Notes on the News

Notes on the News

By Gwydion M. Williams

Back to Tax-and-Spend?

USA Still Macho on Climate

Snippets

A New Age of Gold?

China Badmouthed Over Covid-19

North Korea – Too Dangerous to Invade?

UAS Losing its Farmers

India Overpopulated?

Heavy Punishment for Upsetting the Rich and Powerful

Everything Russian Must Be Bad?

Northern Cyprus – the Irrelevance of International Law

Zimbabwe – Another Non-Liberation

Twitter – End of a Libertarian Fantasy

Back to Tax-and-Spend?

“The Tories need to abandon their shibboleths

“The state is likely to grow faster than the economy and so must the tax burden…

“Today is entirely different from 1979. Thatcherism is a ‘zombie’ idea.

“Nowhere is this truer than in considering the future role and size of the state. The simple and obvious truth is that it is likely to grow faster than the economy. That is also quite feasible, provided the economy also grows. But if the state is likely to grow, so must the tax burden.

“Why will the state tend to grow faster than the economy? First, the economy needs a well-educated and healthy labour force. Second, the services supplied by the state are ones in which it is hard to raise productivity, which tends to make them increasingly expensive. Third, spending on transfers and health will rise with the proportion of the population that is old and infirm. Finally, higher spending on transfers and essential services is also what voters demand.”[A]

That’s Martin Wolf, Thatcherite when it counted and defecting from about 2008.  Myself, I can’t see anything different from 1979.  Nothing except that we have had a 40-year demonstration that most people lose, and the very rich gain enormously.

But it remains a live idea, because the very rich own most of the media.  They have no wish to lose the vast gains that they made from Thatcher’s sincere and utterly mistaken notions.

The real history of Thatcherism is mediocre reforms and vast gifts to the rich.  Likewise for Reagan.  They resolved the crisis of the 1970s by being sensible conservatives at a time when people had got weary of struggle.  But then wasted wealth and effort on a New Right fantasy.

They also missed the chance to roll back the social radicalism of the 1960s.  Thatcher wanted this: Reagan may just have been doing his greatest screen role.  But I recall one US working man saying that when he was young, a job was for life and so was a marriage.

Tories nowadays don’t even pretend to uphold most traditional social values.  When it seemed briefly possible that Boris Johnson would get a second shot after Liz Truss fell, I wrote:

The Isle of Brits, the Isle of Brits
Where bouncing Johnson laughs and scorns

But with President Xi recently deciding that he needn’t bother to meet the new British Prime Minister when the G20 schedule got tight, it could be:

God who made you mighty
Brought you down again

This year once again saw the BBC hype Poppy Day, but hardly anyone else cares.  It has become symbolic of warmongering, much more than for respect for the dead.

The Economist magazine, which is there to tell something like the truth to the people who actually run British business, published the following opinion:

“How Britain ended up with the worst of all worlds…

“Increasingly the Conservative government provides a welfare state in name, but a bare bones night-watchman state in practice. The police will probably find your killer but they will make no effort to find your stolen bicycle. If you’re hit by a car, the NHS is likely to save your life. But if you require a hernia operation, you may wait a year or two (or give up and go private). A 19th-century concept of the state has collided with a 20th-century vision to create an intolerable 21st-century chimera.”[B]

USA Still Macho on Climate

Imagine a crowded venue where an unpopular character called Miss Greenpest starts saying there is a fire.  No one likes Miss Greenpest, and she can be silly.  Yes, there is a slight smell of smoke, but perhaps we have heavy smokers?

Mr Serious says the danger might be real, but what does he know?  He isn’t rich.

The crowd refuse to listen to these unpopular characters.  But the fire is real, and many burn to death.  

Those in the Upper Circles get away easily, but still say that things would definitely have been far worse if there had been some notion of regulation.  And even those who want regulation concentrate on saying how much they dislike Miss Greenpest.

That seems to be how ‘action’ on Climate Change is working out. Protestors are mostly irritating and sometime silly.  But most of the warnings have been correct, at least from the 1990s when the science became clear.  

Resistance is cultural and emotional rather than rational, which is why I invented Miss Greenpest as an analogy.  And more could be done, if anyone else has an inspiration.  She might fit nicely in a version of Greensleeves.  Maybe a cartoon series.

In the real world, China offers hope.  After the normal bitching about China helping Russia, an article in the Financial Times said:

“Despite that backdrop, however — and perhaps because of it — there are signs that China will meet Xi’s key climate change promises.

