2018 06 – Newsnotes

Notes On The News

by Gwydion M Williams

USA – Land of the Freely Self-Harming

“The average American has a relatively high income, that of a person in a nominally rich country. Only his income does not go very far. Most of it is eaten up by attempting to afford the basics of life… The average American is constantly living right at the edge of ruin — one paycheck away from penury, one emergency away from losing it all.

“But this isn’t true for America’s peers. In Europe, Canada, and even Australia, society invests in all these things — and the costs of basic necessities societies don’t provide are regulated. For example, I pay $50 dollars for broadband and TV in London — but $200 for the same thing in New York — yet in London, I get vastly more and better media for my money… That’s regulation at work. And when basic goods like healthcare or elderly care or education are provided and managed at a social scale, that is when they are cheapest, and often of the best quality, too. Hence, healthcare costs far less in London, Paris, or Geneva — and life expectancy is longer, too.

“So if you are earning $50k in America, it is a very different thing than earning $50k in France, Germany, or Sweden — in America, you must pay steeply for the basics of life, for basic necessities. Thus, incomes stretch much further in other countries, which enjoy a vastly higher quality of life, even though people there earn roughly the same amount, because they pay vastly less for basic necessities. Americans are rich, but only nominally — their money doesn’t buy nearly as much as their peers does, where it matters and counts most, for the basics of life.

“What happens when societies don’t understand all the above? Well, a strange thing has happened to the American economy. While it’s true that things like TVs and Playstations have gotten cheaper, the costs of the basics of life have skyrocketed. All the things that really elevate people’s quality of life — healthcare, finance, education, transport, housing, and so on — have come to consume such a large share of the average household’s income that they have little left to save, invest, or spend on anything else. And what’s worse, while the basics of life have seen massive inflation, wages and incomes (not to mention savings and benefits and safety nets and opportunities) for most have stagnated. The result is an economy — and a society — that’s collapsing.”[A]

The faults are now widely admitted, though not by Tories intent on inflicting the same social evils on Britain.  Fixing them is another matter.

Inequality was being cured -3

[The diagram shows how average growth has actually slowed.  But the rich have benefited, because they get most of what growth there is.]

The New Right were ‘economic quietists’.  Beginning with Reagan and Thatcher, they claimed that it was impossible for the state to do anything useful, except in a small number of cases.  By an amazing coincidence, these are just those where intervention serves the selfish interest of the Overclass.  Such as bailing out speculative finance during the crisis of 2008.

But 1960s radicalism gave many people a deep suspicion of all state power.  Radicals were at odds with existing state power on many issues – sex, hierarchy, drugs, war and in the USA military conscription.  They foolishly defined this as the state opposing ‘Freedom’, seen as a metaphysical entity whose meaning was obvious.  So talk of lower taxes and a smaller state won many ex-radicals over to right-wing causes.  Has kept them there, despite a failure of the economic promises.  And ex-radical demands for social liberalism have largely been delivered.  Authentic conservatives have let the New Right herd them like cattle.

Thankfully, the younger generation are learning better.


In Iceland, the State Does Its Job

“From Neoliberal Ruins To Recovery: Iceland Is Real Poster-Boy…

“The neoliberal critique of the welfare state has turned out to be mere propaganda, without much substance in reality.

“As a matter of fact, the Nordic model is the only type of society, forged in the ideological conflicts of the 20th century, which has withstood the test of globalised competition in the 21st century with flying colours.

“Communism has been relegated to the dustbin of history. And unbridled capitalism of the neoliberal variety is lurching from one crisis to another; and only survives for the time being after the biggest rescue operation in history by the state, where it remains in intensive care, awaiting its fate.

“The facts speak for themselves. No matter which criteria we apply, the Nordic countries, without exception, are to be found in the top rank…

“A well known Finnish social democrat asked the audience if they knew which countries topped the international list for lowest taxes? The answer was the failed states of the world. Haiti came top. It has next to no taxes. It has also next to no education, no healthcare, no infrastructure and – conspicuously – no economic growth. And no hope. This explains why taxes are the price we all have to pay for living in a civilized society…

“Why did Iceland recover sooner and more decisively than most others? Here are some of the major reasons:

“Since this was a systemic bankruptcy, major creditors (e.g. Deutche Bank) simply had to write off their loans, and sold their claims on the after-market at fire-sale prices…

“The left-wing government rejected the proscribed austerity package and adopted instead some fiscal stimulus (e.g. through a more progressive tax system).”[B]

In Iceland, the rich were made to pay.  The economy did OK.

