The West Fails in Five Civilisations
by Gwydion M Williams
Also available as a PDF, Problem 39 – West Failing in Five Civilisations.
- A Pattern of Setbacks
- Boeing – Come fly with me and die with me!
- Boris and Brexit
- Trump – a Right-Wing Nihilist
- Apollo 11 – a Cold War Turning Point
- The Sputnik Accident
- China Rising
- Chinese People Watched In Public Places
- Governing China
- Governing China Without Open Enemies
- Who Fears to Speak of ’89?
- Will China Win the Trade War?
- Moral Examples – the Dalai Lama?
- Hong Kong Committing Suicide?
- Climate – the Sun Cools While Earth Warms
- Socialism – the Basis of Modern Western Life
- Fake News and D-Day Bliaring
- Huawei Still Rising
- Iron and Chips
- The New Right Killed Functional Conservatism
- Going To Pot?
- Loving the Rich, Shouting About God
- The Sadness of Brazil
- Capitalism as a Fading Creed
- Celtic Bloodbaths
- Aryans of India
- Taxes Needed for Civilisation
- Too Rich to Pay Tax?
- The USA and abortion
- Older ‘Family Values’
- The Fleshpots of Duty-Free
- Betting Addictions
- Cats, Including Bad Black Cats
- Children and Good Examples
- Congo Memories
- Greedy and Self-Defeating
- Greece – Hard Choices
- “The Green Book’s Black History”
- Iran and Atomics
- Islam In Decline?
- Liberal Rats
- Mad, Bad and Nearly Dead
- Mission to Titan
- Unions in the USA
A Pattern of Setbacks
To lose influence over one civilisation might be a misfortune. To lose two suggests carelessness. But to lose five – and also outrage many of your own citizens – is vastly worse. It must have much deeper causes: a basic false understanding of the world.
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1989-91, after Gorbachev’s brief attempt to reform it. So was the bitter anti-Communism of the New Right vindicated? Was their score for socialism proved right? They certainly thought so.
Yet what followed was not an ‘End of History’, with Western ideas becoming global. It undoubtedly would have, had the either the New Right or the Blair / Clinton compromise vision been correct. But the raw facts say otherwise.
There has been a sharp fall in Western influence after its high point in the early 1990s. Notable failures are:
Reviving Sectarian Islam, even in highly Westernised Turkey
Losing China (apart from tiny highly-privileged Hong Kong)
Losing culturally in India, and not gaining much economically
Facing Illiberal Democracy in Middle-Europe.
The New Right could not accept that it was a heavy draught of socialism that won the Cold War for the West. They were determined that the fragments of the fallen Soviet Union must not repeat the ‘mistakes’ of actual US policy to its former foes: Italy, West Germany and Japan.
Applying this ‘wisdom’ to Russia, they lost Russia. Vastly weakened pro-Western elements in China: most Chinese saw Russia as a horrible example of what would have happened had the Tiananmen Protests overthrown Deng and given power to pro-Western politicians.
In the Muslim world, they failed to recognise the various secular dictatorships as the only useful agents of Westernisation. And were certain that the populations they had ‘liberated’ would be better off without the horrible burden of state power on them. Were utterly astonished when this multiplied crime and Islamic extremism in Iraq. Doggedly applied the same ‘wisdom’ in Libya, and attempted it in Syria. Remain utterly astonished at the outcomes of their own actions. And learn nothing.
They were also unsuccessful in defending Centre-Right cultural values – if indeed they were ever sincere in their repeated claims to be defending those values.
The New Right were the most successful product of the broad rebelliousness of the 1960s. Which included a lot of leftism and radicalism, but sentiments were always very mixed. I remember a popular song from those days:
“The best things in life are free
“But you can keep them for the birds and bees
“Now give me money (That’s what I want)
“That’s what I want (That’s what I want)
“That’s what I want, yeah (That’s what I want)
“That’s what I want”
I remember the Chuck Berry version, but it was apparently played by many others, including The Beatles. And there was a lot of greed bound up with the nobler sentiments. ‘Just give me money’ was only half a joke – and Punk Rock played the same game with hyped-up vulgarity.
I remember as a student activist on the tail-end of the main movement in the early 1970s that a majority of the Baby Boomers were not idealists. You had to push the right buttons to get radical actions, and some causes they were mostly not interested in. A majority wanted freedom for themselves, but most were lukewarm about freedom for others. Seldom took a moral stand that would cost them anything.
In the USA, they were keen not to risk their own precious bodies in the Vietnam war. Callous about the likely fate of those South Vietnamese and Cambodians who had supported the US cause: people who had not been allowed to make a half-decent peace when they might have. There were some honourable exceptions, but very few.
The US Congress cut off aid to ‘our gooks’ when it was getting too expensive. And letting them suffer was fine with most US voters, young and old.
Among the young, the ‘rebel generation’, a ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Wonderful Me’ would have been a joke with a lot of truth in it.
And with the New Right, it became a real system of belief. Applied dogmatically, except where the interests of the rich and powerful might be touched.
While the dogmatists were few, they were helped by a vast mass of depressed and uncertain Baby Boomers, whose 1960s hopes were disappointed. And by the new youth movement of Punk; it saw existing society as disgusting but mostly denied that anything better was possible.
A recent Guardian article accused Boris Johnson of “channelling a punk ethos to force through Brexit.” Clearly he was not himself a punk, being quiet and studious – though he also took cocaine when a student. But he is also from the generation born from 1960s that had no idea of how far 1960s radicalism had liberated them. Were ignorant of how powerful the forces were that opposed them at the time. ‘Boris’ is one of those for whom Punk with its aggressive cynicism was the main Youth Culture. Unlike Jacob Rees-Mogg, he does not look like an echo of a dead past.
Those born from 1960 are mostly in the age-band 50-59 in the 2017 election, when they voted 47% Tory to 37% Labour. Not as solidly Tory as older generation – mine was 58 to 27 pro-Tory. But the 40-49 age-band voted 39% Tory and 44% Labour. Those under 30 gave more than 60% of their votes to Labour when it embraced serious radicalism under Corbyn.
Those Blairites who assure us that Labour under Corbyn cannot win must be taking their impressions from people they know. Ignoring the younger people who are sick of New Right answers. People who mostly didn’t vote for the left-but-ashamed-of-itself politics that the well-meaning but weak Ed Miliband offered in 2015. Who voted in much greater numbers for Corbyn in 2017, defying predictions of a Tory walk-over.
The New Right triumphed in the 1980s and 1990s, because it offered definite answers to a visible crisis. Did so at a time when the left was unsure of itself. Did so because it played to the asocial selfishness that was always a big part of 1960s radicalism But it was not a creed that could actually shape the world, when it ran rampant in the 1990s.
As for the Soviet collapse, I’d seen the Soviet Union as a viable system, wrecked by a string of bad leaders from Khrushchev through Brezhnev and down to Gorbachev. And weakened by the monolithic politics that was a source of strength earlier. This gave the West a chance to triumph – but only if it understood what was actually happening.
The New Right was full of False Wisdom, and it failed.
We now see the complete collapse of the New Right Internationalists. They encouraged bigots, while being willing to include people of all racial origins and sexual preferences. Thought that they were Superior Persons who could gather votes and push their own agenda.
They and the left-liberals are now shocked to see the bigots in control.
For now, Populists with a large remnant of New Right beliefs dominate. They continue the pattern of New Right politics in seeking the votes of racists. What is different is that now many of them seem to really share the beliefs of the bigots who vote them in.
Boeing – Come fly with me and die with me!
Back in April and May , I was one of many who said that the second of two crashes in a hastily-introduced new model were part of a much deeper problem. That it might be fatal to Boeing’s commercial future in passenger aircraft.
It is now August. The damage has no obvious limits:
“Airbus is on track to overtake Boeing as the world’s biggest planemaker as the US company reported a slump in deliveries of new commercial jet airliner deliveries after two fatal crashes involving the 737 Max.
“Boeing, which has led its European rival since 2012, is struggling after safety regulators worldwide grounded its best-selling 737 Max following the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air disasters that killed 346 people.
“Boeing reported 239 commercial plane deliveries in the first half of the year, a 37% fall from 378 in the same period last year, highlighting the extent to which the crashes have damaged its reputation in the market.”
Boeing were a great company back in the 1950s and 1960s:
“In 1958, Boeing began delivery of its 707, the United States’ first commercial jet airliner, in response to the British De Havilland Comet, French Sud Aviation Caravelle and Soviet Tupolev Tu-104, which were the world’s first generation of commercial jet aircraft. With the 707, a four-engine, 156-passenger airliner, the U.S. became a leader in commercial jet manufacturing.”
The De Havilland Comet was discredited by a series of crashes, finally traced to having windows not properly rounded at the corners. Later versions were safer, but the lost reputation was never recovered.
Boeing meantime did brilliantly with passenger aircraft – just one of many businesses they are strong in. But from the 1990s, there was a pattern of refusing to admit fault. A cashing-in on the legacy of Ronald Reagan, who convinced everyone that business needed to be liberated from an over-regulators state:
“On March 3, 1991, a United Airlines Boeing 737 crashed on approach to Colorado Springs, killing all 25 people aboard. After an investigation of almost two years, the N.T.S.B. concluded that one of the two likely causes was a malfunctioning rudder power control unit, which moved the rudder in the opposite direction to that intended by the pilots. The agency recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration require airlines to install a modified part, to prevent future rudder reversals, as soon as Boeing made them available, but Boeing failed to do that.
“On Sept. 8, 1994, a USAir 737 crashed as it neared Pittsburgh, killing all 132 people aboard. Despite the obvious similarities between the two crashes that were revealed during the investigation, Boeing insisted even to the final stages of the second inquiry that there was nothing wrong with the design of the aircraft, and the company again pointed to improper pilot rudder commands as the cause…
“Boeing has found a willing partner in the F.A.A., which allowed the company to circumvent standard certification processes so it could sell aircraft more quickly. Boeing’s inadequate regard for safety and the F.A.A.’s complicity display an unconscionable lack of leadership at both organizations.”
We learn more and more about a toxic managerial culture:
“A former Boeing engineer has told the BBC’s Panorama programme that work on the production line of the 737 Max plane was not adequately funded.
“The aircraft is currently grounded after two crashes which killed 346 people.
“The 737 Max is the company’s fastest selling plane and has earned the company billions of dollars in sales…
“Adam Dickson worked at Boeing for 30 years and led a team of engineers who worked on the 737 Max. He said they were under constant pressure to keep costs down.
“‘Certainly what I saw was a lack of sufficient resources to do the job in its entirety,’ he says.
“‘The culture was very cost centred, incredibly pressurised. Engineers were given targets to get certain amount of cost out of the aeroplane.’
“Mr Dickson said engineers were under pressure to downplay new features on the 737 Max.