“His targets include hitting peak coal consumption around 2025 and reaching peak carbon emissions five years later. By 2030, China has also promised to reduce carbon emissions per unit of GDP — its carbon intensity — by around two-thirds compared with 2005 levels. By 2060, it will become carbon neutral, meaning cutting its carbon dioxide emissions to nearly zero.”[C]

It is in the USA that denialists and evaders of duty have power.  President Biden’s modest efforts have mostly been blocked, and his power in Congress is now reduced.  While a dangerous warming trend continues:

“Climate crisis: past eight years were the eight hottest ever, says UN.”[D]

“Extreme weather is also upending the food system in the US and much of the world. As the climate crisis causes temperatures to rise, precipitation patterns to shift and drought conditions to lengthen, many crops are struggling to grow – and produce the same yields – as they would under normal weather conditions. In some parts of the country, crops that require dry conditions are getting too much rain, while in others, they’re not getting enough.”[E]

But countries currently hampered by cold winters may gain.  Russia in particular may see its vast Siberian territories become more useful, despite short-term costs.[F]

Snippets

A New Age of Gold?

“One of the worst-kept secrets in global central banking is the extent to which Chinese officials are swapping dollars for gold… 

“The clear policy trajectory Chinese leader Xi Jinping has pursued in recent years: internationalizing of the yuan as the top rival to the dollar. 

“Particularly as the US national debt zooms past $30 trillion, inflation is at 40-year highs, the Federal Reserve is pushing the biggest economy into recession and a band of firebrand Republicans threatens to play politics with Washington’s debt limit again.

“Not surprisingly, central banks that once hoarded dollars are buying gold at the fastest clip on record. In the July-September quarter, central banks more than quadrupled gold purchases from a year earlier — adding nearly a net 400 tonnes to already sizable stockpiles…

“The year-to-date flurry of gold buying already well surpasses any 12-month period since 1967. This has traders guessing who the real whales are here.

“Punters doing the math can confirm that about 90 tonnes worth of purchases can be traced to Turkey (31.2 tonnes), Uzbekistan (26.1 tonnes), India (17.5 tonnes) and other developing nations. The other 300 tonnes, it’s widely assumed, bear Chinese fingerprints.”[G]

It’s not made the mainstream news.  But lots of other minor sources confirm it.

*

China Badmouthed Over Covid-19

Just now, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, the USA and South Korea have more Covid cases and more Covid deaths than Mainland China.[H]  China stands 16th globally – and far lower if you adjust for China’s gigantic population.  Or if you look at surges in cases, China has a problem but other places are worse.[I]  Yet the Western news concentrates on China’s problem.  Hypes those Chinese who want to drop their very successful Zero-Covid policy.[J]

*

North Korea – Too Dangerous to Invade?

The news recently had a lot about North Korea daring to fire a missile that could hit the USA, and which landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.  News with intentional confusion about regimes that have a legitimate concern just about survival.

Or are they suggesting that North Korean missiles steals Japanese fish and sea-bed minerals?  That’s what an Exclusive Economic Zone means.  Foreigners are free to use them for normal transit, and even as missile destinations.  And if you look at the map, North Korea hasn’t that many options.

North Korea was on the US-defined ‘axis of evil’, along with Iraq and Iran.  Three regimes with utterly different ideas, but the USA hoped to ruin them.  And so far has created ruin only for Iraq: but spread disaster to many other countries.

*

USA Losing its Farmers

Farmland Values Hit Record Highs, Pricing Out Farmers

“Small farmers are now going up against deep-pocketed investors, including private equity firms and real estate developers…

“Already, the supply of land is limited. About 40 percent of farmland in the United States is rented, most of it owned by landlords who are not actively involved in farming. And the amount of land available for purchase is extremely scant, with less than 1 percent of farmland sold on the open market annually…

“Eager investors are increasingly turning to farmland in the face of volatility in the stock and real estate markets. Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and a billionaire, is the biggest private farmland owner in the country and recently won approval to buy 2,100 acres in North Dakota for $13.5 million.”[K]

Another case of markets squeezing out small property.  The fate of owner-workers gets harder.

*

India Overpopulated?

“India faces deepening demographic divide as it prepares to overtake China as the world’s most populous country…

“The cry of a baby born in India one day next year will herald a watershed moment for the country, when the scales tip and India overtakes China as the world’s most populous nation.

“Yet the story of India’s population boom is really two stories. In the north, led by just two states, the population is still rising. In the richer south, numbers are stabilising and in some areas declining. The deepening divisions between these regions mean the government must eventually grapple with a unique problem: the consequences of a baby boom and an ageing population, all inside one nation.”[L]

To me, it is good news.  Both civilisation-states will stabilise and then shrink to something more manageable.  Just as Europe’s multi-state civilisation already has population shrinkage.  With so much Youth Unemployment, a decline should be OK.