But Moderate Socialists should not repeat the New Right lie that Communism failed.  They should say that in Europe, it failed to move on when a lot of its original demands were met.  And the total state control of Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s China was superior to the Classical Capitalism that existed up until the 1920s and fell apart in the 1930s.  It did better than many Western countries in the 1950s and 1960s.

The overall success of the West’s Mixed Economy was impressive.[C]  There were naturally calls for reform.  But what actually happened in the Soviet Bloc was a sad botch.

Soviet thinkers claiming to be Marxists revived the Adam Smith notion that ‘markets know best’.  But wanted a state-rigged market where selfish desires competed for government-defined rewards.[D]  They also undermined the morality of the system by declaring Stalin criminal, but ignoring the obvious continuity between Lenin and Stalin.  It was Lenin who by stages criminalised all forms of opposition.  Everyone including Trotsky helped massacre the Kronstadt Rebels in 1921.

Serious Leninist reform movements existed, but failed in Europe.  The mostly-Slovak leaders of the Prague Spring might have made the Mixed Economy a world norm.  They were crushed by the Soviet invasion of 1968, and that was the start of the decline of the Soviet system.  The ideology wilted first, and the economy followed.

After Mao’s death, China went from total state control to a Mixed Economy where the state is much more powerful and arbitrary than in the West.  Authoritarian both on social and economic matters.  And not repudiating Mao, whose successes were much larger and more decisive than his mistakes.

(Western critics carefully avoid mentioning overall economic growth under Mao.  The best available data says he tripled the economy.  Matched global growth-rates, in the face of US trade embargos and Soviet hostility from the 1960s.[E]  They also never mention that Chinese life expectancy under Mao was much better than for most poor countries, and no worse than average during the crisis following the Great Leap Forward.)

China’s successful economy forces capitalists to obey rules and serve the public welfare.

Few of us would want China’s authoritarian social and economic controls, any more than we’d want China’s frequently-applied death penalty, including for rape and drug smuggling.  But history suggests that Moderate Socialists do best when they concede that harsh measures work, and just suggest they can offer a softer and more tolerant alternative.  When they recognise, maybe, that moderation does not work until you have raised up several new generations convinced that your own particular values are ‘the normal’ that they should be keeping without coercion.  And that trying to Westernise Iraq at the point of a gun was certain to push people just the opposite way.


Guns Before Royals

The day before Britain’s much-hyped Royal Wedding, there were two separate school shootings in the USA.

Seven more dead and six wounded in a further eight incidents since the well-reported massacre of 17 school students on 14th February.[F]  Barely reported in Britain.

Easy gun ownership matters.  A knifeman can be tackled and defeated by ordinary people: a gunman mostly cannot.  Britain tightened its already-tight gun laws after the 1996 Dunblane Massacre.  Only five British massacres since then, four of them Islamic suicide attackers.[G]

Similar in Australia:

“Between 1991 and 2001, the number of firearm-related deaths in Australia declined by 47%. Suicides committed with firearms accounted for 77% of these deaths, followed by firearms homicide (15%)… The number of firearms suicides was in decline consistently from 1991 to 1998, two years after the introduction of firearm regulation in 1996.

“Suicide deaths using firearms more than halved in ten years, from 389 deaths in 1995, to 147 deaths in 2005. This is equal to 7% of all suicides in 2005. Over the same period, suicides by hanging increased by over 52% from 699 in 1995 to 1068 in 2005.”[H]

But culture also plays a role.  Countries that do not glorify individual violence stay peaceful with widespread gun ownership.  What you can’t have is guns and glorification.

Glorification is part of a bad cultural pattern within Anglo culture.  A few people get an excess of wealth and attention.  Ordinary people are encouraged to identify with these few and not with people like themselves.  The media plays up to it.

