Notes on the News

By Gwydion M. Williams

Notes on the News

Batley and Spen – a weak victory

Labour’s Timid Tendency

China: The East Stays Red

No peace with Covid-19

Climate Chaos

Thou Shalt Only Be As Different As We Are

Snippets

Russia and China stick together

The Call of Rewilding

Abuse of women treated mildly

Supreme Pragmatists

Batley and Spen – a weak victory

Starmer has once again failed to recover the voters that Corbyn was blamed for losing in 2019.  If any have come back, they are outweighed by pro-Corbyn voters now lost.

Boris Johnson has dropped a lot of Thatcherite doctrines.  Labour under Starmer follows very timidly.  His mind seems stuck in the era of Tony Blair’s foolish surrender to New Right values.

Turning a safe Labour seat into a marginal is a disaster.  But the media said Labour would lose.  This let it be called a victory.  

Given the universal hostility to Corbyn by the British media, I can’t help wondering if this was intentional.

The broad picture was the same as at Hartlepool.[1]  Labour’s vote fell from 42.7% in 2019 to 35.3% now.[2]  It was 55.5% in 2017, when Brexit was not the main issue.

George Galloway got more than 8000 votes. His vote plus Labour would be about 1000 less than Labour got in 2019.  Candidates to the left of Labour usually get only a few hundred votes.

Interestingly, the Tory vote also fell. From 36.0% in 2019 and 38.8 in 2017 to 34.4% now. The Brexit candidate got more than 6000 votes in 2019, and there was no significant Brexit vote this time.

Starmer has driven away the new voters who were enthused by Corbyn. He has wholly failed to recover the Labour voters lost in 2019.

If this pattern lasts till the next General Election, then Labour will fail to recover.  Labour will lose even more seats. Labour may follow the same downward path as the French Socialists.

But the headlines are ‘victory’.  I suppose he is safe for now.

Labour’s Timid Tendency

“Labour’s Ed Miliband backs reform to broaden businesses’ responsibilities…

“The party’s former leader believes legal clarity is needed to bolster work already done by many companies to put staff, customers, society and climate at the heart of their business model, not just the interests of shareholders.”[3]

This would actually be a traditionalist move.  It was the norm before Thatcher.  And early on, Tony Blair talked about ‘stakeholders’.  But he let that slip and accepted the Thatcherite idea of life as a burden on money.  The useful sound-bite ‘stakeholder’ was forgotten.

Ed Miliband lost in 2015 because he didn’t act on his sound instincts.  He now admits this:

“In Miliband’s case, … he was derided for advancing arguments that have since been absorbed into the political consensus. He warned that Britain’s underregulated, post-Thatcherite economic model had been captured by a predatory form of capitalism. That the system was rigged in ways that obstructed social mobility, stripped away security and fomented frustration.”[4]

But so far, Starmer has refused to learn anything.

China: The East Stays Red

“Beijing has challenged the geopolitical order that enabled the rise of east Asia

“There is an east Asian development model of rapid, export-driven industrialisation that was pioneered by Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. What China did was to pursue the same model — at scale… China’s one real innovation was that the country had not liberalised politically as it had grown richer…

“Unlike Taiwan or South Korea, which turned from one-party states to democracies as they got richer, China under Xi has entrenched the dominance of the Communist party.

“The original Asian tigers were all American allies. In the context of its cold war with the Soviet Union, the US saw the advantages of opening its market to exports from its east Asian allies. Washington was also willing to tolerate their protectionist policies for longer than it might otherwise have done.

“The emergence of Asian economic competitors was never an easy proposition for the Americans to deal with. There was a panic about the rise of Japan in the 1980s. But the backlash was containable because Japan was an ally and a fellow democracy.

“China was never going to be an ally of the US. But, until recently, it was very careful to avoid overtly challenging American power in the Pacific area. That has changed under Xi, as China has built military bases across the South China Sea.”[5]

This is from the Financial Times, and does not look deep enough into history.  Mao’s China was a very serious global competitor.  Contrary to what Western books now insinuate, Mao’s China was an overall success.[6]  It grew faster than Britain, the USA or India.  But not as fast as Japan, Italy or West Germany.  That was the basis for Deng opening up China.

Japan is virtually a one-party state, with the opposition only once gaining power and then swiftly losing it again.  Singapore remains solidly one-party.

