Signs, especially in the United States, are that the post-coronavirus-plagued world will have even more inequality of wealth, within each nation, than existed prior to the plague. Billionaires are demanding to be included in the bailouts by their governments; and, because billionaires financed the careers of the successful politicians who won seats in their country’s legislature, those demands are almost certain to be complied with. Only the least-corrupt nations will be able to recover fully from the current plague.
In the United States, one Party, the Republicans, doesn’t even pretend to be concerned about the sharp growth of wealth-inequality that has occurred after 1980; but the other Party, the Democrats, do make that pretense; and so a deal is being worked out in the U.S. Congress that both Parties tout as being a ‘balanced’ bailout bill, because it will bail out both the megacorporations that the billionaires own and control, and the public — their workers (especially the ones that those billionaires are now laying off). Because of the enormous give-aways to the billionaires, deficit-spending by the government will be soaring out of control, and ultimately paper money will plunge in value, which will bring on a global depression that will be even worse than 1929. Some governments will find ways to nationalize the wealth of billionaires and perhaps also of centi-millionaires in order to fund the continuing needs of the public, and there will be a scramble by many of those super-rich to relocate to countries where they still will be able to bribe enough government officials so as to provide safe haven for their accumulated wealth. Graduated exit-taxes will be instituted by any of the industrialized countries that aren’t totally corrupt, but the most extremely corrupt industrialized countries will experience massive capital-flight and a future as a “third world” nation, under extended martial law.
On March 22nd, Zero Hedge headlined “‘Stop The Coronavirus Corporate Coup’: Here Is A List Of Everyone Demanding A Bail Out” and Matt Stoller listed the many different categories of mega-corporate lobbyists who were urging the Senators and Representatives, whose campaigns they fund, to bail out their respective industries. The few other news-sites that republished or linked to that list were other alternative-news sites, not any of the mainstream ones. This was a major news-report, which deserved to become a top topic of public conversation, but that didn’t happen; and here is an example of what it said (and which the rest of the press were hiding):
Mitch McConnell wants big business to rule, so he’s playing a trick. He is refusing aid to workers. Democrats are negotiating with him to try to get unemployment assistance and social welfare. McConnell knows Dems won’t pay attention to corporate bailouts if he takes the public hostage, and Democrats know that they can hand out favors to big business if they just talk about how they got larger checks for workers.
So McConnell will put a bill down in front of Nancy Pelosi, with some good stuff like unemployment insurance, but also the really ugly stuff to hand over America to big business. The corporatists in the Democratic Party will tell her “Pass the corporate coup bill, after all we have to do something right now!” And because she doesn’t have the votes from within her own caucus because of these corporatists, and because she doesn’t particularly care if America is sold off to big business, she will do that.
It’s a song-and-dance routine, performed by the two “good cop, bad cop” political Parties (both being fascist), in order to satisfy not only the audience (the voters) but the producers (the billionaires).
On March 21st, I headlined “Triage Starts in Government Bailouts: Who will get the money?” at Strategic Culture, and submitted that news-report to all U.S. major news-media and most of the minor ones. 24 hours later, it was picked-up by only a few minor, very courageous, ones: The 21st Century, The Duran, Free World Economic Report, The Russophile, and Verity Weekly. The corruption is so pervasive that all of the news-media that 99.99% of the public rely upon for their ‘news’ were filtering out the news of the impending massive public subsidies to America’s billionaires by America’s ‘public representatives’ — shoveling the public’s money to the billionaires as bailouts.
Stoller was obviously correct that the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell, “is refusing aid to workers” and (though Stoller — being himself a Democrat — didn’t use nearly such direct language to say) the Democratic Party’s leader in the House was trying to wrangle enough of the desperately needed funds for the American public (all sorts of workers, and, here, especially the most important ones, such as nurses, police, etc.) so that congressional Democrats would be able to give the billionaires what they demand, while still getting enough aid out to everybody else in order for congressional Democrats to be able to hold their congressional seats after November 3rd. (In America, keeping the poor away from the voting-booths, and undercounting the votes that they do cast, are usually insufficient in themselves so as to prevent a Republican landslide, and so as to supply the bumper-sticker benefits to non-billionaires that will be needed if Congress isn’t to become 100% Republican.)
