play out – there are supply chain rows now emerging [and] we’re being asked to take a nationalistic stance on that again, whereas you know Europe ordered vaccines and they’re being asked to let vaccines being made in European countries come to the UK because of failure of supply in particular countries – but we’re putting too much hope on the vaccine. You know the vaccine is very important but we have to keep up with all the traditional public health measures as well. We have to environmental measures, social distancing, hygiene, mask-wearing behavioural stuff. We’ve got to do that for the foreseeable future.

It’s a very bleak day today and yesterday to hear this news. My heart goes out to the families and I just hope that at some point in the future there will be justice for those families. We must all think about these families – these hundred thousand-plus families – hundreds of thousands of people have been affected. Most of us now know somebody who’s been seriously ill or who’s died from this disease. This is a terrible tragedy. There are many more people who’ve died than died during the war as civilians. This is unbelievable and terrible tragedy. We must think about people and we must support them. We must pull together. We must get through this. But when it’s all over we must make sure there’s justice for the families who’ve been treated so badly by Boris Johnson and his second-hand, second-rate lieutenants.

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corona marginalia: origin unknown

In an article published today [Tuesday 19th] by Wired magazine, Roger Pielke who is Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, writes:

There are now two major efforts to investigate where Covid-19 came from: one set up by the World Health Organization and the other organized by a leading medical journal, The Lancet. The investigations are expected to take months or even years to complete, and, given the many challenges involved, they may never deliver conclusive answers. It’s already clear, however, that both are compromised by a lack of clear procedures to manage conflicts of interest and questionable independence. Now it is imperative that governments and the scientific community act quickly to improve them.

The problem starts with the nature of the inquiries, which must determine, for starters, whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus went straight from wild animals to the population (the likeliest scenario, per most experts) or perhaps escaped from a laboratory setting. But many of the people who are most qualified to look into this question—the ones with the most relevant technical knowledge—also happen to be the ones who work in those very laboratory settings or have close professional ties with the people who do.

In other words, they’re exactly the people who might themselves be blamed (either directly or as part of a research community) if the virus were ever traced back to a lab.

Roger Pielke then highlights comparisons with prior instances of conflicts of interest when scientists with known ties to tobacco firms were given prominent roles on health advisory committees, before continuing:

Unfortunately, it’s not clear that either of the leading investigations into the pandemic’s origins is following the relevant best practices.

For instance, both investigations include Peter Daszak, disease ecologist and president of the EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit with a history of conducting research into SARS-related coronaviruses and their effects on humans, including collaborative work done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The Wuhan Institute happens to be the only laboratory in China that is allowed to work with the world’s most dangerous pathogens, and it’s located at the apparent ground zero of the current outbreak.

If there were a lab leak—and, again, most experts do not believe that the available evidence points in this direction—then both the Wuhan Institute and its US partner would be on a short list of candidates to investigate. It should be obvious that no one with any connection to either organization can play a formal role in any truly independent investigation into the pandemic’s origins.

Moreover, as Pielke points out, Peter Daszak was amongst the co-authors of a formal statement submitted to and published by The Lancet in March “in solidarity with all scientists and health professionals in China who continue to save lives and protect global health during the challenge of the COVID-19 outbreak” including “our Chinese counterparts in the forefront”.

Their statement includes the following line:

We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin. 1

It has since been disclosed from emails obtained through Freedom of Information requests that this Lancet statement was prompted and organised by employees of Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance:

The emails obtained via public records requests show that EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak drafted the Lancet statement, and that he intended it to “not be identifiable as coming from any one organization or person” but rather to be seen as “simply a letter from leading scientists”. Daszak wrote that he wanted “to avoid the appearance of a political statement”. […]

Although the phrase “EcoHealth Alliance” appeared only once in The Lancet statement, in association with co-author Daszak, several other co-authors also have direct ties to the group that were not disclosed as conflicts of interest. Rita Colwell and James Hughes are members of the Board of Directors of EcoHealth Alliance, William Karesh is the group’s Executive Vice President for Health and Policy, and Hume Field is Science and Policy Advisor.  2

Click here to read the full report posted by US Right to Know in November 2020.

Since Daszak has never contradicted this initial stance, we must presume that he still holds the firm belief that Covid is a zoonotic pathogen that crossed from animals to humans by purely natural means, which obviously casts serious doubt on his presumed impartiality as both a member of the WHO’s 10-person investigatory team as well as Chair of the 12-person task force set up by The Lancet.

Regarding The Lancet study, Pielke says:

Among the other members are five more signatories to the EcoHealth Alliance letter from last February, which means that fully half of this team had already suggested that any lab-leak hypothesis was a “conspiracy theory” months before their work began.

And more damning still when it comes to WHO’s mission to China, Pielke writes:

The WHO committee’s guidelines say nothing about the disclosure or management of actual or perceived conflicts of interest, but they do say that “the final composition of the international team should be agreed by both China and WHO.” We have no idea whether other conflicts of interest could apply to the committee’s members, since their public disclosure is not required. The WHO does not appear to have explicit procedures for managing such disclosures, even when they’re made on a voluntary basis. The WHO’s apparent lack of routine processes like these weakens the integrity of the investigation before it has even started.

Pielke concludes:

There are, in fact, dozens of laboratories around the world—some supported by the US government—that work with live SARS and SARS-related viruses and where a laboratory accident might be catastrophic; and, as Baker pointed out at length in his much-maligned New York magazine story, scientists have warned for years of just this possibility. If a formal investigation into the pandemic’s beginnings were to take the lab escape hypothesis seriously—let alone find suggestive evidence in its favor—it could seriously threaten this research. […]

If an essay like Baker’s plays into the disinformers’ hands, then so does an easily contested official process to investigate the origins of Covid-19. Fears of conspiracy theorizing should not scare us away from asking uncomfortable questions. They should do the opposite, and motivate us to ensure that our investigations into the origins of this pandemic are as open, independent, and trustworthy as possible.

Click here to read Roger Pielke’s full article entitled “If Covid-19 Did Start With a Lab Leak, Would We Ever Know?” published by Wired magazine.

1 From a “Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of china combating COVID-19” published by The Lancet in Volume 395, Issue 10226 on March 7–13 2020. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673620304189

2 From an article entitled “EcoHealth Alliance orchestrated key scientists’ statement on ‘natural origin’ of SARS-Cov-2” written by Sainath Suryanarayanan, published in US Right to Know (USRTK) on November 18, 2020. https://usrtk.org/biohazards-blog/ecohealth-alliance-orchestrated-key-scientists-statement-on-natural-origin-of-sars-cov-2/

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the toppling of statues has let in some air but it won’t bring a wind of change

Four people have been charged with criminal damage after the toppling of a statue of the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol in June this year.

Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 32, and Sage Willoughby, 21, will appear before Bristol magistrates court on 25 January for the first hearing, the Crown Prosecution Service said. 1

As reported in today’s Guardian. In response I have decided to publish an article that was composed last summer but never posted. It is accompanied by extracts drawn from four other perspectives that were published around the same time.

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A painting entitled “The Slave Ship” by J. M. W. Turner. In the background, the sun shines through a storm while large waves hit the sides of a sailing ship. In the foreground, slaves are drowning in the water, while others are being eaten by large fish

It perhaps says something of the make-up of the Anglo-Saxon mindset that the very word ‘violence’ in the English language draws no distinction between acts of grievous harm committed against people and the lesser evil of vandalising property (and yet we have no better synonym). For this reason talk of the violence in the case of the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston and the other slavers is semantically correct; that said, to speak of the toppling of an effigy of a man that owes its erection as a civic monument entirely to the transportation and forced resettlement of nearly a hundred thousand African slaves, nearly a quarter of whom died unknown but horrific deaths during the genocidal ‘Middle Passage’, is also crass hyperbole. The statue of Colston wasn’t lynched, unlike many of those he had happily sold into slavery, but straightforwardly pulled down and then, in a moment of supreme poetic justice, tossed into the harbour whence his slave ships set sail three centuries ago.

Diagram of a slave ship from the Atlantic slave trade. (From an Abstract of Evidence delivered before a select committee of the House of Commons in 1790 and 1791.)

One of the most oft-repeated dictums from Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is the Party slogan: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” On ‘Airstrip One’ in Oceania (aka Britain), such brutal reductionism has become a central feature of state control: past mistakes are expunged; Party misdeeds rendered impossible by constant reediting; the names of enemies of the state purged unless they are useful foils; and the sole purpose of historical remembrance is the maintenance of the status quo. Revisionism is thus non-stop and never-ending.

Today Orwell is routinely wheeled out by people he would have detested to justify causes that would have sickened him. So let’s understand that he had no time for preservation simply for the sake of preservation – just read what he says about Gaudi’s now celebrated cathedral the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and how “the Anarchists showed bad taste in not blowing it up when they had the chance.” Orwell couldn’t have cared less about tearing down the odd statue, but devil can cite scripture for his purpose.

What Orwell did care about and understood better than most is the extraordinary power of symbols; most especially the ugly symbols of colonialism, a rapacious system he had experienced first-hand in Burma and despised no less than the crowd of defenestrators on the quayside in Bristol. Few have spoken more forcefully than Orwell on the abuses of Empire, and so there is little reason to suppose he would have been anything less than delighted to see Colston and the other slavers ripped from their pedestals.

Violence, in all senses of the word, is the underpainting to History’s canvass; new layers added once older ones are scraped away: for History is a study not of mere incidents, but of collective and prolonged exertions of force strewn with wilful acts of destruction. Therefore, to draw any line before the toppling of statues like Colston’s, first you must ask what else besides the sheer scale of its enterprise makes Britain’s acts of savage imperialism different at all from the savagery you do deplore, remembering of course that the offending statue of Colston had only been erected little more than a century ago; a fillip to late Victorian pride as the sun was about to set permanently on the Empire.

And when on that crisp October night three decades ago, the East Germans clambered atop the Berlin Wall and smashed it to the ground with sledgehammers, their impromptu act of vandalism opened the way for greater freedoms. We cheered them on. Likewise we cheered the toppling of statues of Stalin all across the old Soviet bloc. Should these too have been preserved as historical monuments instead? If so, then how about all of these…?

There is a tendency to think of statues as mere illustrations of famous past lives, like the solid pages from a pop-up history book. But they have plinths for good reason: to look down from. Statues – indeed all memorials – are virtue signallers. They are fundamentally didactic, presenting role models that are rather hard to repudiate: do as I have done and you shall become an immortal too. Thus Colston’s statue pays tribute to all who put greed and self-interest above human life: it glorifies profiteering and elevates the cruellest of merchants into a demigod. Be thankful that his days of lording it over the rest of us have gone.

As the words on the broken plinth set amongst the desolate ruins in Shelley’s famous sonnet declare:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! 2

Foretold is the fate of all monuments, although some monuments deserve to suffer their fate more swiftly than others; and when they do, it is right that we celebrate.

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Reprinted below are extended extracts and abridged versions of four excellent articles published or republished by ‘Counterpunch’. The first two, by Jonathan Cook and Patrick Cockburn respectively, address the issue of the toppling of statues. The latter two, by Nick Turse and Rob Urie, put the recent Black Lives Matter protests into broader context; the first historically and second socio-economically. I very much encourage readers to follow the links to read the articles in full.

