Zelensky’s speech to Congress was a call for prolonged violence in Ukraine. It seems the political establishment had war with Russia on the mind for quite some time now, and they seem pretty happy to have gotten it.
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After weeks of building up his forces in a way that screamed, “This is not a drill,” Vladimir Putin finally gave the order on Thursday morning to invade Ukraine. This was perhaps the single greatest act of white-on-white violence since the release of Taylor Swift’s Welcome to New York album.
The sanctions from Western powers rolled in fast and furious, right alongside the obligatory dumb takes. Stephen King wasted no time bringing his own Master of Shitlibbery perspective to Twitter:
Despite their posturing, it’s hard to believe that even the most loyal of Biden’s supporters honestly feel he’s up to the task of mastering a wily opponent like Putin.
After Putin gave a speech this week, explaining and justifying his decision to invade Ukraine, the Western press predictably used it as a pretext to label Putin as crazy and out of touch simply because much of the speech contained exaggerations and ahistorical claims regarding Ukrainian independence. But lies and exaggerations are par for the course in war propaganda and considering Putin’s longevity as head of state in what is essentially a country of gangsters, it seems foolish to believe that his words weren’t calculated for maximum domestic appeal.
Wall Street had a bad minute or two as Russian artillery began to bombard Ukrainian cities in the wee hours of Thursday morning, but they needn’t have worried. Later in the day, when Joe Biden announced the raft of sanctions that we had been led to believe were going to destroy the Russian economy, every trader on the street cursed themselves for selling in the morning. By the closing bell, the Nasdaq had swung from an over 3% loss, to a 3.4% gain, its biggest one-day move since November 2008.
While Germany did place a hold on the Nordstream 2 natural gas pipeline, at the same time joining the UK, US, and France in targeting Russian sovereign debt, banks and oligarchs, Putin has evidently been preparing for such an eventuality for quite some time. For the past ten years, Russia has been reducing its debt and building up reserves of foreign assets, so that it can now withstand a regime of Western sanctions, possibly for years. In order to truly have an impact on Russia’s economy, the sanctions would have to target Russian oil and gas sales, and/or cut the country off from SWIFT, the international banking system that underlies trade. Neither can be done without the effects rebounding back on the West, which is both heavily dependent on Russian energy supplies, and deeply invested in Russian assets.
Putin surely thought all this through before making his move. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous. China will be watching these developments closely and thus far liking what they see as they consider their own options regarding long-standing thorn in their side, Taiwan. If the West won’t take the financial hit that would come with meaningful sanctions against Russia, our biggest customer doesn’t have a lot to worry about. And boots on the ground? In Asia? They know we don’t have the stones for that anymore.
No, Ukraine isn’t the start of World War III. It’s the warm-up act. The big show hasn’t started yet, but it’s getting closer and with this week’s events its features start to take on definition.
In her December 6th press conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki sarcastically mocked a reporter’s suggestion to make Covid tests free of charge to whoever needs them. Instead, she described a convoluted scheme in which qualifying individuals would be able to seek reimbursement from their insurance companies after being tested, and implied it would be too expensive to simply provide them outright (watch the exchange below):
This is the latest in a continuing series of examples which demonstrate the failure of neoliberalism to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The implosion of the Build Back Better negotiations is another. At this writing, the second-most costly provision in this supposed “human infrastructure” bill is a $280 billion tax cut for the rich, courtesy of the same party that won’t fund tuition free community college.
Perhaps most egregiously, the Biden administration continues to drag its feet on waiving vaccine patent protections, an essential step in making the vaccine available to everyone in the world. Weeks ago, Biden announced his support for taking such action, but as of yet it hasn’t happened. Every day it doesn’t is more money for the Pharma giants who developed the formula.
The federal government isn’t the only perpetrator. As journalist Walker Bragman lays out in his recent article, New York governor Kathy Hochul is pushing for workers to return to the office as soon as possible, despite her administration’s growing concerns about the omicron variant.
Hochul recently took emergency action to better prepare hospitals for the arrival of omicron, as Covid cases are spiking throughout her state. Why, then, out of the other side of her mouth, is she stressing the importance of ending the era of working from home, a safe and efficient alternative to commuting?
Bragman suggests that the answer lies with her tight connections to New York commercial real estate interests, who have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the state Democratic Party in recent years, and supported Hochul herself when she was Andrew Cuomo’s lieutenant governor.
From real estate to Big Pharma to the various special interests who successfully gutted the Build Back Better plan, it’s clear that even in the most dire circumstances, our leadership is still committed to the neoliberal premise which works backwards from the premise that the solution to every problem is and must always be market-based.
Psaki’s knee-jerk dismissal of free Covid testing shows the lack of imagination and will power to provide a universal public service, no strings attached. Instead, we insist on devising overly complicated bureaucratic arrangements which attempt to reconcile the needs of the public with the profit motive of dominant market actors.
The result is a pandemic that’s poised to enter its third year on yet another upswing, with no real end in sight despite the development and distribution of the vaccine.