Notes On The News
by Gwydion M Williams
- Bush Senior, the Vice President
- They Shall Not Grow Old: They Were Stupidly Slaughtered
- US Republicans – Make Hate, Not Love
- Climate Change – Not Always Warm, But Mostly Worse
- Climate-Change Extinction? Or Hitler Plus?
- Taiwan: Not Gayly Wed, Not Separatist
- Ukraine Versus Ukraine, But Blaming Russia
- From Brexit to Poxit?
When John McCain died, I said that one needed good reasons to bad-mouth the recently dead. And that there were plenty.[A]
Even more so, for the elder Bush.
Succeeding Reagan after two terms as Vice-President, he consolidated what Reagan and Thatcher had begun. It might have lost its allure after the near-crash of the economy in 1987,[B] which we have somehow let slip out of our shared pool of ‘relevant history’. But he was one of those who learnt nothing and forgot nothing. Drew just the wrong lessons from the Soviet collapse, which began when they lost sight of clear socialist goals in the 1960s.
Read his lips: they were soiled.
Running for President in 1988, he said:
“‘And my opponent won’t rule out raising taxes. But I will. And the Congress will push me to raise taxes, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push again. And I’ll say to them: Read my lips. No new taxes.’”[C]
The rich evaded tax, the poor lost ground and a vast deficit opened up. And was used as an excuse to further deny help to the poor.
[I have since learned he did raise some taxes, as part of a compromise when the Democrats controlled Congress.[D] But he certainly consolidated the idea of taxes as inherently bad.]
This was one of five key errors for US power. The others were:
- Attacking and humiliating Iraq – undermining Arab secularism and opening the door to Islamic extremism.
- Neglecting post-Soviet Russia as it was looted and pushed into poverty.
- Choosing ‘Business As Usual’ with China, assuming they would soon ‘normalise’. (Good in itself, but not compatible with US intentions.)
- Keeping the standard Centre-Right tactic of pandering to White Racists, while also neglecting their interests and increasing their suffering.
We may get a better world because of New Right overconfidence at key moments. You could say the same of Hitler – had he been wiser or been assassinated after the Munich Agreement, fascism and similar creeds would have become the European norm.
Thanks to Bush, we can hope for the decline and fall of US power, China’s rise as a less aggressive hegemonic power, and a better world all round. But his intentions were greedy. His sanctions on Iraq cost hundreds of thousands of lives. They fuelled the moral outrage that made al-Qaeda.
An estimated 5.9 trillion dollars has gone on the wars he started.[E] It would have been much cheaper to pension off various dictators in return for a smooth transition to more constitutional rule. And if money had been given to post-Soviet Russia, rather than pumped out of it by fraudulent oligarchs, Yeltsin’s attempt to treat the West as a friend would not have been rejected with disgust by at least 90% of Russians.
And I’d actually forgotten his ‘pandering to White Racists’, when I made notes for these notes. A clever left-liberal website called Vox reminded me:
“George H.W. Bush’s ‘Willie Horton’ ad will always be the reference point for dog whistle racism…
“The infamous ‘Willie Horton ad’ was a 1988 presidential campaign TV spot created by Bush’s supporters that attacked his Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis for being soft on crime. Dukakis, the then-governor of Massachusetts, supported his state’s ‘weekend pass’ program, which allowed imprisoned individuals — including those not eligible for parole — to leave prison for a day or more to work or go home. (As the Washington Post noted at the time, it was introduced by a Republican governor, and most states had the same policy, including California under Ronald Reagan.)
“But the attack ad was more than just an attack on Democrats.
“The spot featured convicted murderer William ‘Willie’ Horton, who had been able to escape while on such weekend furlough, and went on to rape a woman and stab her fiancé in a brutal 1987 home invasion. It was widely condemned for playing on racial fears by featuring a black man’s mug shot and linking blackness with depravity.
