Notes on the News

Notes on the News

By Gwydion M. Williams

Disgusted With Capitalism, Terrified of Socialism

Burning Bridges With China

Ukraine – Arming the Useful Idiots

“Let The World Suffer, Unless India and China Stay Low”

Pay Less, Care Less

Snippets

A False Meritocracy

Life, Liberty and the Avoidance of Happiness

Communist Subversion in the 1950s

Chinese Success Ignored

Disgusted With Capitalism, Terrified of Socialism

“Tony Blair today warned the UK is heading for ‘lower league’ status because Boris Johnson does not have a coherent strategy for the nation’s long-term future. 

“The former prime minister said Britain’s standing on the world stage will continue to slip unless there is a ‘radical change in the governing of the country and its politics’.”[1]

Mr Blair can’t see the root cause as his own surrender to New Right values.

And the increasing failure of those values.

Nothing at all has been done to realise Thatcher’s small-state low-tax dream.  The waking world has been a large-state high-tax system that lets the rich evade most taxes.  Where tax-payer’s money for public-service duties goes to profit-making companies, however bad a job they do.  

Yet Labour under Starmer reverts to Blair’s surrender to business interests.

The flood of new Labour members who joined under Corbyn have been weak and spiritless.  They don’t dare try to vote him out.

Labour will not regulate or tax in the way Labour governments did before Thatcher.  So the millionaire elite are no longer scared of Labour.

Is Boris Johnson being targeted because he sometimes sounds like a return to pre-Thatcher conservatism?  Most of the rich are very sensitive to anything that might make cash demands on them.  It is odd that events from many months back have suddenly become news.

The rich defend their right to pay as little as possible.  They do charity, and can swank about it.  Most pay less in charity than they should have paid in tax.

They also know how to work the system, but not how the system works.  

The New Right have given them false beliefs that may kill the entire system in the long run.

While there was a Soviet challenge, they conceded a lot.  And it was a conservative optimum for Western culture, particularly in the USA.  Wealth creation was faster than it has been since the New Right freed them from rules and taxes they saw as burdensome.[2]

We’ve seen their future, and it does not work.  But the millionaire elite are being very slow to accept this.

Liberals moan about the loss of faith in parliament.  But ignore the failure of parliaments to deliver what the majority actually want.

Democracy is manipulated, to make people feel powerless and unhappy.  

Faith is lost in things that visibly fail.

Burning Bridges With China

“Christine Lee has been embedded in the city’s legal scene for more than 30 years, owning restaurants and campaigning for British Chinese interests through ‘integration, representation, participation and education’.

“But now the respected 58-year-old immigration lawyer has been named as an alleged Chinese agent targeting MPs to make British policy more favourable to Beijing.”[3]

“As recently as 2019, Christine Lee was being awarded and congratulated personally by then prime minister, Theresa May, for helping Chinese-British cooperation and had been photographed with David Cameron during his time at No 10.”[4]

Part of a wide anti-China campaign, following on from long-term hostility to Russia.

A failing government will try to pick a quarrel with a foreign foe.

Likewise a failing elite.

I assume they no longer hope to win over China.  People they once cultivated are now ‘surplus to requirements’.  Much as Saddam Hussein was, after the Soviet collapse.  They had saved him in 1987, when he was still needed. 

Saddam was a tyrant, but also the last best hope of remoulding Iraq to Western values.  

In the case of China, commercial ties cannot easily be cut.  And business interests mostly refuse to make any sacrifices themselves.  But those seeking ties of friendship rather than greed make convenient targets for propaganda.

China was never destined to be the cheap pool of outsourced labour that the West’s elite thought it was.  And now they know better, Chinese links become convenient targets:

“U.S. Drops Its Case Against M.I.T. Scientist Accused of Hiding China Links…

“The prosecutions have come under criticism for singling out scientists based on their ethnicity, and for overreach, blurring the line between disclosure violations and more serious crimes like espionage. Critics in academia say it has instilled a pervasive atmosphere of fear among scientists of Chinese descent.”[5]

It seems that US courts still have qualms about convicting innocents.  But convictions were never important.  It was all about shifting attitudes and avoiding blame.

Politicians who failed to control Covid-19 found it easy to get the public angry with ordinary Chinese living in the USA.  And even those who don’t play that game don’t explain how absurd and unjust it is.  Do nothing to discourage racist attacks on Chinese.