“He said by classifying them as minor rather than major changes, Boeing would face less scrutiny from the US regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration…
“Passengers first flew on the 737 Max in 2017, but airlines have been making advance purchases since the plane was first marketed in 2011
“Five thousand have been ordered – making it the fastest-selling plane in Boeing’s history.
“Some of the money from those sales has been used to fund big pay-outs for company executives and shareholders.
“Since 2013, Boeing has paid $17bn (£13.74bn) in dividends to shareholders and has spent a further $43bn buying its own shares – a spending spree that has helped Boeing treble its share price in just five years.
“Chief executive Dennis Muilenburg has also been paid more than $70m.
“Critics have accused Boeing of paying more attention to the stock market than the safety of its passengers.”
Cash Machine to Crash Machine. The core business of making quality aircraft got lost sight of in the drive to talk up the share price. To make for yourself what is sometimes called ‘drop dead money’
Drop Dead Money is not a popular phrase. It sums up rather too neatly what the greedy and asocial members of the Overclass are really doing:
“The term comes from a character in the James Clavell novel, ‘Taipan’. A character in that novel, a lady executive has the objective to have ‘drop dead money’. The ‘drop dead money’ is that amount of money that she calculates she needs so that she would have the freedom and the luxury to tell anyone to ‘drop dead’ without worrying about her financial security.”
Real people don’t drop dead when you ask them to. But real people very often suffer and die because of the destructive policies pushed by the New Right.
Clavell, who died in 1994, became a populariser of New Right values after seeming to know better in his first novel, King Rat. A later novel glorified the British-protected drug barons who created Hong Kong. What he wrote about Japan impressed me more – he changed history to make the rise of the Tokugawa Shoguns more close-run than it really was, but matched what I think I understand about Japan’s very distinct values.
Clavell must have noticed how alien modern Japan is, under the superficial forms of Capitalist Democracy. But for the West, he believed New Right nonsense.
‘Come fly with me and die with me’ sums up the era of New Right dominance. Which also succeeded in damaging Japan’s once-supercharged economy. They lost the super-fast growth they enjoyed when Mixed Economy values dominated. Had a period of stagnation: they are now somewhat recovered, but just ticking along overshadowed by China.
‘Come Fly with Me’ was a 1957 popular song written for Frank Sinatra, and made famous by him. Part of an America Dream that is now dying. Dying with a burst of anger expressed both by President Trump and rash of White-Power terrorists, but still dying.
Boris and Brexit
My Indecision is Final
That was what emerged from Britain’s Parliament’s, after a complex series of votes back in March.
Which is why I will not accuse Mr Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson of dictatorship. He was the choice of the party that got the most votes in 2015 and 2017. That had been faithfully backed by the Liberal-Democrats when it counted. And the new Liberal-Democrat leader has promised on no account to ever go into coalition with Labour under Corbyn. She has made no other such promises.
Mr Johnson offers a way out of the deadlock we are now in. A foolish way out. But the better alternatives offered by the Labour leadership were rejected by free votes in our sanctified Westminster parliament. And some of those votes were only lost because a minority of Labour MPs plus the Labour defectors chose to abstain or oppose.
The Parliament that British voters actually elected in 2017 could not cope with a referendum based on false expectations of what the rest of the European Union would give to keep some link with Britain. Mrs May’s deal was rejected – but so were all other possible deals. So was a Second Referendum, by 295 to 268. And so was a firm commitment not to even consider a No-Deal Brexit, which lost by 293 to 184.
A positive commitment to No-Deal Brexit also lost, by 400 to 160. But it looks likely to be the final outcome.
I’ve done a more detailed analysis of the votes: Brexit at 28th March – playing ‘chicken’. ‘Chicken’ was a dangerous US motoring game in which two cars drove at each other, each hoping that the other would lose their nerve and swerve first. In the case of the votes. I assume that a lot of MPs are being selfish. Rejecting an outcome they’d find acceptable, in the hope of getting the outcome they most want. Or avoiding a vote they’d like to cast, but which might get them deselected.
So what next?
Talk of ‘renegotiation’ is probably flimflam. The European Union has survived pressures that looked likely to break it up. But giving Britain a deal better than the one Mrs May got would advertise that any discontented nation could get whatever it wanted by misbehaving. Italy with its right-wing populists would probably be first, but there are many more. That really would be lethal: and disgusting weakness if the European Union leadership tried it.
I also do not expect a British General Election, though the narrowing of the Tory majority makes it more likely. A General Election can only be forced against the will of the government if the government loses a Vote of Confidence. They could also survive if they win another one with a possible new Prime Minister within 14 days: but I am certain Mr Johnson would never step down willingly. Nor can his party easily sack him, after the bulk of the membership enthused for him.
A General Election might also happen if Mr Johnson is prevented from doing a No-Deal Brexit and then chooses to call a General Election. I think he’d need two-thirds vote of the House of Commons, since the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 ended the Prime Minister’s right to do so just when they pleased. But most of the Tory Party would follow his lead if he asked them. Most Labour MPs want a General Election regardless.
I think that neither of these two possibility are likely. Too many Tory MPs would fear that it would end their careers. The Remainers might in the end abstain and let a No-Deal Brexit happen. Or for a Vote of Confidence etc., some of the Independents and most of the defectors from the Labour Party would abstain and let the government survive.
As things are, Johnson’s Tory government can hang onto power quite legally until May 2022, no matter how unpopular they might get. And other MPs keep their seats and their influence. All of them could expect three more years to make useful contacts and be assured of a very superior job even if they then get voted out. Three more years to legally enrich the rich by tax cuts and privatisation – and the rich know how to look after their friends.
There used to be a lot of Tory MPs who would make personal sacrifices for what they saw as the National Interest. Not many of that sort left. Probably none among the Labour Defectors, apart from Frank Field who was never a Blairite.
The Tory Party depends on the votes of the old and the uneducated. Two-thirds of them chose Boris Johnson, and Hunt wasn’t much of an alternative. They want Boris and they want Brexit, regardless. Most will be dead soon, and presumably satisfied with what they have inflicted on the younger generations. But for now, British electoral rules put then in charge. Whining about it without proposing some better reformed system is futile.
Curiously, Brexit is less popular with the very old – the War Babies born between 1939 and 1945. They must have clear memories of suffering and peril. My generation of Baby Boomers had it easy. I was one of the minority keen on sharing the same security with the rest of the world. The majority of Baby Boomers always felt that only their comfort mattered, and this has got worse as they have got older. And those who are Tory members would punish any Tory MP who got in the way of Boris’s plans.
But Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is naturally taking no chances. He could go into an election and expect to emerge as leader of a coalition, even if the Tory Party is decimated.
One clear advantage would be a chance to dump the Ulster Unionists, who make inconvenient demands over the problems that Mrs May’s idea of a Backstop were supposed to solve. He cannot dump them in favour of the solidly-Remain Liberal-Democrats while he seeks Brexit. But if Brexit had already happened, Liberal-Democrats might decide it was ‘patriotic’ to support him. Do this with or without an election that would give them many more seats.
Currently, Ulster Unionists in the shape of the Democratic Unionist Party have 10 seats. They are unlikely to get many more from a Northern Ireland total of 18, and might well get less. Liberal-Democrats have 12, and are overwhelmingly likely to get more. The Brexit Party, which is almost the personal property of Nigel Farage, would get many and would back Boris.
Mr Johnson’s own seat is marginal and likely to be lost. But any Tory MP who helped bring down a Tory government would certainly be deselected. He could get one of the vacancies.
Showing that a possible election does not scare him is likely to persuade floating-voter MPs not in the end to stop a No-Deal Brexit. Particularly the Labour defectors, and others who are still in the party but likely to be denied re-selection by the Corbynite majority. Those too would want to hang on till May 2022.
He makes massive promises that probably will not be met:
“Boris Johnson’s cash splurge is totally reckless. Yet it could win an election…
“What is the big difference between Johnson’s economics and that practised by his former colleagues in government? In a word, cash – and lots of it. In the 2017 general election, Theresa May famously told a struggling nurse that there was no “magic money tree” to give her a pay rise. Her would-be replacement has found not just one tree, but a whole forest. Pay rises for public-sector workers! Fewer workers paying national insurance! Tax cuts for the rich! And that’s just for starters.
“As mayor of London, Johnson was mad about infrastructure, never happier than when strapped into a hard hat. He spaffed tens of millions on a garden bridge across the Thames and dreamed of erecting an airport on an estuary island. If he becomes prime minister, he will almost certainly unleash the biggest public-works programme seen this decade.”
This is from a Guardian writer who clearly sees New Right economics as beyond question. Boris may be part of a return to sanity: a return to Keynesian methods. That Mixed-Economy system worked fine, and won the Cold War. Thatcher did vast damage by restoring the old bad 19th-centry orthodoxy that treats an entire society as if it were an individual household. That sees life as a burden on money, and tries to make the burden as small as possible.
A single household cannot depress the economy by not spending. Governments can and do. Boris, it seems, will not. He is mostly spending on the wrong things, notably jails and tax cuts for the rich. But he is correct to spend.
Economists are now shifting to sanctify the new reality with something called MMT, Modern Monetary Theory. The theoretical underpinnings of MMT seem to me no more logical than the discredited Economic Theology of the New Right.
I find it appropriate that MMT can also mean ‘Methadone Maintenance Treatment’; a fall-back treatment for heroin addicts.
MMT or not, how well Mr Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson succeeds if he gets Brexit is another matter. He has taken one small step as a very small man trying to do a very big job.
Trump – a Right-Wing Nihilist
An Opinion Writer in the New York Times was one of many who linked Trump to at least one of the three mass killings that the USA suffered in early August. This one has the merit of seeing much deeper links within US culture:
“The Nihilist in Chief
“How our president and our mass shooters are connected to the same dark psychic forces…
“And this is what really links Trump to all these empty male killers, white nationalists and pornogrind singers alike. Like them he is a creature of our late-modern anti-culture, our internet-accelerated dissolution of normal human bonds. Like them he plainly believes in nothing but his ego, his vanity, his sense of spite and grievance, and the self he sees reflected in the mirror of television, mass media, online.
“Because he is rich and famous and powerful, he can get that attention with a tweet about his enemies, and then experience the rush of a cable-news segment about him. He doesn’t need to plot some great crime to lead the news; he just has to run for president. But having him as president — having him as a political exemplar for his party, and a cultural exemplar of manhood for his supporters and opponents both — is a constant ratification of the idea that we exist as celebrities or influencers or we don’t exist at all, and that our common life is essentially a form of reality television where it doesn’t matter if you’re the heel or hero so long as you’re the star.”
I’ve long been arguing something similar, and did this well before Trump became President. The notion that ‘we exist as celebrities or influencers or we don’t exist at all’ applies just as much to President Kennedy, and every single President since then. Most of the media including all of the liberals push this doctrine, which occupies the gaps in the human soul that Traditional Religion once occupied. Even the most vigorous varieties of US religion have it. God supposedly loves the rich.