“The ad was intended to drive scared white people to the polls to vote for tough-on-crime Bush, seeking protection from black criminals like Horton and black-friendly candidates like Dukakis… ‘the insinuation is, if you elect Gov. Dukakis as president, we’re going to have black rapists running amok in the country.’”[F]
Reagan, Bush Senior and Bush Junior did nothing serious about the mass immigration. The rich liked cheap unskilled docile often-illegal labour from Latin America. Welcomed highly motivated skilled labour from all over the world.
The smart Centre-Right elite are not racists. They are also not interested in racial justice. Happy to lure authentic racists with false promises.
Much has been made of the nice note that Bush Senior left for Bill Clinton as his successor. But Clinton, unlike Dukakis, had swallowed the New Right’s ‘Feed the Rich’ economics. He would instead do something about gay rights and racial equality: this would predictably enrage poor white racists, who would keep voting Republican. Both parties were agreed on economic management that gave most of the new wealth to the 1%: the tiny more-than-millionaire elite that their leaders were part of.
I’m no expert on Wilfred Owen, killed 100 years ago in the final days of the First World War. But one of his poems is very apt. It rewrites the famous biblical incident in which Abraham is about to sacrifice his son Isaac:
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.[G]
Shocking, but the real thing was worse. And is implicitly praised if we wear the red poppy.
Once, it seemed no more than honouring the dead. After the 1991 Gulf War, it was reabsorbed into warmongering.
I saw exactly one poppy worn by a member of the public. Plus three plugs on social media, just one from someone I know.
They are still worn by everyone on the BBC.
Something else should be done for former soldiers in need. Something not linked to wrecking additional lives.
White poppies stand for pacifism: I am not a pacifist. What about a black poppy, to show sorrow for the dead of foolish wars?
“From proud Republican harbinger to sad Republican castaway — that’s the story of Representative Mia Love, who finally conceded her extraordinarily close House race on Monday.” [H]
She’s a nice black lady who thought she was part of the elite as a US Republican. And now learns otherwise.[I]
“It’s the story of her party, really. Of what it once realized about the future and how it slouched backward into the past. Of trading the elixir of hope for the toxin of fear.
“It charts Republicans’ ugly drift under Donald Trump, who rooted for her defeat not only as the votes in Utah’s Fourth Congressional District were still being counted (‘Mia Love gave me no love,’ the president pouted) but with all that he said on the campaign trail and has done in the White House. Tacitly and explicitly, he has sown disdain for the likes of Love, a daughter of Haitian immigrants who, in 2014, became the first black Republican woman ever elected to either chamber of Congress.
“She remains the only one. When she leaves at the end of this congressional session, there will be just two black Republican men — one in the House and one in the Senate…
“‘Because Republicans never take minority communities into their home and citizens into their homes and into their hearts, they stay with Democrats,’ Love said. Democrats ‘do take them home — or at least make them feel like they have a home.’”[J]
This is part of the defeat of authentic Libertarianism, in as far as it ever actually functioned in the US Republicans.
“Average temperatures around the world so far this year were nearly 1C (1.8F) above pre-industrial levels. Extreme weather has affected all continents, while the melting of sea ice and glaciers and rises in sea levels continue. The past four years have been the hottest on record, and the 20 warmest have occurred in the past 22 years.”[K]
“The UK has experienced more weather extremes over the last 10 years when compared with previous decades, a Met Office report has said.
“The hottest days have become almost 1C hotter, warm spells have increased, while the coldest days are not as cold.
“The number of so-called tropical nights – when temperatures stay above 20C – is increasing.”[L]
“By analyzing data from seven weather stations in northern Europe, the researchers found that the closer a community is to the Arctic Circle, the more this summer’s heat stood out in the temperature record. A number of cities and towns in Norway, Sweden and Finland hit all-time highs this summer, with towns as far north as the Arctic Circle recording nearly 90-degree temperatures.
“Not only is much of northern and western Europe hotter than normal, but the weather is also more erratic. Torrential rains and violent thunderstorms have alternated with droughts in parts of France. In the Netherlands, a drought — rather than the rising seas — is hurting its system of dikes because there is not enough fresh water countering the seawater.