But it’s not just that.  The New Right gained hugely from the Soviet Union declining and falling apart in the 1980s, after being unjust and aggressive in the 1970s.  The heavy lifting in the Cold War had been done by socialists, and by the socially-concerned conservatives whom the New Right replaced. [6]  But who remembers that?

After four decades of New Right policies, promises of better wealth-creation have been proved false.  Given as much freedom as possible, the business elite don’t do a better job for the rest of us.  

They have done a much better job of putting wealth into their own pockets.

China flourished from Deng onwards with much tougher rules for the business elite than the West ever had.  Unlike post-Soviet Russia, they never accepted any damaging ‘Big Bang’ of the sort the New Right urged.

Chinese rules for business were always tougher than they ever were in the West.  President Xi has made them tougher still.  Inequality no longer increases, and a reduction has been promised.  But the media servants of the millionaire elite can’t get much milage out of that.

The public don’t in fact reject harshness as such.  It all depends on who it is applied to.

China has the death penalty for drug smuggling, like several other Asian countries.  And less of a drugs problem.  Most Westerners (including me) prefer to live with drug murders and overdoses, but are not vehement about it.

China has the death penalty for rape: inherited from the puritanical fervour of the Red Army.  Women are much safer than in most of Asia.  Attacks on foreign women are almost unknown.  Chinese criminals are scared of the local police.

I’m not claiming that women in China are overall better off.  Sexual harassment exists.  There are few women in the top levels of politics.  In the 1970s, when socialism was still respectable, the West overtook Global Leninism on rights for women.  It was a factor in winning the Cold War.

What about rights of minorities?

You don’t see headlines saying China Harsh With Uighurs Seeking An Independent East Turkistan.  That’s normal politics – consider what was done to Catalan politicians in Spain.  

Say China Harsh With Uighur Terrorists and Islamic Extremists, and most in the West would say ‘good for them’.

So the elite-dominated media omit facts that were freely reported in the 2010s.[7]  

Tony Blair set a bad example by his drastic claim that Saddam in Iraq could deploy ‘weapons of mass destruction in 15 minutes.  Not mentioning that these were battlefield poison gas.  Or that Blair himself showed no interest when Saddam was useful to the West, gassing Kurds and Iranians.

High-level dishonesty existed long before Boris Johnson.  It will continue if he falls.

Ukraine – Arming the Useful Idiots

Listen carefully, and you learn that Russia’s demands are modest:

“Russia demands Nato retract pledge to admit Ukraine and Georgia.

“Moscow issues first detailed list of proposals after US offers European security talks with transatlantic alliance.”[8]

Gorbachev trusted a hazy promise that NATO would not march east if he pulled out his own troops.  He could have got a binding agreement, but he thought he was dealing with friends.

Gorbachev can be forgiven for not realising that they were fools.  Conceited bunglers who destroyed the only force in Iraq that had both the wish and the ruthlessness to impose Western values.  People who thought they could reshape Afghanistan.

Foolishness has got worse as the New Right spread their anti-socialist message, and claimed wisdom for themselves.

The best interests of newly-independent Ukraine were never served by quarrels with Russia.

And back in the World War Two, it wasn’t very bright for Ukrainians to team up with Nazi Germany.  Hitler had been open about his dreams of clearing away the entire Slavonic population and replacing them with Germans.

But people often are fools.  The bulk of Ukraine is run by people who make heroes of men who began and ended the war on Hitler’s side, even though they fought him in their middle period.

Which was also not a sensible way to fight a war.  But the Hard-Right are mostly foolish and self-defeating.  The USA’s Klu Kluk Klan was twice re-created after lapsing.  All three versions self-destructed by not knowing when to stop.[9]

Ukraine has been tricked into deploying itself against Russia.  Losing regions with ethnic-Russian majorities was the foreseeable result.

But the West possesses a culture of expert deceivers.  They encouraged Hong Kong to acts of defiance that might sensibly be expected to lose them the limited right of criticism they once had.  Back in 2019, I called it Hong Kong Committing Suicide?[10] I find it hard to believe that no one else could see this.

“Let The World Suffer, Unless India and China Stay Low”

The biggest current increase in Greenhouse Gases comes from India and China.  Western leaders made much of this, with Western media mostly following respectfully.

But per head, Westerners and US citizens produce far more Greenhouse Gas.  And historically, most of the past changes are our fault.  And we can pay more easily.

