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TBR News April 20, 2020

Apr 20 2020

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. April 20, 2020: Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.
When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.
I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.
He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.
He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.
It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the
election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.

Trump aches from his head to his toes
His sphincters have gone where who knows
And his love life has ended
By a paunch so distended
That all he can use is his nose.

Comment from April 20, 2020:” It was in the Spring of 2001 when a young computer expert living in the Mid-West developed a lethal virus intended to do a full-bore global destruction to the international computer/internet system.T
The virus is spread from computer to computer system to computer and it is so constructed that it cannot be searched out by any known computer security system. The virus remains placidly dormant until it is triggered and then after a specific lapse of time, is fully activated.
What does this virus do?
Totally obliterates the computer hard drive and expunges it of all memory.
In essence, the hard drive is flat line and cannot be reconstructed.
What sort of a trigger would activate this?
Perhaps a first, middle and last name coupled with a fake social security number.
The probability of this trigger accidentally emerging would be a mathematical impossibility.
Let us say that this was triggered on the computer system of a major bank.
When the activating time arrived, everything on the bank computer would be gone. No one could access the ATM machine, cash checks, or otherwise have access to the bank’s services.
There would be mass panic and the bank’s computer people would install backup systems.
After a frenzied flurry, all would return to normal, that is until the activated triggers would work again.
Official records, social security, food stamps, passport data, criminal rap sheets, and dozens and dozens more of vital services would, in essence, be gone with the wind.
And since this project has been silently contaminating the global systems since 2001, the length and depth of the infections would be immense and all-inclusive.
Of course the Russians would be blamed but the computers would be as dead as a squashed cockroach and the entire societal global informational and business structures would gasp, gurgle and die.
People could not buy food, electrical systems would fail and soon, the woodlands of America, and the world, would be filled with frantic citizens digging caves in the soil, or places to bury their surviving family members.
The motto?
Never put all your eggs in one basket.”

The Table of Contents
• CEOs, not the unemployed, are America’s real ‘moral hazard’
• Beware a new wave of populism, born out of coronavirus-induced economic inequity
• From Here to Dystopia
• Trump Bungles Hit on Cuomo and Shatters Own Wrongness Record on “1917” Pandemic
• Organization and background for US military action against China
• FDR, Demagogue Champion of Leviathan and War
• Encyclopedia of American Loons

CEOs, not the unemployed, are America’s real ‘moral hazard’
Many Republicans believe economic relief for those without jobs encourages slacking off. But it is corporations that are bailed out again and again
April 19, 2020
by Robert Reich
The Guardian
The coronavirus relief enacted by Congress is barely reaching Americans in need.
This week, checks of up to $1,200 are being delivered through direct-deposit filings with the Internal Revenue Service. But low-income people who have not directly deposited their taxes won’t get them for weeks or months. Worse yet, the US treasury is allowing banks to seize payments to satisfy outstanding debts.
Meanwhile, most of the promised $600 weekly extra unemployment benefits remain stuck in offices now overwhelmed with claims.
None of this seems to bother conservative Republicans, who believe all such relief creates what’s called “moral hazard” – the risk that government benefits will allow people to slack off.
The Republican senator Lindsey Graham, for example, says state unemployment offices are overwhelmed because the extra $600 is “incentivizing people to leave the workforce”. Hello?
When it comes to big corporations and their CEOs, however, conservatives don’t worry about moral hazard. They should.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, corporations were borrowing money like mad, capitalizing on the Fed’s bargain-basement interest rates. Total business debt topped $16tn last year.
Corporations used much of this debt to buy back their own shares of stock. This raised the earnings of each remaining share, creating a bonanza for big investors and top executives.
Trump never tired of pointing out how spectacularly stocks had risen on his watch. But he neglected to mention those stocks were floating on a rising sea of corporate debt – which left corporate America dangerously unprepared for any sharp downturn.
Then came Covid-19 and the sharpest downturn on record.
American corporations spent $730bn on buybacks last year and more than $370bn this year before the virus, much of it financed by debt. If they hadn’t frittered away that trillion or so dollars, they’d be better able to cope with this emergency.
Over the past five years, four big airlines and the aerospace giant Boeing spent more than $70bn buying back their own stock, putting them deep in debt. If they hadn’t binged on buybacks, they’d be better equipped to weather this storm.
No worries. Government is bailing them out, just as it did the Wall Street banks that exploded in 2008.
On 9 April the Fed announced it will buy up corporate debt, even backstopping private-equity firms that also borrowed to the hilt. The treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, announced on Tuesday an agreement with the airlines under which they will receive billions of taxpayer dollars.
Forget moral hazard. They’re all too big to fail.
The Fed and the treasury had little choice. Massive defaults and bankruptcies would wreak even more havoc on the economy. Better to maintain some payrolls than add to the unemployment rolls.
But by saving the backsides of big corporations and their CEOs, the bailouts have rewarded corporate America’s obsession with short-term profits regardless of longer-term risks to the corporation, its employees, and the overall economy.
Why is moral hazard a problem when it comes to millions of jobless Americans who can’t even collect $600 in unemployment benefits, but not a problem when it comes to CEOs who have borrowed to the hilt, used the money to artificially boost share prices, and pocketed $20m a year?
Giving the vast majority of Americans a bit more cushion against the downside risks they face surely poses less harm than giving CEOs a cushion against the risks they take with the entire economy.
It’s not too late for the Fed and the treasury to take shares of stock in every corporation that gets bailed out.
This way, CEOs and big investors aren’t rewarded for binging on debt to finance stock buybacks. The public gets in on the upside of any eventual recovery. And there will be more money to finance stronger safety nets for Americans who actually need them.
Another necessary step is to ban stock buybacks – as was the case before 1982, when the Securities and Exchange Commission viewed them as potential vehicles for stock manipulation and fraud.
They still are. Shareholders who unwittingly sell their stocks back to corporations that are artificially pumping up share prices lose out on the gains. Why isn’t this fraud?
A final step must be to regulate credit-rating agencies charged with informing investors about the true riskiness of corporate debt. Why were they still giving high ratings to the bonds of corporations so laden with debt they couldn’t survive a downturn?
The real moral hazard has been in C-Suites, not in homes. It’s time to stop bailing out corporations and start bailing out people.
Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good. His new book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, is out now. He is a columnist for Guardian US