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Don’t Dismiss the Importance of Toppling a Statue

I did not expect to be returning to this issue so soon but I was surprised, to put it mildly, to discover that my last post on anti-racists toppling a statue of the notorious slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol proved to be the most polarising article I have ever written. Given the many controversial topics I have addressed over the years, that seems noteworthy in itself.

It may not be surprising that those on the right are troubled by ordinary people challenging authority, demanding change rather than conserving what we already have, and “taking the law into their own hands”. None of this sits too easily with the conservative political worldview. But some on the left seem equally disturbed by this act of popular protest. That needs to be analysed and challenged.

I have been able to identify three main types of criticism from the left.

Cities on the back foot

The first suggests that tearing down statues is ineffective. It does not change anything, and actually conceals society’s continuing racism. These actions may make activists feel good but they fail to bring about any tangible progress.

Such arguments are obviously undermined by the fact that Bristol’s mayor and its council, which had been ignoring demands to remove Colston’s statue for decades, are finally proposing action. For the first time, the mayor has called for a “citywide conversation” about all of Bristol’s public memorials. He has promised to discuss their future with historians, presumably to identify which ones venerate people like Colston so obscenely horrible that they have no place in public squares looking down on us. Instead they should be in museums so their crimes can be contextualised and properly understood. […]

I’ve been truly staggered to find leftists who follow me on social media decrying this simply as “mob rule”. Probing their reasoning a little has tended to reveal some pretty ugly premises and a tendency to dismiss everything as hollow identity politics. That is lazy political thinking, and a position that is held easily only if one is white.

“Golliwog” racism, as I explained in my original post, was the jam generations of white children spread on their morning toast. We live with those unquestioned associations and assumptions still. It’s about time we confronted them rather than indulged them.

Overthrowing symbols

The second criticism is that toppling statues is a distraction from proper political activism, that statues are meaningless symbols, that there are much more important things to be getting on with, and that the establishment wants us to target statues to sow division or direct our energies into irrelevancies. It is claimed that tearing down Colston’s statue has detracted from the inspiration for the protests: challenging police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a white policeman in Minneapolis.

There are lots of reasons why this approach is a wrong-headed.

Symbols are important. They are the illustrations to the stories we are fed about who we are and what we hold dear. Like images in the picture books our parents read to us before we could make out the letters of the text, these symbols often have more impact than the stories themselves. When we challenge symbols we begin to deconstruct the stories that they illustrate. Overthrow a symbol, and you are taking the first step on the path to overthrowing the system behind it.

After all, if these symbols weren’t so important in entrenching a sense of “national life” and “national values”, the establishment would not have bothered to erect them. That’s why the rightwing will make a battleground of protecting statues of Winston Churchill and Queen Victoria. Because it is vitally important to them that we don’t tear off the mask to see for ourselves – or to show them – what really lies beneath. […]

Isn’t having the establishment fearful exactly where the left should want them? Because when the establishment is not frightened, all they do is line their pockets more deeply. They make concessions only when we raise the stakes.

If that is not obvious, recall the mass marches against the Iraq war. They failed not because they were not popular – they were some of the largest protests ever in Britain. They failed because the public could not make Tony Blair and his cabinet more frightened of us – the British people – than they were of the White House and the Pentagon. The cynical, dispiriting lesson we took away from the Iraq war was that we could never have an effect on the political class. The real lesson was that we needed to bare our teeth.

Last week the crowds in Bristol bared their teeth, and the politicians and police decided the fight – this time – wasn’t worth it. Defending a racist statue is much less of a priority for the establishment than placating the US, of course. But it doesn’t mean it is no priority at all.

The lessons of revolts through the ages are that small victories inspire crowds to larger battles. That is why the establishment usually tries to crush or co-opt the first signs of popular dissent and defiance. They fear our empowerment. It is also why it is important for those who want fairer societies to support, not diminish, the actions of those who take on initial confrontations with the establishment. They build the launchpad for bigger things.

Progress through protest

The third and seemingly most common criticism is that it is dangerous to allow the mob to win, and that once “mob rule” scores a success it will lead to anarchy and violence.

As I explained in my last post, none of the things we value today in Britain – from the vote to the National Health Service – happened without either direct protest in defiance of the establishment or the threat of such protest. It was only ever fear about the breakdown of order or of the eruption of violence that pushed the establishment to give up any of its wealth and power. […]

Those who worry about “mob rule” assume that we now live in democracies that are responsive to the popular will. I will not waste my breath again demolishing that fallacy – it has been the sole reason for my writing this blog for the past six years. We live in sophisticated oligarchies, where corporations control the narratives of our lives through their control of the mass media to make us compliant and believe in fairytales. The biggest is that we, the people, are in charge through our vote, in a political system that offers only two choices, both of them political parties that were long ago captured by the corporations. The one countervailing force – organised labour – now plays almost no role. It has been either destroyed or its leaders co-opted themselves.

Wrong about democracy

All that aside, those anxious about “the mob” have failed to understand what liberal democracy means – the model of democracy we are all supposed to subscribe to. It does not give carte blanche to the white majority to smother symbols all over the public space of people who abused, murdered and oppressed our black neighbours’ ancestors. That is democracy as the tyranny of the majority.

If this is not blindingly obvious, let me propose a hypothetical analogy. How would we judge Britain’s Jewish community if after years of failed protests they and non-Jewish supporters “took the law into their own hands” and tore down a statue in Hamstead to Adolf Eichmann? Would we call them a mob? Would we characterise what they did as vigilantism? And perhaps more to the point, can we conceive of an Eichmann statue being erected in Hamstead – or anywhere? Of course, not. So why is it even conceivable that a man like Colston who profited from the destruction of the lives of tens of thousands of Africans should still be presiding over a multicultural city like Bristol, where some of the descendants of those Africans live today?

The fact that we cannot imagine being so insensitive to the Jewish community should underscore how unbelievably insensitive we have been to Britain’s black community for many decades.  3

Click here to read the full unabridged article by Jonathan Cook entitled “Symbols are Invested with Power. Don’t Dismiss the Importance of Toppling a Statue”.

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British leaders have no idea how bad slavery was

Conservative leaders snigger at protesters seeking the removal of statues memorialising those whose fortunes came from the exploitation of slaves.

The leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, implied facetiously this week that such demands are on a par with seeking to knock down Stonehenge on the grounds that it once could have been the site of human sacrifice. He was speaking in response to a puerile question from the Conservative MP Sir Desmond Swayne – who got into trouble last year for blacking his face – suggesting that a measure be introduced to remove “all remaining trace that there was a Roman civilisation in this island”.

The flippancy of the exchange shows that both men feel that slavery happened a long time ago and does not stand out in history as a particularly horrendous crime, and that the demonstrations against those who benefited from it amount to a passing fad that need not be taken seriously. […]

Appreciation of the savage reality of slavery is clouded among white populations by films like Gone with the Wind which emphasise sentimental attachments between master and slave. One way to understand what it was really like is to recall how Isis enslaved the Yazidis in northern Iraq and Syria in 2014, murdering men, women and children and selling thousands of women into sexual slavery.

Terrified women held in Isis jails waited to be raped and sold to the highest bidder. “The first 12 hours of capture were filled with sharply mounting terror,” says a UN report on what happened in one jail. “The selection of any girl was accompanied by screaming as she was forcibly pulled from the room, with her mother and any other women who tried to keep hold of her being brutally beaten by [Isis] fighters. [Yazidi] women and girls began to scratch and bloody themselves in an attempt to make themselves unattractive to potential buyers.” The reference comes from With Ash on Their Faces: Yezidi Women and the Islamic State by Cathy Otten.

Isis did not behave very differently from the slave traders and plantation owners in the West Indies and the US in the 18th century. The best-informed guide to what life was like on a slave plantation in the Caribbean at that time are the books written by James Ramsay, an Anglican clergymen and former navy surgeon who worked as a doctor for 19 years in the plantations on the British-ruled islands of St Kitts and Nevis. Finally forced to leave by the plantation owners because of his evident sympathy for the slaves – he let them worship in his church – he retired to Kent to describe his experiences.

Ramsay records the endless round of punishments inflicted on the slave to force them to work cutting sugar cane for 16 hours or more a day. He says that an experienced slave driver could use a cart whip “to cut out flakes of skin and flesh with every stroke”. When a surgeon refused to amputate the limb of a slave as a punishment, a cooper’s adze was used to sever it “and the wretch then left to bleed to death, without any attention or dressing”.

As in Isis-held Iraq and Syria, sexual slavery was a common feature of plantation life. Ramsay says that slave women were “sacrificed to the lust of white men; in some instances, their own fathers”. He adds that white women on the plantations, presumably members of the family of the owner, would hire out their maid servants as prostitutes. Contrary to the romantic cinematic image, the real life Scarlett O’Hara might have been paying for her ball dress with money gained from the rape of her maids. 4

Click here to read Patrick Cockburn’s full article entitled “British Leaders Have No Idea How Bad Slavery Was”

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A Latter Day Lynching

[I]f you had told me that, in the span of a few months, a novel coronavirus that dates back only to last year and systemic American racism that dates back to 1619 would somehow intersect, I wouldn’t have believed it. If you had told me that a man named George Floyd would survive Covid-19 only to be murdered by the police and that his brutal death would spark a worldwide movement, leading the council members of a major American city to announce their intent to defund the police and Europeans halfway across the planet to deface monuments to a murderous nineteenth-century monarch who slaughtered Africans, I would have dismissed you. But history works in mysterious ways.

Four hundred years of racism, systemic abuse of authority, unpunished police misconduct, white skin privilege, and a host of other evils at the dark core of America gave a white Minneapolis police officer the license to press a black man’s face to the pavement and jam a knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes. For allegedly attempting to buy a pack of cigarettes with a phony $20 bill, George Floyd was killed at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by police officer Derek Chauvin.

At the beginning of the last century, whites could murder a black man, woman, or child in this country as part of a public celebration, memorialize it on postcards, and mail them to friends. Between 1877 and 1950, nearly 4,000 blacks were lynched in the American South, more than a death a week for 73 years. But the murders of blacks, whether at the hands of their owners in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries or of unaccountable fellow Americans in the latter nineteenth and twentieth centuries never ended despite changes in some attitudes, significant federal legislation, and the notable successes of the protests, marches, and activism of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

From 2006 to 2012, in fact, a white police officer killed a black person in America almost twice a week, according to FBI statistics. And less than a month before we watched the last moments of George Floyd’s life, we witnessed a modern-day version of a lynching when Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was gunned down while jogging on a suburban street in Glynn County, Georgia. Gregory McMichael, a 64-year-old white retired district attorney, investigator, and police detective, and his son Travis, 34, were eventually arrested and charged with his murder.

Without the Covid-19 pandemic and the Trump administration’s botched response to it, without black Americans dying of the disease at three times the rate of whites, without the suddenly spotlighted health disparities that have always consigned people of color to die at elevated rates, without a confluence of so many horrors that the black community in America has suffered for so long coupled with those of a new virus, would we be in the place we’re in today?

If President Trump hadn’t cheered on the efforts of mostly older white protesters to end pandemic shutdowns and “liberate” their states and then echoed a racist Miami police chief of the 1960s who promised “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” essentially calling for young black protesters to be gunned down, would the present movement have taken off in such a way? And would these protests have been as powerful if people who had avoided outside contact for weeks hadn’t suddenly decided to risk their own lives and those of others around them because this murder was too brazen, too likely to end in injustice for private handwringing and public hashtags? 5

Click here to read Nick Turse’s full article entitled “A Breathless Moment in America”.