The specific racism of Trump is part of it. But this emerged in reaction to a genuinely powerful left wing appearing in the Democratic Party, as I’ve noted elsewhere: see Trump and ‘Send Her Back’. He sounds like a genuine believer in the once-standard notion that the USA is a nation for the White Race, with anyone else there on sufferance.
Right-wing populism has emerged, because the New Right Internationalists were always a small minority. Almost all of them found covert ways to tap into racism. Encouraged the public to feel malice and fear.
The other problems is that the nice moderate centre has neglected the needs of ordinary people.
That those ordinary people react stupidly and violently is regrettable, and shameful for those individuals. But without the neglect, would it have happened?
It was a massive wrong turning in the 1970s and 1980s, to lose faith in the power of the state to do good. It was the Centre-Right who profited by it, but many on the left remain locked into it. Have unlimited faith in ‘the people’, no matter how often it is shown that ‘the people’ are fallible and easy to mislead.
Apollo 11 – a Cold War Turning Point
Fifty years ago, the USA put the first two humans on the moon. Both men, white, and Anglo. The three-man team were Armstrong and Aldrin and Collins (who stayed in orbit). All married and with visible children. Men who reassured the public that these were All-American Boys.
Had the main purpose been science, or expanding human destiny, it would have made sense to send single and childless men on these very dangerous missions. There were plenty among those who met the formal qualification. There were also qualified women, including some very skilled pilots. Some single, and presumably some of those lesbian – but at the time, all that was kept hidden away in public life.
Sally Ride had a husband in 1983, when she became the first US woman in space. She divorced him and formed an open lesbian partnership only later on.  And she seems to be the only know case.
The main purpose of the Apollo program was to make the USA look good, by sending men who seemed representative of those who at that time had very solid dominance in the USA. And were indeed just that, as far as I know. Nice people, but part of the solid dominant block who oppressed and limited everyone else.
Those first two All-American Boys were followed by 10 more, down to the end of 1972, but with the public increasingly less interested. The moon was much less glamourous than fiction had made it. The US public had been conditioned to expect instant glamour.
Unless you are a geologist, or an astrophysicist interested in the origin of the solar system, the moon is really a very dull place.
Had Earth possessed a Mars-sized companion, things would surely have been different. The real Mars remains fascinating, though much harder to get to. It is also vastly easier to live on and might over centuries be made habitable, which is vastly less likely on the moon.
The moon had no immediate potential. The exploration of the then-mysterious Outer Planets was only just beginning, with Pioneer 10 sent to Jupiter in 1972.
Apollo missions 18, 19 and 20 were scrapped. One out of three left-over rockets was used to launch a space station called Skylab, and the other two became museum pieces. There was no further production of the Saturn V rocket, still the only launch vehicle able to take humans beyond Low Earth Orbit.
Low Earth Orbit is defined as an Earth-centered orbit with an altitude of up to 2,000 kilometres or 1,200 miles. This is roughly one-third of the radius of Earth.
Low Earth Orbit is Earth’s backyard. That close to Earth, the remaining wisps of atmosphere are enough to eventually bring down satellites that lack the fuel for orbit corrections. Early notions of astronauts being ‘up among the stars’ reflect an Earth-based outlook that we have hopefully now outgrown. Low Earth Orbit is used for most satellites, because it is relatively cheap and easy to get to.
Without Saturn V or something equally powerful, living humans can go no further. The space shuttles and the International Space Station are confined there. Russia’s Soyuz rockets cannot get beyond it.
One interesting might-have-been was ‘Saturn-Shuttle’ – use a Saturn V to help launch the planned Space Shuttle. That would have kept the giant rockets in production and available for a possible return to the moon. Made construction of the International Space Station much easier, since they could lift far more with a single shot. And they would have been far safer than the solid-fuel boosters used instead, which caused one of the two accidents that ended up killing the Shuttle program. But Congress was intent on cost-cutting. They picked the cheap, dangerous and short-sighted option.
Detailed skills and knowledge of how to make the rockets was lost. Current giant rockets are a new beginning. As of August 2019, they are not yet reliable enough to risk humans in them.
The moon landings were seen as a decisive victory in the Space Race. Congress had been willing to give NASA up to 4% of the Federal Budget for that prestige victory. But with the USA now accepted as victor, they let it decline to less than 1%.
Current spending on NASA has drifted below 0.5%. This would allow a return to the moon in the next decade, but probably not by 2024. Not without a big budget increase, or else excessive risk.
The remote chance of the Chinese getting there first will probably not be enough to persuade Congress to give the Trump administration the chance of a grand spectacle to win over undecided voter. A Chinese landing would anyway be China repeating what the USA did half a century ago. Nothing new, apart from the minor landmark of almost certainly including the first woman to go beyond Low-Earth Orbit.
The Sputnik Accident
The Space Race started almost by accident. The Soviet Union needed intercontinental ballistic missiles to drop H-bombs on the USA. The USA had bombers at bases near the borders of the Soviet Union, and had much less of a need. Soviet leaders had to worry that a future US President might start a World War feeling confident that the US Mainland would be safe.
The giant R-7 rocket that the Soviets produced could destroy US cities, if a war started. It was also suitable for a satellite launch. It was indeed the first of a family of rockets that became the Soyuz series, still used by Russia to launch satellites and people.
The USA meantime was keen to inhibit the publicity gained by Von Braun, whose German rocket program had been taken up by Hitler to produce V2 rocket bombs for the Nazis. Space was always Von Braun’s main interest, but the same technology served for both. One of the V2s was the first man-made object to reach outer space. But V2s had a range of only 320 kilometres, and lacked the power to put anything into orbit. They could only do a brief jaunt into space, falling back almost at once.
Von Braun and his people were keen to surrender to the USA rather than the Soviets, and were indeed taken up. But he was seen initially as a weapons man. His feasible program for a satellite was downplayed in favour of an all-American alternative. An alternative that produced a most embarrassing explosion on the launchpad of the rocket intended for the first satellite launch.
Von Braun was then allowed to try, and succeeded. Put in charge to win the Moon Race for the USA, and also succeeded.
Russia meantime made a mess of its own efforts to put humans on the moon. Something much bigger than any R-7 was needed. The gigantic N1 rocket was indeed secretly developed, but all four launches ended in catastrophic failure. The earlier death at age 59 of Chief Designer Sergei Korolev was tragic and a misfortune. But failure after the initial triumphs was also part of a general post-Stalin decline that ended with collapse in 1991.
It was still possible in the late 1960s for the Soviets to try to collect and return the first moonrocks with a robotic vehicle. The first, a month before Apollo 11, failed to reach orbit. But Luna 15 reached the moon while Apollo 11 was there. The New York Times reported at the time:
“The Soviet Union today virtually ignored Luna-15, its unmanned spacecraft that held the world in suspense for more than a week before apparently crashing on the moon’s surface yesterday.
“Launched three days ahead of Apollo-11, Luna-15 was regarded by many observers as the Soviet unmanned rival to the three astronauts. Some believed Luna-15 would land on the moon, pick up some rock samples and ‘race’ Apollo back to earth in an effort to upstage the American effort.”
It was meant to do just that, but had indeed crashed.
Soviet failures were not admitted, but were increasingly common. They looked increasingly inferior. The success of Luna-16 after three more unpublicised Soviet failures made little impression.
But in many ways the Soviet Luna program was the right way to go. Robotic probes did the important work of exploring Mars and the outer planets for NASA. Also for the European Space Agency, which has never bothered sending up humans.
“As the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China draws near, the big day is gaining growing attention. What has China achieved in seven decades? Have these accomplishments affected people’s lives? How should one view the problems that persist in Chinese society? These are people’s concerns.
“The seven decades have brought about a sea change in China. Not only has the country attained development in the wave of all mankind’s progress, China has also narrowed the gap with developed countries, attracting worldwide attention. China has achieved leapfrog development. This should be an objective appraisal that every historical scholar would make…
“The vast majority of the middle-aged in China fully affirm the nation’s revolutionary changes, especially since reform and opening-up. Meanwhile, young people, the most active generation on the internet, are incapable of measuring these transformations with their personal life experiences. But with broad horizons, they have witnessed Western people’s livelihood situation formed by those developed societies’ long-term accumulation. Their evaluation of people’s livelihoods is based on horizontal comparisons, rather than vertical.”
I found it notable that the official line now includes the Mao Era as a necessary foundation for later success. Mao didn’t just unify a nation that had been fragmented since the Revolution of 1911-12: he tripled the economy.
[I have since written a more up-to-date analysis: Mao’s Economic Success. Why Western books never give overall growth for 1949-1976.]
Deng inherited a China with the basics of a modern society already in place. Such a thing could not have happened on the basis of the Kuomintang pattern of scrappy development: development that occurred mostly in foreign-dominated coastal cities. Kuomintang success on Taiwan was based on a ruthless and successful modernisation done by the Japanese when they ruled it.
Mao also delivered a society cured of the rampant opium addiction that the Kuomintang had been mixed up in. And a vast young workforce that accepted the basics of an industrial society. A milder or more cautious ruler would probably have delivered far less. The mild and cautious Congress Party in the Republic of India did indeed deliver far less, though it did educate vast numbers of young people who now make a global impact.
China insists on keeping its own model:
“The path of China’s reform and development has been fraught with Western criticism, as if the only genuine reform, in the eyes of some Western people, is China adopting the Western development model. Some Westerners want China to emulate it through reform and feel very disappointed if China doesn’t do it. But the fact is: China is different from the West. It cannot become like the West.
“China’s reform, though influenced by Western achievements, has come about largely because of the path laid out by the country itself. The point is not what the West expects China to look like, but what we Chinese expect the country to be.”
They are also not seeing it as a global example:
“Many people are talking about the China model, arguing that China is rapidly developing into a model that is different from the West. Many developing countries are also studying what they can learn from the China model to spur development. However, from China’s perspective what the country should do is to display to the world that the China model is only applicable to China. The reason why China has succeeded in the past decades of development is because of taking the road with Chinese characteristics. It doesn’t imitate the model of any other country, but develops based on its own conditions. Countries need to invent their own models of development. Simply imitating the China model or Western model will only lead to failures.”
China also did not make the Russian error of falling in love with the untruthful picture of Capitalism pushed by the New Right. China looked at the successful Mixed Economy model of the West, particularly as applied in Japan and Singapore.
Chinese People Watched In Public Places
“A sophisticated system of social control built on advanced surveillance technology, public apathy and stifled civil society mean that China is highly unlikely to see anything like the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations again, according to analysts and former protest leaders…
“China also has a 1.5 million-strong, well-equipped paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP) force to maintain domestic stability through disaster relief, crushing social unrest and countering terrorism.
“That contrasts with 1989, when the People’s Liberation Army’s lack of experience in handling mass demonstrations resulted in it firing live ammunition rather than rubber bullets at the protesters.”
Another factor is the horrible example of Russia, which suffered a massive decline when it did what the West urged and overthrew its Soviet system in 1991.