Beware a new wave of populism, born out of coronavirus-induced economic inequity
Big businesses and governments are fast making themselves inviolable. There could be a backlash
April 18. 2020
by Nick Cohen
The Guardian
A global wave of injustice could follow the global pandemic. Pre-existing tendencies towards monopoly, Chinese dominance and predatory capitalism will explode unless governments take measures to contain them. I accept that it is hard to imagine public fury at a rigged economy when voters are rallying to their leaders and lockdowns are enjoying overwhelming support. Solidarity cannot last, however, as the crisis accentuates the division between insiders and outsiders.
You see them now. Employees with staff jobs, and the ability to work from home, are coping, for the moment. A few might experience lockdown as something close to a holiday and rhapsodise on the joys of home baking and box sets. As insiders stay inside, they save the money they would have spent in shops, restaurants, hotels and travel agents – the places where the insecure, the luckless nine out of 10 in the bottom half of earners who cannot work from home, once made their livings.
What applies to individuals applies to corporations and private equity funds that are strong enough to buy up distressed assets at a fraction of their pre-crisis value. I sat up and paid attention last week when I heard Sebastian Mallaby of the US Council on Foreign Relations warn that private equity is likely “to play both sides”: soaking up government largesse and profiting from market mayhem. It won’t, he concluded, “look great when we consider the political economy of the pandemic a year from now”.
You catch a glimpse of the future in the manoeuvres of the US private equity firms thinking of deploying hundreds of billions of dollars they hold in reserve as high-interest loans to struggling companies. The arguments this month about a Chinese state-owned investment firm buying up the British chip manufacturer Imagination Technologies are a further harbinger of a possible world to come. The Chinese Communist Party’s “2025 Made in China” strategy sees it leapfrogging the west by taking over companies and establishing a global lead in smart manufacturing, digitisation and emerging technologies. Covid-19 gives the party the opportunity it needs. Funds and states are operating in a market where the tendency towards monopoly was already established.
The 2008 crash, like recessions before it, concentrated economic power, as large firms used their resources and access to finance to ensure their survival. But, unlike in the last century, a multitude of rival businesses did not emerge once recession had passed, to provide competition and new employment opportunities for workers wanting to raise their wages by switching firms. In 2016, according to the Resolution Foundation, Britain’s 100 biggest firms accounted for 23% of total revenue across the economy, up by a quarter since 2004. As the economic crisis we are entering looks worse than 2008, worse indeed than anything anyone alive can remember, the rise of corporate giants seems assured. Big governments – and this crisis is making governments bigger than ever – will welcome them, because they want the convenience of dealing with big businesses, not with tens of thousands of small and medium-size firms.
Do you begin to see how popular fury might build? Vulture capitalists swooping on undervalued assets. Chinese communists, who censored news of Covid-19 rather than alerting the world, benefiting rather than suffering. Big business trampling over all who might challenge it. It’s not a recipe for social peace.
Superficially, the crisis of 2020 does not appear anything like the financial crisis of 2007-08 and not only because it threatens to bring an incomparably greater level of impoverishment. Then there were human villains: bankers and captured regulators who broke the financial system, northern Europeans who congratulated themselves as they let southern Europe collapse. Now there’s just an invisible infectious agent that wants only to replicate itself. The similarities remain striking, for all that. Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, like leaders across the west, weren’t interested in jailing bankers or making them pay back their bonuses. Their sole concern was to stop the collapse of the banking system. The morality of the bailout could wait – forever, as it turned out. Everywhere in the west, the public reaction was the same. Democracy was a racket. Taxpayers had to rescue the richest people in the world and then suffer years of stagnant wages and cut public services to meet the bill. If you need a one-line explanation for populism, this is the best there is.
Yet again, vast amounts of public money are being committed, but instead of stagnation we face catastrophe. Nervous commentators rererence how the Great Depression of the 1930s fuelled nazism and communism, as 2008 fuelled populism, and dread what awaits us. They should know there is no necessary link between economic and political failure. Far from enabling tyranny, the economic crisis of the 1970s, for instance, saw the end of the rightwing tyrannies in Spain, Portugal and Greece and the beginning of the decline and fall of the Soviet empire. Our future depends not only on the work of scientists but on the efforts of governments to stop democracy turning into a swindle.
The EU says countries must ensure that big business doesn’t use state funding to buy out rivals and adds that nation states should take stakes in companies threatened with Chinese takeovers. However the UK’s relationship with the EU ends, that’s good advice.
Governments should not forget natural justice as they did in 2008. Complaints about tax-exile billionaires in the Richard Branson mould wanting other people’s money are a warning, not a tabloid distraction. If, as seems likely, the government moves from subsidising wages to direct loans to big business, the first question must be what do taxpayers, employees and wider society gain in return.
Sociologists talk of the “Matthew effect”, an idea lifted from Saint Matthew’s account of the most unChristian words Jesus uttered: “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Our task is to make sure this miserable prophecy is not now vindicated.