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Police killings are a political tactic

As the spark that lit a fire, the murder of George Floyd was horrifyingly, sickeningly ordinary. According to the scant data on police killing of citizens that is available, about three people are killed by the police in the U.S. every day. And despite the protest movements Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street, this number has remained about constant in recent years through Democratic and Republican administrations. This persistence stands in contrast to the political ‘branding’ of the mainstream political parties where difference is claimed, but little is evident.

The place of Mr. Floyd’s murder in the ordinary working of American governance makes it the catalyst, not the cause, of current protests. The background circumstances of economic calamity suggest that political tensions will continue to rise as unemployment and economic desperation exert a toll on social stability. The horror of Mr. Floyd’s murder should get outraged citizens into the streets regardless of broader circumstances. But with history as a guide, it is these broader factors that are creating the political moment. This highlights the urgency of acting while there is an opening.

The disproportionate targeting of blacks by the police is given needed context when the data is organized by economic class. Poor and working-class whites are arrested and incarcerated at about the same rate as poor and working-class blacks. By its nature, this data says nothing about history. But it does offer structural and political insights. To the prior, history informs the present, it doesn’t define it. To the latter, 1) the frame of race divides people who otherwise have shared class interests and 2) poor and working class ‘allies’ are struggling for their own freedom from police violence, whatever their intentions.

What this arithmetic of disparity implies is that a larger proportion of blacks than whites are poor and working class. One interpretation is that race defines economic opportunity, which is overly generous to how capitalism works. Whatever people’s sentiments, slavery, convict leasing and Jim Crow had economic explanations. Some people, call them capitalists, make themselves rich by making and keeping other people poor. Here is a dry, academic and partial explanation of how poor people are kept poor in the present. […]

With regard to the current alliance of convenience between protesters, the establishment press and national Democrats, it was only a few weeks ago that the latter were lauding the American political police — the FBI, as the saviors of freedom and democracy in the Russiagate fraud. That the FBI was behind the scenes in the murders of Black Panther Fred Hampton, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, suggests that protecting freedom and democracy isn’t precisely its mandate. Through its Cointelpro program, the FBI worked with Richard Nixon— and subsequent administrations, to disrupt, thwart and otherwise destroy organized opposition to state policy.

Closer to home, the FBI was ‘deeply involved’ in the vicious police repression that was used to shut Occupy Wall Street down in an organized multi-state operation. To bring this back to Mr. Nixon’s service to capital in creating the modern carceral-police state, the FBI coordinated with the large Wall Street banks that the Obama administration was still in the process of bailing out when its assault on the peaceful protesters of OWS took place. For those who may have forgotten, Wall Street bank J.P. Morgan made a $4.6 billion contribution to the NYPD pension fund as OWS gained political strength.

Events have moved past the murder of George Floyd as establishment hacks try to extinguish the flames with ham-fisted theatrics. I had a hard time not vomiting at the sight of craven Democrats dressed in kante garb kneeling in Kaepernick fashion to show solidarity with the people they have dedicated their careers to selling out to the highest bidder. Given that ‘we’ were in a similar place in 2015, with near daily high-profile murders of unarmed youth at the hands of the police that they had empowered, and they did nothing. To save the suspense, they engage in theatrics in place of taking meaningful action, not in addition to it.

With capitalism in its deepest crisis since 2009, and possibly since the 1930s, the current political moment is fraught. As was demonstrated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the existing powers are incapable of governing. What they are capable of is massive transfers of social wealth to the already rich and political repression. If capital is perceived to be threatened, look for self-preservation to come in the form of political violence no matter which party holds the White House. One might ask what happened to Bernie Sander’s ‘coalition,’ which I supported for tactical reasons (to head off environmental calamity). Bernie Sanders is a Democrat. That is what happened. 6

Click here  to read the full article by Rob Urie entitled “Police Killings are a Political Tactic”

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1 From a report entitled “Four charged over damage to Colston statue in Bristol”  written by Jessica Murray, published in the Guardian on December 9, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/dec/09/four-charged-over-damage-to-colston-statue-in-bristol

2 The name “Ozymandias” is a rendering in Greek of a part of Ramesses II’s throne name, User-maat-re Setep-en-re. The poems paraphrase the inscription on the base of the statue, given by Diodorus Siculus in his Bibliotheca historica as:

King of Kings am I, Osymandyas. If anyone would know how great I am and where I lie, let him surpass one of my works.

From the current Wikipedia entry. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozymandias

3 From an article entitled “Symbols are Invested with Power. Don’t Dismiss the Importance of Toppling a Statue” written by Jonathan Cook published on June 12, 2020.  https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2020-06-12/statue-colston-bristol-power/

4 From an article entitled “British Leaders Have No Idea How Bad Slavery Was” written by Patrick Cockburn, published in Counterpunch on June 16, 2020. https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/06/16/british-leaders-have-no-idea-how-bad-slavery-was/ 

5 From an article entitled “A Breathless Moment in America” written by Nick Turse, published in TomDispatch on June 14, 2020. http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176714/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_a_breathless_moment_in_america/#more

6 From an article entitled “Police Killings are a Political Tactic” written by Rob Urie published in Counterpunch on June 15, 2020. https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/06/15/police-killings-are-a-political-tactic/

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corona marginalia: ‘weaponising truth’

In just the past week, the national-security states of the United States and United Kingdom have discreetly let it be known that the cyber tools and online tactics previously designed for use in the post-9/11 “war on terror” are now being repurposed for use against information sources promoting “vaccine hesitancy” and information related to Covid-19 that runs counter to their state narratives.

writes Whitney Webb in a recent article in which she investigates the newest wave of censorship in the now relentless campaign against free speech on the internet.

Entitled “US – UK Intel Agencies Declare Cyber War on Independent Media”, the article continues:

A new cyber offensive was launched on Monday by the UK’s signal intelligence agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which seeks to target websites that publish content deemed to be “propaganda” that raises concerns regarding state-sponsored Covid-19 vaccine development and the multi-national pharmaceutical corporations involved.

Similar efforts are underway in the United States, with the US military recently funding a CIA-backed firm—stuffed with former counterterrorism officials who were behind the occupation of Iraq and the rise of the so-called Islamic State—to develop an AI algorithm aimed specifically at new websites promoting “suspected” disinformation related to the Covid-19 crisis and the US military–led Covid-19 vaccination effort known as Operation Warp Speed.

Both countries are preparing to silence independent journalists who raise legitimate concerns over pharmaceutical industry corruption or the extreme secrecy surrounding state-sponsored Covid-19 vaccination efforts, now that Pfizer’s vaccine candidate is slated to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by month’s end.

Pfizer’s history of being fined billions for illegal marketing and for bribing government officials to help them cover up an illegal drug trial that killed eleven children (among other crimes) has gone unmentioned by most mass media outlets, which instead have celebrated the apparently imminent approval of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine without questioning the company’s history or that the mRNA technology used in the vaccine has sped through normal safety trial protocols and has never been approved for human use. Also unmentioned is that the head of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Patrizia Cavazzoni, is the former Pfizer vice president for product safety who covered up the connection of one of its products to birth defects.

Essentially, the power of the state is being wielded like never before to police online speech and to deplatform news websites to protect the interests of powerful corporations like Pfizer and other scandal-ridden pharmaceutical giants as well as the interests of the US and UK national-security states, which themselves are intimately involved in the Covid-19 vaccination endeavor.

In the same piece, Whitney Webb also highlights the involvement of a US tech firm called Primer whose founder, Sean Gourley, has previously worked on military AI tracking systems and called for the creation of a “Manhattan Project for truth”:

In early October, the US Air Force and US Special Operations Command announced that they had awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to the US-based “machine intelligence” company Primer. Per the press release, “Primer will develop the first-ever machine learning platform to automatically identify and assess suspected disinformation [emphasis added]. Primer will also enhance its natural language processing platform to automatically analyze tactical events to provide commanders with unprecedented insight as events unfold in near real-time.”

According to Primer, the company “builds software machines that read and write in English, Russian, and Chinese to automatically unearth trends and patterns across large volumes of data,” and their work “supports the mission of the intelligence community and broader DOD by automating reading and research tasks to enhance the speed and quality of decision-making.” In other words, Primer is developing an algorithm that would allow the national-security state to outsource many military and intelligence analyst positions to AI. In fact, the company openly admits this, stating that their current effort “will automate the work typically done by dozens of analysts in a security operations center to ingest all of the data relevant to an event as it happens and funnel it into a unified user interface.”

Primer’s ultimate goal is to use their AI to entirely automate the shaping of public perceptions and become the arbiter of “truth,” as defined by the state. Primer’s founder, Sean Gourley, who previously created AI programs for the military to track “insurgency” in post-invasion Iraq, asserted in an April blog post that “computational warfare and disinformation campaigns will, in 2020, become a more serious threat than physical war, and we will have to rethink the weapons we deploy to fight them.”

In that same post, Gourley argued for the creation of a “Manhattan Project for truth” that would create a publicly available Wikipedia-style database built off of “knowledge bases [that] already exist inside many countries’ intelligence agencies for national security purposes.” Gourley then wrote that “this effort would be ultimately about building and enhancing our collective intelligence and establishing a baseline for what’s true or not” as established by intelligence agencies. He concludes his blog post by stating that “in 2020, we will begin to weaponize truth.”

Click here to read Whitney Webb’s full article which is straplined “British and American state intelligence agencies are ‘weaponizing truth’ to quash vaccine hesitancy as both nations prepare for mass inoculations, in a recently announced ‘cyber war’ to be commanded by AI-powered arbiters of truth against information sources that challenge official narratives” on her official website Unlimited Hangout.

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tackling Covid-19 the Cuban way

As of October 19th, the island of Cuba with its population of 11.2 million had reported just 6,258 cases of Covid-19 and only 127 deaths. None of these fatalities included healthcare workers.

Meanwhile, since the earliest days of outbreak in March, nearly four thousand Cuban medical specialists have assisted in the treatment of more than 350,000 Covid-19 patients in nearly 40 countries. This flood of humanitarian aid was provided by Cuba’s Nobel Peace Prize nominated Henry Reeve Brigades who were deployed in spite of the Trump administration severely tightening sanctions against Cuba, which blocked revenues and generated domestic scarcities of oil, food and medical goods.

In the same period, Cuba’s prestigious biotech industry has also been at the vanguard of treatments with clinical trials underway for thirteen separate Covid-19 related products.

On RT’s Going Underground, Afshin Rattansi spoke with Dr. Helen Yaffe, who is economic historian at the University of Glasgow and co-presenter of a new documentary entitled Cuba & Covid-19: Public Health, Science and Solidarity; a film based around interviews with leading Cuban scientists, community doctors as well as one member of the Henry Reeve International Medical Contingent who travelled to Lombardy in Italy.

In the interview Helen Yaffe explained:

“The Cuban biotech sector is quite unique – the way it was founded very early on in the development of biotechnology as a field – it was founded 1981, so that was after only the second biotech firm in the United States, and the situation [which] is consistent with their socialist planned economy is its 100% state owned. All of the different institutions in the Western Scientific Pole which is in Havana cooperate, they don’t compete. They don’t seek to make a profit on their domestic production.

“The whole industry is set up to meet public health demands of the population. There’s incredible interfacing between the public health sector and the education sector. So it’s a model that essentially undermines this mainstream discourse that says “only the free market, only in pursuit of profit through competition can we have efficient outcomes”.

