- Is Thatcher’s Spell Fading?
- Starmer and Labour’s ‘Timid Tendency’
- China Badmouthed Over Covid
- The Sad Fate of All the Ukraines
- US Citizens Above the Law?
- Qatargate – Backwash From the Ukraine War?
- Russia Solid
- Chinese Protestors as Straw Dogs
Is Thatcher’s Spell Fading?
Baby Boomers like me were carefully nurtured by Western states that had lived through the disasters of 1929-1945. Our elites were terrified of a Nazi revival. And feared popular support for the Soviets in the Cold War. So they made sure that the working mainstream were well looked after. Everyone with basic working skills had a job.
We grew up with that, and mistook it for the Natural Order.
Most of us were mistrustful of the state. They wanted to limit us on sex and drugs, though on drugs some of us later decided they were right. And the state was linked in our minds to formalities in clothes and hairstyles: limits that are now almost forgotten.
When Baby Boomers were old enough to start paying income tax, most were wide open to the idea that the Inland Revenue was ‘Inland Robbery’. They fell for the false stories of Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Much of the rest of Western Europe followed.
And it was all nonsense. Money flowed to the rich, and the promise of faster growth was never met. The USA and Britain failed to improve, while Continental Western Europe actually slowed.
Baby Boomers got their sex and drugs, and increasingly could dress as they pleased. And put definite limits on sex, when they began to think about their own underage kids being seduced. And more and more women dared complain, when they faced demands for the sex-without-love that only a minority of women could be happy with.
Most of the Baby Boomers are guilty of economic selfishness, and unlikely to change. But what of the next generations?
Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, seen content to follow us in our errors. Many joined the Late-Boomer invention of Punk Rock. They saw the world as hopelessly bad.
Millennials, 1981 to 1996, seem to know better.
“Western conservatives are at risk from generations of voters who are no longer moving to the right as they age…
“By my calculations, members of Britain’s ‘silent generation’, born between 1928 and 1945, were five percentage points less conservative than the national average at age 35, but around five points more conservative by age 70. The ‘baby boomer’ generation traced the same path, and ‘Gen X’, born between 1965 and 1980, are now following suit.
“Millennials — born between 1981 and 1996 — started out on the same trajectory, but then something changed…
“Millennials are more economically leftwing than Gen-Xers and boomers were at the same age, and Brexit has alienated a higher share of former Tory backers among this generation than any other. Even before Truss, two-thirds of millennials who had backed the Conservatives before the EU referendum were no longer planning to vote for the party again, and one in four said they now strongly disliked the Tories.
“The data is clear that millennials are not simply going to age into conservatism…
““UK millennials and their ‘Gen Z’ younger cousins will probably cast more votes than boomers in the next general election. After years of being considered an electoral afterthought, their vote will soon be pivotal. Without drastic changes to both policy and messaging, that could consign conservative parties to an increasingly distant second place.”
They reject a system that has failed them:
“The right has become its own gravedigger for two reasons. First, by building an economic model that promised individual freedom but delivered mass insecurity; and second, by intentionally and repeatedly insulting the social values of the young. British culture fetishes home ownership even while its economic policies make this an increasingly distant dream for younger citizens. Young people have also borne the brunt of austerity, being saddled with university debt and suffering the closure of youth and Sure Start centres. Yet a generation that is more educated than ever but simultaneously deprived of prospects is treated with unadulterated contempt by the right.”
Starmer and Labour’s ‘Timid Tendency’
My generation created freedoms that the younger people now take for granted. But we were muddled all along about what freedom was and was not.
Many of us were tricked into doubting that state power was useful for most forms of social justice.
Yet it was always irrational. State power was and is used freely, when it is something that the elite and the Next Nine find useful. They need law enforcement, and most want gender equality and rights for gays. Economic justice they will let lapse.
They are mostly assured of jobs, food, housing, and medical care. But dislike taxes and regulations about their personal lives.
Any regulation you don’t like becomes a wicked attack on Freedom Itself. Other intrusive regulations are fine. The media push this line, directed by the tiny rich minority who own media and choose where they place their adverts.