From Here to Dystopia
Not With a Bang But a Cough
by John Feffer
In retrospect, it’s no surprise that, after the election of Donald Trump in 2016, dystopian fiction enjoyed a spike in popularity. However, novels like George Orwell’s 1984 and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which soared on Amazon, would prove more horror stories than roadmaps. Like so many ominous sounds from a dark basement, they provided good scares but didn’t foreshadow the actual Trumpian future.
Of course, it didn’t take an Orwell or an Atwood to extrapolate from the statements of candidate Trump to the policies of President Trump — and such projections bore little resemblance to the worlds of Big Brother or an all-powerful patriarchy. Many Americans quickly began bracing themselves for something quite different: less totalitarian than total chaos. There would likely be unmitigated corruption, new wars, and massive tax cuts for the wealthy, along with an unprecedented reduction in government services and the further concentration of power in the executive branch. And it was a given that there would be boastfully incoherent presidential addresses, as well as mockery from officials in countries that had only recently been our closest allies. A Trumpian dystopia would be a Frankenstein monster constructed of the worst parts of previous administrations with plenty of ugly invective and narcissistic preening thrown in for bad measure.
And yet, there was still a lingering hope that those unsettling noises from the basement were just the equivalent of a broken furnace — annoying and expensive to fix, yes, but nothing like a living, breathing monster. Trump, after all, was going to be a singularly incompetent leader, or so his multiple bankruptcies and failed ventures suggested. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to do that much damage tweeting from the White House or phoning in from the links. And even if his minions in Congress did manage to push through some disturbing legislation, the guardrails of democracy would continue to contain his administration, and dystopias would, for the most part, remain the stuff of scary novels, not everyday life.
For many Americans, a Trump presidency did indeed usher in harder times. The earnings of farmers, dependent on exporting their crops, plummeted during the trade war with China. Nearly 700,000 people were poised to lose access to food stamps. Hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees from Haiti, El Salvador, and other countries faced the loss of their temporary protected status.
Still, many of those farmers received government subsidies to offset their losses and the courts blocked the administration from following through on some of its cruelest immigration policies, at least postponing the worst nightmares. Meanwhile, the 2018 midterm elections signaled a possible post-Trumpian future, as the Democrats, led by a crew of new women candidates, won control of the House of Representatives. Admittedly, the ultimate failure of the impeachment effort was a setback, but it was still just a matter of holding on for less than a year until election 2020 and then quite possibly waving the Trump era farewell.
That has now all changed.
Thanks to the coronavirus, dystopia is here, right now — but with a twist. As science fiction writer William Gibson once so aptly put it, “The future has arrived, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” In April 2020, the same applies to our new world.
Dystopia arrived not with a bang, but a cough. The culprit wasn’t a looming monster or a totalitarian state, but a microscopic speck that’s technically not even alive. And that basement, by the way, turned out to be far-off Wuhan, the Chinese city where the novel coronavirus first appeared. With Hubei province overwhelmed by sickness and death, China responded by using the powers of a centralized state to shut down everything — from travel to restaurants, public gatherings to dissent — in a draconian fashion.
The Trump administration chose to ignore those warnings.
Meanwhile, given the level of international travel in a globalized economy, other countries soon became hotspots. South Korea used technology — widespread testing, contact tracing, and apps to monitor quarantining — to contain the problem. Iran’s initial poor response, even as members of its leadership took sick and in some cases died, was compounded by punitive Trump administration sanctions. The hospitals in northern Italy were overwhelmed by Covid-19 and the government suddenly shut down the country in a belated attempt to stave off disaster.
Still, Washington dawdled. Trump and his crew squandered 70 full days during which they could have implemented valuable lessons being painfully learned elsewhere in the world.
Now, Covid-19 has decisively put the lie to American exceptionalism. Not only can it happen here, but it’s happening here, far worse than anywhere else. The United States is adding upwards of 30,000 new infections daily, twice the rate of China on February 12th, that country’s worst day, and nearly five times what Italy faced at its peak on March 20th.
Meanwhile, adding depression to disease, the U.S. economy has crashed. Claims for unemployment benefits have risen by an astounding 17 million in just three weeks, pushing the jobless rate close to 10% (and still rising fast). Yes, the whole global economy is taking a hit, but other countries have moved in more sensible directions. China’s blunt-force quarantine has now enabled it to restart its economy, South Korea’s pinpoint approach has so far avoided a full-scale economic lockdown, and Denmark has paid its companies directly to maintain their payrolls and retain workers during the downturn of self-isolation.
In other words, in true dystopian fashion, Washington has managed to fumble both its response to the pandemic and its potential economic recovery plan. Presidential incompetence, incomprehension, and intransigence have been key to these glaring failures. The myriad defects that Donald Trump displayed from his first day in the White House, then largely grist for the monologues of late-night talk-show hosts, have now turned truly tragic. They include his stunning disregard for science, his undeniable compulsion to spread misinformation, his complete refusal to take responsibility for anything negative, his thoroughgoing contempt for government, and his abrupt vacillations in policy.
Most of all, the president exhibited extraordinary hubris. Out of a belief in his own infallibility, he thinks he knows better than the experts, any experts, no matter the topic.
As it happens, he doesn’t.
In ordinary times, such an epic fail might bring thousands, even hundreds of thousands, out into the streets to protest. Not in this pandemic moment, however. Most Americans, if they can, are now sheltering in place, watching a dystopian scenario unfold in real time on their screens and expressing gratitude to front-line workers who are suiting up to fight the microscopic monster every day.
When the world outside becomes too much to bear, we escape into stories. Right now, however, dystopian fiction about other times and places just doesn’t do the trick. Instead, desperate to understand how and why this fate has befallen us, we’ve been watching films about infectious disease. In early March, 2011’s Contagion became the number one streaming movie of the moment, while Outbreak recently cracked Netflix’s top 10 even though it came out 25 years ago. And when we’re not streaming, we’re reading novels about epidemics that, from Camus to Crichton, are back on bestseller lists.
Don’t be surprised if you’re feeling a nagging sense of déjà vu. Bingeing on stories about plagues during a plague? Doesn’t that ring a bell? Could it have been something you were assigned to read or see on stage back in school?
Know Thyself — Or Not
In 430 BC, the second year of its war with Sparta, the legendary democracy of Athens in ancient Greece was struck by an unknown infectious disease. The Athenians first suspected that the Spartans had poisoned their reservoirs. As it turned out, though, their undemocratic adversary wasn’t to blame. According to the historian Thucydides, the plague came from faraway Ethiopia and entered the city by ship. Since Athens had built its empire with naval power, it was perhaps grimly fitting that its greatest strength would prove in that moment to be its signal weakness.
The plague spread quickly. “At the beginning, the doctors were quite incapable of treating the disease because of their ignorance of the right methods,” wrote Thucydides. “In fact mortality among the doctors was the highest of all, since they came more frequently in contact with the sick.” (Sound familiar?) The disease soon overwhelmed the city’s rudimentary health-care system and dead bodies lay about the streets, rotting and unburied. And yet, despite the plague, the Peloponnesian War continued. That forever war of the ancient world (sound familiar again?), already in its second round, wouldn’t end until 405 BC, a quarter-century later.
Over five years and three successive outbreaks, the plague would, however, ultimately claim more Athenian lives than the war. Nearly a quarter of that city-state’s population, an estimated 100,000 people, would die from the disease. Even its esteemed leader, Pericles, would lose two sons. Another victim: the vaunted Athenian political system. According to classical scholar Katherine Kelaidis, “The Great Plague of Athens wrote the first chapter in the end of Athenian democracy.”
During those plague years, Athens didn’t, however, completely lock down the city. It continued, for instance, to hold its annual drama festival at the Theater of Dionysus where, at some point, a new play by Sophocles had its debut. In itself, that was anything but unusual as he wrote more than 100 plays during his long lifetime. But this drama also proved painfully topical. Sophocles took the legendary story of Oedipus the king and added a wholly original element: he set its plot in motion with a plague.
Oedipus Rex takes place in Thebes while “a fiery demon” grips the city. Its king, Oedipus, desperate to understand why the gods have called such a plague down upon his realm, sends an emissary to the famed Delphic Oracle to find out. Its answer is unexpected: to rid Thebes of the plague, he must bring to justice the murderer of the previous king. As it happens, Oedipus himself killed that previous king. What’s worse, that king was also his father. In doing so, Oedipus had, however inadvertently, fulfilled the first part of a previous Delphic prophecy: that he would kill his father and marry his mother. In other words, he is the cause of the religious pollution that has brought plague down on Thebes.
All of this qualified Oedipus as the classic example of the tragic hero, a son of nobility who lacks self-knowledge, in this case an understanding of his true origins. Moreover, he demonstrates an extraordinary arrogance, believing that only he can rule wisely or save Thebes. Even when the oracle predicts a tragic outcome for him, he scoffs, believing that the will of the gods is no impediment to his actions.
The Greek word for this kind of arrogance is hubris and, in Greek drama, it’s associated with the pride that precedes the fall of a powerful man. The inevitable result of hubris is a visit from Nemesis, the goddess of retribution, often depicted with a sword and scales.
Focused as it was on the inevitable downfall of a tragic hero in a plague-stricken city, Oedipus Rex must have been deeply disturbing, if not terrifying, to watch in the Athens of that moment. Given the pandemic at hand, it’s remarkable that Athenians were still staging plays at all. But like Oedipus, its citizens undoubtedly wanted to better understand the cause of their affliction. This early example of horror fiction — with its plot twists involving murder, incest, and pandemic — surely helped some of them come to terms with their predicament and decide who or what to blame for it, just as, almost 2,500 years later, we watch films or read novels about plagues, among other things, to try to grasp ours.
In that first season of the plague, the citizens of Athens would indeed turn their fury against their leader, Pericles, and drive him from office. Later, after a brief return to power, he, too, would die of the disease.
Every Society Gets the Tragic Hero It Deserves
Now, another democracy is being overwhelmed by contagion. It, too, is involved in endless wars and led by a man whom millions of its citizens once believed to be the last-chance savior of the country.
Donald Trump didn’t kill his father or marry his mother, nor is he the cause of the coronavirus.
Still, in other respects, he hews to a distinctly modern, reality-TV version of the tragic hero. He, of course, became as rich as Croesus, even as he bathed in the adulation of his television viewers. Thanks to the Delphic Oracle of the Electoral College, he then rose to the most powerful political position in the world. Yet, through it all, he has exhibited virtually no self-knowledge. To this day, his understanding of his own faults remains near zero, while his amplification of his imagined strengths is off the Richter scale. Admittedly, Donald Trump lacks the gravitas of Oedipus and would never have been able to answer the riddle of the Sphinx, but this is twenty-first-century America, not ancient Greece, and every society gets the tragic hero it deserves.
As with Oedipus, the president’s extraordinary arrogance has put the country in peril. His denial of the scientific evidence for climate change prompted him to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, a monumental blunder that will plague later generations. His “deconstruction of the administrative state,” the unravelling of government institutions patiently constructed by his predecessors, significantly crippled his administration’s response to the coronavirus. His gargantuan pre-pandemic addition to the national debt through simultaneous tax cuts and military budget increases put the country at great economic risk. All of these policies were pushed through over the advice of wiser counsels, even within his administration.
Now, on a daily basis, the president appears before the American people and pretends to know much more than he does: about when to lift shelter-in-place restrictions (Easter because “it’s a beautiful day”), which experimental drugs to use (“I’m not a doctor, but I have common sense”), and how to meet the needs of states desperate for ventilators (“try getting it yourselves”). Serial failure has not tempered his hubris, not faintly. In adversity, he’s simply fallen back on a tactic he’s deployed his whole life in the face of adversity: double down. If hubris didn’t work, then über-hubris is the cure.
Through it all, Donald Trump has somehow eluded the grasp of Nemesis. Poised with her scales of justice, the goddess watched over last year’s impeachment hearings. Yet courtesy of a phalanx of Republican senators, Trump was not brought to justice, despite his unconstitutional behavior.
Now, it seems, Nemesis has returned, this time brandishing her sword.
Trump’s incompetence in the face of Covid-19 has helped cause a soaring American death toll. The U.S. is being serially laid to waste, a reality for which he accepts no responsibility. Unlike Oedipus Rex, Trump Rex has not the slightest interest in confronting the truth of his sins or the horror of his actions. Don’t expect the president to put out his own eyes, as Oedipus does at the end of the play. No need, in fact. Trump has always been blind and, not surprisingly, his blind ambition combined with his blind greed has culminated in an administration in which the blind are indeed leading the blind.
Come November, it falls to the American people, if all goes well, to deliver the ultimate judgment of Nemesis.
The End of the World?
Dystopian fiction is about how the world ends — not the extinction of the planet but the end of our familiar world. How we got from here to dystopia isn’t normally central to such novels. In fact, the end of that familiar world has usually taken place before you open the book and you may, at best, see it through brief flashbacks. The point is to plunge you directly into a future from hell like, for example, the post-apocalyptic landscape of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Nightmares don’t work with long explanatory introductions.
In a similar fashion, we’re not experiencing the end of the world itself right now. We’re not (yet) in the midst of nuclear annihilation or, say, the extinction of the human species via some extreme version of climate change. The current coronavirus pandemic is an apocalypse, to be sure, but a passing one. As Polish novelist Tadeusz Konwicki wrote long ago about the everyday horrors of communism in A Minor Apocalypse, “Many generations have thought the world was dying, but it was only their world which was dying.”
Herein lies the sobering reassurance of such stories. They remind us that worlds, like people, die all the time, only to be replaced by new worlds. Cities fall and rise again, as do civilizations. Even dystopian places like Idi Amin’s Uganda or the Khmer Rouge’s Cambodian killing fields eventually burn out. The handmaid lives to tell her tale and Gilead, too, crumbles in the end.
Athens survived the plague, though its democracy was compromised by war and disease. America, too, will live on. But it will have lost some further measure of its greatness thanks in no small part to the man who, however cynically, wanted to make it great again.