The USA in the 1950s and 1960s was keen to see its allies succeed even of it didn’t give business and the rich the same privileges as in the USA.  But in the 1980s, the Western electorates were persuaded to vote for parties that deregulated.  It did not boost growth in the USA or Britain. There was a sharp slowing of growth in Japan, Italy and Unified Germany.  But for the rich, it was an Economic Miracle.[7]

China never dropped Stakeholder values.  The Communist Party imposes them and can ignore objections.  Ideas of softening Chinese politics were rejected with the Tiananmen crackdown of 1989.  The rapid decline of Russia when they followed New Right ‘wisdom’ under Yeltsin persuaded most Chinese that the Party had been right after all.

Ordinary people can have fun much as they please, unlike Maoist days.  They cannot challenge official decisions.  And dissenters are being successfully crushed.

Tibet, restive a decade ago, has now gone quiet.

In Hong Kong, the opposition ignored the awkward fact that they had been handed over with nothing more than the promise of a slow transition.  They were supposed to converge in the long run.  And protest movements that waved the British flag and denied their identity as part of China were doomed.  I did warn them at the time,[8] and wonder at the judgement of all those who encouraged them.

In Xinjiang, China has crushed the Islamic extremism that flourishes elsewhere, including horrible instances of school children being kidnapped in Nigeria.  The West, which covertly sponsored torture and assassination to make itself safe, also bad-mouths China.  But most of the Islamic world takes China’s side.

No peace with Covid-19

“Zero-covid countries have done best and it’s not too late to switch.

“Countries that pursued strict pandemic suppression strategies fared better on measures of health, wealth and civil liberties than those that didn’t, according to an analysis published in The Lancet. The analysis covers the first year of the pandemic from February 2020, but has relevance to ongoing efforts to end it. Moving to an elimination strategy even at this stage could lead to better health and wealth, the authors say.

“The researchers compared 37 wealthy nations’ deaths from covid-19, GDP growth and strictness of lockdown measures. They classified the countries into two groups: five ‘elimination’ countries, which took maximum action at all times to suppress the outbreak; and 32 ‘mitigation’ countries, which reacted to events to stop their health systems from being overwhelmed…

“The five elimination countries are Australia, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. They didn’t succeed in eliminating the virus but set out to do so and stuck to their guns…

“Elimination countries had just 4 per cent of the per capita death toll of mitigation countries. Their GDP growth returned to pre-pandemic levels early in 2021, while the 32 are still below pre-pandemic levels. Crucially, elimination had less of an impact than mitigation on civil liberties, according to a ‘lockdown stringency’ index developed by the University of Oxford.

“Overcoming economic and libertarian prejudices against elimination won’t be easy, says team member Ilona Kickbusch of the Global Health Centre in Geneva, Switzerland. She was part of a group of scientists in Germany that unsuccessfully lobbied for an elimination strategy. They were branded as ‘Stalinists trying to close down society’, she says. ‘Actually our argument was just the opposite.”[9]

China isn’t mentioned, despite being the most successful Eliminator.  Of course it is also middling rather than rich if you look at average income.

And we see another case of the persistent of muddled thinking that comes from separating Stalin’s methods from those of Lenin, and of Trotsky when in power.  Some forms of control get called tyrannical, but others are not.  And it is done by personal whim, not any sort of logic.

Climate Chaos

First we said ‘Global Warming’.  That gave openings to the unscrupulous agents of the enormous industries that would have to pay for fixing it, since cold snaps still happen.

The norm became Climate Change.  But Climate Chaos would be better still.  Climate Chaos With a Warming Trend, if you want to be precise in some thoughtful debate.  Climate Chaos as the soundbite. 

Also Climate Fraud for the resistance.  Some people still honestly disbelieve and are victims of the fraud.  Some even believe the tale that warming in recent decades is caused by a brighter sun – it is actually slightly less bright.[10]

Scientists who looked in detail overwhelmingly said it was real, but were then ignored:

“The scientists hired by big oil who predicted the climate crisis long ago…

“Dr Martin Hoffert [said] I didn’t realize how hard it would be to convince people, even when they saw objective evidence of this happening.”[11]

But it was cheaper for Big Oil to keep profits high and let it be someone else’s problem.

“The climate crisis is a crime story

“Fossil fuel companies lied for decades about climate change, and humanity is paying the price. Shouldn’t those lies be central to the public narrative?”[12]

The chaos is often worse than expected:

“Canada weather: Heat hits record 46.6C as US north-west also sizzles”[13]

“Canada heatwave: Military on standby as lightning triggers more wildfires”[14]

“Cyprus appeals for help as deadly wildfire rips through forest”[15]

And it’s not just heat:

“At least five dead as tornado wrecks buildings in Czech Republic”[16]

“Firefighters searched the rubble on Friday while the army sent in a team with heavy engineering equipment to deal with the aftermath of the strongest storm in the central European nation’s modern history and its first tornado since 2018.”[17]

Czechs are at least safe from rising seas.  The rest of us are not, with the Arctic ice cap fast vanishing.  And with the massive ice shelves of the Antarctic in peril:

“Climate change: Extremes committee validates Antarctic record heat”.[18]

Britain just now has bland wet weather.  But Moscow also just had record heat, though they lived through it without trauma.  Indeed, Russia with its frozen north is almost certain to be a net gainer.