“The preliminary results of the Oxford study found that, in some places, climate change more than doubled the likelihood of this summer’s European heat wave.
“‘In the past, we had this kind of heat wave once every 10 years, and now we have them every two years or something like that, … That’s really the sign of climate change: We have heat waves that aren’t necessarily more intense but that are more and more frequent.’”[M]
The New Right sneered at ‘Nanny State’. But they themselves believe in what we should call a ‘Nanny-Universe’. That if we compete vigorously and don’t worry about safety, nothing too bad will happen. It is a logical extension of the Invisible Hand concept, which Adam Smith mentions once in each of his two main books, and never gives the least justification for.
To say that Hitler murdered six million understates his guilt. The popular totals are six million Jews and five million others intentionally exterminated. A carefully designed policy that got in the way of Germany’s war effort.
No other government has ever come remotely close for killings intended to rid the world of people they saw as unfit to live. Almost all cause deaths or neglect needs as part of politics – Churchill let millions of Bengalis starve in 1943-4 rather than impede the war effort, at a time when victory was already probable.[N] But if you accept that Hitler had no good reason to start World War Two, you can blame him for at least another 34 million deaths. At least seven million non-Jewish Germans, and many non-Germans he’d have classed as ‘Racially Superior’.[O]
Japanese militarism killed off 25 million more, including 2 to 3 million Japanese. They began the war thinking that they could easily conquer China. But when this failed, they attacked the USA rather than make a sensible peace. Ignorant military fanatics saw any compromise as treason.
World War One had killed maybe 41 million, thanks to foolish politics all round. But a little clique of Liberal Party leaders had long wanted a war against Germany, to destroy them as rivals in World Trade.[P] Like Japan in the 1930s, they expected a cheap short war. They could not stop what they started.
During and after World War One, an unusually bad flu pandemic killed 50 to 100 million, many of them young and healthy. It was called ‘Spanish Flu’, because neutral Spain was honest in reporting it.
‘Spanish Flu’ started at military training bases in the USA.[Q] The abnormal conditions of military training and trench warfare made it lethal: other flu pandemics kill one or two million.
Wilfred Owen’s ‘Ram of Pride’ in his poem ‘The Parable Of The Old Man And The Young‘ killed more than 80 million.
But for death caused by foolishness and neglect, President Trump and other Climate Change Deniers may top all of these totals.
Some protestors talk of Extinction, and that’s alarmist. Climate disasters may drown coastal cities. The warming trend may make parts of the tropics so hot as to be uninhabitable by humans – lizards would do fine, as they have in past eras of global heating. But no way could it kill everyone, or even a majority of humanity. Even a nuclear war would not quite do that, unless someone used Cobalt Bombs.[R] And Cobalt Bombs have no military logic except to kill everyone, including all of your own people. I do not believe anyone is quite that crazy.
Extermination, no. Deaths exceeding the 45 to 52 million deaths caused by Hitler, quite possible. One clear risk is the current pattern of abnormal weather ending the regular monsoons needed to feed Pakistan and India.[S] Who then would care for hundreds of millions of the poor and needy?
If you relied on the BBC or The Guardian, you’d think the main issue in Taiwan’s recent round of elections was a decisive rejection of Gay Marriage.[T]
It did happen: 72% to 28% to define marriage as one man, one woman.[U] Traditional China had officially recognised polygamy: something that Gay Rights campaigners normally reject. The West still rejects officially-recognised polygamy and polyandry.
Traditional China mostly ignored homosexuality: any vows made were a private matter. The People’s Republic criminalised it from 1949, and decriminalised again in the 1990s.
Taiwan maintains an official ban on polygamy that the Kuomintang introduced as the mainland government in 1930. Concubinage continued unofficially, and mostly quite openly. It returned to mainland China after Mao.