A majority of voters now want a shift left. But will our Parliamentary Democracy allow it?
A Parliament is a body of privileged individuals. Control of each by their electorate is imperfect, especially since each derives their power from a small region with many competing interests. A vocational parliament might do a better job.
It was also a drastic 19th-century innovation to insist that all adult males should be part of the electorate. And just as drastic to include women, which happened mostly in the 20th century.
Nor is there an inherent reason why a parliament should include an organised opposition. That concept took time to become normalised and accepted in Western Europe. And in the USA, it may be breaking down.
Here, a mass-membership Labour Party fell for the story that Corbyn had ruined them in 2019. It was actually Brexit, and Labour’s foolish decision to help a divided Parliament reject all workable solutions. Reject the notion of a second vote, when it was realised that the terms for exit would be far tougher than most had expected. I did detailed studies showing how it was the specific issue of Brexit that lost seats.  But most members were unable to think outside of the story the media pushed. Starmer was able to break his promise to be a more polite version of what Corbyn had offered.
It may be the ruin of Britain.
The rest of the world may gain, because of our ruin. The European Union is already healthier without the need to please British governments with alien ends.
China Badmouthed Over Covid
“Hong Kong public health experts travelled to Beijing in early November to advise Chinese officials about lifting restrictions nationwide, weeks before widespread protests broke out against zero-Covid policies.
“Analysts have questioned whether the anti-lockdown demonstrations late last month were the main catalyst for China’s sudden departure from its strict virus elimination policy, which has throttled the world’s second-largest economy and confined the country’s 1.4bn people with a system of lockdowns, mass testing and contact tracing.”
That’s from the Financial Times, which often lets out awkward facts that working businesspeople need to know.
Did Western advisors encourage protests at a time when they knew concessions were likely? Allowing it to seem like a success, when perhaps it made no difference?
There are also justified Chinese complaints at how they were reported:
“In the three years of pandemic fight, China achieved zero new cases & eliminated the virus many times. But US & Europe dominated global epidemic prevention situation and dragged China down. They have no right to make irresponsible remarks on China’s lifting of lockdowns in the end.”
Even The Guardian, keen to impose on China the Western system of Opposition Politics that has failed elsewhere, did admit “zero Covid … had worked relatively well for China in 2020 and 2021”.
Given that the rest of the world kept re-infecting China, relaxing the rules may have become inevitable. And was probably carefully discussed.
I’ve always interpreted President Xi as a faction leader rather than a personal dictator. He might have wanted to relax on Covid earlier than the official change, or he might not want it now. But a Leninist Central Committee can replace its General Secretary, or may keep them powerless. A little-remembered man called Zhang Wentian held the post from 1934 to 1943, and was a place-holder during Mao’s rise. Edgar Snow almost ignores him in his famous book Red Star Over China: I did an article several years back, explaining this as part of a plan hatched with Sun Yat-sen’s widow to make Mao the recognised leader of Chinese Communism. But Mao’s authority after death could not keep his heir in power. The title had been Chairman under Mao: it was changed back after Mao’s heir was shoved aside. And that man too was removed and marginalised, with his death in 1989 sparking the Tiananmen protests. The then General Secretary supported the protests and was accused of encouraging them, but was removed without trouble when the Central Committee wanted him gone.
Whatever the job title, a Leninist leader must get a consensus. Mao went against this with the Cultural Revolution, but after his death it was reversed.
The world’s reaction was mean-spirited. Chinese were treated as a danger to the rest of the world, in defiance of what politicians were told by almost all their own experts. 
Reports also repeated the false story that Mao caused avoidable deaths when he put China on the path to its present prosperity. What really happened in 1959-1961 was that Mao’s very successful system got over-enthusiastic. A system that had given China death rates close to rich countries, and in the so-called famine it merely reverted briefly to deathrates typical for the 1960s for other poor countries.
Overall, Mao grew the Chinese economy faster than the USA or Britain in that era. Faster than most of the developing world, India included.
China also sits contentedly within a world consensus that is happy with the probability of Russia successfully preserving Russian rights in chunks of East Ukraine and South Ukraine. Regions that voted for parties that rejected the Orange Revolution between 2014 and 2019. Parties which have now been banned.