Some oddities might have happened anyway;

“Unusually strong cold weather outbreak spreads from Antarctica into central South America, bringing early winter temperature records and first snowfall after decades.”[19]

Unlike the outbreak of arctic air that hit Texas in February, this could be just a fluke.  But Japan has once again been hit by excessive rain: 

“Japan landslide: 20 people missing in Atami city…

“Atami has had more rainfall in the first three days of July than it usually sees in the whole month.”[20]

Thou Shalt Only Be As Different As We Are

In Britain, normalising gay sex has meant more people opting for it.  Still less than 3%, but rising.[21]

Parliament originally relaxed the rules in a belief that what there was a fixed human nature and they were simply being tolerant.  In fact everything changed.  But most of us now see it as a change for the better.

Most of us in the West.  The rest of the world increasingly believe that their own customs and traditions are just as good.[22]  Russia, China, Hungary and Poland are currently agreed that gays are legal but that their culture should stay underground.  Much of the world is even less tolerant.

The speed of a convoy is the speed of the slowest ship.  On moral issues, creating a shared global cosmopolitan moral standard would have had a better chance if activists in the west had been less militant.  But I doubt they ever had clear ideas on this.  Almost all of them react with baffled fury at alien cultures rejecting them.  Very few notice how much the Western elite provoked it by being too greedy for wealth.  They think in terms of ‘Rights’, which they see as obvious and eternal.

And what of other possibilities that human cultures have in the past allowed?  Polygamy and polyandry are not legal in most of Europe and the USA.  People can in practice have such arrangements, just as there were gay couples before they could have recognised marriages.  But poor Robin Cook was bullied into ending a polygamous arrangement during Tony Blair’s rule.[23]  He was obliged to divorce his wife and marry his mistress.

I could see why polygamy was banned in places like China, where it was mostly exploitation.  A film called Raise the Red Lantern shows how nasty it could be.  The film was for a time banned in China, though maybe because it could be seen as an anti-government metaphor.[24]

But now there is a dispute in South Africa:

“A proposal by the South African government to legalise polyandry – when a woman has more than one husband at the same time – has led to howls of protest from conservative quarters…

“South Africa has one of the world’s most liberal constitutions, embracing same-sex marriages for all and polygamy for men.

“Businessman and TV personality Musa Mseleku – who has four wives – is among those opposed to polyandry.”[25]

Snippets

Russia and China stick together

Thinking on Russia’s tough history, I felt like adapting a 1970s pop song:[26]

Poles to the west of us!

Tartars to the east!

Here I am, stuck in the middle with grief!

Westerners mostly know just about how Russia and then the Soviet Union kept Poland down.  Few know of what the Poles did when they were stronger.  How badly they hurt the Russians in the 17th-century ‘Time of Troubles’.[27]

And while Putin rejects Russia’s Leninist past, many other Russians do not.  Chinese Communism is anyway a separate issue.  Many now think that Gorbachev should have copied post-Mao China, fixing the economy and keeping the politics stable.  And regardless, good relations are needed:

“Russian Embassy celebrates CPC centennial singing Chairman Mao poem on Weibo, among sincere, creative blessings from other embassies”.[28]

The link gives the rendition.  Rather good, but I’d have liked a subtitled translation.  

*

The Call of Rewilding

If we move away from the extreme trust in commerce that Reagan and Thatcher pushed, many things become possible:

“Wildcats, storks and beavers: my stay on a Devon rewilding farm…

“Gow’s farm seems a quirky menagerie, but each animal has a purpose and the operation is driven by his genuine passion for restoring Britain’s denuded natural landscape. These herbivores roam freely in the former sheep farm and its woodland because Gow is seeking to replicate the actions of extinct grazers – wild horses, cattle and boar, whose browsing and rooting (and dung) was historically a great driver of biodiversity.”[29]

*

Abuse of women treated mildly

“Bill Cosby freed after top court overturns sexual assault conviction…

“Dozens of women have publicly accused Mr Cosby of sexual assault, but he was only tried criminally for the incident against Ms Constand. His conviction in 2018 was widely seen as a landmark moment in the #MeToo movement.