“Experts say the recent uptick in mass shootings is likely due to the amount of attention the attacks receive and the fixation on the people behind them.”[I]

“This is an enormous and under-appreciated part of this story—and it’s inextricable from the copycat nature of these attacks, and the extent to which shooters are almost always obsessed with other shooters, particularly the two behind Columbine.”[J]

“So when are we going to be completely honest and acknowledge the awkward, bullied, sexually frustrated, psychotropic drug-laced, suicidal, mass shooters in the room for what they are…a creation of our so-called progressive culture and media…

“Y’all Keep posting the shooters face like he’s a rockstar and then keep asking why this keeps happening in a country obsessed with celebrity culture with a generation of kids with an inability to cope w/ anything.”[K]


Black in the Union Jack

The 1981 wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer was part of the New Right package.  And typical of the utter failure when those people tried to be genuine social conservatives.  I’d suppose they mostly wanted the traditional ruling-class privilege of traditional morality for the masses while themselves doing as they pleased.  But the unexpected popularity of Princess Dianna was one of many useful assets that they wasted by being greedy and small-minded.  By not realising the deeply unnatural and socially-defined nature of their preferred social order.

Thirty-seven years on, we have Diana’s younger son doing something useful, for once.  I feel no gratitude at all for his military service plaguing the lives of Afghans and Iraqis, though I’d accept that he was personally brave and honest.  The whole operation set back the cause of secularism among Muslims.  It has probably ended the chance of them ever accepting most of the West’s cultural package.  But he can’t be blamed for that.

He has married for love, but done unexpected good.  Poor Princess Margaret had her life ruined, because in the early 1950s it was unacceptable for her to marry Peter Townsend, who’d had a divorce.  That Megan had one is nowadays barely worth a mention.  What counted is that she has some Afro-American ancestry, even though she could easily pass for South European.  And many people who define themselves as Black or Mixed-Race find this a big step forward.[L]

There ain’t no black in the Union Jack’, the racists used to say.  There is now.

Alarmist talk of a Far-Right resurgence ignores just how much has changed.  In many ways they are the last defenders of what were standard British views in the 1950s.  Values the Establishment junked by stages from the 1980s, under Tories as well as Labour.

Sadly, a lot of social concern was junked at the same time.  Yes, it is fair enough that women and non-whites have equal access to the top grades of privilege.  But those grades are also vastly more privileged than any merit those people might have.[M]  We need ‘Fair Inequality’, and have been moving away from it since the 1980s.


How Dare Anyone Know I am Related to my Relatives!

“In 1987, Jay Cook, 20, and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, a couple from Canada, were brutally killed while they were vacationing in Washington State…

“‘Jay was our son and at the time he died he was 20 years old and Tanya was 18. He would be 51 now,’ said Lee Cook, his mother, during the news conference. ‘He probably would have married and had kids. I would have more grandchildren. I miss all that could have been.’…

“The DNA of second cousins helped lead detectives to William Earl Talbott II, who was arrested Thursday in Washington State in connection with the 1987 murders.”[N]

Good news?  Not everyone sees it so.  1960s radicalism led on to an unreasonable panic over state power.  Even though the police were using data freely made public, there were doubts:

“This is really tough,’ said Malia Fullerton, an ethicist at the University of Washington who studies DNA forensics. ‘He was a horrible man and it is good that he was identified, but does the end justify the means?’”[O]

As I understand it, the police used public data to find a suspect who roughly matched the DNA evidence from the original crime.  A suspect whose exact DNA would not match if they were innocent.

My own DNA data is public.[P]  I’d be shocked and surprised if any of my relatives were rapists or murderers.  But if they were and were caught using my DNA data, I’d say ‘fair enough’.

For ordinary people, crime and fear of crime are the biggest threats to living their own lives as they wish.  Panicking over use of public DNA data is absurd.


How Dare They Recognise My Face!

Being recognised, or being spotted as odd by nosy neighbours, has always been a problem for anyone wanted by the police.  Now it is going electronic.

“Fans of the technology see a powerful new tool for catching criminals, but detractors see an instrument of mass surveillance.

“On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union led a group of more than two dozen civil rights organizations that asked Amazon to stop selling its image recognition system, called Rekognition, to law enforcement. The group says that the police could use it to track protesters or others whom authorities deem suspicious, rather than limiting it to people committing crimes.”[Q]

China has similar technology, and caught a wanted man in a crowd of 60,000.[R]

A cause for panic?  I can’t see it.  A more efficient version of what has always been around.


Thou Shalt Have No Eternal Truth, Other Than What We Invented Last Week

“The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has barred one of China’s most popular TV channels from airing the Eurovision song contest after it censored LGBT elements of the competition.