Trump Bungles Hit on Cuomo and Shatters Own Wrongness Record on “1917” Pandemic
April 20, 2020
by Robert Mackey
The Intercpt
It was amateur hour at the White House on Sunday, as the president’s effort to neutralize criticism of his failure to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic was undermined by his A/V team, and he mistakenly referred to the 1918 flu pandemic as something that happened in 1917 for the 24th time in the past five weeks.
As he did last week, Trump took took time out of what was supposed to be a briefing to update the American people on the public health emergency to screen clips of a political rival, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, praising aspects of the federal response to the crisis. The aim was not to inform or reassure the public, but to settle a personal score.
When the first clip, of remarks from Cuomo earlier on Sunday, began with the sound turned down, Trump mocked his own tech team from the stage. “No sound?” Trump asked. “Other than that, it’s a good clip — he’s a nice looking guy,” he added sarcastically.
Trump was annoyed because the clip had been selected, and posted on Twitter by a member of his reelection campaign staff, because it started with Cuomo saying: “Do I have faith in the president? Look, what the federal government did, working with states, as I just said, was a phenomenal accomplishment.”
The president’s irritation increased when that clip ended and his team couldn’t find the second one he was expecting — of Cuomo saying, two weeks ago, that no one in New York had died because of a shortage of hospital beds or ventilators. “They left out the good part,” Trump said. “Good job, fellas.”
When the second clip of Cuomo was finally located 40 minutes later, the president again paused the briefing to play it, since, presumably, it looked to him like proof that he had been right to attack Cuomo on Friday for needlessly “complaining.” New York, Trump tweeted as he watched Cuomo on television that day, “didn’t need or use” the thousands of hospital beds the federal government provided. “Cuomo ridiculously wanted ’40 thousand Ventilators’,” Trump added. “We gave him a small fraction of that number, and it was plenty.”
While the president seemed to think this cherry-picking from Cuomo’s comments over the past two weeks showed that he had been right to not meet all of New York’s requests for help, by playing those clips, Trump inadvertently drew attention back to what Cuomo had been criticizing the federal government for on Friday: the ongoing failure to ramp up testing for the virus nationwide, which experts say is necessary for the lockdowns to end safely.
“The federal government cannot wipe their hands of this and say, ‘Oh the states are responsible for testing.’ We cannot do it without federal help,” Cuomo said during his own televised daily briefing on Friday, about 20 minutes before Trump started heckling him on Twitter.
It was amateur hour at the White House on Sunday, as the president’s effort to neutralize criticism of his failure to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic was undermined by his A/V team, and he mistakenly referred to the 1918 flu pandemic as something that happened in 1917 for the 24th time in the past five weeks.
As he did last week, Trump took took time out of what was supposed to be a briefing to update the American people on the public health emergency to screen clips of a political rival, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, praising aspects of the federal response to the crisis. The aim was not to inform or reassure the public, but to settle a personal score.
When the first clip, of remarks from Cuomo earlier on Sunday, began with the sound turned down, Trump mocked his own tech team from the stage. “No sound?” Trump asked. “Other than that, it’s a good clip — he’s a nice looking guy,” he added sarcastically.
Trump was annoyed because the clip had been selected, and posted on Twitter by a member of his reelection campaign staff, because it started with Cuomo saying: “Do I have faith in the president? Look, what the federal government did, working with states, as I just said, was a phenomenal accomplishment.”
The president’s irritation increased when that clip ended and his team couldn’t find the second one he was expecting — of Cuomo saying, two weeks ago, that no one in New York had died because of a shortage of hospital beds or ventilators. “They left out the good part,” Trump said. “Good job, fellas.”
When the second clip of Cuomo was finally located 40 minutes later, the president again paused the briefing to play it, since, presumably, it looked to him like proof that he had been right to attack Cuomo on Friday for needlessly “complaining.” New York, Trump tweeted as he watched Cuomo on television that day, “didn’t need or use” the thousands of hospital beds the federal government provided. “Cuomo ridiculously wanted ’40 thousand Ventilators’,” Trump added. “We gave him a small fraction of that number, and it was plenty.”
While the president seemed to think this cherry-picking from Cuomo’s comments over the past two weeks showed that he had been right to not meet all of New York’s requests for help, by playing those clips, Trump inadvertently drew attention back to what Cuomo had been criticizing the federal government for on Friday: the ongoing failure to ramp up testing for the virus nationwide, which experts say is necessary for the lockdowns to end safely.
“The federal government cannot wipe their hands of this and say, ‘Oh the states are responsible for testing.’ We cannot do it without federal help,” Cuomo said during his own televised daily briefing on Friday, about 20 minutes before Trump started heckling him on Twitter.
Without federal coordination, Cuomo added, “we wind up in this bizarre situation that we were in last time: 50 states all competing for these precious resources, in this case it’s testing, and then the federal government comes in and says to those companies, ‘I want to buy the tests also.’ This is mayhem.”
When a reporter informed the governor that the president was tweeting insults at him in real time, Cuomo said, “First of all, if he’s sitting at home watching TV, maybe he should get up and go to work, right?”
The governor then suggested that it was absurd for the president to claim that New York had asked for equipment and beds it did not need, since the projections they relied on had come from Trump’s own White House coronavirus task force. “The number came from a projection from him — from him,” Cuomo said. “The projections were high? They were the president’s projections,” the governor added. “So for him to say to anyone, ‘Well, you relied on projections and the projections were wrong,’ they’re your projections Mr. President. So, were we foolish for relying on your projections, Mr. President?”
As for his supposed ingratitude, the governor said that he had already expressed his thanks on numerous occasions for federal help in converting the Javits Center in Manhattan into an emergency hospital and sending a Navy hospital ship to the city. “I don’t know, what am I supposed to do, send a bouquet of flowers?” he asked.
Cuomo then pivoted away from Trump’s backward looking effort to justify his initial failure to prepare the country for the pandemic and returned to the president’s attempt to push responsibility for testing onto the states.
“The president doesn’t want to help on testing,” Cuomo said. “I said the one issue we need help with is testing. He said 11 times, ‘I don’t want to get involved in testing. It’s too complicated, it’s too hard.’ I know it’s too complicated and it’s too hard. That’s why we need you to help,” the governor said.
“He wants to say, ‘Well, I did enough.’ Cuomo added, of Trump. “Yeah, none of us have done enough. We haven’t, because it’s not over.”
When Jill Colvin of The Associated Press asked Trump on Sunday about Cuomo’s criticism of his failure to boost testing, the president first attacked her for not saying that the governor had said “we did a phenomenal job.” In fact, Cuomo did not say that. He said that the “phenomenal accomplishment” of flattening the curve of infection had been achieved by the country’s citizens, with the help of federal and state governments. “People did it, but government facilitates people’s actions,” Cuomo said in a part of the clip Trump was talking over as it played in the briefing room. “Heroic efforts on behalf of people, as facilitated by government — federal and state,” he added.
In his remarks on Friday, Cuomo had been even more clear on this point. “We proved we can control the beast — we can reduce the rate of infection. We did that by our response to the crisis,” Cuomo said. “Credit to all New Yorkers, all Americans. They flattened the curve, nobody else — no government agency, no public health expert. People’s actions flattened the curve,” the governor said.
When Colvin pressed Trump to respond to the pleas from Cuomo and other governors “that what they need, though, is a national strategy when it comes to testing, because on supplies they say that they’re competing against one another,” the president blithely dismissed the concern.
“We’re doing great on testing,” he claimed, even though experts at the Harvard Global Health Institute estimate that the United States needs to do between 500,000 and 600,000 tests a day to adequately track the spread of the virus, about four times the current average of 150,000.
“What about the reagents,” Colvin asked, noting that governors have had difficulty securing the necessary supplies for Covid-19 tests, particularly chemical reagents, which are now in short supply due to an unprecedented, global spike in demand. Trump again acted as if the problem, which is real, did not exist. “We’re in great shape, it’s so easy to get,” Trump said, falsely. “Reagents and swabs are so easy to get.”
Earlier in Sunday’s briefing, as Trump continued to claim that a failure to prepare for the pandemic was in no way his fault, he said that “not since 1917, more than a hundred years ago, has anything like this happened.” According to transcripts of his remarks on the White House website, it was the 24th time since March 11 that he has incorrectly referred to the 1918 influenza pandemic as an event that took place in 1917.
That Trump so frequently makes this mistake is particularly odd given that his own paternal grandfather, Frederick Trump, was among those who died of the flu in the first year of the pandemic. The president’s insecure grasp on the most basic fact of the 1918 pandemic does seem to suggest that he is not particularly engaged in studying the history of that contagion for lessons in how to tackle this one.
If Trump were to crack open “The Great Influenza,” a history of that pandemic written by John Barry, an adjunct professor at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, he might be relieved to learn that his predecessor, Woodrow Wilson, was even more lax than he has been in response to a virus that killed an estimated 195,000 Americans in October of 1918 alone. Wilson was so obsessed with winning the war in Europe he had brought the United States into in 1917 that he only responded to the spread of the deadly virus in military camps in the U.S. when it threatened to disrupt the process of getting fresh troops across the Atlantic to the front lines. Even then, the president allowed his generals, eager for as many troops as possible, to overrule the military doctors who wanted to stop transports until the epidemic was contained.
“He never released any statement about influenza whatsoever. The federal government did next to nothing,” Barry told WBUR in Boston last month. “Of course, we had a different society then. But everything was up to local leadership,” he said.
“Because we were at war, the national public health leaders basically lied to the public,” Barry added. “They said things like, ‘This is ordinary influenza by another name.’ Or, ‘You have nothing to fear. Proper precautions are taken,’ so forth and so on. This was echoed by local leaders in many cities, Philadelphia being a prime example. So they had a big Liberty Loan parade scheduled, which they declined to cancel, although all the medical community urged them to. And 48 hours later, just out like clockwork, influenza exploded in the city.”
In New York, however, the city’s health commissioner, Royal S. Copeland, did take some forward-looking actions. First, as Barry wrote, “he eliminated rush hour by staggering the opening times of factories, shops and cinemas.” Then he set up 150 emergency health centers across the city to identify and care for the sick. And, most controversially, he kept the schools open, unlike in neighboring states, in an effort to survey and treat the city’s children. With a large impoverished, immigrant population, the children were kept in school in part to make sure they were fed properly and so that they could be used to communicate public health guidance to their families. The gamble paid off, and school-age children in New York that fall were less effected by the pandemic than in other cities.
Copeland, as a city official, was unable to stop the flow of troop ships from the city. And a lot of his good work was undone in a single day. On October 12, 1918, near the peak of the outbreak’s second wave, Copeland was forced to let a massive Liberty Day parade proceed down Fifth Avenue, from 72nd Street to Washington Square, attended by an estimated 500,000 people. It was led by President Wilson.