“In a verdict issued on Wednesday, Pennsylvania’s highest court found there was a ‘process violation’ because Mr Cosby’s lawyers had made an agreement with a previous state prosecutor that he would not be charged in the case…

“Ms Constand first came forward to police about the assault in 2005, but former state prosecutor Bruce Castor did not press criminal charges. She then sued the comedian for sexual battery and defamation, reaching a settlement with a confidentially agreement in 2006.

“In 2014 and 2015, dozens of women came forward with similar allegations of drugging and assault by Mr Cosby. Local authorities knew that statute of limitation rules meant they could not pursue the majority of these accusations – but they reopened the case involving Ms Constand and eventually charged him just days before the 12-year limit on her allegations was set to expire.”[30]

That’s US law – no one should be punished merely because they are guilty.  They have to be convicted with a set of elaborate rituals that are justified as avoiding injustice.

*

Supreme Pragmatists

“The Supreme Court’s Newest Justices Produce Some Unexpected Results

“In the term so far, including two major decisions on Thursday, the court’s expanded conservative majority is fractured and its liberals are often on the winning side.

“The arrival of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in October seemed to create a 6-to-3 conservative juggernaut that would transform the Supreme Court.

“Instead, judging by the 39 signed decisions in argued cases so far this term, including two major rulings on Thursday, the right side of the court is badly fractured and its liberal members are having a surprisingly good run…

“The court’s most conservative members who are issuing howling dissents and aggrieved concurrences to protest a majority they say is too cautious.”[31]

There has been talk of adding more justices to the current nine.  The US Constitution stops them being removed easily, but says nothing about numbers.  This threat should theoretically not change the verdicts delivered by the current nine Supreme Court Justices.  But I strongly suspect that it does.

The newest members have the most to lose.  And are maybe reserving their right-wing feelings for whatever they care most about.  They have just upheld voting restrictions in Arizona.  These are blatantly unfair, but the court demanded that complainers prove ‘discriminatory intent’.

Courts can ignore the blindingly obvious when it suits them.  Or treat weak evidence as indisputable, if they prefer.  The USA should never have let them meddle in political matters.  The British trend to do the same is foolish.

*

Old newsnotes at the magazine websites.  I also write regular blogs – https://www.quora.com/q/mrgwydionmwilliams


[1] https://mrgwydionmwilliams.quora.com/Another-Failure-for-Starmer-and-Ashamed-to-be-Labour

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batley_and_Spen_(UK_Parliament_constituency)#Elections_in_the_2020s

[3] https://www.ft.com/content/89f1c72c-aab5-4cba-911e-bd157afc0a42 (pay site)

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/may/22/i-wasnt-bold-enough-ed-miliband-on-losing-leading-and-the-future-of-labour

[5] https://www.ft.com/content/04d3c78f-f801-4bb2-9fa2-d9f4f096d7b7 (pay site)

[6] https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/recent-issues/2019-11-magazine/2019-11/

[7] https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/problems-magazine-past-issues/the-mixed-economy-won-the-cold-war/

[8] https://www.quora.com/q/pwgwxusqvnzzrlzm/Hong-Kong-Committing-Suicide

[9] https://www.newscientist.com/article/2280607-zero-covid-countries-have-done-best-and-its-not-too-late-to-switch/ (pay site with occasional free articles)

[10] https://climate.nasa.gov/faq/14/is-the-sun-causing-global-warming/

[11] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/02/scientists-climate-crisis-big-oil-climate-crimes

[12] https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2021/6/30/the-climate-crisis-is-a-crime-story

[13] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-57634700

[14] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-57711581

[15] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-57710048

[16] https://www.theguardian.com/weather/2021/jun/25/czech-republic-tornado-deaths-villages-damage-south-moravia-hodonin-hrusky

[17] https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/rare-tornado-storms-rip-through-southern-czech-republic-2021-06-24/

[18] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-57676695

[19] https://www.severe-weather.eu/global-weather/south-hemisphere-america-cold-winter-outbreak-fa/

[20] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-57704967

[21] https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/19333008.new-statistics-ons-show-changes-uk-populations-sexual-orientation/

[22] https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/problems-magazine-past-issues/the-west-fails-in-five-civilisations/the-west-fails-in-five-civilisations-2/

[23] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Cook#Personal_life

[24] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raise_the_Red_Lantern#Reception

[25] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-57548646

[26] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuck_in_the_Middle_with_You, apparently just about management in the music industry.

[27] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_of_Troubles

[28] https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202107/1227686.shtml

[29] https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2021/jun/05/my-stay-at-a-devon-rewilding-farm-wildlife-holiday

[30] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-57671012

[31] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/18/us/politics/supreme-court-conservatives-liberals.html

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s