“Mango TV was criticised on social media for apparently blurring rainbow flags and censoring tattoos during Tuesday’s first semi-final.

“It also decided not to air performances by the Irish and Albanian entries.

“The EBU said the censorship was not in line with its values of diversity.”[S]

They were punished for daring to apply Chinese standards – homosexuality is legal but must be kept discrete.  Values that the West kept for a long time after the 1960s decriminalisation, until the balance of public opinion shifted.

It’s not a free-for-all even now.  Only in 2017 did Star Trek boldly venture to have explicitly gay males.  Star Wars has yet to do so.  Likewise the various live-action films based on comic books.  Recently it is being slightly implied, but only slightly.[T]

But the big Eurovision story is the win by the Israeli singer.  The next contest may take place in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem.  A place where Arab and Muslim rights are neglected, so there are calls for a boycott.[U]

Or someone might stage an alternative to be held at the same time, to see how big an audience could be drawn off.



Global Votes

“The Alliance of Revolutionaries for Reform, also known by its Arabic short form Sairoon … literally ‘On the Move’, is an Iraqi electoral coalition formed to contest the 2018 general election. The main components are the Sadrist movement and the Iraqi Communist Party.”[V]

It has 55 seats out of 329 after the recent elections.

A defeat for US plans?  That’s uncertain.  Sadr visited the Saudis, and also called for Assad to stand down in Syria

Reports I’ve seen omit the charge made back in 2004 that Sadr was involved in the murder of a pro-Western cleric.  This is to be found in the man’s Wiki entry[W], but not that for Sadr.  I said at the time that it was probably a bit of shysterism by the USA.[X]

Meantime Hezbollah and its allies have done well in Lebanon.[Y]


Most Flesh Is Grass

Humans are just 0.01% of all life.  That’s by mass of living tissues: by numbers we would count for much less.[Z]

But we dominate the planet.  Of all the mammals on Earth, 96% are livestock and humans.  Only 4% are wild animals

Even more remarkably, 82% of everything is land plants.  All life in the oceans comes to just 1% of the planet’s biomass.



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/.



[A]              https://eand.co/why-america-is-the-worlds-first-poor-rich-country-17f5a80e444a

[B]              https://www.socialeurope.eu/from-neoliberal-ruins-to-recovery-iceland-is-real-poster-boy

[C]              https://gwydionwilliams.com/99-problems-magazine/the-mixed-economy-worked-quite-well/

[D]              https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/the-soviet-past/market-socialism-in-the-soviet-union/

[E]              https://gwydionwilliams.com/99-problems-magazine/mao-and-china/

[F]              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_school_shootings_in_the_United_States#2015_to_present

[G]              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres_in_Great_Britain

[H]              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_Australia#Measuring_the_effects_of_firearms_laws_in_Australia

[I]               https://twitter.com/passantino/status/997510613206089728

[J]               https://tipolitics.com/daily-twitter-rundown-disturbing-signs-prior-to-texas-shooting-a34a726a836a

[K]              https://twitter.com/MrColionNoir

[L]              https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/12/meghan-markle-effect-royal-wedding-african-american-women

[M]             https://gwydionwilliams.com/46-globalisation/are-top-salaries-really-justified/

[N]              https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/18/science/ancestry-site-arrest-washington.html

[O]              https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/27/health/dna-privacy-golden-state-killer-genealogy.html

[P]              https://gwydionmadawc.com/about/my-dna-results/

[Q]              https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/22/technology/amazon-facial-recognition.html

[R]              http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-43751276

[S]              http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-44078305

[T]              https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/963756/Han-Solo-star-wars-movie-Lando-gay-bisexual-What-does-pansexual-mean-Donald-Glover

[U]               https://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/culture_and_living/2018/05/15/over_five_thousand_icelanders_sign_petition_to_boyc/

[V]              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alliance_of_Revolutionaries_for_Reform

[W]             https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majid_al-Khoei

[X]              https://gwydionwilliams.com/politics-various-articles/us-shysterism-in-iraqi-in-2004/

[Y]              https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/hezbollah-amal-allies-claim-lebanon-election-sweep-180507160524402.html

[Z]              https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/21/human-race-just-001-of-all-life-but-has-destroyed-over-80-of-wild-mammals-study