In a profoundly corrupt country, over 99% of the press will filter-out such basic details of the true extent of the corruption, because, otherwise, the revolution that results will be against the aristocracy, instead of against the public itself (and producing martial law), and a revolution like that could produce actual democracy, which the few people who fund politicians’ careers fear the most. They much prefer, if a revolution is coming, that it be clearly against the public (and result in martial law, which will protect only themselves), not against themselves. In fact, such a country has a government almost solely in order to protect the aristocrats from the public, and almost not at all in order to protect the public from the aristocracy.
Interestingly, the very next day, on March 22nd, my headlined news-report was “Coronavirus Cases Soaring Much Faster in U.S. Than in Other Countries” and even that report had no takers in America’s major ‘news’ media, despite its being merely a presentation of the statistical data, which discredited the U.S. Government in comparison with almost all of the other governments in the world. (Only Turkey and Luxembourg had even worse figures at that time, but they were just beginning to count their coronavirus cases.)
On March 25th, I headlined “Coronavirus: Why Russians Are Lucky to Be Led by Putin”, and wrote that “within just three more days, America will have the world’s largest total number of cases, if Italy won’t. And after yet another day, the U.S. will almost certainly have the world’s largest total number of cases.” Both statements came to pass. On March 26th, America’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation published their projection of the rise and subsiding of the coronavirus-19 in the U.S., and predicted that this country would end up with 460,000 cases and 81,114 deaths from the disease, and that America’s epidemic would virtually end by July 1st. I headlined about that, on March 28th, “Projection: U.S. Coronavirus Deaths to = China’s Total Coronavirus Cases”.
Though all of these news-reports are major, and deal with the news-event that is currently obsessing all of the world’s news-media — which is the coronavirus plague — the news-media that are owned or otherwise controlled by America’s billionaires rejected them all and are doing everything else that they possibly can to delay, if not to block entirely, the crucial information from reaching America’s voters, and this is happening during an election year. The Jeff-Bezos-owned liberal neoconservative Washington Post reliably reported on March 28th that “in private discussions, the president has been driven much more by economic concerns, according to people involved in internal debates or briefed on them. Trump has long viewed the stock market as a barometer for his own reelection hopes.” Safety of the American people is a secondary concern for him. That was being reported by a Democratic Party billionaire against Republican Party billionaires, but what it actually indicates is America’s being controlled by its billionaires, of both Parties. The public, here, actually don’t count.
Under conditions such as this, one can easily understand — with this type of information, which is being hidden from the public — only politicians who satisfy the wants of the nation’s billionaires stand even so much as a chance to win seats in Congress or other high elective office. The public are so misinformed that they are like horses with blinders on and which are being driven by a master to whom they are expendable and replaceable, not objects of authentic and caring concern for their welfare. Everything has a price to such a master, who will grab at any chance to replace any of the public by a cheaper alternative, so long as “the job gets done” — to satisfy their own unlimited greed. The deception of the public is so extreme that America’s Establishment are so brazen as to blame China and Russia for the “disinformation” about the cornoavirus-19 pandemic. The U.S. regime is utterly shameless.
These bailouts of billionaires will destroy what little was left of a democratic future for America — and for any other nation that happens to be nearly as corrupt.
Is this to be the long-term impact of coronavirus-19? Is there an alternative likely scenario? Perhaps the coronavirus plague won’t spread as uncontrollably as is feared, but even if that is the case, what justification exists for bailing out any of the super-rich, in response to an emergency that is causing widespread suffering? And yet, America is doing that.
Roads and Rails for the U.S.
For those who expect the newly announced $2 trillion Biden infrastructure program to be a goodbye to potholes and hello to smooth-as-glass expressways, a disappointment is in store. The largest expenditure by far ($400 billion) is on home/community care, impacting the elderly or disabled. The $115 billion apportioned to roads and bridges is #4 on the list.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) keeps tabs on our infrastructure and their latest report (2020) gave it an overall grade of C-. Although bridges worsened, this is a modest improvement on the previous report (2017) when the overall grade was D+. If $115 billion in spending sounds adequate, one has to remember it costs $27 billion annually for upkeep.