“Now, I would say that the responses we’ve seen in countries around the world to the Covid-19 pandemic have kind of exposed the values and the principles under which each society is organised. And it has also invited us to question the meaning of efficiency when we have a public health need that cannot be met by this speculative race for profits, because even if there is a race now for a vaccine, there are too many questions to be asked about how poor countries will be able to access those and at what cost. Will it bankrupt nations to be able to access vaccines that they need to save lives?

“For the Cubans, because of the US blockade, it’s been vitally important that they’ve worked towards their own vaccine. I mean we saw with the announcement about the Pfizer trial, the share prices you know immediately respond and you have to wonder what’s driving this process.

“I would say that it is also true that in the Global South there’s a great deal of cooperation with the Cuban biotech sector, and these Henry Reeve Brigades have been taking some of the products that have been adapted or developed specifically for Covid-19 and using them all around the world. I would expect there would be a great deal more cooperation after this pandemic because the Cuban medicines are really showing some promise – there’s even a British joint venture that has been set up to look at the potential for preventing death in critically ill and seriously ill patients.” [from 3:50 min]

Regarding the obstacles presented by US sanctions, Yaffe says:

The issue of US sanctions is a difficult one. There is UK legislation that makes it illegal for the US blockade to be enforced against individuals and companies in Britain and the same applies in Europe. The question of why that legislation is not actively pursued (is not enforced through British courts); that’s another issue. But the collaboration that took place with UCL [University College London] essentially they made available one of their CPAP ventilators which the Cubans took themselves and were able to copy – they also then used parts that were able to create these machines that was fundraised through a group in Britain called Cubanos en UK  (Cubans in the UK). But you know even for that fundraising campaign to save lives they have to be very careful about which platforms they use and how they share the information, because money raised for humanitarian (cultural events and issues) has been confiscated from Eventbrite, Paypal and other platforms because of the US blockade. [from 6:55 min]

On why the Cuban healthcare system has coped so efficiently, she says:

“I think the documentary tried to make clear that the essential tool on the way that Cuba has been able to control contagion is the family healthcare medical practices. So these are family doctors [who] exist in every community – Cuba has the highest ratio of doctors per person. 26,000 family doctors are in the community; they live among their patients. Even the doctors and their families and the nurses and their families live in the clinics: so help is available twenty-four hours per day.

“They have a system where they catagorise the health status of all of their community. So they immediately know if a disease like Covid comes along that affects people with respiratory problems, who are the vulnerable patients. And the most incredible element of their response to Covid-19 has been to increase a process that they do anyway, which is going to visit every home in their community. And they’ve been assisted by 28,000 medical students who of course couldn’t carry on studies because their universities were closed – they joined the family doctors and they went door-to-door every day.

“So they were in teams where they knocked on a hundred doors and they asked everyone in the house, you know, how they were feeling, and they were basically tracking down symptoms. When they had a suspected case, instead of leaving them in the community, they were withdrawn and taken to a medical facility or an isolation centre where they would be tested – it was obligatory supervised quarantine in these isolation centres for two weeks. Now they’ve got the disease under control, the isolation is taking place at home.

“But they were also doing contact tracing in a very serious way – not just text messages – but turning up at people’s doors, removing anyone who had been in contact out of circulation until they had been tested themselves. So they took it really seriously and this is entirely consistent with the approach of the Cuban healthcare system, which is prevention over cure, and having this network of family doctors at a grassroots level.” [from 8:55 min]

From a review of the documentary:

Based on interviews with top scientists, community doctors and medical internationalists, this documentary explores Cuba’s outstanding domestic and international response to the global pandemic. From Cuba’s extraordinary biotech sector we interview Dr Luis Herrera Martínez, who led the team that produced the Cuban anti-viral drug Interferon Alfa 2b in 1986 and is now a scientific adviser to BioCubaFarma; Dr Gerardo Guillén, Director of Biomedical Research at the world-leading Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, which has produced some of the innovative drugs on Cuba’s Covid-19 treatment protocol; and Dr Mitchell Valdes Sosa, Director General of the Cuban Neuroscience Center, which was charged with manufacturing the medical equipment required during the pandemic.

We interview a family doctor from Havana, who conducts daily door-to-door health checks to track down the virus and slow community transmission, and a medical student who was among 28,000 others to join the public health campaign as universities were shut down. We hear from Jesús Ruiz Alemán, a member of the Henry Reeve International Medical Contingent who went to Lombardy in Italy when it was the epicenter of the global pandemic.

Click here to read the same review at cubanos.org.uk.

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the united colours of Bilderberg — a late review of Montreux 2019: #7 global system reset

Important note: It is well past the period spanning the end of May and beginning of June when Bilderberg meetings are ordinarily scheduled, so it should be observed that the home page of the official Bilderberg website still declares in bold capitals:

THE MEETING 2020 IS POSTPONED.

It does not say for how long.

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”

— Frank Zappa

This is the seventh and last of a sequence of articles based around the ‘key topics’ at last year’s Bilderberg conference discussed here in relation to the prevailing political agenda and placed within the immediate historical context.

This piece focuses on issues relating to the future of humanity and including ‘The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence’:

A schematically enhanced version of last year’s ‘key topics’

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The new normal

In May 2017, Forbes magazine published a piece by financial analyst and writer John Maudlin that bears the prophetic title: “Brace Yourself For ‘The Great Reset’”. Interestingly, the piece is not concerned with climate change or forthcoming pandemics, but simply addresses what Maudlin describes as “the largest twin bubbles in the history of the world”:

One of those bubbles is global debt, especially government debt. The other is the even larger bubble of government promises.

These promises add up to hundreds of trillions of dollars. That’s vastly larger than global GDP.

These are real problems we must face. It will mean forging a new social contract. It will also require changes to taxes and the economy. I believe that within the next 5–10 years, we have to end the debt and government promises.

The banking crisis that broke in 2008 has festered ever since; western economies today are continually propped up thanks to vast injections of cheap money: non-stop rounds of quantitative easing with interest rates maintained at levels close to zero. Maudlin was right therefore to forewarn of the ramifications of what have been systematic failures; ones that by the time of publication of his article had already generated a global debt-to-GDP of 325%.

Moreover, he was far from alone in sounding the alarm. As recently as last July, the New York Federal Reserve’s own in-house model, which predicts the probability of a US recession occurring in the next 12 months and is regarded as critical indicator, recorded its highest level since 2009: a reading of 32.9% for June. As Business Insider reported:

“That could mean tough times ahead, considering the measure has breached the 30% threshold before every recession since 1960.” 1

Then in October (still in the months before covid), former Bank of England Governor, Mervyn King, went on the record to say that he believed the world was sleepwalking into another crash:

Giving a lecture in Washington at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund, King said there had been no fundamental questioning of the ideas that led to the crisis of a decade ago.

“Another economic and financial crisis would be devastating to the legitimacy of a democratic market system,” he said. “By sticking to the new orthodoxy of monetary policy and pretending that we have made the banking system safe, we are sleepwalking towards that crisis.”

He added that the US would suffer a “financial armageddon” if its central bank – the Federal Reserve – lacked the necessary firepower to combat another episode similar to the sub-prime mortgage sell-off. 2

Click here to read the full Guardian article.

Nor is Maudlin isolated when it comes to questioning whether levels of public spending are sustainable, although here he is necessarily buttressing his own ideological stance and keen to advocate further neoliberal reforms as a matter of unavoidable necessity. Thus, he continues:

What I mean by government promises are pensions and healthcare benefits. 3

Yet beyond the title of Maudlin’s piece, so far his forecast has been rather less than impressive. Instead of policies of stringent austerity, the crisis we now face has in fact resulted in a sudden flood of government spending. It transpires that ‘magic money trees’ aren’t really so hard to find after all.

Moreover, a sizeable fraction of that money has gone directly into the pockets of ordinary people through elaborate schemes set up to compensate for the shutdown of our societies. Meanwhile, a great deal more is being siphoned off into the coffers of global corporations – in America especially, this grand theft has been brazen, whereas in Britain the transfer of public money is a stealthier affair: a prime example being the £100 million wasted on privatised track-and-trace systems run by Serco.

Peter Geoghegan of OpenDemocracy discloses how the Tory government has exploited the coronavirus crisis and handed over multiple millions of pounds of public money in the form of contracts to friends of the party:

Of course, the situation is a temporary one and so the current economic measures are stopgaps, but still this easy availability of public money puts an immediate lie to simplistic arguments that previously justified a decade of austerity. Governments are not constrained to live within their means like households. Austerity is always an ideological choice and never an inescapable inevitability – as I have argued many times before, it is in any case counterproductive because it stifles growth.

That said, historically high levels of government debt do provide a perfect and very nearly irresistible excuse for waves of future austerity and for the sell-off of public assets. This is how disaster capitalism works.

*

On October 7th, economists Michael Hudson and Steve Keen were invited to discuss the current state of western economies and how the so-called ‘K-shaped recovery’ is now dividing the world into haves and have-nots with Peter Lavelle on RT’s Crosstalk.

Michael Hudson explained the ‘new normal’ as follows:

“What has become normal since 2008 has been completely different from the old normal. People have the idea that with ‘normal’ you go back to a balance. But really the economy hasn’t grown at all since the 2008 crisis. All of the growth in GDP, all of the growth in wealth, has accrued to the financial sector, to the real estate sector, and to the one percent. For the ninety-nine percent of the people, they’ve gone down and down and down.

“So the ‘new normal’ is you can’t get rich again by buying housing and joining the middle class like you used to. The ‘new normal’ is paying all of your increase in wages on debt service, in rents, and in monopoly prices. And so the ‘new normal’ is that the market is going to shrink and shrink until we look like Greece looks in the last five years. Think of the ‘new normal’ as looking like Greece: debt deflation and rent deflation.” [from 2:10 mins]

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The great reset

Today, if you visit the website of the World Economic Forum, you will come across an article by its founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab that likewise calls for “a great reset”. From the main page, there is then a link to what WEF calls its “Great Reset microsite”, where the blurb reads:

As we enter a unique window of opportunity to shape the recovery, this initiative will offer insights to help inform all those determining the future state of global relations, the direction of national economies, the priorities of societies, the nature of business models and the management of a global commons. Drawing from the vision and vast expertise of the leaders engaged across the Forum’s communities, the Great Reset initiative has a set of dimensions to build a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being.

Time for the Great Reset – screenshot of WEF website

Schwab, a former member of the Bilderberg group steering committee, writes that:

We must use it [the COVID-19 crisis] to secure the Great Reset that we so badly need. That will require stronger and more effective governments, though this does not imply an ideological push for bigger ones. And it will demand private-sector engagement every step of the way.

Dressed up as a synthesis of capitalism and socialism, here the thinly-veiled intention is to amalgamate the worst elements of both systems with an ever-tightening alliance between global corporations and governments, and the replacement of any meaningful representative democracy with greater accountability going instead to so-called “stakeholder” interests. Schwab continues:

The Great Reset agenda would have three main components. The first would steer the market toward fairer outcomes. To this end, governments should improve coordination (for example, in tax, regulatory, and fiscal policy), upgrade trade arrangements, and create the conditions for a “stakeholder economy.” At a time of diminishing tax bases and soaring public debt, governments have a powerful incentive to pursue such action.