Organization and background for US military action against China
April 20, 2020
by Christian Jürs

The US will pursue the following war aims:
1. Defeat the affirmative expeditionary purpose of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
2. Destroy the offensive capability of the PLAN and People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).
3. Potentially destabilize the control of the CCP government over mainland China.

Except in the case of a war that breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, the first task involves either defeating a Chinese attempt to land forces, or preventing the reinforcement and resupply of those troops before forcing their surrender. The second task will require a wide range of attacks against deployed Chinese air and naval units, as well as ships and aircraft held in reserve. We can expect, for example, that the USN and USAF will target Chinese airbases, naval bases, and potentially missile bases in an effort to maximize damage to the PLAN and PLAAF. The third task probably depends on the successful execution of the first two. The defeat of Chinese expeditionary forces, and the destruction of a large percentage of the PLAN and the PLAAF, may cause domestic turmoil in the medium to long term. US military planners would be well-advised to concentrate the strategic campaign on the first two objectives and hope that success has a political effect, rather than roll the dice on a broader “strategic” campaign against CCP political targets. The latter would waste resources, run the risk of escalation, and have unpredictable effects on the Chinese political system.

The PLA will pursue these ends:
1. Achieve the affirmative expeditionary purpose.
2. Destroy as much of the expeditionary capability of the USAF and USN as possible.
3. Hurt America badly enough that future US governments will not contemplate intervention.
4. Disrupt the US-led alliance system in East Asia.
The first task requires the deployment of PLAN surface forces, possibly in combination with PLAAF airborne forces, to seize an objective. The second involves the use of submarines, aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles to destroy US and allied installations and warships across East Asia.
The third and fourth tasks rest upon the second. The PLA will attempt to inflict sufficient casualties on US forces that future US decision-makers will hesitate to use force against the PRC. Similarly, the survival of the US-led alliance system requires that the United States successfully defeat Chinese aggression; if it cannot, the alliance system could deteriorate and collapse.
The United States hasn’t lost a fighter in action since the 1999 Kosovo War, and hasn’t lost a major warship since World War II. The sinking of a warship would likely also result in the greatest loss of life of any single action for the US military in action since the Vietnam War. However, both US and Chinese strategists may overestimate US casualty aversion. The loss of a major warship and its crew might serve to solidify US commitment (at least in the short term) rather than undermine it.
The “Hold Your Breath” Moments
The biggest moment will come when the PLA makes an overt attack against a US aircraft carrier. This represents the most significant possible escalation against the United States short of a nuclear attack. If China decides to attack a US carrier, the war no longer involves posturing and message sending, but rather a full-scale commitment of capabilities designed to defeat and destroy enemy military forces.
The means for this attack matters. An attack launched from a ship or a submarine makes any PLAN military vessel fair game for the United States, but doesn’t necessarily incur US attacks against PLAAF airbases, Second Artillery missile installations, or even naval installations.
The most dangerous form of attack would involve a ballistic missile volley against a carrier. This is true not simply because these missiles are difficult to intercept, but also because such missiles could carry nuclear warheads. The prospect of a nuclear state using a conventional ballistic missile against another nuclear state, especially one with a presumptive nuclear advantage, is laden with complexity.
The next “hold your breath” moment will come when the first US missiles strike Chinese targets. Given the overwhelming nuclear advantage that the United States holds over China, the first wave of US attacks will prove deeply stressful to the PRCs military and civilian leadership. This is particularly the case if the Chinese believe that they can win at the conventional level of escalation; they will worry that the United States will bump to nuclear in order to retain its advantage.
We can expect that China will deploy its submarines in advance of the onset of hostilities. The surface fleet is a different story, however. In any high intensity combat scenario, the U.S. Navy (USN) and U.S. Air Force will see Chinese warships as legitimate targets for destruction, and will attack with air and subsurface assets. Indeed, even hiding in port probably won’t prevent attacks on the PLAN’s largest ships, including the carrier Liaoning and the big new amphibious transport docks.
China will only sortie the PLAN under two circumstances; if it feels it has sufficient force protection to allow a task force to operate relatively unmolested, or if China’s position has become desperate. In either situation, US submarines will pose the most immediate threat to the surface forces.
Under most war scenarios, China needs to fight for some affirmative purpose, not simply the destruction of US or Japanese military forces. This means that the PLAN must invade, capture, supply, and defend some geographical point, most likely either Taiwan or an outpost in the East or South China Sea. The PLA will need to establish the conditions under which the PLAN can conduct surface support missions.
Who Will Win?
The most difficult question to judge is “who will win?” because that question involves assessing a wide variety of unknowns. We don’t know how well Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles will function, or how destructive US cyber-attacks against the PLAN will prove, or how dangerous the F-22 Raptor will be to conventional Chinese fighters, or how effectively the different elements of the PLAN will cooperate in actual combat. Finally, we don’t know when the war will start; both the PLA and the US military will look much different in 2020 than they do in 2014.
However, in general terms the battle will turn on these questions:
1. Electronic Warfare:
How severely will the United States disrupt Chinese communications, electronic, and surveillance capabilities? Attacking US forces will depend on communication between seers and shooters. To the extent that the US can disrupt this communication, it can defang the PLA. Conversely, Chinese cyber-warfare against the United States could raise the domestic stakes for American policymakers.
2. Missiles vs. Missile Defenses:
How well will the USN and USAF be able to defeat Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles? The PLAN, PLAAF, and Second Artillery have a bewildering array of missile options for attacking deployed and deploying US forces in depth. The American capacity to survive the onslaught depends in part on the effectiveness of defenses against cruise and ballistic missiles, as well as the ability to strike and destroy launchers within and around China.
3. Joint Operations:
How well will the disparate elements of the PLA operate together in context of high intensity, disruptive military operations? Unlike the US military, the PLA has little relevant combat experience from the last three decades. On the flipside, how well will US “Air-Sea Battle” work prepare the USN and the USAF for working together?
4. Quality vs. Quantity:
Chinese forces are highly likely to achieve local numerical superiority in some types of assets, primarily aircraft and submarines. The (narrowing) gap between US and Chinese technology and training will determine how well American forces can survive and prevail in such situations.
How the War Would End
This war doesn’t end with a surrender signed on a battleship. Instead, it ends with one participant beaten, embittered, and likely preparing for the next round.
The best case scenario for an American victory would be a result akin to the collapse of the Imperial German government at the end of World War I, or the collapse of Leopoldo Galtieri’s military government after the Falklands conflict. Humiliating defeat in war, including the destruction of a significant portion of the PLAN and the PLAAF, as well as severe economic distress, could undermine the grip of the CCP on Chinese governance. This is an extremely iffy prospect, however, and the United States shouldn’t count on victory leading to a new revolution.
What if China wins? China can claim victory by either forcing the United States into an accommodation to US goals, or by removing the alliance framework that motivates and legitimates US action. The United States cannot continue the war if South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines no longer have an interest in fighting. Either of these require doing significant damage to US military forces and, potentially, to the US economy.
The impact of a defeat on US domestic politics would be tough to predict. The United States has “lost” wars in the past, but these defeats have generally involved negotiated settlements of areas not particularly critical to US global interests. It’s not clear how the US people would interpret a major military defeat at the hands of a peer competitor, especially a peer competitor that continues to grow in military and economic power. The President and political party that led the US into war would likely suffer dramatically at the polls, at least after the immediate shock of defeat wore off.