Most Western comments separate the 1989 crackdown from the successful overthrow of the Leninist regimes of Eastern Europe in 1989. Including Romania, which was independent of Moscow, and then ultra-independent Albania in 1991. Of course those countries got the benefit of close association with the European Union: membership for some of them.
China, like Ukraine and Russia, would probably have been allowed to decline and suffer if the 1989 protests had brought about an overthrow of party authority. And they came close, though most Western sources do not mention the hopes they had at the time.
People in China no longer feel so discontent. And most fully accept that public spaces should be watched properly, to catch wanted criminals, and to prevent crime:
“Feeling Safe in the Surveillance State
“In China, facial recognition cameras are celebrated, and many citizens believe the rest of the world is dangerous without them…
Many people in China seem to be happy about the physical security promised by the surveillance network. Our mind-set, long ago, was wired to see safety and freedom as an either-or choice…
“The other reason that my people seem not to worry about the violation of their privacy is that they believe they are law-abiding citizens. “Only criminals need to be afraid,” they say. But I’ve heard other stories.”
This is from a Chinese lady writing in the New York Times. Someone who has absorbed the Western viewpoint that Freedom has to include the right to openly oppose the government. The ‘other stories’ turn out to be a woman who is being treated with suspicion after trying to stage an illegal protest when she had been defrauded.
In the USA, you could protest, but would still be defrauded. And are at a much greater risk of violence. As I write on 4th August, reports are coming in of 20 people shot dead in a Walmart in Texas, and then 9 more outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio. That is on top of three people shot dead at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. It has been an endless series of shootings by discontented lone individuals. People made discontent by a culture that fed discontent and also defended the right to own guns, and is now very puzzled by the outcome.
Between Good Government where your rights of protest are limited, or Bad Government where you can freely protest, most people would choose Good Government.
Protestors always suppose that the choice is something else: they are mostly wrong.
And surveillance can also help people beyond the necessary matter of preventing crime:
“Please stand in front of Walklake for your examination. This health checking robot takes just 3 seconds to diagnose a variety of ailments in children, including conjunctivitis, and hand, foot and mouth disease. Over 2000 preschools in China, with children aged between 2 and 6, are using Walklake every morning to check the health status of their students.
“Walklake has a boxy body and smiling cartoony face. Before children enter the classrooms, they stand in front of the robot for a quick checkup by showing it their eyes, throats and hands.
“The robot has an infrared thermometer on its forehead, as well as cameras on its eyes, mouth and chest. Its system is trained to scan for disease symptoms, such as fever, hand blisters, throat sores and red eyes.
“If it detects something abnormal, the robot will alert teachers or school nurses who then manually check the child again and decide if they should be sent home.”
Some Western commentators also find this sinister. They seem to think that everyone should exist in a little bubble of complete secrecy. And do not worry about how innocents may suffer without proper controls and helpful supervision.
People’s China is increasingly returning to its Maoist roots. The West is now seen as having little to offer. Western failures in other civilisations gives Chinese increased confidence in the home-grown methods they worked out in the Mao Era:
“10m Chinese young people to volunteer in the countryside within three years…
“China is planning to mobilize more than 10 million young volunteers to help promote cultural, technological and medical development in rural areas by 2020, a move local officials said would help revitalize rural areas that are suffering from an outflow of talented and young workers.
“These young volunteers will be sent to rural areas, especially old revolutionary base areas, regions of extreme poverty and areas where ethnic minority groups live to promote local development and improve personal skills, read a recent document released by the Communist Youth League of China (CYL)…
“The document vowed to mobilize 10,000 student members of the Communist Party of China and the CYL to serve in rural areas as part-time local level officials, in order to train them in rural governance.
“It vowed to build a number of training bases for young people in rural areas to start their own businesses or find jobs and to train more than 200,000 young people by 2020.”
The Guardian comments:
“President Xi Jinping, known for his nostalgia for the Mao era, himself spent seven years in a village in the poor northern province of Shaanxi from the age of 16.”
That was in the Cultural Revolution. And it did teach young Chinese to think for themselves – and then go on to think things very unlike what Mao intended for them.
But a lot of Mao’s system is still accepted, and is now being celebrated:
“‘White-Haired Girl,’ Opera Created Under Mao, Returns to Stage…
“The opera was first performed in 1945 in Yan’an, the Communists’ revolutionary base in northwestern China, inspired by Mao’s precepts for revolutionary art and literature delivered at a landmark forum in 1942. The Ministry of Culture said it had revived the story in response to Mr. Xi’s own landmark speech last year on the role of the arts in China, when he demanded politically wholesome art cleansed of decadence.”
The opera is about a woman raped by a powerful man – a theme that women in the West are increasingly demanding attention for.
But if Mr Xi is leading the process, he must have broad support. He was elected to his current dominance as Party General Secretary, after all. Admittedly, it was only by a Central Committee chosen by the 2,270 delegates to the 18th party congress. Then re-elected by the 2,280 delegates at the 19th.
The 19th Congress is probably where it was informally agreed that the limit of two terms for the President should be removed. The National Assembly had the actual vote, but no one expects it to take an independent line on such matters.
There is no specified term limit for a General Secretary, but from the 1990s it has been normal for the same individual to hold both posts. But Mr Xi is not ‘President for Life’. Getting a third term as President depends on being re-elected General Secretary by a new Central Committee that will be elected at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. This is scheduled for 2022, and there is also no obvious successor lined up as there has been for the two previous General Secretaries. But his power depends on the people at the top of the party trusting him.
Mr Xi was elected by people who had an excellent idea of who they were choosing. This is often not the case with direct Presidential elections, which often surprise and disappoint the electors. Or election by the mass of party members, which has given us both Jeremy Corbyn and Mr Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. I myself am an enthusiast for Corbyn: but most people disapprove of at least one of them. They should be more respectful of the Chinese alternative.
President Xi also co-exists with a possible replacement, Li Keqiang. It is believed that the previous leader, Hu Jintao, would have liked Li rather than Xi as his heir. And Li remains very important: currently 15th on the ‘Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful People’. A dictator would not allow a powerful independent second-in-command.
As I read it, Hu Jintao wanted a drastic clean-up. But the elite were worried because almost all of them had gained questionable wealth in the spreading corruption under Deng Xiaoping and his heir Jiang Zemin. Xi was the son of a second-tier leader and part of the elite. He must have been seen as a less threatening choice to lead a clean-up that was accepted as necessary. Hu Jintao’s faction became junior partners, with their choice as Number Two.
I also believe that President Xi does not have the secure personal authority of India’s Modi, who like Britain’s Farage is more powerful than his movement. Or Trump, who has overshadowed a Republican Party that used to have many doubters. Xi does however have direct control of the military as Chairman of the Central Military Commission, like all previous top leaders. And helpfully, his wife Peng Liyuan is a popular singer in the military.
The military are now distanced from politics, having been decisive in Deng’s rise to power. Also well looked-after, as a necessary part of a strong regime. Spending on weapons is small compared to the USA, which is trying to rule the world. But China’s military is increasingly sophisticated and well-equipped:
“Over the past decade, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been lavished with money and arms. China’s military spending rose by 83% in real terms between 2009 and 2018, by far the largest growth spurt in any big country. The splurge has enabled China to deploy precision missiles and anti-satellite weapons that challenge American supremacy in the western Pacific. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, says his ‘Chinese dream’ includes a ‘dream of a strong armed forces’”.
The way the USA has been behaving, they may well need them. But the army is also the one force that might overthrow the party, so any leader must watch it carefully.
Among leaders, sudden falls from power no longer occur, except for corruption and crime. The removal of another possible rival Bo Xilai was done quite carefully. I mentioned this at the time:
“One thing I noticed, as the scandal unfolded, the significance of which seems to have been missed. He was removed from his main posts just after the 2012 National People’s Congress (5th-14th March). Though it’s not a place where differences are openly aired, it is a gathering of the vital layers of leadership that the top leaders have to look to and reassure, and who then communicate with and reassure officials lower down. It suggests to me that there was a desire to check wider opinion and perhaps pass on key facts to this crucial assembly.”
Bo Xilai had used Mao-era culture, but turned out to be insincere. But the basic idea was sound, and popular among ordinary Chinese. It has been continued.
Governing China Without Open Enemies
For most of human history, the notion of a government allowing open opposition to itself would have seemed absurd. It was not allowed, or else it was Armed Rebellion.
European Feudalism allowed it, because feudalism intentionally fragmented government authority. European Feudalism saw nothing unusual in one Baron waging war on another. Or even a Baron on his Overlord while not denying him valid authority as Overlord.
As Europe modernised itself in the 18th century, remnants of feudal fragmentation and rights of opposition were largely swept away. It was the era of Enlightened Despots. The Parliaments created in mediaeval times were either abolished or simply not summoned.
Switzerland had a different system – not a Parliament but a set of local and regional representatives. It had popular elections, but mostly with a view to creating a popular consensus. This remains the Swiss norm.
In Britain, the long feudal quarrels that the Victorians labelled as the Wars of the Roses boosted the importance of Parliament. A Parliament would be called to endorse a change of monarch, and sometimes fail to do so. The dismal weak Henry 6th of England was twice deposed in favour of Edward 4th; the second time being murdered since his much-more-dangerous son had been killed in battle. Then when Edward 4th died aged 40, his younger brother Richard 3rd got Edward’s sons set aside, accused of being illegitimate because their father had made an earlier secret marriage. Richard was killed by Henry 7th, whose risky gamble in invading England paid off, despite seeming less formidable than earlier failed rebels. But Henry 8th and his children had to keep on using Parliament to endorse various shifts between Roman Catholicism and various shades of Protestantism. Parliament also endorsed the succession of James 6th of Scotland as James 1st of England – but his wish to unite his two kingdoms as Great Britain was refused.
(The third kingdom, Ireland, was kept separate by general agreement. Wales had been officially absorbed by England some time before, with Prince of Wales becoming the title of the King’s eldest son and heir, when there was one.)
All of this gave the Parliament of England the authority to win their confrontation with Charles 1st, and be found necessary by Charles 2nd. Let them depose James the 2nd and 7th, with a successful collaboration between the main factions of Whig and Tory in 1688. And it became accepted that Whig and Tory would commonly take turns as Government and Loyal Opposition. George 3rd came close to overturning this and marginalising the Opposition – but the success of the American War of Independence undermined this. Did so even though it was largely secured by a coalition against Britain by the Absolutist Monarchies of France and Spain.
Failure in what had been British North America established two-party government as the norm for Britain. A norm repeated in the USA when the initially-dominant Federalist Party were replaced by the Democratic-Republican Party in 1801.
All of this was very unusual politics. Parliamentary – but not democratic, and not intended to be.
Britain was not even loosely democratic till the 1880s at the earliest. It was also democratic only for the British Isles and not the growing British Empire. It became the model for the rest of Europe, but in much of Europe it collapsed in the crisis of the 1930s. Never worked very well in Latin America, and still does not. Has mostly been a total mess in Africa, with party politics mostly feeding tribalism.