Combined with these market-orientated reforms the public can also look forward to enjoying “socialism” in the form of restrictions on individual freedom for reasons of “sustainability”, “intellectual property” rights, green taxes, and, within an overarching plan for the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, the growth of “smart cities”:

Moreover, governments should implement long-overdue reforms that promote more equitable outcomes. Depending on the country, these may include changes to wealth taxes, the withdrawal of fossil-fuel subsidies, and new rules governing intellectual property, trade, and competition.

The second component of a Great Reset agenda would ensure that investments advance shared goals, such as equality and sustainability. […]

[F]or example, building “green” urban infrastructure and creating incentives for industries to improve their track record on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics.

The third and final priority of a Great Reset agenda is to harness the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to support the public good, especially by addressing health and social challenges. 4

Click here to read the full piece by Klaus Schwab entitled “Now is the time for a ‘great reset’”.

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AI is key to the NWO transformation

Meanwhile, as long ago as April 3rd – albeit with his crystal ball firmly in hand – Bilderberg’s most illustrious war criminal wrote this in an op-ed by The Wall Street Journal:

When the Covid-19 pandemic is over, many countries’ institutions will be perceived as having failed. Whether this judgment is objectively fair is irrelevant. The reality is the world will never be the same after the coronavirus.

Adding:

Global leaders have learned important lessons from the 2008 financial crisis. The current economic crisis is more complex: The contraction unleashed by the coronavirus is, in its speed and global scale, unlike anything ever known in history. 5

Kissinger’s solution to this impending crisis when boiled down (and seeing through all of the cant about “ameliorat[ing] the effects of impending chaos on the world’s most vulnerable populations” and “defend[ing] and sustain[ing] their Enlightenment values”) is this: to “safeguard the principles of the liberal world order.” Where for “liberal” we must read “neo-liberal”, and for “world order” we should prefix with the adjective “new” (as Kissinger himself has done on countless past occasions).

Indeed, here is Kissinger presenting a keynote conversation just last year at the George W. Bush Presidential Center beneath the very title “The New World Order” (not that he elucidates much on what he envisions for the NWO):

Kissinger’s view of ‘the shape of things to come’ might be better gauged from an article published August last year and provocatively entitled “The Metamorphosis” that was co-authored by Bilderberg confederate, former executive chairman of Alphabet Inc and current chair of the US Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Advisory Board, Eric Schmidt, along with fellow techie and former director of Amazon, Daniel Huttenlocher. In it they write:

If AI improves constantly—and there is no reason to think it will not—the changes it will impose on human life will be transformative. Here are but two illustrations: a macro-example from the field of global and national security, and a micro-example dealing with the potential role of AI in human relationships.

The first of these examples relates to the development of new weapons and strategies, and implications for arms control and deterrence. The second is headed simply “Human Contact” and begins as follows:

Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa are digital assistants already installed in millions of homes and designed for daily conversation: They answer queries and offer advice that, especially to children, may seem intelligent, even wise. And they can become a solution to the abiding loneliness of the elderly, many of whom interact with these devices as friends.

The more data AI gathers and analyzes, the more precise it becomes, so devices such as these will learn their owners’ preferences and take them into account in shaping their answers. And as they get “smarter,” they will become more intimate companions. As a result, AI could induce humans to feel toward it emotions it is incapable of reciprocating.

Already, people rank their smartphones as their most important possession. They name their Roombas, and attribute intent to them where none exists. What happens when these devices become even more sophisticated? Will people become as attached to their digital pets as to their dogs—or perhaps even more so?

All of which tiptoes very lightly indeed around the major concern when it comes to our routine installation of hi-tech surveillance equipment inside the home; Alexa already far exceeds the intrusion of Orwell’s telescreens in his dystopian nightmare Nineteen Eighty-Four – and there is something else to worry about here (mention of it is again buried away in the middle of the text):

AI algorithms will help open new frontiers of knowledge, while at the same time narrowing information choices and enhancing the capacity to suppress new or challenging ideas.

As Eric Schmidt is perfectly well aware, of course, this is precisely what the Google algorithm already does. Social media platforms have also been installing filters to censor content, narrow opinion and condemn us to engage in ever decreasing bubbles of discussion. When one echo chamber then rubs up against another no light is shed, but only increasing levels of heat. Obviously, it isn’t AI as such that narrows and suppresses public debate, but the actions of the tech giants with their more or less unregulated control over content.

Then, finally, they get to the crux of the matter:

The technological capacity of governments to monitor the behavior and movements of tens or hundreds of millions is likewise unprecedented. Even in the West, this quest can, in the name of harmony, become a slippery slope. Balancing the risks of aberrant behavior against limits on personal freedom—or even defining aberrant—will be a crucial challenge of the AI era. 6

But once again, it isn’t AI that defines “aberrant” either, it’s whoever operates the AI and has control over the algorithms – and to understand who that is, I recommend studying the lists of Bilderberg participants throughout the past decade. Ever more prominent amongst the ranks of the great and good you will find many of the biggest names in Silicon Valley – one of whom, Reid Hoffman, also happen to sit on Eric Schimdt’s Defense Innovation Advisory Board alongside owner of Amazon and The Washington Post, “the richest man in modern history”, Jeff Bezos.

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Klaus Schwab and the fascist new deal

“We are at the threshold of a radical systemic change that requires human beings to adapt continuously. As a result, we may witness an increasing degree of polarization in the world, marked by those who embrace change versus those who resist it.

“This gives rise to an inequality that goes beyond the societal one described earlier. This ontological inequality will separate those who adapt from those who resist—the material winners and losers in all senses of the words. The winners may even benefit from some form of radical human improvement generated by certain segments of the fourth industrial revolution (such as genetic engineering) from which the losers will be deprived. This risks creating class conflicts and other clashes unlike anything we have seen before”

— Klaus Schwab 7

*

Those who believe the multi-billionaire class of plutocrats who gather annually at Davos and more “privately” at Bilderberg do so in pursuit of “socialism” are either delusional or else miss the point for more deliberate reasons. In fact, the primary agenda set forth by these exclusive clubs is rather more straightforward and perfectly understandable if we adjust to see the world through the jaundiced eyes of its membership. The goal is to forge an ever-tightening relationship between the corporations (which they already own and control) and governments (where political power ultimately resides) until eventually there will be no distinction.

This process of public-private convergence has been underway for many decades with groups like Bilderberg and WEF at the vanguard. If and when the merger they seek is completed, our society will be governed wholly in accordance to a political regime known as corporatism, which is a form of fascism (of the type first implemented by Mussolini).

As Winter Oak explains in a very recent article entitled “Klaus Schwab and his Great Fascist Reset”:

While communism envisages the take-over of business and industry by the government, which – theoretically! – acts in the interests of the people, fascism was all about using the state to protect and advance the interests of the wealthy elite.

In other words, fascism and socialism (at least ‘state socialism’ which first emerged in the Soviet Union) are superficially similar but mainly because they are both statist, while in other ways they are diametrically opposed. That said, fascists have historically used “socialism” for left-cover, and this trend continues today.

The same article then breaks down how Schwab’s plans for a “stakeholder society” (with its leftist overtones) can be rolled out in order to achieve the kinds of fascist (or corporatist) ends desired:

[I]n 1971 [Schwab] founded the European Management Forum, which held annual meetings at Davos in Switzerland. Here he promoted his ideology of “stakeholder” capitalism in which businesses were brought into closer co-operation with government.

“Stakeholder capitalism” is described by Forbes business magazine as “the notion that a firm focuses on meeting the needs of all its stakeholders: customers, employees, partners, the community, and society as a whole”.

Even in the context of a particular business, it is invariably an empty label. As the Forbes article notes, it actually only means that “firms can go on privately shoveling money to their shareholders and executives, while maintaining a public front of exquisite social sensitivity and exemplary altruism”.

But in a general social context, the stakeholder concept is even more nefarious, discarding any idea of democracy, rule by the people, in favour of rule by corporate interests.

Society is no longer regarded as a living community but as a business, whose profitability is the sole valid aim of human activity.

Schwab set out this agenda back in 1971, in his book Moderne Unternehmensführung im Maschinenbau (Modern Enterprise Management in Mechanical Engineering), where his use of the term “stakeholders” (die Interessenten) effectively redefined human beings not as citizens, free individuals or members of communities, but as secondary participants in a massive commercial enterprise.

The aim of each and every person’s life was “to achieve long-term growth and prosperity” for this enterprise – in other words, to protect and increase the wealth of the capitalist elite.

Winter Oak then highlights and discusses at length admissions made by Schwab in his writings for public consumption and in particular his 2016 book The Fourth Industrial Revolution [the same term is often abbreviated to 4IR]:

Schwab waxes lyrical about the 4IR, which he insists is “unlike anything humankind has experienced before”.

He gushes: “Consider the unlimited possibilities of having billions of people connected by mobile devices, giving rise to unprecedented processing power, storage capabilities and knowledge access. Or think about the staggering confluence of emerging technology breakthroughs, covering wide-ranging fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage and quantum computing, to name a few. Many of these innovations are in their infancy, but they are already reaching an inflection point in their development as they build on and amplify each other in a fusion of technologies across the physical, digital and biological worlds”.

He also looks forward to more online education, involving “the use of virtual and augmented reality” to “dramatically improve educational outcomes”, to sensors “installed in homes, clothes and accessories, cities, transport and energy networks” and to smart cities, with their all-important “data platforms”.

“All things will be smart and connected to the internet”, says Schwab, and this will extend to animals, as “sensors wired in cattle can communicate to each other through a mobile phone network”.

He loves the idea of “smart cell factories” which could enable “the accelerated generation of vaccines” and “big-data technologies”.

These, he ensures us, will “deliver new and innovative ways to service citizens and customers” and we will have to stop objecting to businesses profiting from harnessing and selling information about every aspect of our personal lives.

“Establishing trust in the data and algorithms used to make decisions will be vital,” insists Schwab. “Citizen concerns over privacy and establishing accountability in business and legal structures will require adjustments in thinking”.

At the end of the day it is clear that all this technological excitement revolves purely around profit, or “value” as Schwab prefers to term it in his 21st century corporate newspeak.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Schwab also writes with tremendous enthusiasm about the use of the blockchain (the distributed ledger behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin) and 5G technology, and then, having pronounced that “a world full of drones offers a world full of possibilities”, he spells out what the “revolution” means at a human level, saying “Already, advances in neurotechnologies and biotechnologies are forcing us to question what it means to be human”

The following passage is quoted directly from his more recent book Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (2018):

“Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies will not stop at becoming part of the physical world around us—they will become part of us. Indeed, some of us already feel that our smartphones have become an extension of ourselves. Today’s external devices—from wearable computers to virtual reality headsets—will almost certainly become implantable in our bodies and brains. Exoskeletons and prosthetics will increase our physical power, while advances in neurotechnology enhance our cognitive abilities. We will become better able to manipulate our own genes, and those of our children. These developments raise profound questions: Where do we draw the line between human and machine? What does it mean to be human?”

This is where Schwab turns to a favourite subject: transhumanism – and please bear in mind that he was raised in Germany (born in 1938) during the last years of The Third Reich – which as Winter Oak reminds us was “a police-state regime built on fear and violence, on brainwashing and control, on propaganda and lies, on industrialism and eugenics, on dehumanisation and ‘disinfection’, on a chilling and grandiose vision of a “new order” that would last a thousand years.”