Taiwan broadly upholds traditional Chinese culture: rejecting Gay Marriage is part of it.
Taiwan also increasingly harmonises with People’s China, in as far as they can without losing independence:
“Cheered on by China, Taiwan’s opposition drubs the ruling party…
“The outcome, a crushing defeat for Ms Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which would like Taiwan to abjure its notional status as part of China and declare itself a distinct country, will have prompted delight on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. The opposition Kuomintang (KMT), which favours ever-closer ties with China, has been revived after a dismal performance in 2016. Ms Tsai’s hopes of re-election in 2020 are looking dimmer.”[V]
“Since this crisis erupted in 2014, it has been about the West pushing into Russia’s comfort zone, and Russia pushing back. We were told in 2014 that the mob in the centre of Kiev were campaigning against corruption. Well, nearly five years since that mob violently overthrew a legitimate government, to the applause of ‘democrats’ everywhere, Ukraine is, if anything, more corrupt and less free than it was in 2014.” (Peter Hitchens for The Mail on Sunday.[W])
“From available details, Ukraine precipitated the incident on Sunday. Now, why would it have made such a move? One interpretation could be that it is all related to Ukrainian politics. Ukraine is heading for presidential and parliamentary elections in March next year. The incumbent pro-US president Petro Poroshenko is keen on securing another term. But he is terribly unpopular and his rating stands at 8% currently. He is unlikely to get a fresh mandate…
“What complicates matters is that the anti-Russian constituency in Europe and NATO on the one hand and the ‘Deep State’ in the US on the other (especially the Pentagon) are kindred souls in opposing President Trump’s agenda to improve relations with Russia. Significantly, the incident in Kerch Strait comes just before the planned meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin in Argentina at the weekend.”[X]
The Kerch Strait separates the westernmost tip of Crimea from Russia’s Krasnodar Krai in the east. Being less than two miles wide at its narrowest point, it would be under Russian control if Crimea counts as part of Russia, as it did till 1954. There is even now a bridge across it.
Ukraine’s claim of a right to sail through unchecked was a direct challenge to Russia’s disputed possession of Crimea.
Ukraine has grounds for access: the Strait leads to the Sea of Azov, the shores of which include undisputed Ukrainian territory. But this had always been granted, if permission were asked.
It looks as if Ukraine’s unpopular President decided on a provocation that re-asserted its refusal to let Crimea go its own way. And hopes the public can be fooled yet again.
I’ve noted before that Ukrainian elections have an unhappy habit of drastically rejecting whatever they voted for last time. We’ll have to see if this holds.
It would be rude to speak of a possible Polish exit from the European Union as ‘Poxit’. But it would also be justified. A massive disaster, with Poland much less protected from the awkward geo-political fact that it sits directly between Germany and Russia.
Europe has stood firm against making major concessions to Britain, because easy terms would encourage Euro-skeptic politics in the 27 other members. Poland might be the weakest link, but there are many.
As of 5th December, nothing is certain. But I’m not surprised that Mrs May has so far rejected ‘Norway Plus’. It would give more control of trade, but in return Britain would still be open to workers from the European Union. My firm belief is that whatever they say to opinion pollsters, that was the main issue for most who voted leave. Racists and bigots hate to be identified as such, but assert their real feeling in our cherished Secret Ballot.
And don’t forget, ‘Leave’ was just under 38% of the electorate. Almost as many voted Remain, and 27% of the population couldn’t be bothered. MPs could and should decide that they do in fact know best.
Previous Newsnotes at the Labour Affairs website, https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/past-issues/. Also https://longrevolution.wordpress.com/newsnotes-historic/. I blog occasionally at https://gwydionmw.quora.com/, and tweet at @GwydionMW.
[C][C] 18 August, 1988, during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/01/read-my-lips-no-new-taxes-quotes-from-president-george-hw-bush
[P] [P] See for instance ‘Lord Hankey: How We Planned The Great War’ by Pat Walsh, https://www.atholbooks-sales.org/searches/author_search.php