To view copies of the British system as normal and to be puzzled when they fail is a massive error. It works where the difference between Government and Opposition are not viewed as worth dying for – which is why it fails in Northern Ireland. Why Sinn Fein’s overwhelming victory in Ireland in 1918 would have meant nothing without the later Irish War of Independence.
It also depends on the mix of Government and Opposition producing competent government. Or else one party becoming dominant with the opposition never likely to take power, which applies in Singapore and also in Japan, with one brief and unimportant lapse.
Where the system has a record of failing – as it did in China after being tried after the 1911 Revolution – it is never likely to work. It is not the global norm.
China succeeding and behaving normally must be demoralising for those Chinese who swallowed a Western vision and believed that copying the West was normal:
“For China’s Leading Investigative Reporter, Enough Is Enough…
“The departure of Mr. Liu meant investigative journalism would never be the same, a social media account run by Chinese reporters declared. He was the pillar of the trade, it said, adding: ‘The most important figure in investigative journalism has disappeared.’
“‘If China wants to develop in a healthy, normal way, we must have a huge amount of media that can report justly,’ Mr. Liu said…
“Instead of investigations, the party wanted ‘positive-energy stories’ that would make people feel good as the economy sours, he said.
“In the last year, accounts of the turmoil around financial scams that cost millions of people their savings were banned in the interests of ‘social stability.’ The facts behind a huge explosion at a chemical factory were never explained…
“In early 2016, Mr. Xi visited the main media outlets: People’s Daily, Xinhua news agency and the state-run television network, CCTV. During the highly publicized events, he resurrected the Communist edict that journalists reflect the will of the party. Editors interpreted that to mean that Mr. Xi’s political thought was central to all articles. That was the official beginning of the end for independent reporting…
“He was young enough to miss the Cultural Revolution, when the schools were closed, but was forced to learn Chinese under a reign of terror imposed by a harsh teacher. ‘Every day you lived in fear of having your palm hit by the teacher’s stick,’ he said.”
Copying Britain and the USA is a ‘healthy, normal way’? When the USA itself is disintegrating? When Britain is maiming itself with Brexit, and there are fears for the peace in Northern Ireland?
Who Fears to Speak of ’89?
Every year, and particularly with this 30th Anniversary, the Western press have articles about how China dare not mention the 1989 crack-down
This year it was mentioned, in an official English-language source called Global Times:
“June 4 marks the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident. The Communist Party of China and the Chinese government have determined the nature of the incident. Chinese society has also made a comprehensive summary of it. Dropping the incident thereafter has been aimed at helping the country leave the shadow behind, avoid disputes, and help all Chinese people face the future.
“We consider such practice a political success, although some people have criticized it from the perspective of news governance. Merely afflicting China once, the incident has not become a long-term nightmare for the country. Neither has the incident’s anniversary ever been placed in the teeth of the storm. It has become a faded historical event, rather than an actual entanglement.
“The Chinese government’s control of the incident in 1989 has been a watershed marking the differences between China and former Eastern European socialist countries, including the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Since the incident, China has successfully become the world’s second largest economy, with rapid improvement of people’s living standards. The policy of avoiding arguing has served as a contributor to the country’s economic take-off.
“Today’s China obviously has no political conditions to suddenly reproduce the riot of 30 years ago. Chinese society, including its intellectual elite, is now far more mature than it was in 1989. In those years, China’s reform was carried out prior to those of the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. China was completely inexperienced, with an intellectual circle filled with idealism. Chinese society today has seen enough of the political tragedies that occurred in the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and some Arab countries…
“We have noticed that every year around June 4, certain forces outside the Chinese mainland stir up public opinion and attack China. Such forces consist of two groups of people: student leaders and dissidents who fled abroad after 1989, and Western politicians and media outlets.”
I didn’t come across any Western reactions to this. Mostly they rolled out the same complaints, and never ever mentioned that this was a regime that was fighting for survival.
Nor any mention of misfortunes in countries where the regime lost. The sad fate of many of the Colour Revolutions, and most occurrences of the Arab Spring.
Will China Win the Trade War?
“Trump Hands China an Easy Win in the Trade War
“The president’s tough rhetoric plays into Chinese economic nationalism…
“Mr. Trump has handed Xi Jinping a remarkably effective nationalist card to play at a time when he has been under pressure at home because of a slowing economy. The Chinese media is now full of accounts of the country’s economic resilience and appeals to patriotism, even invoking the spirit of the Korean War, when, according to the official narrative, China was able to stare down the vastly superior American military.”
That is the New York Times, which hates Trump and is happy to blame him for not curbing China. US liberals are all keen to punish China for succeeding where they failed.
When it comes to truth in official narratives, it is a simple fact that the portion of the Korean war fought between China and the USA was a decisive Chinese victory. The USA did successfully drive back the initial North Korean invasion, but then got over-bold and tried to re-unify Korea on its own terms. Ignored a Chinese suggestion that they should leave a rump North Korea as a buffer with China. And there were real fears that the USA might try to reconquer China, using the weak Kuomintang regime on Taiwan as an excuse.
China stepped in. The People’s Liberation Army showed its quality by knocking back first-rate US and British divisions: units including many veterans of World War Two. In the 20th century, the only other people to inflict outright battle-defeat on the Anglo military were the Germans and the Japanese. Others including the Irish and the Vietnamese had won wars by exhausting the enemy, but winning a set-piece battle is much harder. The quality of the new Chinese regime was shown by them achieving this.
Unlike the Germans or Japanese, the Chinese fought their portion of the Korean War under intelligent political guidance. They were able to turn tactical victory into strategic and political success. North Korea was restored, and a US invasion of China became much less likely.
A war not ending in a decisive defeat of the enemy was seen as a disaster and a disgrace by the USA. For China, which had been losing wars disastrously since the 1839 Opium War, it was an excellent outcome. Much better than the Sino-Japanese War, where it had needed the USA to defeat the Japanese.
Having been humbled in Korea, the USA sulked till the early 1970s, denying that the actual government of China was legitimate and recognising only the Taiwan exiles. Mostly forbidding its citizens to visit it. Giving tiny Taiwan the Veto Power and Permanent Membership of the Security Council that belonged to China. It needed Nixon with his cynical right-wing outlook to end this nonsense.
Nixon had been involved in spreading the lies that led to US fear of ‘Red China’ in the 1950s and 1960s. He could act in confident knowledge that there was no truth in them, and China mostly wanted to live its own life.
In the modern Trade War, experts in the West are hoping that China could not stand to see its rate of growth fall below 6%. But world growth is only 3%. Only 2.8% for the USA, 0.8% for Japan and 2.0% for the European Union. Chinese growth could fall quite a bit before it got painful.
Moral Examples – the Dalai Lama?
“In much of the West, moral force is underestimated. Communists never make that mistake. There is a reason Beijing will never invite the pope or the Dalai Lama for a visit to China. The government knows that whenever its leaders must stand beside anyone with even the slightest moral legitimacy, they suffer by the comparison. Moral force makes Communists insecure.”
As I explained earlier, the Chinese will not allow open political opposition. There were negotiations under Deng seeking to let the Dalai Lama return. No one knows just what was offered. But one can be sure it was nothing like the absurd ‘autonomy’ plan the Dalai Lama floated after dropping earlier demands for independence.
The Dalai Lama is also offended that the USA under Trump seems indifference to him. Complains that Trump has a ‘lack of moral principle’ – equally true of every US President from Nixon onwards. Even Kennedy and Eisenhower were wobbly, but they did take risks to end racial discrimination, while Nixon cited ‘personal liberty’ to abandon methods that were making serious progress towards a multiracial USA. We have just now learned that Nixon as President was amused by Ronald Reagan calling African UN delegates ‘monkeys’.
It is also unlikely they thought much of the Dalai Lama. Admiration for him is mostly a liberal-left phenomenon, and based on deep ignorance of the dirty history of this supposedly high spiritual office. I’ve explained this in detail elsewhere – see The Strange History of the Dalai Lamas, available on-line. Several died young and are presumed murdered. Others were powerless puppets and a few were cynical power-brokers.
The current specimen has been nothing very much. When given vast powers within the Tibetan Autonomous Region by Beijing, the Dalai Lama did absolutely nothing to end Tibet’s traditional system of slavery and serfdom.
The Dalai Lama fled or was abducted after getting mixed up in a revolt by Khampas from beyond the Tibetan Autonomous Region outraged at losing feudal privilege.
He was offered a compromise that might have made Beijing more tolerant of Tibetan distinctiveness. He refused it. He maybe supposed that Chinese Communism would soon collapse – though the Kuomintang on Taiwan also insist that Tibet is part of China.
He also got involved in a bizarre dispute over the status of the ‘Dorje Shugden’, a traditional supernatural creature normally admired in Tibetan Buddhism. To put it in familiar terms for Britons, you’d need to imagine that the Archbishop of Canterbury suddenly decided that Saint David was actually a villain, causing understandable outrange in Wales where he is Patron Saint. Such things seldom happen in real life. The Catholic Church in 1969 caused offence when it removed 93 saints from the universal calendar, most notably Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. But that was on the grounds that he probably never existed. No one is prevented from honouring him on a private basis.
The Dalai Lama missed every opportunity to make peace with Beijing. He also split his own religious tradition. Not much of a moral example.
Beijing was able to secure a favourable Panchen Lama using the traditional and possibly dishonest method of the Golden Urn. The Dalai Lama had tried to impose his own choice without the Golden Urn, but that individual vanished, current whereabouts unknown.
He is now 84 and extremely hazy about how he’d wish a successor to be chosen – a successor who is supposed to be the same person reincarnated in a new body. Beijing presumably will wait for him to die and then the Golden Urn will choose between candidates and almost certainly produce someone they approve of.
For now, Tibet as part of China is doing very nicely. Much better than Nepal, which was left as an independent kingdom when Britain pulled out of the Indian Subcontinent. Which successfully abolished its monarchy after a bloody civil war, but has an uncertain future. Meantime Tibet does very nicely:
“There was no highway in Tibet 60 years ago. But today, the autonomous region’s total highway mileage stood at 97,400 km and is still expanding. Railways including the Qinghai-Tibet railway connect the region with the rest of the country.
“The per capita disposable income reached 17,286 yuan last year. Urban and rural per capita disposable incomes were 73 times and 105 times that in 1965, respectively.
“Tibet has achieved decisive advance in poverty alleviation over the past 60 years. In 2018, 180,000 people were lifted out of poverty, bringing the region’s poor population down to 150,000 from 860,000 six years ago. The poverty rate lowered to less than 8 percent.
“The illiteracy rate in Tibet before the democratic reform exceeded 95 percent. Today, a complete modern educational system has been established there. The illiteracy rate among young adults has dropped to 0.52 percent, with the workforce averaging 8.6 years of education.
“With improved health care, the average life span of Tibetan people has risen from 35.5 years in the past to 68.2 years at present, while the plateau region’s population has expanded to 3.44 million from 1.23 million in 1959.