Astounding it might be the backlog in spending for roads and bridges runs at $12 billion annually. Go back 20 years and we have a quarter trillion shortfall. Add all the other areas of infrastructure and the ASCE comes up with a $5 trillion total. It is the gap between what we have been spending and what we need to. Also one has to bear in mind that neglect worsens condition and increases repair costs.
One notable example of maintenance is the Forth rail bridge in Scotland. A crisscross of beams forming three superstructures linked together, it was a sensation when opened in 1890 and now is a UN World Heritage Site. Spanning 1.5 miles, its upkeep requires a regular coat of paint. And that it gets. Rumor has it that when the unobtrusive painters reach the end of their task, it is time to start painting again the end where they began — a permanent job to be sure though new paints might have diminished such prospects.
Biden also proposes $80 billion for railways. Anyone who has travelled or lived in Europe knows the stark contrast between railroads there and in the U.S. European high-speed rail networks are growing from the established TGV in France to the new Spanish trains. Run by RENFE, the national railway, Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) trains run at speeds up to 310 km/h (193 mph) — a speed that amounts to a convenient overnight trip between Los Angeles and Chicago.
The hugely expensive new tracks needed can be considered a long-term investment in our children’s future. But it will take courage to contest the well-heeled lobbies of the airplane manufacturers, the airlines and big oil.
If Spain can have high-speed rail and if China already has some 24,000 miles of such track, surely the US too can opt for a system that is convenient for its lack of airport hassle and the hour wasted each way in the journey to or from the city center. Rail travel not only avoids both but is significantly less polluting.
Particularly bad, airplane pollution high above (26 to 43 thousand feet) results in greater ozone formation in the troposphere. In fact airplanes are the principal human cause of ozone formation.
Imagine a comfortable train with space to walk around, a dining car serving freshly cooked food, a lounge car and other conveniences, including a bed for overnight travel; all for a significantly less environmental cost. When we begin to ask why we in the US do not have the public services taken for granted in other developed countries, perhaps then the politicians might take note.
Congress and the Biden administration should end FBI immunity overseas
The FBI notably has an extended international presence running 63 offices in select countries overseas. The offices are called “legats” and are situated at the US Embassy in the host country. One of the major reasons for FBI’s international presence is fighting international terrorism.
The FBI legat personnel at the US embassies are fully accredited diplomats enjoying full diplomatic immunity but that poses several questions that are worth asking, such as: how is it possible for law enforcement to be diplomats and is that a good idea, legally speaking?
Police work should not enjoy diplomatic immunity because that opens the door to abuse. Does the FBI’s immunity overseas mean that the FBI attaches can do no wrong in the host country? How do we tackle potential rights infringements and instances of abuse of power by the FBI towards locals in the host country? The DOJ Inspector General and the State Department Inspector General would not accept complaints by foreigners directed at the FBI, so what recourse then could a local citizen have vis-a-vis the FBI legat if local courts are not an option and the Inspector Generals would not look into those cases?
This presents a real legal lacuna and a glitch in US diplomatic immunity that should not exist and should be addressed by Congress and the new Biden administration.
While FBI offices overseas conduct some far from controversial activities, such as training and educational exchanges with local law enforcement, which generally no one would object to, the real question as usual is about surveillance: who calls the shots and who assumes responsibility for potentially abusive surveillance of locals that may infringe upon their rights. It’s an issue that most people in countries with FBI presence around the world are not aware of. The FBI could be running “counter-terrorism” surveillance on you in your own country instead of the local police. And that’s not nothing.
When we hear “cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism”, as recent decades show, there is a great likelihood that the US government is abusing powers and rights, without batting an eyelash. That exposes local citizens around the world to unlawful surveillance without legal recourse. Most people are not even aware that the FBI holds local offices. Why would the FBI be operating instead of the local law enforcement on another country’s territory? That’s not a good look on the whole for the US government.