The biggest diplomatic and political challenge that both countries face will probably be finding a way for the other side to give up while maintaining its “honor.” No one benefits if this war becomes a struggle for regime survival, or for national prestige.
How the Peace Begins
The prospect for US conflict with China in the Asia-Pacific depends on a basic appreciation of the changing balance of economic and military power. World War I could not change the fact that Germany would remain the largest and most powerful state in Central Europe. Similarly, war is unlikely to change the long-term trajectory of Chinese growth and assertiveness.
A key to peace involves the re-establishment of productive economic relations between China, the United States, and the rest of the Pacific Rim. Regardless of how the war plays out, it will almost certainly disrupt patterns of trade and investment around the world. If either side decides to attack (or, more likely, inter) commercial shipping, the impact could devastate firms and countries that have no direct stake in the war. However, the governments of both the US and China will face strong pressures to facilitate the resumption of full trade relations, at least in consumer goods.
China will not find it difficult to reconstruct war losses. Even if the United States effectively annihilates the PLAN and the PLAAF, we can expect that the Chinese shipbuilding and aviation industries will replace most losses within the decade, probably with substantial assistance from Russia. Indeed, significant Chinese war losses could reinvigorate both the Russian shipbuilding and aviation industries. Moreover, the war will, by necessity, “modernize” the PLA and PLAAF by destroying legacy capability. A new fleet of ships and planes will replace the legacy force.
War losses to trained personnel will hurt, but the experience gained in combat will produce a new, highly trained and effective corps of personnel. This will lead to better, more realistic training for the next generations of PLA soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Win or lose, the Chinese military will likely be more lethal a decade after the war.
The United States may have a harder time replacing losses, and not only because US warships and aircraft cost more than their Chinese counterparts. The production lines for the F-15 and F-16 are near the end, and the US no longer produces F-22. Moreover, US shipbuilding has declined to the point that replacing significant war losses could take a very long time. This might prove particularly problematic if the war demonstrated severe problems with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Given US intention to arm the USAF, USN, and USMC with F-35 variants over the next decade, proof of inadequacy would wreck force planning for the foreseeable future.
The United States will have to face the “was it worth it?” question. In victory or defeat, the US will suffer substantial military and economic damage. Even if the US wins, it will not “solve” the problem of China; even in the unlikely event that the CCP collapses, a successor regime will still dispute China’s littoral.
Potentially, victory could cement the US-led alliance system, making the containment of China considerably less expensive. Assuming that the war began with an assertive Chinese move in the East or South China Sea, the United States could plausibly paint China as the aggressor, and establish itself as the focal point for balancing behavior in the region. Chinese aggression might also spur regional allies (especially Japan) to increase their defense expenditures.
A war could invigorate US government and society around the long-term project of containing China. The US could respond by redoubling its efforts to outpace the Chinese military, although this would provoke an arms race that could prove devastating to both sides. However, given the lack of ideological or territorial threats to the United States, this might be a tough sell.
Finally, the United States could respond by effectively removing itself from the East Asian political scene, at least in a military sense. This option would be hard for many in the US to swallow, given that generations of American foreign policy-makers have harbored hegemonic ambitions.
The window for war between the United States and China will, in all likelihood, last for a long time. Preventing war will require tremendous skill and acumen from diplomats and policymakers. Similarly, the demands of positioning either side for victory will continue to tax diplomatic, military, and technological resources for the foreseeable future. At the moment, however, we shouldn’t forget that China and the United States constitute the heart of one of the most productive economic regions the world has ever seen. That’s something to protect, and to build on.
Key point: Avoiding nuclear use could be tricky, but conventional weapons would still kill thousands.
How does the unthinkable happen? What series of events could lead to war in East Asia, and how would that war play out?
The United States and China are inextricably locked in the Pacific Rim’s system of international trade. Some argue that this makes war impossible, but then while some believed World War I inevitable, but others similarly thought it impossible.
In this article I concentrate less on the operational and tactical details of a US-China war, and more on the strategic objectives of the major combatants before, during, and after the conflict. A war between the United States and China would transform some aspects of the geopolitics of East Asia, but would also leave many crucial factors unchanged. Tragically, a conflict between China and the US might be remembered only as “The First Sino-American War.”
Total Naval Assets: 714
Aircraft Carriers: 1
Frigates: 52
Destroyers: 33
Corvettes: 42
Submarines: 76
Patrol Vessels: 192
Mine Warfare: 33
In the South China Sea, “China has built a state-owned fishing fleet for at least part of its maritime militia force….” Hainan’s provincial government “ordered the building of 84 large militia fishing vessels with reinforced hulls and ammunition storage, which the [Sansha City Maritime Militia] received by the end of 2016, along with extensive subsidies to encourage frequent operations in the Spratly Islands.” Comprising China’s most professional PAFMM units, Sansha’s “forces are paid salaries independent of any clear commercial fishing responsibilities and recruited from recently separated veterans.” Meanwhile, China’s development and fortification of outposts on the South China Sea features it occupies allows China to “maintain a more flexible and persistent military and paramilitary presence in the area.”
Rocket Forces
A top-tier missile producer, China is the world’s most active ballistic missile developer and boasts some of the world’s leading nuclear and conventional systems. China’s nuclear forces include 90 ICBMs. A new variant under development, the multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV)-capable, road-mobile DF-41, may also be rail-mobile and silo-based. Filling a void created by Moscow and Washington’s adherence from 1988 until recently to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Beijing possesses the world’s largest land-based missile force. Schriver related: “I think [Admiral Harry Harris, former commander, U.S. Pacific Command] used to say 90 percent of [China’s ballistic and cruise missiles] would be non-INF-compliant if [China] were in fact in the INF.” This includes 150-450 medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs), 7,750-1,500 short-range ballistic missiles, and 270-540 ground-launched LACMs. Additionally, in the emerging area of hypersonic glide vehicles, China successfully tested a “hypersonic waverider vehicle,” the Xingkong-2, in August 2018.
China has deployed two major ASBMs, the DF-21D MRBM and DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). Both are supported by new OTH radars. The 1,500km+-range DF-21D can “attack ships, including aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific Ocean… and is claimed to be capable of rapidly reloading in the field.” The DF-26’s three variants, respectively, can conduct “conventional and nuclear precision strikes against ground targets as well as conventional strikes against naval targets in the western Pacific [as far away as the Second Island Chain] and Indian Oceans and the South China Sea.” China’s DF-26 inventory continues to grow.
Distant Areas
Given tremendous uncertainties confronting even Xi himself, the report is necessarily less clear regarding China’s constantly evolving security efforts abroad. It nevertheless offers some useful indications. Building on previous editions’ probing of Beijing’s energy security interests, it cites International Energy Agency projections that China’s percentage of oil imported will rise by 9% to reach 80% by 2035. Natural gas imports are forecast to rise just 2% to 46% over that seventeen year period. It also highlights a growing doctrinal focus on “forward edge defense,” and the PLAN’s engagement in an “OBOR [Belt and Road Initiative/BRI-focused] cruise” in mid-2017. It advances the noncontroversial proposition that “China’s advancement of global economic projects will probably drive new PLA overseas basing through a perceived need to provide security for OBOR projects.”
The report further suggests that BRI-related port investments and access could enable China “to pre-position the necessary logistics support to sustain naval deployments in waters as distant as the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and Atlantic Ocean to protect its growing interests.” In an allusion that echoes typical Chinese telegraphing of possibilities by citing foreign sources, the report states, “International press reporting in 2018 indicated that China sought to expand its military basing and access in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the western Pacific.” This statement was significant enough for Schriver to repeat it in his oral overview. Meanwhile, Beijing is collecting intelligence through military attaches in more than 110 offices worldwide, in addition to the manifold cyber means mentioned throughout the report.