The Global South mostly lumps it with India’s creation of Bangladesh, or Turkey’s creation of Northern Cyprus. The main difference is that the former West Pakistan accepted its military defeat, whereas Greece still holds out and Northern Cyprus is not in the UN.
The Sad Fate of All the Ukraines
The Moscow-based Tsars had a point when they called themselves rulers of ‘all the Russias’. A Rus or Ruthenian identity emerged out of the mix of Slavonic tribes who expanded from some unknown homeland in Eastern Europe. Peoples speaking Slavonic languages flourished when the Roman Empire declined. Sometimes as conquerors, and sometimes as a majority who absorbed their rulers into their culture.
Embarrassingly for all Ruthenians, their version of Slavonic identity was shaped by Norse who founded trade routes from Scandinavia down to the Black Sea. Traded with the rich East Roman Empire centred on Byzantium:
“The scholarly consensus holds that they were originally Norsemen, mainly originating from present-day Sweden, who settled and ruled along the river-routes between the Baltic and the Black Seas from around the 8th to 11th centuries AD. In the 9th century, they formed the state of Kievan Rusʹ, where the ruling Norsemen along with local Finnic tribes gradually assimilated into the East Slavic population, with Old East Slavic becoming the common spoken language.”
Several separate Rus or Ruthenian identities emerged, some under foreign rule. Kiev itself was conquered by Lithuanians. It became part of a Commonwealth in which Poles and Lithuanians were superior, Jews were middling, and Ruthenians at the bottom. And was later conquered by the Tsars, who however insulted those Ruthenians by calling them Little Russians.
Note also that ‘Kiev’ was until 2022 the standard English name for a city that has several names for its different populations. Most of the West has shifted to saying Kyiv, a West Ukrainian pronunciation. I will not follow until Kiev’s rulers stop trying to impose a viciously anti-Russian culture on people who feel more Russian than Ukrainian, if forced to choose.
Anti-Russian culture was spreading, well before Putin recognised the 2014 secession by the elected regional government of Crimea. A key moment was 2010, when the failed leader of the first Orange Revolution chose to celebrate Stepan Bandera as an official Hero of Ukraine. The man began and ended the war fighting for Hitler, while also becoming a Third Force when Hitler rejected his claim to have created an independent Ukrainian government. It was a gross provocation, and those same people were back and stronger in 2014.
Ukraine never had a very solid identity. Electoral maps show a strong anti-Russian majority in the West, which the Tsars never ruled. A definite pro-Russian majority in the south and east, which were lands taken from the Ottoman Empire by the Tsars. Lands settled by a mix of Russians and Ukrainians. And a muddle in the middle: people who voted for Zelensky as an alternative to a candidate standing for strong anti-Russian policies. But in the run-up to the Russian invasion, Zelensky dropped any talk of compromise with the pro-Russian majority in the Donbass. Wobbled in the invasion itself. But he is now committed to a total reconquest, Crimea included.
It is not a government that the rest of Europe should be backing:
“Ukraine is no flourishing democracy. It is an impoverished, corrupt, one-party state with extensive censorship, where opposition newspapers and political parties have been shut down. Before the war, far right Ukrainian nationalist groups like the Azov Brigade were soundly condemned by the U.S. Congress. Kiev’s determined campaign against the Russian language is analogous to the Canadian government trying to ban French in Quebec. Ukrainian shells have killed hundreds of civilians in the Donbas and there are emerging reports of Ukrainian war crimes. The truly moral course of action would be to end this war with negotiations rather than prolong the suffering the Ukrainian people in a conflict they are unlikely to win without risking American lives.”
But the media have successfully confused the matter.
Russia’s unjust hegemony from 1944 to 1989 has nothing to do with the right of Russians left behind in Ukraine when it became anti-Russian. But far too many people confuse the two. They suppose that Putin wants to take back the non-Russian territory that the Soviet Union once held.
Both India and the Islamic World have decided that the G7 /NATO power-block is a long-term threat, being both dishonest and incompetent. Seeking to keep a hegemony based on inequality.