The legal lacuna is by design. This brings us to the nuts and bolts of the FBI legats’ diplomatic immunity.
Diplomatic immunity is governed by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, under Chapter III on privileges and immunities. The US is also a state party to the Convention, along with most states around the world. While there could be some variations and disagreements on bilateral basis (including on weather for example one state could be hosted and represented through the embassy of another state in a third state), on the whole there is a universal consensus that the Vienna Convention sets the rules establishing diplomatic immunities and privileges.
Under the Vienna Convention, only top diplomats are given the highest degree of immunity from the law. This means they cannot be handcuffed, arrested, detained, or prosecuted by law enforcement officials of the country in which they’re stationed. Diplomatic immunities and privileges also include things like diplomatic “bags” (with very peculiar cases of what that could entail) and notably, protection and diplomatic immunity for the family of diplomats.
It is a universal consensus that not everyone who works at an Embassy has or should have diplomatic immunity. Immunity is saved for diplomats whose role has to be protected from the local jurisdiction of the country for a reason. Not all embassy staff should enjoy diplomatic immunity. Granting law enforcement such as the FBI full legal immunity for their actions is bad news.
Only the top officials at an embassy are diplomats with an actual full immunity — and that’s for a reason.
It makes sense why a diplomat negotiating an agreement should not be subjected to local courts’ jurisdiction. But the same doesn’t go for a law enforcement official who acts as a law enforcement official by, for example, requesting unlawful surveillance on a local citizen, in his law enforcement capacity, while thinking of himself as a diplomat and being recognized as such by the law.
Law enforcement personnel are not diplomats. Dealing with extraterritorial jurisdiction cases or international cases is not the same thing as the need for diplomatic immunity. If that was the case, everyone at the export division at the Department if Commerce would have diplomatic immunity for protection from foreign courts, just in case. Some inherent risk in dealing with international cases does not merit diplomatic immunity – otherwise, this would lead to absurdities such as any government official of any country being granted diplomatic immunity for anything internationally related.
The bar for diplomatic immunity is very high and that’s by design based on an international consensus resting upon international law. Simply dealing with international cases does not make a policeman at a foreign embassy a diplomat. If that was the case every policeman investigating an international case would have to become a diplomat, just in case, for protection from the jurisdiction of the involved country in order to avoid legal push-back. That’s clearly unnecessary and legally illogical. Being a staff member at an embassy in a foreign country does not in and of itself necessitate diplomatic immunity, as many embassy staff do not enjoy diplomatic protection. It is neither legally justified nor necessary for the FBI abroad to enjoy diplomatic immunity; this could only open up the function to potential abuse. The FBI’s arbitrary surveillance on locals can have a very real potential for violating the rights of local people. This is a difference in comparison to actual diplomats. Diplomats do not investigate or run surveillance on locals; they can’t threaten or abuse the rights of local citizens directly, the way that law enforcement can. Lack of legal recourse is a really bad look for the Biden administration and for the US government.
The rationale for diplomatic immunity is that it should not be permitted to arrest top diplomats, who by definition have to be good at representing their own country’s interests in relation to the host state, for being too good at their job once the host state is unhappy with a push back, for example. The Ambassador should not be exposed to or threatened by the risk of an arrest and trial for being in contradiction with the interests of the host state under some local law on treason, for example, because Ambassadors could be running against the interests of the host state, by definition. And that’s contained within the rules of diplomatic relations. It’s contained in the nature of diplomatic work that such contradictions may arise, as each side represents their own country’s interests. Diplomats should not be punished for doing their job. The same doesn’t apply to the FBI legats. Issuing surveillance on local citizens is not the same as representing the US in negotiations. The FBI legats’ functions don’t merit diplomatic immunity and their actions have to be open to challenge in the host country’s jurisdiction.
The FBI immunity legal lacunae is in some ways reminiscent of similar historic parallels, such as the George W. Bush executive order that US military contractors in Iraq would enjoy full legal immunity from Iraqi courts’ jurisdiction, when they shouldn’t have. At the time, Iraq was a war-torn country without a functioning government, legal system or police forces. But the same principle of unreasonable legal immunity that runs counter international laws is seen even today, across European Union countries hosting legally immune FBI attaches.