Where the report becomes more substantive and specific is in its survey of China’s first overseas base in Djibouti and what sort of basing approaches Beijing may pursue moving forward. It posits that “a mixture of military logistics models, including preferred access to overseas commercial ports and a limited number of exclusive PLA logistics facilities, probably collocated with commercial ports, most closely aligns with China’s overseas military logistics needs.”
Djibouti is a new operating area for the rapidly expanding PLAN Marine Corps. It is the first location in which the PLAN MC has been seen to deploy wheeled armored vehicles. The fifteen such combat vehicles are garaged in a massive walled complex that contains substantial underground facilities. Overall, the PLAN MC has major plans but remains a work in progress in organization, training, and equipment. To achieve requisite air assault capability, for instance, the Pentagon projects that the PLAN MC will “likely need a minimum of 120 attack and medium-lift helicopters.”
The level of coverage this year’s report devotes to Chinese space and counter-space development represents a major advance over previous years when the Pentagon sometimes seemed to shy away from the subject in public. Clearly renewed focus is warranted: 2018 was Beijing’s most prolific space launch year yet, with 38 of 39 space launch vehicles lofted successfully and roughly 100 spacecraft orbited. The fact that “China is working to develop a space-based early warning capability” could enable a “launch on warning” nuclear posture, raising important questions for the Sino-American deterrence relationship. To address this robust new content, the author obtained permission from noted space capabilities and law expert Michael J. Listner to share his observations on the subject:
The report emphasizes space as one of the eight strategic tasks or missions China must be ready to execute and gives robust attention to this strategic task—the most comprehensive treatment yet—which underlines the importance the Pentagon and the PLA both place on the space domain. This continues a trend of more public disclosure to highlight space security challenges, which also includes a report on threats to space security by the Defense Intelligence Agency. The PLA’s emphasis on this strategic task underlies its understanding of the importance of space control, or a nation’s ability to ensure its own access to outer space and to deny access to a geopolitical adversary, which it identifies as “information dominance.” The PLA intends to implement its information dominance strategy through organization and capabilities to ensure space access to the PLA and deny it to an adversary in any conflict.
A prominent discussion in the report is how the PLA is dynamically altering the organizational structure of its space forces to achieve information dominance. Following China’s 2015 Defense White Paper, which identified space as a commanding height, the PLA began in 2016 to reorganize its space operations under the Strategic Support Force (SSF). The Pentagon’s 2018 report glossed over the SSF but the current report goes into much greater depth, outlining the structure of the PLA to include reorganization of departments and activities in 2018 to bring the SSF to operational status. The report makes clear that the SSF is intended to resolve bureaucratic power struggles that have plagued PLA space operations and streamline not only operations but acquisitions. This has a familiar ring as the proposed U.S. Space Force and reorganizations for acquisitions seeks a similar outcome.
The report categorizes capabilities into two groups: space and counter-space capabilities, which appears to designate separate capabilities for military and civilian use. While some capabilities and plans may not play into information dominance, the PLA is still a player and in many cases has a dominant role. It is also worth noting that China’s space program and capabilities not only play into future plans, including the BRI, but also further China’s geopolitical interests through cooperation agreements and national prestige. They serve as a means of wielding soft power and gaining influence in less-developed nations and international bodies alike.
The report outlines space capabilities, including ground infrastructure and data relay and tracking stations, with emphasis on the Neuquén Deep Space Facility in Argentina. It also focuses on moon-related successes and ambitions for both exploration and exploitation, including a lunar base. One interesting item is commercial space activities to develop launch capabilities in China. The report stresses that these companies are state-backed ventures, as opposed to the paradigm of U.S. commercial space companies. The goal of these state-backed companies is to increase innovation and bring capabilities to fruition sooner than would strictly government efforts. While the report has identified some success, it still uncertain whether commercial ventures will pan out in the long term should state bureaucracy choose to assert itself if it perceives the commercial sector as a rival to government-owned industry. Conspicuously missing (aside from a brief mention) is China’s space station, which will begin assembly in 2020. Aside from being a symbol of national prestige and technical prowess, China is using it to exert and extend its soft power in the UN, and particularly the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs, which has an agreement with and receives funding from the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) to promote partnerships with nations and non-governmental entities to utilize the facility upon completion.
Counter-space capabilities continues to be the focal point of the PLA’s information dominance strategy. The report notes the PLA is acquiring and testing technologies that could have dual-use as counter-space activities. Hard-kill anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons similar to the instrument used in the 2007 test garner the most attention but the report notes the PLA is developing other technologies that employ soft-kill to or cripple or otherwise sideline space assets. The report remarks no official comments on what ASAT technology China has developed, deployed, or demonstrated since its dramatic 2007 test. Schriver likewise studiously avoided this topic during Q&A with the media. Despite the lack of official comment, the applicability of the technology being developed, combined with Chinese writings, suggests space assets as specific targets at the opening stages of a conflict and targets of opportunity during the conflict. This is consistent with pursuit of information dominance.
The information sharing between American domestic surveillance programs is performed by the so-called “Five Eyes”, a term referring to the following English-speaking western democracies and their respective intelligence agencies:
The Defence Signals Directorate of Australia
The Communications Security Establishment of Canada
The Government Communications Security Bureau of New Zealand
The Government Communications Headquarters of the United Kingdom, which is widely considered to be a leader in traditional spying due to its influence on countries that were once part of the British Empire.
The National Security Agency of the United States, which has the biggest budget and the most advanced technical abilities among the “five eyes”.
Other government agencies have cooperated extensively with the “Five Eyes”:
The Politiets Efterretningstjeneste (PET) of Denmark, a domestic intelligence agency, exchanges data with the NSA on a regular basis, as part of a secret agreement with the United States.
The Bundesnachrichtendienst (Federal Intelligence Service) of Germany systematically transfers metadata from German intelligence sources to the NSA. In December 2012 alone, Germany provided the NSA with 500 million metadata records.The NSA granted the Bundesnachrichtendienst access to X-Keyscore, in exchange for Mira4 and Veras. In early 2013, Hans-Georg Maaßen, President of the German domestic security agency BfV, made several visits to the headquarters of the NSA. According to classified documents of the German government, Maaßen had agreed to transfer all data collected by the BfV via XKeyscore to the NSA. In addition, the BfV has been working very closely with eight other U.S. government agencies, including the CIA.
The SIGINT National Unit of Israel routinely receives raw intelligence data (including those of U.S. citizens) from the NSA: Memorandum of understanding between the NSA and Israel
The Algemene Inlichtingen en Veiligheidsdienst (General Intelligence and Security Service) of the Netherlands has been receiving and storing user information gathered by U.S. intelligence sources such as PRISM.
The Defence Ministry of Singapore and its Security and Intelligence Division have been secretly intercepting much of the fibre optic cable traffic passing through the Asian continent. Information gathered by the Government of Singapore is transferred to the Government of Australia as part of an intelligence sharing agreement. This allows the “Five Eyes” to maintain a “stranglehold on communications across the Eastern Hemisphere”
The National Defence Radio Establishment of Sweden (codenamed Sardines)has been working extensively with the NSA, and it has granted the “five eyes” access to underwater cables in the Baltic Sea.
The Federal Intelligence Service (FSI) of Switzerland regularly exchanges information with the NSA, based on a secret agreement. In addition, the NSA has been granted access to Swiss monitoring facilities in Leuk (canton of Valais) and Herrenschwanden (canton of Bern)