The rival idea is based on the capitalist view of life as a burden on money.  Hardly anyone expects the economies to shrink, or even become static.  But it is somehow a disaster if the same humans depend on a smaller number of profit-generating employees.

Dependent childhood, working life, and retirement are parts of human existence.  And more power created by worker shortages is welcome for us.  But not for the bosses, who here again get their viewpoint mindlessly spread by the media.

*

Heavy Punishment for Upsetting the Rich and Powerful

“Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to more than 11 years for defrauding investors

“The harsh ruling sends a message to Silicon Valley that the government will hold founders accountable for what’s promised…

“Theranos attracted big-name backers such as the former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and the former defense secretary James Mattis, who testified against her in the trial.

“It was once valued at more than $9bn, but it imploded after reporting in the Wall Street Journal in 2015 revealed shortcomings and inaccuracies in its core technology. Theranos dissolved in 2018 and Holmes was charged with 12 counts of fraud, alongside her co-executive and former romantic partner, Sunny Balwani, who was convicted on 12 counts in his own trial…

“Throughout the trial, Holmes’s lawyers cast her as an ambitious but misguided young founder who was unaware of the extent to which Theranos’s technology was malfunctioning. In a letter to judges filed last week, they argued sending Holmes to prison was unnecessary.”[M]

Given the soft treatment of many other much more blatant fraudsters, I’d see it as showing that women are still far from equal.  That she was an inferior punished for offending the male elite.

Unlike Enron, which would have done nothing very useful even if it hadn’t been full of fraud, the idea was excellent.  A woman who was too protective of her good idea should have been treated more mildly.

*

Everything Russian Must Be Bad?

The problem in Ukraine was weak and corrupt government, from the very start.

But from the First Orange Revolution of 2004, it has been a run of weak and corrupt governments or opposition parties that win over voters by encouraging an exaggerated hatred of Russia.

Ukraine never once liberated itself.

The Kaiser’s Germany briefly created a dependent Ukraine – one of many aspects of a better world that might have emerged if that version of Germany had not been crushed.

Hitler had a different vision – the fertile soil of Ukraine cleared of everything Slavonic and settled by Germans, giving them global numbers to match the British Empire and the USA.  This was openly said in Mein Kampf, so why on earth did any Ukrainians think it was sensible to fight for him?

But exiles, mostly settled in Canada during the Cold War, heroized such people.  People who began and ended the war on Hitler’s side, even though the official heroes were a Third Force between those two stages.  And at all times ruthless killers of Jews and of mostly-Roman-Catholic Poles, but that gets overlooked.

The CIA used and protected such people, just as the US state in general forgave anyone who was useful in the Cold War.  And when the First Orange Revolution was reversed in 2010, they were let into the respectable pro-US opposition.[N]  People who felt more Russian than Ukrainian began to doubt their future if Kiev ruled them with no entrenched autonomy.

Remarkably similar to what happened during the break-up of Yugoslavia.  Croats got a leader who idolised the wartime pro-Nazi government.  A government that killed Jews and Gypsies as well as Serbs,[O] but naturally the Serbs had an extreme reaction.  A reaction that the Western news machine presented as the Serbs being wicked and the other nationalities as victims.

Police invading a religious house would normally cause outrage – but not when Kiev’s people do it.

“Ukraine’s security service raids Russian-backed monastery in Kyiv

“SBU and police swoop on suspected ‘subversive activities by Russian special services’”[P]

Despite which, it seems increasingly likely that Kiev will have to back down and accept that it has lost any right to rule those who feel more Russian than Ukrainian.

*

Northern Cyprus – the Irrelevance of International Law

I’ve said before that different rules are being applied to Russia in Ukraine than applied elsewhere.  The Indian invasion that created Bangladesh.  And Northern Cyprus, where I happened to see a recent documentary.

“A brutal war in the 1970s left Cyprus split in two and displaced a third of its population. Ben spends a week with the UN’s Peacekeeping Force, who patrol the enormous buffer zone on the island, keeping the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities separated.”[Q]

The USA needs Turkey more than it needs Greece, so Northern Cyprus is secure, though not recognised internationally.  Questions of justice counted for little, though Turkish Cypriots had sensible fears that a Greek Cypriot government would in the long run force them out.  This did happen with a community defined as Cretan Turks, though most were converts to Islam who still spoke Greek.[R]

The USA also broke norms by insisting that Kosovo be torn from Serbia and made into a sovereign state.  And that Tito’s original definition of Kosovo must remain unaltered, even though there were majority-Serb areas in the north than might have been better left with Serbia.