But the rich from the 1980s have refused to pay their share.  And others do most of the suffering:

“Climate change: Huge toll of extreme weather disasters in 2021”[11]

California has yet more forest fires, in regions once safe.[12]  Even though it is winter there.

Summer south of the equator:

“’Furnace’: Argentina roasts in record-setting heat wave.”[13]

“While extreme cold has gripped parts of the United States in recent days, the very opposite has been true below the equator. In the Southern Hemisphere, summer is in full swing and a heat wave could shatter century-old temperature records in South America.”[14]

“Hot dry weather, driven by the Pacific Ocean’s La Nina weather pattern, has made the South American nation the hottest place in the world.”[15]

“Record-breaking Western Australia heatwave”[16]

We can expect more for our own summer:

“Past seven years hottest on record…

“Europe lived through its warmest summer, and temperature records in western US and Canada were broken by several degrees. Extreme wildfires in July and August burnt almost entire towns to the ground and killed hundreds.”[17]

Also hurricanes going further north, hitting cities once safe from them.[18]  Probably not Britain, but unexpected things keep happening.

But while most people suffer, the millionaire elite to do fine in secure little enclaves.

Some of them hope to move to Mars.

Pay Less, Care Less

“Charitable donations by Britain’s top earners fell by more than 20 per cent during the past decade even as their income increased significantly, according to research that suggests the wealthiest are becoming more Scrooge-like.”[19]

“Covid created 20 new ‘pandemic billionaires’ in Asia, says Oxfam

“While wealthiest got richer, 140m people fell into poverty as jobs were lost, wiping out years of gains for poorest, report finds”[20]

After World War Two, the elite in the West admitted past faults and promised to do better.  Often they really did do better.

From the 1980s, this was denied.  Capitalism was Virtue, Socialism was Foolish, and Communism was Senseless Wickedness.

“Global inequality ‘as marked as it was at peak of western imperialism’

“Super-rich have grabbed an increasing share of the world’s income, economists’ study finds…

“Although the World Inequality report found inequalities between nations had declined since the end of the cold war, it said inequality had increased within most countries and had become more pronounced as a result of the global pandemic of the past two years…

“The wealth gap between rich and poor was even wider than the income divide, the report added, with the boom in asset prices last year resulting in the sharpest increase in billionaires’ wealth on record.

“The research showed the richest 10% of the global population currently taking 52% of global income, compared with an 8% share for the poorest half. On average, an individual from the top 10% of the global income distribution earned $122,100 (£92,150) a year, whereas an individual from the poorest half of the global income distribution makes $3,920 a year.”[21]

Snippets

A False Meritocracy

“Why homelessness is still with us

“It is not selfishness but an innocent trust in the outcomes of the market…

“If you believe there is a solid link between deserts and reward, you must believe — you must — that rough-sleepers have it coming. You have left yourself no room for the role of luck in human affairs: of mental illness, of birth into a hopeless family, of dire education or mid-life tumbles down the potholes of circumstance. You are guilty of epic, almost operatic naivety. But you are not vindictive, per se. You are not selfish. You are Candide, not Scrooge.

“This difference is more than academic. The left will never build support for a welfare state until it gets inside the heads of the hold-outs. At present, it has a cartoon-villain idea of what drives the Congressional Republican, the libertarian billionaire or even the middle-income normie for whom rough-sleepers are ‘bums’. If it were just cold self-interest, these people would, I think, support a social safety net. The per-person increase in tax to fund it would be small. The prize — not having to run a gauntlet of syringes and ordure in major cities — is huge. You don’t need to know your John Rawls to see that the selfish case for a higher economic minimum is as strong as the righteous one.”[22]

*

Life, Liberty and the Avoidance of Happiness

“A striking new … suggests the universe of people who find our [US] politics a torment might be much larger than I’d realized.

“‘Politics is a pervasive and largely unavoidable source of chronic stress that exacted significant health costs for large numbers of American adults between 2017 and 2020 … The 2020 election did little to alleviate those effects and quite likely exacerbated them.’

“Around 40 percent of Americans, he found, ‘consistently identify politics as a significant source of stress in their lives.’…

“But I’m also interested in the role politics plays in the disastrous state of American mental health, which is one of the overarching stories in the country right now. For all our division, there’s a pretty broad consensus that the country is, psychologically, in an awful place.”[23]

This is a liberal moan.  It does not see the root cause as Reagan in the 1980s.  Plus the 1990s surrender by the liberal left to those same values.  Feed-the-rich economics, and a bid for world domination after the Soviet collapse.  