Congress and the Biden administration should end FBI immunity overseas. It can be argued that for any local rights infringements, it is the local law enforcement cooperating with the US Embassy that should be held accountable – but that would ignore that the actual request for unlawful surveillance on locals could be coming from the FBI at the Embassy. The crime has to be tackled at the source of request.
When I reached out to the US Embassy in Bulgaria they did not respond to a request to clarify the justification for the FBI diplomatic immunity in EU countries.
To prevent abuse, Congress and the Biden Administration should remove the diplomatic immunity of the FBI serving overseas.
Competition and cooperation between China and the United States and the eighth priority
In mid-March U.S. President Biden held his first press conference since taking office. Speaking about Sino-U.S. relations, Biden said: “I will prevent China from surpassing the United States of America during my term of office”. At the same time, he also stressed that he would not seek to confront China, but to keep up fierce competition between the two countries.
Focusing on competition between major powers is one of the important changes in U.S. foreign policy in recent years. As the strengths of China and the United States draw closer together, the United States increasingly feels that its own ‘hegemony’ is threatened. During Trump’s tenure, the United States has caused a trade war, a technology war, and even a complete disagreement with China in an attempt to curb China’s development momentum and erode Chinese positions.
The expansion of the competitive field and the escalation of the competitive situation have become the hallmarks of Sino-U.S. relations during this period. Although Biden’s policy line has made substantial changes to ‘Trumpism’, it still has much of its predecessor’s legacy with regard to its policy towards China.
The first foreign policy speech made by U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken listed China Challenge as the eighth priority, preceded by:
1) ending the COVID-19 pandemic;
2) overcoming the economic crisis, reviving the economy at home and abroad, as well as and building a more stable and inclusive global economy;
3) renewing democracy;
4) reforming immigration and creating a humane and effective immigration system;
5) rebuilding alliances, revitalising U.S. ties with allies and partners with the system that the military calls force multiplier;
6) tackling climate change and leading a green energy revolution;
7) securing U.S. leadership in technology; and
8) confronting China and managing the greatest geopolitical test of the 21st century, i.e. relations with China, which is the only country with economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to seriously challenge the international system and equilibria.
The eighth medium-term guideline for the national security strategy sees China as an important competitor. These guidelines clearly show that competition still sets the tone in the way President Biden’s Administration’s manages relations with China, as was the case in the previous four-year period.
At a press conference on March 26, 2021, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the above statements were not surprising. It is clear that China and the United States are competing on different interest levels.
The key factor, however, is to compete fairly and justly and to improve oneself. The appeal to the other side is moderation and restraint, not life or death, or a zero-sum game. These words are along the same lines as Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s statement when he spoke about Sino-U.S. relations at a session of the National Congress of People’s Representatives of the People’s Republic of China (the Chinese Parliament). It is not only a response to the U.S. strategy of competition with China, but it also provides a model for the future way in which superpowers should proceed together.
The reality of Sino-U.S. competition is unavoidable, but competition can be divided into benign and vicious. The former is a winning model for “improving oneself and understanding the needs of the other side”.
Since Deng Xiaping’s reforms and opening up to international trade, China has begun its own reconstruction. It has continuously widened the scope for benign competition and has changed its mindset by actively embracing the world’s different political parties and participating in international competition. It has also inspired enthusiasm for innovation and creativity and made progress in various fields.
At the same time, development has also provided ample opportunities for countries around the world and injected growth momentum into the global economy: this is a typical example of China’s good interaction and common development with all countries around the globe.
Conversely, fierce competition means breaking rules and systems and even breaking the demarcation line to prevent or contain the opponent, and this is usually followed by fierce conflicts.
The two World Wars of the last century were extreme examples of violent competition between great powers: the first as a clash between capitalist imperialisms in search of new markets; the second as a result of mistakes made in the peace treaties that ended the Great War, plundering the losers and causing misery, resentment and chauvinistic desires.