“Ecological protection has always been a priority in Tibet’s development. Nature reserves accounted for about 34.4 percent of the autonomous region’s total land area. The forest coverage rate has been elevated to 12.14 percent across the region.
“In 1980, only 1,059 people visited Tibet. Last year, the region received 33.7 million visitors from home and abroad. Tourism has become an important channel for the world to learn more about the region.”
Hong Kong Committing Suicide?
When ‘Arab Spring’ protests in Syria were heading towards Civil War, I used what tiny bits of influence I had to try to persuade pro-Western elements that a fight with Assad was foolish. That even if Assad was overthrown, the winners would be hard-line Islamists much more alien to their values.
As far as I know, no one at all was influence. They leapt into the furnace, and were scorched by it. If still alive, they would now be exiles; or else part of the dwindling remnant that the West has abandoned.
And as far as I know, the pro-Western rebels in Syria and all round the world have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. What they get from mainstream Western media would certainly teach them nothing
Hong Kong fits the pattern. Except that Hong Kong cannot exist except as a small bubble within the Chinese economy. In the improbable event of China giving it independence and then refusing to trade with it, it would instantly collapse.
It was a minor British colony until 1949, when Mao decided to let Britain keep it and use it as his main point of contact with the non-Communist world. The British were not intending to fight to defend it. And just closing the border would probably have been enough.
Hong Kong is a little bubble within China. And there is a striking lack of sympathy for the protests among Chinese outside Hong Kong. While supporting the protests, the New York Times had to admit the lack:
“Cecilia Zhang is the sort of Chinese person who you might think would be sympathetic to the protesters in Hong Kong. She went to a prestigious American university, gets her news from foreign media and has no plan to move back to the mainland from Hong Kong, where she has worked in the financial industry for the past four years.
“But she says she doesn’t understand why people in Hong Kong continue to take to the streets. In fact, she thinks they should go home.
“‘Hong Kong’s economy is going to be ugly this year after all the strikes,’ she said. ‘Why would you do something that’s not going to benefit you? What can you get out of it?’
“It isn’t a surprise that many people in China oppose the protests against a proposed law that would allow Hong Kong to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China. They see only the news that Beijing’s censors let them see.
“What is surprising is that many Chinese people who know the full story share that opinion.
“Independent polling isn’t allowed in China, so judging public attitudes toward Hong Kong is largely guesswork. But among the educated Chinese I know, the ones who travel and can see the global internet, a large number believe the protesters are wasting their time. They should instead be working to rebuild Hong Kong, they say, a city they see as a one-time beacon of prosperity that is losing its promise.
“Their views suggest a hard Chinese line against Hong Kong that goes beyond propaganda. It shows a fundamental shift in how many people in China see the city — and, by extension, how they see their own country. And it reflects a deeply rooted belief in the success of what many call the China Model: economic growth at the cost of individual rights…
“That attitude even among the elite suggests more conflict ahead between Hong Kong and the mainland. It also casts further doubt on the possibility that as China becomes more middle class, its people will inevitably demand more individual rights, forcing the Communist Party to ease its control over society or even democratize.”
I asked on the up-market question-and-answer forum Quora, and also found general mainland scorn for Hong Kong.
Meantime the protestors have their minds full of a jumble of imported images that do not connect with Chinese realities. The New York Times reports:
“Hollywood references infuse many of the slogans and memes coursing through the protests.
“One popular slogan — ‘If we burn, you burn with us’ — is a defiant line delivered by Jennifer Lawrence’s character in the ‘Hunger Games’ movies, based on the dystopian young-adult novels by Suzanne Collins.
“Another, ‘Ideas don’t die,’ appeared on a poster commemorating a demonstrator who died this summer, alongside an image of the rain jacket the man was wearing when he fell from a building.”
The Hunger Games series were entertaining, but also foolish. Part of the selfish foolishness I mentioned earlier, a ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Wonderful Me’.
The big problem according to those books is an irrationally repressive Federal Government. The notion that private corporations might be a problem is notably absent, as are greedy rich people stealing on a private basis. And they are very popular in the USA, where ordinary people have seen their incomes stagnate since the 1980s. Where vast numbers of them still think that the government is what they should be fearing, along with immigrants and anyone of another race. Hunger Games feeds only the first of these fears, but it is part of a global pattern of self-destructive foolishness.
Hong Kong could burn and it would be a minor injury for China. Its GDP is 38.1 billion – 50 billion at purchasing power parity. But China’s GDP is 14.2 trillion: 27.3 trillion if you allow for everything being cheaper there. The total value of Hong Kong and everything in it is just one-thirty-seventh of today’s China.
Hong Kong also has an average wealth per head of $50,542, as against $10,153 for China. It is also slightly more unequal: a Gini index of 53.9 as against 46.2. But China has been working to reduce inequality. Hong Kong is outraged at becoming slightly less privileged than it was.
Hong Kong is losing its status because private corporations are moving elsewhere. The current round of riots can only encourage this, particularly the closure of the airport. The young protestors are only speeding the process that will end their current privileges and higher incomes.
China’s on-line Global Times is dismissive of the protests:
“The riots in Hong Kong have provided the mainland with a negative example, demonstrating how fragile social solidarity is under the Western system.
“A high degree of autonomy requires Hong Kong society to be responsible for its internal order, and the core lever to fulfill this responsibility is the rule of law that Hong Kong has long been proud of. As the rule of law is severely damaged, unprecedented chaos has appeared in Hong Kong.
“When riots are severe enough to destroy the city as an international financial center, Hong Kong society will eventually be fed up with turbulence and begin to rebound.
“We believe that a bottom line exists in Hong Kong, and the turning point will come sooner or later.
“US and Western forces might suffice to incite extreme opposition, but they are by no means capable of reshaping Hong Kong politically. What they are trying to do is to throw Hong Kong into chaos and thus contain Beijing.
“Understanding the situation is essential to everyone. The riots won’t have any political future. Hong Kong’s deep-seated problems can only be solved through development.”
It is possible that China will send in huge numbers of soldiers and crush dissent. But this would look bad to the wider world. And meantime, Hong Kong is merely damaging itself. Making it seem less and less attractive as a business centre. Not something Beijing need get alarmed about.
As I see it, there was broad support for the initial protests that would have made it possible for criminals to be extradited to the mainland. Lots of crooks find Hong Kong a very pleasant safe haven. But with this point won, the same protestors who did the earlier failed Umbrella Movement back in 2014 kept on protesting. They thought it a good idea to try a fresh batch of impossible demands.
And the leaderless crowd have let it drift into vandalism and insults to China as such, including desecrating a flag. One of many drawbacks of being ‘structureless’. And historically, where a structureless protest brings down a government, power will be grabbed by someone authoritarian who can ride the protests to their own power.
Hong Kong was a bubble protected by British Imperialism, which found it useful while doing damage to China as a whole. Not as useful as Shanghai or Tianjin were before 1949, but Mao let the British Empire keep Hong Kong while he imposed collectivism everywhere else. And the West encouraged the British Empire’s Hong Kong subjects to be careful. The whole place would have collapsed if China had simply closed the border.
Almost all Hong Kong Chinese were docile subjects of the British Empire, not asking for Self-Government. It was Beijing that suggested some sort of regional government – intended the same sort of non-confrontational regional government that exists elsewhere. It was the Tories under Chris Patten that encouraged them to make trouble. But with their general anti-immigrant outlook, they also ensuring that all but a privileged few had nowhere else to go if China had chosen to repress Hong Kong.
For the current protests, there is likely to be one winner – the governing party in Taiwan, which favours a cool attitude to Mainland China. And which has an army and the protection of the US Navy to make its views meaningful:
“Early in the year, Taiwan’s president had appeared mired in gloom. Ordinary Taiwanese were disillusioned with her stewardship of the economy…
“There is no doubt that Ms Tsai’s firm support for pro-democracy protests currently roiling Hong Kong (see article) boosted her standing at home. She has since welcomed several dozen Hong Kong protesters who reportedly intend to seek political asylum in Taiwan. By contrast, the protests have thrown the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), which is conciliatory towards China, off balance.”
Climate – the Sun Cools While Earth Warms
“Blaming ourselves as the Machiavellian hand wreaking climate disaster satisfies a sense of collective guilt, and also engenders the anthropocentric view that humans are so powerful that our actions are a major global climate determinant. The collary [sic] to this has even greater appeal – all we need to do is tweak CO2 emissions and we can turn it around and ‘stop climate change’”.
That’s the voice of one of the tiny number of pundits who defend the swarm of billion-dollar corporations pumping out gigantic amounts of greenhouse gases.
Machiavelli was actually a mediocre politician. He is famed for his political analysis, which had a realism not found in most writers of his time. But which also included some shallow thinking. His idol Caesarea Borgia predictably failed, because few people liked him and no one at all trusted him. Successful leaders with no claim to hereditary loyalties had to make themselves look good and moral to be successful, whether or not they were in reality.
But visible and ruthless power always has its admirers.
The visible and ruthless magnates of the Oil Industry are almost worshiped, despite the damage they do to the planet. They even had two popular soap-operas in the 1980s, Dallas and Dynasty. Dallas popularised the unscrupulous J R Ewing and made him a popular hero.
I never watched Dynasty, and lost my enjoyment of Dallas when the mother of the family became a different person without anyone seeming to notice. I wasn’t watching when they suddenly decided that an entire season had been just a dream by one of the characters. I heard about it being widely ridiculed, and agreed. But wondered why the same ridicule had not been applied to similar gibberish in a 1961 film called Last Year at Marienbad. Mainstream culture often includes things that I personally find absurd.
What’s relevant here is that Dallas was one of many examples of power-worship, much of it by people who aren’t being bribed to do this.
From the early 1970s, I recall people putting corporate logos on their T-shirts. Plus one that had a collection and the logo ‘I’m the sort of idiot who gives free advertising to billion-dollar corporations’. Since then it is mostly pop stars and sport stars for t-shirts. But you get many more defending the rich and greedy in writing and drama. Even trying to create suspicion about tiny vested interests that might be involved in climate change:
“The trading of green credits will most certainly benefit lawyers and corporations’ bottom lines, but not the environment.”
There are people who manage to think themselves heroic for fighting a mouse while bowing down before a dragon. Human psychology is an odd business.
There are also people who hope for glory by upsetting the consensus. Excellent if prove to be correct, but very few are. None of those who have opposed the standard views on Climate Change:
“In 2008, physicists Nicola Scafetta and Bruce West published an article entitled ‘Is climate sensitive to solar variability?’…
“Some forecasts predict that the Sun will cool over the next few decades. Scaffetta and West believe this is good news because this cooling will stabilize the Earth’s climate and we will avoid the disastrous consequences predicted in the IPCC’s report.
“With his son, mathematician Martin Rypdal, Rypdal decided to investigate the statistical arguments that Scafetta and West use to support their hypothesis.