*

Communist Subversion in the 1950s

“‘The Fifties,’ by James R. Gaines, a former managing editor of Time, People and Life, reminds us that a trip in time to much of America then would resemble ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ more than ‘Ozzie and Harriet.’ A racial caste system was harshly enforced throughout the country, while strict norms on religion, gender and sexuality compelled millions into the shadows. The government experimented on its citizens without their consent or knowledge; corporations operated without checks.

“Some Americans did fight back. And they’re the subject of this short, very potent primer on four groups of people usually left out of the general hallelujahs for the Greatest Generation, even though — or maybe because — they opened the first cracks in those structures of oppression…

“The length also keeps Gaines from fully explaining the fractious, changing nature of the American Communist Party, which served as a rallying point for the likes of Hay and Lerner. Though he writes the party was ‘easy to love’ during the Depression, those who joined post-Bomb tended to care more about the balance of power than the dictatorship of the proletariat.”[24]

The book is not yet out.  It seems unusual in admitting that the US Communists did play a large positive role.  I’ll have to read it, to see if it admits that the global pressure of the Cold War also mattered.

Hatred of Stalin means that most left-wingers prefer to cover this up.  If they even understand it.

*

Chinese Success Ignored

The face of global trade has just changed.  Western media ignore it.  I learned of it from al-Jazeera.  

“Who will benefit from the world’s largest free trade deal?

“The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) comes into force on January 1, 2022.

“After 10 years of work, the world’s largest free trade zone is opening for business on January 1, 2022.

“The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) covers 15 countries across the Asia-Pacific region, and promises to improve business for 2.2 billion people.

“It will be the first free trade deal between China, South Korea and Japan.

“The United States is not a part of the agreement, even though it is in the Asia-Pacific region, and India pulled out at the last minute.”[25]

It recreates Globalisation as it was before European Imperialism.  

Back in the year 2000, I wrote of ‘Civilisation Alley’.  A broad band of advanced cultures from North-West Europe to South India, with historic conquerors moving up and down it.  And used the term ‘Bamboo Zone for the main alternative: the sophisticated and diverse cultures of East and South-East Asia.  Regions where bamboo grows naturally, indeed.  But also where several separate cultures flourished without much mutual conquest.

Has the Bamboo Zone now recognised its own distinctiveness?  China sits at the heart of it, but China has seldom sought to rule the rest of it.  Is not doing so now.

*

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


[1] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10422483/amp/Tony-Blair-warns-UK-heading-lower-league-status.html

[2] https://labouraffairsmagazine.files.wordpress.com/2021/10/problem-labour-47-millionaires-c.pdf

[3] https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/city-lawyer-mi5-chinese-agent-22752852

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/jan/13/profile-christine-lee-the-woman-at-centre-of-mi5-security-warning

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/20/science/gang-chen-mit-china-initiative.html

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

[7] https://mrgwydionmwilliams.quora.com/West-Reports-Only-Propaganda-on-Xinjiang

[8] https://www.ft.com/content/d86f8961-15c1-4f73-8cee-8251ab139204 (pay site) 

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan

[10] https://mrgwydionmwilliams.quora.com/Hong-Kong-Committing-Suicide

[11] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-59761839

[12] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-60092300

[13] https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/furnace-argentina-roasts-record-setting-heat-wave-2022-01-11/

[14] https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2022/01/12/argentina-Argentina-blackout-heat-weather/5461642037795/

[15] https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/argentina-heatwave-blackouts-global-warming-b1991491.html (pay site) 

[16] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jan/21/record-breaking-western-australia-heatwave-has-days-to-run-before-it-moves-east

[17] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-59915690

[18] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-59775105

[19] https://www.ft.com/content/35aefcc0-9612-4213-88cd-80cc7ace17ae (pay site) 

[20] https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2022/jan/14/covid-created-20-new-pandemic-billionaires-in-asia-says-oxfam

[21] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/dec/07/global-inequality-western-imperialism-super-rich

[22] https://www.ft.com/content/b84f806a-3e60-4f2a-9fe6-4a7baed84d9a (pay site) 

[23] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/21/opinion/trump-politics-mental-health.html  (pay site)

[24] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/21/books/review/james-r-gaines-the-fifties.html  (pay site)

[25] https://www.aljazeera.com/program/inside-story/2021/12/31/who-will-benefit-from-world-largest-free-trade-deal-rcep

The image shows regions of the RCEP, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

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