The article continues:

A whole section of this book is devoted to the theme “Altering the Human Being”. Here he drools over “the ability of new technologies to literally become part of us” and invokes a cyborg future involving “curious mixes of digital-and-analog life that will redefine our very natures”.

He writes: “These technologies will operate within our own biology and change how we interface with the world. They are capable of crossing the boundaries of body and mind, enhancing our physical abilities, and even having a lasting impact on life itself “.

No violation seems to go too far for Schwab, who dreams of “active implantable microchips that break the skin barrier of our bodies”, “smart tattoos”, “biological computing” and “custom-designed organisms”.

He is delighted to report that “sensors, memory switches and circuits can be encoded in common human gut bacteria”, that “Smart Dust, arrays of full computers with antennas, each much smaller than a grain of sand, can now organize themselves inside the body” and that “implanted devices will likely also help to communicate thoughts normally expressed verbally through a ‘built-in’ smartphone, and potentially unexpressed thoughts or moods by reading brain waves and other signals”.

“Synthetic biology” is on the horizon in Schwab’s 4IR world, giving the technocratic capitalist rulers of the world “the ability to customize organisms by writing DNA”.

The idea of neurotechnologies, in which humans will have fully artificial memories implanted in the brain, is enough to make some of us feel faintly sick, as is “the prospect of connecting our brains to VR through cortical modems, implants or nanobots”.

It is of little comfort to learn that this is all – of course! – in the greater interests of capitalist profiteering since it “heralds new industries and systems for value creation” and “represents an opportunity to create entire new systems of value in the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

Click here to read the full article by Winter Oak entitled “Klaus Schwab and His Great Fascist Reset”.

And here to read an extended post about the nature of fascism and how historically it has repeatedly disguised its true intentions with recourse to ‘left cover’.

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The future of humanity

“Evolution moves towards greater complexity, greater elegance, greater knowledge, greater intelligence, greater beauty, greater creativity, and greater levels of subtle attributes such as love. In every monotheistic tradition God is likewise described as all of these qualities, only without limitation: infinite knowledge, infinite intelligence, infinite beauty, infinite creativity, infinite love, and so on. Of course, even the accelerating growth of evolution never achieves an infinite level, but as it explodes exponentially it certainly moves rapidly in that direction. So evolution moves inexorably towards this conception of God, although never quite reaching this ideal. We can regard, therefore, the freeing of our thinking from the severe limitations of its biological form to be an essentially spiritual undertaking.”

— Ray Kurzweil 8

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Nick Bostrom is a philosopher with deep scientific and technical training 9 ,who aside from being Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University is also co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association (renamed Humanity+, Inc.) as well as an acknowledged inspiration for Elon Musk and Bill Gates. 10

A self-confessed utopian, Bostrom is strangely religious in that way only scientific materialists can be: so he has dreams of constructing a future heaven by wholly technological means and with ethical foundations grounded and held firm by pure reason. Inspired, he says, by a youthful acquaintance with the philosophies of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, his envisioned Utopia will be a brave new world that is infinitely more delightful, more pleasurable, and finally more pristine than Huxley’s arch conception – a place without death and, in all likelihood, devoid of all corporeality. Subscribing to an increasingly fashionable opinion that the physical universe is just some kind of digital simulation (it used to be clockwork), Bostrom’s Utopia, is set to be the best of all possible simulations: the matrix par excellence! 11

That said, Bostrom is amongst first to acknowledge that unavoidably the road to hell is also paved with good intentions. Indeed, lurking just beneath his sometimes optimistic and occasionally exuberant facade, it is hard not to discern a rather desperate almost pathological desire to escape the horrors of the material world.

During an interview conducted by the Guardian in 2016, he was asked about membership of Alcor, “the cryogenic initiative that promises to freeze mortal remains in the hope that, one day, minds can be reinvigorated and uploaded in digital form to live in perpetuity.” The conversation with Tim Adams then proceeded as follows:

“I have a policy of never commenting on my funeral arrangements,” he says.

But he thinks there is a value in cryogenic research?

“It seems a pretty rational thing for people to do if they can afford it,” he says. “When you think about what life in the quite near future could be like, trying to store the information in your brain seems like a conservative option as opposed to burning the brain down and throwing it away. Unless you are really confident that the information will never be useful…”12

Bostrom was one of a handful of academics and another of the new faces who made it on to the guest list at Bilderberg last year. A few months prior to his attendance, in January 2019, he had also been invited to chat with head of TED and business entrepreneur, Chris Anderson, about his “Vulnerable World Hypothesis”.

As Business Insider reported:

Philosopher Nick Bostrom is known for making scary predictions about humanity.

Over 15 years ago, he made the case that we are all living in a Matrix-like simulation run by another civilization. The idea, though difficult to swallow, is well-regarded by some philosophers, and has even been sanctioned by Elon Musk.

Many years later, Bostrom isn’t done outlining frightening scenarios.

On Wednesday, he took the stage at the TED 2019 conference in Vancouver, Canada, to discuss another radical  theory. While speaking to head of the conference, Chris Anderson, Bostrom argued that mass surveillance could be one of the only ways to save humanity from ultimate doom. 13

The full discussion is embedded below:

What Bostrom goes on to outline is a world threatened by ever more sophisticated future technologies whether from advances in nuclear arms; bioweapons research; development of drone swarms; or from other applications of AI: all of which do indeed have the potential to destroy civilisation.

What he says he fears most is that one of these future technologies might become ‘democratised’, accidentally enabling rogue individuals who are without compunction to deliver a Samson-like attack that brings the world down on our heads. In preempting such an existential catastrophe Bostrom therefore presents four solutions.

The first is simply to control the development of such dangerous new technologies; an approach that Bostrom quickly dismisses (for reasons that are hard to fathom). The second, subtitled “eliminate bad actors”, is already more sinister and accompanied by a strange image of a drone sending love bombs (presumably) to dissuade some future assailant. Bostrom half jokes “I think it’s like a hybrid picture: I think ‘eliminate’ could mean incarcerate or kill, or it could persuade them to a better view of the world.”

He continues:

“Suppose you were extremely successful in this and you reduced the number of such individuals by half. And if you want to do it by persuasion I mean you’re competing against all other powerful forces that are trying to persuade people: [political?] parties, religion, education systems; but, suppose you could reduce it by half: I don’t think the risk would be reduced by half, it would maybe be reduced by five or ten percent.” [from 14:45 mins]

Response 2: Eliminate bad actors

That brings him to ‘Response 3: Mass Surveillance’ – Chris Anderson fittingly describes this as the “Minority Report option”:

“So I think there are two general methods that we could use to achieve the ability to stabilise the world against a whole spectrum of possible vulnerabilities. Probably we need both. So one is an extremely effective ability to do preventive policing, such that if anybody started to do this dangerous thing, you could intercept them in real time and stop them. This would require ubiquitous surveillance – everyone would be monitored all the time… AI algorithms, big ‘freedom centres’ that were reviewing this, you know, etc, etc. [from 15:30 mins]

Response 3: Mass Surveillance

Referring to the accompanying picture (see screenshot above), he adds:

“Yes, so this little device there – you might have a kind of necklace that you would have to wear at all times with multidirectional cameras. But to make it go down better just call it ‘the freedom tag’ or something like that.” [from 16:15 mins]

And finally we have ‘Response 4: Global governance’.

Bostrom says, “Surveillance would be kind of [plugging the] governance gap at the micro-level – preventing anyone ever doing something highly illegal – then there is a corresponding governance gap at the macro-level, at the global level. You would need the ability reliably to prevent the worst kinds of global coordination failures: to avoid wars between great powers; arms races; and cataclysmic commons problems. [from 16:55 min]

Asked in summary what the likelihood is that we’re all doomed, he replies:

“On an individual level I mean we seem to be kind of doomed anyway just with a timeline from rotting and aging and all kinds of things.” [from 20:00 mins]

As Business Insider points out:

Under Bostrom’s vision of mass surveillance, humans would be monitored at all times via artificial intelligence, which would send information to “freedom centers” that work to save us from doom. To make this possible, he said, all humans would have to wear necklaces, or “freedom tags,” with multi-directional cameras.

The idea is controversial under any circumstance, but especially at TED, which has focused this year on strategies to ensure privacy in the digital era.

Even Bostrom recognizes that the scenario could go horribly wrong.

“Obviously there are huge downsides and indeed massive risks to mass surveillance and global governance,” he told the crowd. But he still thinks the ends might justify the means.

“On an individual level, we seem to be kind of doomed anyway,” he said.

Click here to read the full article published by Business Insider entitled “An Oxford philosopher who’s inspired Elon Musk thinks mass surveillance might be the only way to save humanity from doom”.

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In this video essay Tom Nicholas contextualises Muskian futurism to ask what its appeal is and what other social, political, economic and cultural movements it might have something in common with. In the final segment he discusses the ramifications of some of Musk’s specific projects – his is not a vision of egalitarian prosperity for all, but one of gilded corridors for an elite few:

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Final, final thoughts: Ctrl-Alt-Del

“Humans will be able to evolve by harnessing the super-intelligence and extra abilities offered by the machines of the future, by joining with them. All this points to the development of a new human species, known in the science-fiction world as ‘cyborgs’. It doesn’t mean that everyone has to become a cyborg. If you are happy with your state as a human then so be it, you can remain as you are. But be warned – just as we humans split from our chimpanzee cousins years ago, so cyborgs will split from humans. Those who remain as humans are likely to become a sub-species. They will, effectively, be the chimpanzees of the future”

— Kevin Warwick 14

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Some years ago I had been thinking up names for an envisaged progressive political movement, when, after realising that all of the traditional labels ‘people’s’, ‘popular’, ‘democratic’, ‘freedom’, ‘revolutionary’, etc were already irreparably sullied, it occurred to me that in our mimetic age something snappier might be more suitable. Something along the lines of ‘system reset’, although without the Maoist overtones! Briefly that led me to consider the familiar 3-fingered salute on every computer keyboard, Ctrl-Alt-Del: a consideration that altogether stopped me in my tracks.

In fact, picking apart the elements, Ctrl-Alt-Del already represents the three-pronged assault we are increasingly subjected to: the plutocrats using these precise three strategies to oppress and dominate. First through Ctrl by means of propaganda and censorship, with the steady encroachment of mass surveillance in all areas of our lives (the panopticon), and arguably too with the mental health crisis and widespread prescription of ‘chemical cosh’ opiates and more Soma-like SSRI antidepressants.

In a recent study by scientists at University of Chicago, it was found that rats given anti-anxiety medications were less inclined to free a companion in distress, presumably because they didn’t have the same ability to feel empathy:

Next is Alt (i.e., alteration) with rollout of GMO in agriculture and transhumanism which opens the door to many developments including the advent of designer babies by means of gene editing and the literal rewiring of human consciousness. Finally there is Del (delete) by virtue of ‘population control’ which is a shorthand euphemism for the desire to dramatically reduce human numbers.

Bostrom clearly stands at the forefront of methods of Ctrl and Alt being a leading proponent of total surveillance and for transhumanism, which is basically eugenics 2.0 enhanced by virtue of refined genetic manipulation and accentuated by means interfacing with machines. As Bostrom’s Humanity+ announces its own intentions:

What does it mean to be human in a technologically enhanced world? Humanity+ is a 501(c)3 international nonprofit membership organization that advocates the ethical use of technology, such as artificial intelligence, to expand human capacities. In other words, we want people to be better than well. This is the goal of transhumanism. 15

‘Better than well’ is putting it extremely mildly. If you read past the opening statements then you quickly appreciate that the final goal is nothing short of total mastery of biology in order to achieve absolute control of human life and everything in the biosphere. Advocates of such godlike dominion over Nature should perhaps attend to the writings of Mary Shelley and Johann von Goethe. For Bostrom with his outspoken desire to install mass surveillance to save the world, I also recommend a healthy dose of Orwell.