US Citizens Above the Law?
“US citizen Anne Sacoolas is given an eight month prison sentence suspended for 12 months for causing the death of teenage motorcyclist Harry Dunn in 2019…
“The 45-year-old, who was also banned from driving in the UK, was sentenced via video link from the US in a televised hearing at the Old Bailey…
“The case caused a diplomatic row between the US and British governments – Sacoolas left the UK claiming diplomatic immunity and the US refused to extradite her…
“’US treated Dunn family with utter disdain’, Harry’s friend says.”
It is a sign of how bizarre US culture has become. Outsiders are not to be trusted, not even Britons.
Britons have been more sensible:
“The family of Harry Dunn are to press for the inquest into his death to recommend that US personnel at American military bases in Britain should be required to be properly trained in road safety.”
Qatargate – Backwash From the Ukraine War?
There were many rumours of corruption, when Qatar became a World Cup host.
I never really looked into it. But I did notice that much of the Global South liked it.
“Proximity and ease of access have allowed fans who can’t afford travel to the West to finally live their dreams.
“It’s the first time that four teams from Asia and Africa have made it to the knockout stage of the FIFA World Cup.”
Morocco came 4th, after a play-off.
The Global South also feels comfortable with Russia and China asserting themselves. Do not like the current US and European Union attempt to undermine them.
It may not be an accident that European politicians are suddenly in trouble over bribes that Qatar allegedly gave them.
Did someone decide that it would be convenient to give helpful tips, with the football over?
The liberal-left ‘Social Europe’ includes a dismayed report of Russians treating the Ukraine War as something essential:
“Russian soldiers’ mothers are not demonstrating the strong opposition they have in previous conflicts…
“One of Russia’s best-known and most-respected civil society organisations, the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia (CSMR) and its network of committees, provided a focal point for opposition to Moscow’s unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya, particularly by defending the rights of conscripted soldiers…
“No longer ‘a coherent and unified force’, it has evolved into a loose network of organisations. Some committees express strong support for traditional values, patriotism and the military, while others campaign for progressive human rights and against militarism.”
Most West Europeans are shocked by events like the residential building hit by a Russian missile. But whose fault was it?
“Russia blames Ukraine for deadly Dnepr missile blast…
“‘A Russian missile that targeted an energy infrastructural facility was downed by Ukrainian air defenses.’ Since this air-defense system ‘was positioned in a residential quarter contrary to the norms of international humanitarian law… the missile fell onto a residential building,’.”
Remarkably, one of Kiev’s officials said the same. And then denied it, apologised, and resigned.
Europe’s fearless ‘investigative reporters’ show a remarkable lack of interest in such matters.
Chinese Protestors as Straw Dogs
I earlier mentioned that there were protests about the Covid limits in China. Which may have been encouraged by Western advisors, when the decision was likely to happen anyway.
But organising using Smart Phones is not smart at all, when you face an efficient government:
“He wore a balaclava and goggles to cover his face. When it seemed that plainclothes police officers were following him, he ducked into the bushes and changed into a new jacket. He lost his tail. That night, when Mr. Zhang, who is in his 20s, returned home without being arrested, he thought he was in the clear.
“But the police called the next day. They knew he had been out because they were able to detect that his phone had been in the area of the protests, they told him. Twenty minutes later, even though he had not told them where he lived, three officers knocked at his door.
“Similar stories are being told by protesters across China this week.”.
If someone encouraged them, did they not know this might happen?
Or did they not care? Did they see protestors as Straw Dogs, not to be cared about when their use was over?
Old newsnotes at the magazine websites. I also write regular blogs – https://www.quora.com/q/mrgwydionmwilliams
 https://www.ft.com/content/c361e372-769e-45cd-a063-f5c0a7767cf4 (pay site)
 https://www.ft.com/content/f08ae17b-bb04-45d8-8437-1c21a3b47a21 (pay site)
 https://www.aljazeera.com/news/liveblog/2023/1/17/ukraine-live-russia-shells-settlements-near-bakhmut-donetsk 30m ago(09:24 GMT)
 https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/02/business/china-protests-surveillance.html (pay site)
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