This Serb minority was recently under pressure, and I fear for their long-term fate.[S]  For now, they have at least some protection from the USA.

*

Zimbabwe – Another Non-Liberation

“A climate of fear still lingers in Zimbabwe, five years after long-time ruler Robert Mugabe was deposed…

“Little has changed in this regard since President Mugabe’s departure. Many ordinary people and critics still face arrest for insulting the president, say human rights lawyers.

“Tendai (not his real name) sells groceries out of his car boot – washing powder, deodorant, snacks and cooking oil are all neatly stacked up. Even though he is a university graduate with a double major in marketing and human resources management, he says being a street vendor is the only way he can earn his living because there are no jobs available.

“‘Things are the same or even worse since Robert Mugabe left. But while it might sound far-fetched, I still have hope about the future,’ he adds.

“Inflation today is 268% – many times higher than it was when Mr Mugabe left office, according to data from Zimbabwe’s national statistics body. Meanwhile, the proportion of Zimbabweans in extreme poverty has almost doubled – from 30% in 2017 to 50% during the coronavirus pandemic, says the World Bank.”[T]

Part of a general failure of the US hegemony to make a decent life for people.

Twitter – End of a Libertarian Dream

For now I am staying on Twitter, because it already does everything I expected of it.  I never took seriously the Libertarian fantasies of a self-governing world with no controls.

The whole Internet experiment has shown that controls are unavoidable, and that profit-making corporations are greedy and selfish.  Only Libertarians and a few Old Rightists would find this surprising.

“Amazon and Meta, which owns Facebook, lead the pack for scale of job cuts, with more than 10,000 planned apiece, while Twitter is grabbing headlines for brutality and incompetence. New owner Elon Musk axed roughly 3,700 employees via email and immediately tried to rehire some of them, saying they had been let go by mistake.

“The firing spree goes beyond the big names: nearly 800 tech companies have announced redundancies since January, wiping out 120,000 jobs, including 25,000 just this month.”[U]

“Elon Musk Is Not a Renegade Outsider – He’s a Massive Pentagon Contractor”.[V]

He is also tilting towards the US Republicans.  And is making life easier for unpopular opinions, which should boost their cause.  

Unlike the Far Left, the Far Right seldom write anything an outsider would admire.  Crude abuse and absurd false stories is what they are best at.  And it isn’t just Twitter.

*

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


[A] https://www.ft.com/content/51ea4356-1e86-4a95-848c-83c49e1af5d4  (pay site)

[B] https://www.economist.com/britain/2022/11/10/the-night-watchman-welfare-state

[C] https://www.ft.com/content/6cf54ab7-2172-4157-96b6-41a097e86925  (pay site) 

[D] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/nov/06/climate-crisis-past-eight-years-were-the-eight-hottest-ever-says-un

[E] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/nov/01/climate-crisis-us-food-system-five-crops

[F] https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2022/11/10/climate-change-will-force-farmers-to-reshuffle-what-is-grown-where

[G] https://asiatimes.com/2022/11/chinas-gold-stockpiling-is-dollar-warning-sign/

[H] https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries, last 2-day figures at 26th Nov 2022.

[I] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/world/covid-cases.html, 14-day trend on 26th Nov 2022.

[J] https://mrgwydionmwilliams.quora.com/China-Badmouthed-Over-Covid-19

[K] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/13/us/politics/farmland-values-prices.html (pay site) 

[L] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/nov/14/india-faces-deepening-demographic-divide-as-it-prepares-to-overtake-china-as-the-worlds-most-populous-country

[M] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/nov/18/elizabeth-holmes-theranos-trial-sentencing

[N] https://mrgwydionmwilliams.quora.com/Ukraine-Punished-For-Rejecting-US-Values-in-2010

[O] https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/very-old-issues-images/magazines-020-to-029/magazine-025-xx/serbs-and-croats-in-1991/

[P] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/nov/22/ukraine-security-service-raids-1000-year-old-monastery-in-kyiv

[Q] https://www.radiotimes.com/programme/b-fvewu2/ben-fogles-lost-worlds-season-1/

[R] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cretan_Turks

[S] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-63739053

[T] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-63703145

[U] https://www.ft.com/content/a19b4a08-3fcb-480f-aaa0-1f2ab607447e (pay site)

[V] https://www.mintpressnews.com/elon-musk-not-renegade-outsider-cia-pentagon-contractor/280972/

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