It is almost tempting to think that the choice of Ctrl-Alt-Del was meant to be a piece of subliminal predictive programming, except that the man credited with its origins is an IBM engineer called David Bradley, who says it was not intended for use by ordinary end users but helpful for software designers. Curiously, however, as Bradley also says (see interview embedded above): “I may have invented control-alt-delete, but Bill Gates made it really famous.” 16

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Additional: ‘Against Transhumanism: the Delusion of Technological Transcendence’

Richard Jones is a Professor of Materials Physics and Innovation Policy at the University of Manchester. Jones is an experimental physicist, whose research centres around the properties of polymer molecules at interfaces and ultrathin polymer films.

Between 2007 and 2009 he was the Senior Strategic Advisor for Nanotechnology for the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council; he was also Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University of Sheffield from 2009 to 2016.

In this discussion with futurist and transhumanist enthusiast Nikola Danaylov, Jones covers a variety of topics including his own work in nanotechnology and his book and blog on the topic; technological progress and whether it is accelerating or not; Ray Kurzweil and technological determinism; Platonism and Frank J. Tipler‘s claim that “the singularity is inevitable”; the strange ideological routes of transhumanism; Eric Drexler’s vision of nanotechnology as reducing the material world to software; the over-representation of physicists on both sides of the transhumanism and AI debate; mind uploading and the importance of molecules as the most fundamental unit of biological processing; the quest for indefinite life extension and the work of Aubrey de Grey; and the importance of politics and ethics in technology.

Richard Jones’ scholarly book Against Transhumanism: the delusion of technological transcendence is available free for download: Against Transhumanism, v1.0, PDF 650 kB.

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1 From an article entitled “A critical recession indicator used by the Fed just hit its highest level since the financial crisis” written by Carmen Reinicke, published by Business Insider on July 9, 2019. https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/next-recession-forecast-new-york-fed-model-highest-since-2009-2019-7-1028338398#

2 From an article entitled “World economy is sleepwalking into a new financial crisis, warns Mervyn King” written by Larry Elliott, published in the Guardian on October 20, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/oct/20/world-sleepwalking-to-another-financial-crisis-says-mervyn-king?CMP=share_btn_tw

3 From an article entitled “Brace Yourself For ‘The Great Reset’” written by John Maudlin, published in Forbes magazine on May 31, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnmauldin/2017/05/31/mauldin-brace-yourself-for-the-great-reset/

4 From an article entitled “Now is the time for a ‘great reset’” written by Klaus Schwab published by the World Economic Forum on June 3, 2020. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/now-is-the-time-for-a-great-reset/

5 From an article entitled “The Coronavirus Pandemic Will Forever Alter the World Order” written by Henry Kissinger, published in The Wall Street Journal on April 3, 2010. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-coronavirus-pandemic-will-forever-alter-the-world-order-11585953005?mod=opinion_lead_pos5

6 From an article entitled “The Metamorphosis” written by Henry Kissenger, Eric Schmidt and Daniel Huttenlocher, published in the August 2019 issue of The Atlantic magazine. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/08/henry-kissinger-the-metamorphosis-ai/592771/

7 Quote taken from The Fourth Industrial Revolution written by Klaus Schwab (2016).

8 Quote is taken from The Singularity Is Near (2005) written by Ray Kurzweil.

9 He was awarded a PhD in philosophy, but perhaps a more fitting title is ‘futurist’.

10

Bostrom, a 43-year-old Swedish-born philosopher, has lately acquired something of the status of prophet of doom among those currently doing most to shape our civilisation: the tech billionaires of Silicon Valley. His reputation rests primarily on his book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, which was a surprise New York Times bestseller last year and now arrives in paperback, trailing must-read recommendations from Bill Gates and Tesla’s Elon Musk. (In the best kind of literary review, Musk also gave Bostrom’s institute £1m to continue to pursue its inquiries.)

From an article entitled “Artificial intelligence: ‘We’re like children playing with a bomb’” written by Tim Adams, published in the Guardian on June 12, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/12/nick-bostrom-artificial-intelligence-machine

11 His Letter from Utopia (2008) is available to read on his website. https://nickbostrom.com/utopia.html

12 From an article entitled “Artificial intelligence: ‘We’re like children playing with a bomb’” written by Tim Adams, published in the Guardian on June 12, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/12/nick-bostrom-artificial-intelligence-machine

13 From an article entitled “An Oxford philosopher who’s inspired Elon Musk thinks mass surveillance might be the only way to save humanity from doom” written by Aria Bendix, published in Business Insider on April 19, 2019. https://www.businessinsider.com/nick-bostrom-mass-surveillance-could-save-humanity-2019-4?r=US&IR=T

14 Quote from I, Cyborg written by Kevin Warwick, published in 2002.

15 https://humanityplus.org/

16 From an article entitled “Ctrl-Alt-Del inventor makes final reboot: David Bradley, we salute you” written by Andrew Orlowski, published in The Register on January 29, 2004. https://www.theregister.com/2004/01/29/ctrlaltdel_inventor_makes_final_reboot/

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Filed under analysis & opinion, GMO, internet freedom, mass surveillance, police state

Brazilian ex-President Lula da Silva on Op. Car Wash, Bolsonaro, Assange, US meddling and more

In April 2018 former Brazilian President Lula da Silva (of the Workers’ Party or PT) was convicted on charges of money laundering and corruption and sentenced to serve 12 years following the largest investigation into corruption in the country’s history; this was so-called Operation Car Wash.

Although Lula’s sentence was upheld at appeal, he has always vigorously denied all the charges and consistently claimed the case against him was politically motivated: Lula’s conviction immediately opening the way for Jair Bolsonaro to be elected with his main challenger now eliminated from the race. As if to settle the matter, Judge Sérgio Moro, who had presided over the case, was shortly afterward appointed as Bolsonaro’s Minister of Justice:

In a transaction that even anti-Lula crusaders found highly distasteful, the judge who found Lula guilty and cleared the path for Bolsonaro’s ascension to the presidency — Judge Moro — thereafter accepted a position in Bolsonaro’s government that has been described as a “Super Justice Minister”: a newly designed position consolidating powers under Moro that had previously been dispersed among various agencies. It rendered Judge Moro — less than a year after putting Lula in prison and thus removing Bolsonaro’s key obstacle — one of the most powerful men in Brazil.

From an article written by Glenn Greenwald based around an interview he conducted with Lula while he was still in prison. In the same piece, Greenwald explains in more detail how Lula’s conviction paved the way for Bolsonaro’s accession:

Lula’s criminal conviction on corruption charges last year came under highly suspicious circumstances. All year long, polls showed him as the clear front-runner for the 2018 presidential race. After anti-PT forces finally succeeded with [former President] Dilma [Rousseff]’s impeachment in doing what they spent 16 years trying with futility to accomplish at the ballot box — removing PT from power — it seemed that Lula’s 2018 return to presidency was virtually inevitable and that only one instrument existed for preventing it: quickly convicting him of a felony which, under Brazilian law, would render him ineligible to run as a candidate. And that’s precisely what happened. 1

Lula was finally released in November 2019 after serving 580 days in prison. This followed revelations also published by Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept based on:

[G]roup chats between Car Wash prosecutors and conversations between task force coordinator Deltan Dallagnol and Moro, showing that the then-judge and the prosecutors were unethically and inappropriately collaborating in secret. Despite repeatedly insisting in public that they were acting ethically and impartially, the chats revealed that the judge was passing on advice, investigative leads, and inside information to the prosecutors — who were themselves plotting to prevent Lula’s Workers’ Party from winning last year’s election. 2

Click here to find the full “Secret Brazil Archive” published by The Intercept (The quote above is from Part 4 of the 14 part series).

On his release, Lula spoke to supporters saying, “They did not imprison a man. They tried to kill an idea.”

Adding that under Bolsonaro, “Brazil did not improve, Brazil got worse. The people are going hungry. The people are unemployed. The people do not have formal jobs. People are working for Uber – they’re riding bikes to deliver pizzas.” 3

Click here to read an earlier post about the coup against Dilma Rousseff entitled “‘Brazil’: now more than ever, a satire for our age”.

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On Saturday, RT’s Going Underground devoted its show to an extended interview with Lula da Silva, which is embedded below. He told host Afshin Rattansi:

In Brazil some important things took place that the world needs to know about. For the first time in its history, during my government, Brazil became an international player. Brazil had created UNASUL [the Union of South American Nations] demonstrating a beautiful relationship within South America. Brazil had developed a relationship between South America and Africa; between South America and the Arab countries. Brazil had taken part in the creation of the BRICS. Brazil had created IBAS [or IBAS initiative (India, Brazil and South Africa), also called the G-3]. That is, Brazil was becoming an international player and that is something that the Americans never allowed.

Now Brazil is returning to the colonial period. After the coup on President Dilma, they would never want to have Lula back as the President of the Republic to continue our domestic social inclusion policy and our international protagonism policy. They want Brazil to continue to be a colony.

So they conjured this lie called the Car Wash Operation against me. They invented a lie during the procedure. They condemned me without any evidence. I’ve proved my innocence and I am waiting for them to prove any guilt on my part. I have challenged the Federal Prosecutor and the Judge who headed my trial. But I am much more concerned with Brazil at this moment. [from 4:55 mins]

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Continuing:

We had eliminated hunger in Brazil and hunger has returned. We were in a process of raising education in this country and now we have a great setback in education as well as in science and technology.

We have major setbacks in the environmental legislation, in deforestation and in the preservation of our forests and out water resources. Obviously Brazil would be better off if I had been allowed to be a candidate [during the last Presidential elections]. They withdrew my candidacy for presidency with a legal procedure because they knew that if I ran in the elections I would have won in the first round.

And here in Brazil, a part of the country’s elite cannot stand to see poor people eating in restaurants, or travelling by plane, or buying cars. They cannot stand to see poor people ascending, which is what we achieved through hundreds of public policies to improve the lives of the poor people in this country.

I am proud that the President of the United Nations acknowledged that Brazil had eliminated hunger. I am proud that in 2010, Brazil was the country with the highest level of hope in the world – with the happiest people in the world – because we had so many expectations; so many dreams. And Brazil was about to become the fifth global economy.

Now we see Brazil experiencing a rise in poverty. People are hungry in Sao Paolo, in Rio de Janeiro and all over the country people have gone back to the streets. Wages dropped drastically and unemployment has risen. This is the country of the fascists who rule it.

I want a democratic country, a sovereign country, a country where people are happy and proud to say they are Brazilian. [from 6:25 mins]

When asked whether leaving the oligarchs in power to falsely prosecute him and afterwards to remove Dilma from office in a de facto coup, Lula replies:

I won an election; I did not start a revolution. I do not believe that a metalworker, like myself, could have become President of the Republic if it had not been for democracy; and if it had not been, most of all for democracy and for the Brazilian people’s comprehension and maturity when they voted.