“Scafetta and West argue that although the correlation between solar activity and the Earth’s global temperature is very weak, there is a common statistical signature in the two time series that cannot be arbitrary.’
“Scaffeta and West believe that this means that there is a complex relationship between solar insolation and the Earth’s climate.
“‘But what we have discovered is that these common traits are in fact random and that the relationship disappears when you correct for the trends in the time series,’ the Rypdals point out.”
As you can see from the graph, a brighter sun from 1900 to 1940 did seem to match a warmer Earth. But the take-off in global temperatures from the 1980s does not match at all. And even the earlier match may not be significant. If brighter sunshine was a cause in the first half of the 20th century, it is not relevant to our present crisis.
People have done collections of false correlations – for instance the number of films US actor Nicolas Cage appeared in matches closely the number people who drowned by falling into a swimming-pool. But a relationship between greenhouse gasses and global warming was predicted well in advance. It is very unlikely to just happen to match.
The possible role of a brighter sun or more sunspots causing the warming surge of the last four decades has been investigated and found unlikely. See for instance Sun & climate: moving in opposite directions, It’s Official: Don’t Blame the Sun for Climate Change and the Wiki entry for Solar activity and climate, which is the source of the graph.
The Denialist attitude has been rightly mocked for taking the view ‘2% of Climate Scientists Can’t Be Wrong?’. But few of the centre-right politicians who deny or who fail to act will admit that they are gambling humanity’s future on just a few highly dubious sources.
It is also a fact that Denialists in business and politics can reasonably hope that the main cost of climate change will fall on the poor and on foreigners. And will also be far enough in the future for them to be personally secure – remember the Boeing scandal I detailed earlier?
They may even be thinking they can escape Earth entirely, for Mars or for a free-floating space colony. But such ventures are unlikely to actually work without a healthy rich Earth sustaining them, just as Europe’s overseas colonies had a tough time in their early years. Of course most of those people know little history and may well think otherwise.
Remember all of the people who denied that smoking caused lung cancer? Or refused to see a danger from lead in petrol? Or who refused to admit that HIV was being spread by contaminated blood, meaning that more victims suffered?
Sadly, it is likely that the rich and greedy will get away with it. The Baby Boomer generation in the West will die comfortably. Someone else will pick up the bill, or suffer social breakdown if things get really bad. And the rich of all generations will probably do OK.
Right now, they are trying to get the law changed, to make themselves innocent even if proven guilty:
“Microsoft has joined a conservative-led group that demands fossil fuel companies be granted legal immunity from attempts to claw back damages from the climate change they helped cause.
“The stated goals of the Climate Leadership Council (CLC) include a $40-a-ton fee on carbon dioxide emissions in return for the gutting of current climate change regulations and ‘protecting companies from federal and state tort liability for historic emissions’.
“Microsoft has become the first technology company to join the CLC, which includes oil giants BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, Total and ConocoPhillips among its founding members. Handing legal immunity to these oil companies would squash a cavalcade of recent climate lawsuits launched by cities and counties across the US, including one by King county, Washington, where Microsoft is based.”
‘Conservative’ is not the right word for these people. There used to be a strong body of Anglo politicians with a genuine belief in keeping society the same, in as far as this was possible. Now we have a bunch of smug selfish right-wing nihilists. People who care little for the damage done, just so long as the rich do not have to pay.
And the power-worshipers and the elderly greedy still vote for such people.
Socialism – the Basis of Modern Western Life
The current comfortable Western way of life would not exist without the work of the Mainstream Left in the 1940s and 1950s. And without the radicalism of the 1960s, the West would lack what are now considered essential freedoms
For my generation – I was born in 1950 – the idea of a man and a woman living together and having sex before marriage was thought rather risky. Tolerance of homosexuals was uncertain, and there was no question of recognising their life-style as just as valid as ours. And though everyone said that women were now equal, this still meant that just a few determined women might be let into most of the male preserves. Meant that they and almost all attractive women found in the workplace would suffer sexual harassment and possibly rape. And yet this was part of a gradual advance from much more alien attitudes. A process in which the left were the main driving-force, and Communists often the most determined fighters.
Tragically, Global Communism chose to remain intolerant of homosexuality at a time when the West softened. Stagnated on the status of women, so that the Western norm overtook them. And increasingly they were also economic failures, whereas up to the 1970s they had been gaining on the USA.
The fading of socialist prospects from the 1970s was a Europe-wide phenomenon. And I’d see two causes:
- Large numbers of socialists with a nihilistic attitude – let’s block anything that does not give us immediate socialism
- There was the lure of personal freedom, which the New Right met in a dishonest and amoral way. They allowed traditions to collapse, but avoided blame.
Socialism didn’t fail. Many of what we now see as the Good Things in Life began as socialist ideas. Were taken up by right-wingers and centrists, precisely because they wanted to meet the socialist challenge.
Socialism ‘failed’, only if you credit the Centre-Right with actually wanting things they fiercely opposed. Or dogmatically assert that ‘capitalism’ was bound to produce the way we live now, even though pre-1914 capitalism was producing something very different. Even though capitalism lived very happily with fascism until Hitler went beyond what the British Empire saw as acceptable limits.
The Soviet Union was a reaction to conventional politics producing the First World War. And then the aftermath producing a wave of vicious aggressive right-wing regimes. The Nazis were just the most extreme and powerful of these.
Fascism became anathema because Hitler chose to wage war on British Imperial power rather than waiting for it to decline. And because he chose a bizarre friendship with Imperial Japan, and continued it when Japan made the whole of the USA into determined enemies. For almost all right-wing Americans, that made the global anti-Fascist struggle into their fight. Similarities to their own beliefs became an embarrassment.
Guided by Khrushchev, the main Marxist trend from the late 1950s was ‘back to Lenin’ or sometimes ‘back to Marx’. People would not recognise that Stalin’s methods were the only probably ways of achieving the aims of Lenin or Marx. Or progressive politics in general.
If you stand on the shoulders of cannibal giants, you do yourself no good by denying this.
And the metaphor is just as true for the European Enlightenment as for Leninism.
As for Capitalist Democracy, it was notably failing to save Enlightenment Values in the 1930s. Needed a massive dose of left-wing thinking to become viable after 1945. But got away with putting old labels on new politics. It was Capitalist Democracy and had always been Capitalist Democracy. Nothing else was needed.
In the real world, the more the New Right managed to eliminate socialist influence, the more Enlightenment Values were lost. Pro-Western elements outside the West are everywhere losing popularity.
If much the same roll-back of Western values is happening in China, India, the Islamic World, Eastern Europe, and much of Middle-Europe, it is perverse to try to find separate causes for each event. Silly and weak to whine and not admit fault.
Or it can nicely cover a swindle by the rich, which is its main source of strength:
“In both the US and the UK, from 1980 to 2016, the share of total income going to the top 1% has more than doubled. After allowing for inflation, the earnings of the bottom 90% in the US and UK have barely risen at all over the past 25 years. More generally, 50 years ago, a US CEO earned on average about 20 times as much as the typical worker. Today, the CEO earns 354 times as much.
“Any argument that rising inequality is largely inevitable in our globalised economy faces a crucial objection. Since 1980 some countries have experienced a big increase in inequality (the US and the UK); some have seen a much smaller increase (Canada, Japan, Italy), while inequality has been stable or falling in others (France, Belgium and Hungary). So rising inequality cannot be inevitable. And the extent of inequality within a country cannot be solely determined by long-run global economic forces, because, although most richer countries have been subject to broadly similar forces, the experiences of inequality have differed.”
Fake News and D-Day Bliaring
“Terry Pratchett predicted rise of fake news in 1995, says biographer…
“Marc Burrows was digging through old cuttings about the late Discworld author for his forthcoming biography when he came across an interview Pratchett had done with Microsoft founder Bill Gates in July 1995, for GQ. ‘Let’s say I call myself the Institute for Something-or-other and I decide to promote a spurious treatise saying the Jews were entirely responsible for the second world war and the Holocaust didn’t happen,’ said Pratchett, almost 25 years ago. ‘And it goes out there on the internet and is available on the same terms as any piece of historical research which has undergone peer review and so on. There’s a kind of parity of esteem of information on the net. It’s all there: there’s no way of finding out whether this stuff has any bottom to it or whether someone has just made it up.’
“Gates, as Burrows points out, didn’t believe him, telling Pratchett that ‘electronics gives us a way of classifying things’, and ‘you will have authorities on the net and because an article is contained in their index it will mean something … The whole way that you can check somebody’s reputation will be so much more sophisticated on the net than it is in print,’ predicted Gates, who goes on to redeem himself in the interview by also predicting DVDs and online video streaming.”
But there is also Fake News that uses facts that are true in themselves, but are intended to make the reader believe something that the author does not believe. I’ve been calling it Bliaring, since Tony Blair the Bliar was a classic case.
It was technically true that Saddam Hussein could deploy ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in 15 minutes. But that was battlefield poison gas, not the largely-imaginary long-range weapons that the West was made scared of.
Saddam had been free to use poison gas against Kurds and Iranians, back when the West found him useful rather than ‘surplus to requirements’. George Galloway tried to get the British Parliament to protest. Blair was once of many who ignored him.
It also turned out that even the battlefield poison gas had been destroyed. But there had been a genuine report, so that much could be seen as an honest error. But Blair must have known how people would take his words. He was part of a general decline of honesty in Anglo public life, though he was indeed just one of many.
As for D-Day, it was an heroic action in which many good people died. But the tide had turned against Nazi Germany in the Soviet Union when they failed to capture Stalingrad. When their own army there was surrounded and captured early in 1943. And this was confirmed at the July and August 1943 in the Battle of Kursk. The Normandy Landings in June 1944 merely increased the pressure: and Western forces were already advancing, though slowly, through Italy.
A failure by the Normandy Landings would probably not have saved Hitler. The war would have lasted longer, and almost certainly more of Europe would have ended up under Soviet control. Which should raise the question of why Stalin continued to push for them.
I can find no other explanation than that Stalin was trying to save lives.
But no one thinks of this. And many people now credit the USA rather than the Soviet Union. They will have seen a strings of popular films about them, and very few for ‘Reds’. Yet that is how it happened.
The modern Russian Republic correctly protests about this:
“Russia told the West on Wednesday the Normandy landings on D-Day in 1944 did not play a decisive role in ending World War Two and that the Allied war effort should not be exaggerated…
“The Soviet Union lost over 25 million lives in what it calls the Great Patriotic War, and Moscow under President Vladimir Putin has taken to marking victory in the war with a massive annual military parade on Red Square.”
That’s from a Reuters report, which manages to sneer at Russian claims even though it cannot deny that they are basically true.
A French website has interesting details about how French people knew perfectly well who had done most of the work in 1945, but in modern times they credit the USA. It is mostly in French, naturally, but does have English versions of its graphs.
You also find people saying that even though the Soviets played a role, the USA could have done it without them. They had the wealth and equipment, certainly. But it is very unlikely the USA would have accepted the cost in blood to win without the USSR.