In today’s world, competition without respect for the other side has not disappeared from the scene of history. Trump Administration’s frantic anti-China activity over the last four years has not only failed to make the United States ‘great again’, but has caused a linear decline in its national competitiveness, at least according to the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2020 published by the Lausanne-based International Institute for Management Development, which sees the United States dropping from third to tenth place. Besides the fact that its international image has seriously plummeted and Sino-U.S. relations have hit the lowest ebb since the establishment of diplomatic relations. It can clearly be seen that fierce competition will only restrain its promoters and ultimately harm the others, themselves and the international community.
In December 2020 General Mark Alexander Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (a body that brings together the Chiefs of Staff of each branch of the U.S. military and the Head of the National Guard Bureau), said in an interview that ‘great powers must compete. This is the essence of the world’.
There is no problem with this statement: it is not wrong, but it is important to maintain a state of competition and contact between major powers, precisely to ensure that it does not turn into conflicts or wars that are fatal to mankind and the planet as a whole.
The gist of the speech shows that some U.S. elites also believe that China and the United States should adhere to the principle of ‘fighting without breaking each other’. The importance and the overall and strategic nature of Sino-U.S. relations determine that no one can afford the zero-sum game, which is a lose-lose as opposed to a win-win game – hence we need to ensure that competition between the two countries stays on the right track.
Competition between China and the United States can only be fair and based on rules and laws. This is the basic rule of international relations, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations as its point of reference.
Regardless of the common interests of China, the United States or peoples in the world, both countries should make this system promote healthy and fair competition, thus turning it into the greatest value of sharing and cooperation.
China’s goal has never been to surpass the United States, but to advance steadily and become better and no longer a prey to imperialism and colonialism as it has been the case since the 19th century, when Great Britain waged the two Opium Wars (1839-1842 – 1856-1860) to have not only the opportunity, but also the right to export drugs to the Middle Empire – hence Great Britain was the first pusher empowered and authorized by the force of its weapons.
Although – by its own good fortune -the United States has never been England, it should not always be thinking of surpassing the others or fearing being overtaken by the others, but should particularly focus on Secretary of State Blinken’s first seven priorities and raise its expectations.
China should show its traditional political wisdom and manage Sino-U.S. relations in accordance with the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, so that Sino-U.S. relations can develop in a healthy and stable way for the good of the whole planet.
Regional City Networks: Bringing the 4IR to Small and Medium-Sized Cities
The World Economic Forum is launching two regional networks of cities in Latin America and South Asia to share knowledge...
Climate Finance: Climate Actions at Center of Development and Recovery
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) called access to climate finance a key priority for Asia and the Pacific as governments...
Migrants left stranded and without assistance by COVID-19 lockdowns
Travel restrictions during the COVID pandemic have been particularly hard on refugees and migrants who move out of necessity, stranding millions from home, the UN migration agency, IOM, said on Thursday. ...
Reform of mental health services: An urgent need and a human rights imperative
Already in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) was warning that substantial investment in...
US-China Developing Confrontation: India and QUAD
At the request of the editors of International Affairs magazine, the renowned Kanwal Sibal, India’s Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to...
Advancing Harmonized Travel Protocols and Financing Tourism’s Survival
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has again convened its Global Tourism Crisis Committee to lead the sector in harmonizing travel...
French Senator Allizard: Mediterranean – Theatre for future Europe
On the historic date of March 08th – International Women’s Day, a large number of international affairs specialists gathered for...
Middle East3 days ago
The Exceptionality of the Hashemite Rule in Jordan
Middle East3 days ago
The analysis of developments in relations between Turkey and Israel
New Social Compact3 days ago
Comparative Status of Women in Pakistan and Bangladesh
Middle East1 day ago
China-Arab Relations: From Silk to Friendship
East Asia2 days ago
Chinese Foreign Policy in a Global Perspective
Africa3 days ago
Towards the Second Russia-Africa Summit
South Asia2 days ago
India’s Naxalbari Achilles’ heel
Intelligence2 days ago
Will the enduring Proxy-war be ever ended in Afghanistan?