I confess that I ruled for all. I doubt that there was any moment in Brazil’s history when everyone benefited so much. It is true that businesses won. It is true that bankers won. It is true that big landowners won. But it is also true that the poor workers won too.

We had the greatest pay rise for the poor during my government; the greatest rise in education. We are already known in history as the government that built the greatest number of universities and technical schools; invested the most in science and technology; and for sure we must have made mistakes, or else there would have been no coup against President Dilma.

The coup was the beginning of a new attitude in Brazil. In my opinion it was organised by the US Department of Justice with the participation of the CIA. We have video recordings. The Intercept has publicly exposed all the scams of the Federal Prosecutor and Judge Moro – and the participation of the US DOJ in destroying the construction and engineering sector in Brazil; the gas industry in Brazil; and the country’s politics. Because the US never accepted the fact that Brazil would become an international player.

You must remember that the US and Europe had a hard time dealing with Iran, because they could not reach an agreement with regards to uranium enrichment. Ambassador Celso Amorim and I went to Iran with the President of Turkey, and we were successful in convincing Iran to accept an agreement which was better than this deal that was signed by the Americans and the European Union.

Regretfully, when we proposed the agreement I expected that the US and the EU would thanks Brazil and Turkey; instead they applied more sanctions against Iran in a clear demonstration that they were telling us that Brazil is a small third world country that cannot meddle with major countries’ affairs.  [from 8:50 mins]

In 2008, Lula had also negotiated with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to win a contract with naval supplier DCNS [renamed Naval Group] for the sale of five submarines. This deal permitted a transfer of technology enabling Brazil to assemble four conventional submarines and one submarine with nuclear capability. During Operation Car Wash in 2016, DCNS was investigated over concerns of “corruption of foreign officials”. Asked about this part of the scandal, Lula says:

I am certain that the Americans did not agree that we should settle an agreement with France to build the nuclear submarine. I am certain that they did not appreciate it when I created the South American Defence Secretariat because as soon as we discovered the pre-salt oil, which was the major oil discovery of the twenty-first century – one thousand meters deep in the Atlantic Ocean – the Americans announced that they would reactivate their Fourth (maritime) Fleet in the Atlantic Ocean, which had ceased to operate after World War II.

Petrobras, the Brazilian state-run energy giant, had discovered the Tupi oilfield, which is located in the Santos Basin’s subsalt layer and estimated to hold recoverable reserves of between 5 billion and 8 billion barrels of oil, back in November 2007. It began pumping in May 2009. 4

Our oil is on the maritime border with international waters. So I believe that the US truly is interested in taking over our oil, just as they grabbed so much oil in so many countries around the world.

As you know Afshin, all political confusions around the world occur because of oil and the Americans do not want Petrobras, or the Brazilian people, to keep all that oil. [from 15:15 mins]

Lula also spoke about the assistance gave to his friend Hugo Chavez in Venezuela:

I had a fantastic relationship with President Chavez for many years, and I created a group of “Friends of Venezuela” to prevent any American intervention. And we were very successful during the Bush administration and later in the Obama administration with the following phrase: The people of Venezuela take care of democracy in Venezuela.

An American citizen who wins elections based on fake news like Trump has no moral authority to talk about democracy – likewise Bolsonaro in Brazil. Certainly I may have been naive, as well as Dilma, in believing in democracy; in believing in the conduct of the Brazilian elite, and we are paying the price for that. But nevertheless, I think that the solution is a democratic one. It involves democracy; freedom of the press; freedom of labour unions; freedom of association; respect for human rights. This is what motivates me and this is what I will fight for because it is only with democracy that we will be able to improve the quality of life of the poor; of the workers; and of the excluded people in our country. [from 17:00 mins]

Regarding the current political situation in Brazil, Lula says he thinks his former prosecutor Sérgio Moro will not run for President in 2022:

Moro will never become president. Moro was fabricated by Globo TV. Moro is an invention of the media and without the media, he is nothing. Moro is a citizen who I believe seems to be a coward because I have challenged him to debate with me. Now that he’s no longer a judge he could debate with me, but he won’t. And I do not think Globo will have the guts to support him. But if he is it is not a problem at all. [from 21:50 mins]

While at another point Lula says:

I am sure that Moro and [lead prosecutor of Op. Car Wash, Deltan] Dallagnol must take very heavy drugs to sleep because their conscience is not calm. They know that they lied about me. Dallagnol knows that he formed a gang in the Car Wash taskforce to pass on information to the US, and to strike a deal – a financial deal even – through which Dallagnol would raise a 200 million real fund to do something here in Brazil. My conscience is clear because my innocence is proven. Now I want to prove their guilt in the crimes they committed against Brazil. Attempting to destroy Brazil’s sovereignty.

Today I do not feel any hatred or resentment. I am actually destined to continue fighting for democracy, because as you know, although I will be 75-years old on October 27th, I have the energy of a thirty-year old and the political will of a twenty-year old. Therefore I still have a lot of energy to fight for democracy and for the Brazilian people and also to try to contribute to a world with new leaders that are more impetuous and brave for politics, because world governance nowadays has been outsourced.

Crises are no longer managed by governments, but rather by bureaucrats. So there are no more political leaders and this weakens politics and originates people of the like of Trump and Bolsonaro. [from 12:15 mins]

The full story is available in the “Secret Brazil Archive” at The Intercept but you can also read a summary of some of these allegation in a Guardian report published in June 2019.

Asked why he did nothing to reform oligarch-owned media in Brazil, Lula says:

I didn’t do anything because in Brazil to change the rules for the media you need to submit a bill to be voted in the National Congress and the majority in Congress being so conservative will never approve the rules to make the media more democratic.

We created a public TV channel. Certainly we did not make the necessary investments to make it competitive – not financially competitive – but competitive with regards to providing more information to society. This is something I regret not having one.

We developed a project to regulate the media – it was complete by mid-2009. We did not have support from Congress because elections would be held the following year, and we left it for the new administration. This is one thing that we will need to do when the PT returns to the government, because information that is meant for society cannot have an owner. Information cannot be conveyed to society from the viewpoint of ‘the economy’, or of a part of that society. [from 20:00 mins]

And regarding the incarceration and looming potential extradition to America of Julian Assange, Lula reminds us:

It is true that the Americans may hate Snowden because he was a State Department employee and he leaked information, but the fact is that Assange should be considered a hero by all democratic countries around the world. Because he was the one who used Snowden’s leaks to expose US espionage in Petrobras, in Brazil, in Germany, in Argentina, in France. That is why Assange cannot be handed over to the US. Assange should win the Nobel Peace Prize because he managed to expose the rotten espionage of the US in the rest of the world.

It is a pity that European and South American countries are not brave enough to stand up for Assange for all the good he did for mankind. [from 18:30 mins]

At the beginning of the interview, Afshin Rattansi asks Lula directly “why are you accusing your successor Jair Bolsonaro of genocide?” To which he replies:

For a very simple reason, our president did not take care of Brazil and of the Brazilian people as he should have done. This pandemic did not reach Brazil without prior notice. We already had experience of what was going on in other countries around the world, and the president should simply have done the obvious, only what common sense teaches us to do.

The president, since he doesn’t know about anything except weapons and violence, should have set up a technical committee with experts and scientists. He should have gathered all state governors as well as mayors and established a crisis committee to guide Brazilian society – to participate in the process of mitigating the impact of the pandemic in Brazil.

He did not do this. He decried the pandemic. He said that people should not wear masks. He proscribed a drug called chloroquinine to the population without any scientific basis. And to this date he continues to vulgarise death because effectively he does not believe in science, or in the Brazilian people, and he does not respect individuals. The only thing he does is compliment Trump and to try to copy the same foolish things that Trump does in the US. [from 1:27 mins]

Later in the interview, Lula is asked what he believes the likely consequences of Bolsonaro winning 2022 election will be, especially when it comes to impacts on the environment. He replies:

[Protection of] the Amazon must remain an issue for the Brazilian society. The Amazon does not need to have squatters or invaders. Instead of cattle breeders and soy bean farmers, the Amazon needs to be occupied by researchers, anthropologists and scientists to study its plants and animals, and all of the pharmacological wealth it has, as well as its potential to feed our society.

The Amazon is extraordinary for mankind and Brazil needs to have the obligation, the moral and ethical commitment, to preserve the Amazon in order to provide balance to Planet Earth. This is an irresponsibility of the Bolsonaro government, which has destroyed the entire surveillance system. Even the director of the agency that monitored deforestation with spatial imaging was dismissed. Now they are blaming the indigenous people and the small farmers for deforestation.

I have high hopes that in 2022, Brazil will return to democracy: that the people will elect a democrat for president who respects the environment and our air space; our borders; and who knows the meaning of our country’s sovereignty. [from 22:30 mins]

Adding finally:

I am convinced that the only solution we have is to strengthen democracy including for the American people now. They have the right to change American politics by electing someone who is civilised; someone who has some humanity; someone who has at least some respect for blacks, for native Americans, for the women and for differences between human beings. Therefore we have the duty to rebuild democracy in the world, so that we can prevent the destruction of Planet Earth, which is like a boat and we are all sinking in it.

I think we need to realise that the Americans are going backwards in exercising democracy. Recently I saw Trump calling Obama a communist. Calling Biden a communist. Calling Clinton a communist. He doesn’t even know what communism is.

I think ignorance is defeating intelligence and… intelligence, humanism, solidarity need to be restored in the world. The world today is being ruled by committees, not by governments. I think that governments need to rediscover their role in governance including the United Nations.

The UN needs to change its role. Today’s UN cannot be the same as it was in 1948. We need to have African countries in the UN Security Council. We need Latin American countries in the Security Council. And countries like India. It cannot be the same five countries as in 1948. We need to create a new global governance.

In 1948 the UN was strong enough to create the State of Israel. In 2020 the UN does not have the power to create the Palestinian state.

It is shameful because we need to renegotiate the role of the UN and other institutions. We need to discuss the IMF. What is the use of the IMF? What is the use of the World Bank?

I have already talked to Pope Francis. I have gone to the World Council of Churches in Geneva. We need a global campaign against inequality on our planet. It is not possible that half a dozen entrepreneurs in digital corporations make in one year what billions of human beings do not ever have. We also need to discuss the role of capitalism. And I am willing to do this.  [from 24:35 mins]

Note that: The transcript above is my own although based on the translation provided by the show. It is more or less complete but reordered with time stamps for each section.

*

1 From an article entitled “Watch: Interview With Brazil’s Ex-President Lula From Prison, Discussing Global Threats, Neoliberalism, Bolsonaro, and More” written by Glenn Greenwald, published in The Intercept on May 22, 2019. https://theintercept.com/2019/05/22/lula-brazil-ex-president-prison-interview/

2 From an article entitled “Their Little Show” which is Part 4 of a series of 14 articles based upon what is described as “A massive trove of previously undisclosed materials provid[ing] unprecedented insight into the operations of the anti-corruption task force that transformed Brazilian politics and gained worldwide attention”, entitled “Secret Brazil Archive” published by The Intercept. https://theintercept.com/series/secret-brazil-archive/ 

3 From an article entitled “Brazil’s former president Lula walks free from prison after supreme court ruling” written by Dom Phillips, published in the Guardian in November 8, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/08/lula-brazil-released-prison-supreme-court-ruling

4 https://www.rigzone.com/news/oil_gas/a/75679/petrobras_pumps_first_crude_from_massive_tupi_field_offshore_brazil/ 

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