FDR, Demagogue Champion of Leviathan and War
April 13, 2020
by Jim Bovard

Sunday was the 75th anniversary of the death of Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt was sainted by the media even before he died in 1945. CNN last week trumpeted FDR as “the wartime president who Trump should learn from.” A 2019 survey of historians ranked FDR as the third greatest president. President George H.W. Bush praised him for having “brilliantly enunciated the 20th-century vision of our Founding Fathers’ commitment to individual liberty.”
Roosevelt did often invoke freedom, but almost always as a pretext to increase government power. FDR proclaimed in 1933: “We have all suffered in the past from individualism run wild.” Naturally, the corrective was to allow government to run wild.
FDR declared in his first inaugural address: “We now realize… that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership can become effective.” The military metaphors, which practically called for the entire populace to march in lockstep, were similar to rhetoric used by European dictators at the time.
Roosevelt declared in a 1934 fireside chat: “I am not for a return of that definition of liberty under which for many years a free people were being gradually regimented into the service of the privileged few.” Politicians like FDR began by telling people that control of their own lives was a mirage; thus, they lost nothing when government took over. In his re-nomination acceptance speech at the 1936 Democratic Party convention, Roosevelt declared that “the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties . . . created a new despotism. . . . The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor—these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship.” But if wages were completely dictated by the “industrial dictatorship”—why were pay rates higher in the United States than anywhere else in the world, and why had pay rates increased rapidly in the decades before 1929? FDR never considered limiting government intervention to safeguarding individual choice; instead, he multiplied “government-knows-best” dictates on work hours, wages, and contracts.
On January 6, 1941, Roosevelt gave his famous “Four Freedoms” speech, promising citizens freedom of speech, freedom of worship—and then he got creative: “The third [freedom] is freedom from want… everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear . . . anywhere in the world.” Proclaiming a goal of freedom from fear meant that the government henceforth must fill the role in daily life previously filled by God and religion. FDR’s list was clearly intended as a “replacement set” of freedoms, since otherwise there would have been no reason to mention freedom of speech and worship, already guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Roosevelt’s new freedoms liberated government while making a pretense of liberating the citizen. FDR’s list offered citizens no security from the State, since it completely ignored the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment (to keep and bear firearms), the Fourth Amendment (freedom from unreasonable search and seizure), the Fifth Amendment (due process, property rights, the right against self-incrimination), the Sixth Amendment (the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury), the Eighth Amendment (protection against excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel and unusual punishments).
FDR perennially glorified government as the great liberator of the common man. In a 1936 message to Congress, he denounced his critics: “They realize that in 34 months we have built up new instruments of public power. In the hands of a people’s government this power is wholesome and proper. But in the hands of political puppets of an economic autocracy such power would provide shackles for the liberties of the people.” Because FDR proclaimed that the federal government was a “people’s government,” good citizens had no excuse for fearing an increase in government power. The question of liberty became totally divorced from the amount of government power—and instead depended solely on politicians’ intent toward the governed. The mere fact that the power was in the hands of benevolent politicians was the only safeguard needed.
Roosevelt sometimes practically portrayed the State as a god. In his 1936 acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, he declared, “In the place of the palace of privilege we seek to build a temple out of faith and hope and charity.” In 1937, he praised the members of political parties for respecting “as sacred all branches of their government.” In the same speech, Roosevelt assured listeners, in practically Orwellian terms, “Your government knows your mind, and you know your government’s mind.” For Roosevelt, faith in the State was simply faith in his own wisdom and benevolence. Roosevelt’s concept of the State is important because he radically expanded the federal government— and most of the programs he created survive to this day.
FDR declared in 1938, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” Did Japanese-Americans round themselves up for concentration camps in 1942, or what? Did the people who owned the gold that FDR forcibly confiscated in 1933 secretly will that they be stripped of any defense against the inflation that FDR intentionally ignited?
FDR’s perpetual deceits on domestic policy are grudgingly recognized by some scholars but his brazen lying on foreign policy has not received its due. in 1940, in one of his final speeches of the presidential campaign, Roosevelt assured voters, “Your president says this country is not going to war.” But FDR was working around-the-clock to pull the United States into World War Two. Once the U.S. was engaged in fighting both Germany and Japan, FDR was determined to demand unconditional surrender from both nations. That demand severely undercut German generals who were reaching out to strike a deal with the Allies that would have toppled Hitler much earlier than April 1945. Thomas Fleming’s The New Dealers War vividly explains how FDR’s war demands perpetuated the fighting and cost the lives of far more Americans, Germans, and others.
Two months before he died, FDR met Stalin and Churchill for the infamous Yalta conference. Roosevelt had previously praised Soviet Russia as one of the “freedom-loving Nations” and stressed that Stalin is “thoroughly conversant with the provisions of our Constitution.” FDR agreed with Stalin at Yalta to move the border of the Soviet Union far to the west—thereby effectively conscripting 11 million Poles into Soviet citizenship.
Poland was “compensated” with a huge swath of Germany, a simple cartographic change that spurred vast human carnage. As author R.M. Douglas noted in his 2012 book Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans After the Second World War, the result was “the largest episode of forced migration… in human history. Between 12 million and 14 million German-speaking civilians – the overwhelming majority of whom were women, old people, and children under 16 -were forcibly ejected from their places of birth in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and what are today the western districts of Poland.” At least half a million died as a result. George Orwell denounced the “relocation” as an “enormous crime” that was “equivalent to transplanting the entire population of Australia.” Philosopher Bertrand Russell protested: “Are mass deportations crimes when committed by our enemies during war and justifiable measures of social adjustment when carried out by our allies in time of peace?”
In a private conversation at Yalta, FDR assured Stalin that he was feeling “more bloodthirsty” than when they’d previously met. Immediately after the Yalta conference concluded, the British and American air forces turned Dresden into an inferno, killing up to 250,000 civilians. The Associated Press reported that “Allied air bosses” had engaged in the “deliberate terror bombing of great German population centers as ruthless expedient to hasten Hitler’s doom.” Ravaging Dresden was intended to “‘add immeasurably’ to FDR’s strength in negotiating with the Russians at the postwar peace table,” as historian Thomas Fleming noted.
Almost all the tributes to FDR this month have omitted his dictatorial tendencies or his bloodthirsty warring. There were good reasons why Friedrich Hayek labeled FDR as “the greatest of modern demagogues.” The canonization of Franklin Roosevelt is a reminder to Americans to beware of any “lessons of history” touted by an establishment media that is vested in the perpetuation of Leviathan and all its prerogatives.

Encyclopedia of American Loons

James Taylor

James Taylor is an Oklahoma pastor (University Church) who is anti-gay enough to tour with people like Peter LaBarbera. Part of his stand on LGBT issues is of course anchored in the Bible. Now, many people like to point out, to Biblically-minded LGBT opponents, that the Old Testament, for instance, doesn’t merely prohibit homosexuality but also has rather strict rules e.g. against eating certain foods – are categorized as “abominations” in Leviticus, for instance – which might be taken to mean that people like Taylor are somewhat selective in their use of the Old Testament. Well, Taylor has actually responded to that sort of observation: thanks to “refrigeration” it is no longer a sin to eat foods like pork or shellfish, while since there is no equivalent to refrigeration for homosexuality, it remains a sin. He also claimed the people who are really trying to “pick and choose” biblical principles here, are the gay-affirming Christians. This is a notably poor attempt at defending what is ultimately an indefensible position – although it is always interesting to see fundies go for radical moral context-dependence.
Taylor is also the author of It’s Biblical, Not Political, which is concerned with ensuring that you, the reader, are voting for appropriately conservative candidates in elections (yes, it’s obviously political and not Biblical, and the title is really a pretty feeble attempt to suggest otherwise), and a one-time Tea Party candidate. He is also a climate change denialist, assigning all responsibility for and ability to affect climate to God.
Diagnosis: Stock fundie idiot.


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