The USA lost 407 thousand, almost all military. Their home territory was always totally safe, apart from a mauling for Hawaii at Pearl Harbour. Whereas the Soviets had between 9 million and 11 million military deaths and a total loss of maybe 20 million. That was needed to inflict some 4 to 5 million casualties on the Germans, which proved the limit of their strength.
The USA could not have fought a war like that. Had they been committed, they might well have used nuclear weapons in Europe, not knowing how deadly radiation was. And without knowing the risks of a Nuclear Winter.
It should be clear to whom we owe the main gratitude for the defeat of Nazi Germany. But Fake News dominates, for now.
Huawei Still Rising
“It might surprise you to learn that Huawei is in the top 10 most valuable technology companies by revenue, raking in a reported $105 billion in 2018 alone. This places it alongside companies like Microsoft and Google. The company is a juggernaut at home in China, where it rapidly outpaced Apple’s growth to become the most popular smartphone brand. But Huawei’s smartphones are popular across Europe and the Pacific, too, because they’re often significantly cheaper than an iPhone…
“Reuters reported that it was actually Australia’s spy agency that bought all of this to the attention of the U.S. in the first place, after performing an exercise to understand what impact a company like Huawei would have if it established dominance in the 5G space. According to that report, the spies were rattled by what they found: ‘The offensive potential of 5G was so great that if Australia were on the receiving end of cyber-attacks on 5G infrastructure, the country could be seriously exposed.’ They shared this information with the U.S. in 2018, which started us on this trajectory, with the Trump administration pushing an anti-Huawei message warning of spying risks and ultimately sanctioning the company.’
“The real kicker, however, is that Huawei has never been caught spying — doing so would be corporate suicide, and the company’s leadership knows it…
“Almost every American tech company — Apple, Intel, Qualcomm, and Google, to name a few — deeply relies on China being a consistent partner that can deliver staggering manufacturing scale. It’s not just that Chinese workers earn less than their American counterparts. It would take years for U.S. companies to learn how to pull off building with the precision and scale of the Chinese, and they’d essentially be starting from scratch.
“Apple, for example, would struggle to reconstruct the processes, supply chain, and other moving parts necessary to build just the iPhone. The Cupertino company might have billions in the bank to weather the storm, but it’s hard to imagine a happy resolution.”
This has not stopped scare-stories being spread:
“Ren Zhengfei, a former director of the PLA General Staff Department’s Information Engineering Academy, had left the army in 1984, and initially found work with a state-owned electronics company. Three years later and along with 14 colleagues, all with military and some with intelligence backgrounds, and armed with an $8.5m loan from a Chinese state bank, Ren set up a new company to import telecoms equipment for the domestic market. He also set up a unit tasked with reverse engineering, so that Huawei could begin to manufacture the products itself.
“Reverse engineering basic components certainly counts as low-level piracy. But by the early 1990s, Huawei reportedly employed 500 research and development staff to only 200 production staff, a ratio that suggested that this young company had big ambitions, as well as deep pockets that were hard to account for in its existing commercial operations. Huawei would prosper through impeccable connections.”
Huawei is condemned for reverse engineering – but everyone does that. Reverse engineering was how dozens of manufacturers created what were once known as ‘IBM-compatible’ computers, able to legally run the same software on a cheaper machine. IBM tried to get it classified as illegal, but failed. And that standardisation created the standard Personal Computers now dominated by Microsoft’s operating system.
Ordinary US citizens are suffering:
“Huawei Ban Threatens Wireless Service in Rural Areas…
“Plans to upgrade the wireless service near Mr. Nelson’s farm halted abruptly this month when President Trump issued an executive order that banned the purchase of equipment from companies posing a national security threat. That includes gear from Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, a major supplier of equipment to rural wireless companies.
“The chief executive of the wireless provider in Mr. Nelson’s area said that without access to inexpensive Huawei products, his company could not afford to build a planned tower that would serve Mr. Nelson’s farm.”
Sadly, past history has shown that ordinary US citizens can be kicked and cheated any number of times and still go on voting for Republicans. Or at best for a ‘centrist’ Democrat in the Clinton mould, who will sound mildly positive but still defend the interests of the rich.
It is otherwise in China:
“To Many Chinese, America Was Like ‘Heaven.’ Now They’re Not So Sure…
“According to the latest nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center, published in 2016, 45 percent of Chinese saw American power and influence as a major threat to their country, up from 39 percent in 2013. More than half of Chinese believed the United States was trying to prevent China from becoming as powerful as America, the survey found.
“’We are not scared. China has money,’ said Amanda Lin, 36, as she sipped an Americano at a Starbucks in Beijing. She said the Chinese manufacturing company she works for had been badly hit by the latest round of tariffs. ‘Perhaps we have to sacrifice a little in the short term, but if we don’t fight, then we will suffer more in the longer term,’ she said.”
Iron and Chips
“Why doesn’t Britain have a Huawei of its own? The answer speaks volumes…
“Well, the answer is that the UK did have one. It was one of the largest and most famous industrial companies in the world. And it was finally killed off within the lifetime of every person reading this article, just over a decade ago. It was called the General Electric Company, or GEC, and the story of how it came to die explains and illuminates much of the mess the country is in today.
“At its height, in the early 80s, GEC was not a company at all. It was an empire comprising around 180 different firms and employing about 250,000 people. It built everything from x-ray machines to ships, and it was huge in telecoms and defence electronics. At the helm was Arnold Weinstock, who took the reins in 1963 and spent the next three decades building it into a colossus, securing his place as postwar Britain’s most renowned industrialist…
“It was after Weinstock stepped down in 1996 that all hell broke loose. His replacement was an accountant, George Simpson, who had made his name, as the Guardian sniffed, “selling Rover to the Germans”. The new finance director, John Mayo, came from the merchant-banking world detested by Weinstock. Together the two men looked at the giant cash pile salted away by their predecessor – and set about spending it, and then some.
“They sold the old businesses and bought shiny new ones; they flogged off dowdy and snapped up exciting. In just one financial year, 1999-2000, they bought no fewer than 15 companies, from America to Australia. Suddenly, GEC – or Marconi, as the rump was rebranded – was beloved by the bankers, who marvelled at the commissions coming their way, and the reporters, who had headlines to write.
“Then came the dotcom bust, and the new purchases went south. A company that had been trading at £12.50 a share was now worth only four pence a pop. In the mid-2000s, Marconi’s most vital client, BT, passed it over for a contract that went instead to … Huawei. Weinstock didn’t live to see the death of his beloved firm but among his last reported remarks was: ‘I’d like to string [Simpson and Mayo] up from a high tree and let them swing there for a long time.’”
And that is not the only loss. British Steel, which is mostly based at Scunthorpe, is currently in administration and may close. The separate business at Port Talbot in Wales is currently not at risk, but the chaos likely from Brexit could also hurt it.
For the first time since the end of the Bronze Age, Britain may soon cease to be able to smelt iron or steel.
The Tories, Liberals and Blairite Labour might see this as OK – we could sell soap operas and pop music and buy whatever steel we need. But it is an unhealthy development:
“Britain has been a centre of steelmaking since Henry Bessemer developed a method to mass-produce the metal cheaply in the 1850s. Its share of world production has shrunk as China’s state-subsidised steel mills have thrived…
“When Mr Bessemer died the global annual production of Bessemer steel ran to £11bn in today’s money. Yet inventors who create and build from scratch have become rare. Instead such talent has given way to bankers who make money through financial rather than industrial engineering. The skill here is not to take the long view; it is about being adept at manipulating financial structures to extract wealth. The private equity firm Greybull Capital that bought British Steel charged £20m a year in fees and interest from the company. Greybull had a record of failure; its anti-Midas touch saw an airline, an electrical chain, convenience stores and a snooker hall business all go bust when it was in charge.”
This seems typical of a managerial and business class that prefers financial games to doing anything useful. They are centred on London, and defeated the more productive culture of the English Midlands, South Wales and Lowland Scotland.
The myth of efficient market forces has let them get away with it:
“The Huawei incident points to a deeper lesson for Britain…
“It is indeed a sign of how diminished Britain is as a manufacturing force that it now passes almost without comment that the rivals to Huawei are not the great names of the past such as Marconi and Plessey but Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson…
“In the early years of China’s rapid industrialisation, the UK took comfort from the fact that it was only low-cost manufacturing that was migrating east. Developed countries like Britain, it was said, would do all the clever, high-end, profitable stuff while the Chinese would have to be content with churning out cheap toys and clothes…
“A second myth China has well and truly busted is that all will be well provided market forces are not hampered by state interference. China has had an industrial strategy over many decades, and has stuck to it, while during the same period Britain has seen the state’s role wane and manufacturing become an ever smaller part of the economy.”
The New Right Killed Functional Conservatism
“In two-party systems, like the United States and (broadly) Britain, the right is in power, but only by jettisoning the values that used to define it. In countries with many parties the centre-right is being eroded, as in Germany and Spain, or eviscerated, as in France and Italy. And in other places, like Hungary, with a shorter democratic tradition, the right has gone straight to populism without even trying conservatism.”
Of course right-wing values in the West have been in continuous retreat since the 1920s. Fascism attempted a rally and then discrediting itself by avoidable wars. Also by unusually hideous conduct in those wars: the bombing of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War caused shock but has since become the norm. Italian use of poison gas in Ethiopia was also a breach of norms, and one which has mostly not been repeated.
People from the Centre-Right tend to ignore the process, imagining the values when they were young as being the ‘Eternal Values’ that are now being lost:
“The American right of the 1990s was, like most successful and long-lived political parties, a broad church with any number of internal schisms. Though it had its Buchananites, it contained enough conservatives of the old school—small-government, pro-business types, often religious and socially staid, attached to many of the institutions of American life, flag and family above all, and confident of their ability to govern—to keep vulgar, reactionary and isolationist chauvinism from the ascendancy. By 2016, not so much.
“In America and much of the rest of the rich world, conservative parties have been taken over or challenged by reactionary nationalism. This is a threat not just to the parties involved, but to conservatism as a political idea, at least as it has been understood in the English-speaking world for the past 200 years. Those who have defined themselves in opposition to the right will miss that conservatism when it’s gone.”
This fails to recognise that the Thatcher / Reagan era did the fatal damage to real conservatism, by undermining economic security. And by encouraging prejudices.
Marx noted that the Church of England would “more readily pardon an attack on 38 of its 39 articles than on 1/39 of its income.” The same is true of the ‘conservatism’ of the New Right. They recovered income for the elite, but they are increasingly became an Overclass, as amoral and disconnected as the classic Underclass.
“At the core of the American system are 500 giant companies headquartered in the US but making, buying and selling things all over the world. Half of their employees are non-American, located outside the US. A third of their shareholders are non-American.
“These giant corporations have no particular allegiance to America. Their only allegiance and responsibility is to their shareholders.
“They’ll do whatever is necessary to get their share prices as high as possible – including keeping wages down, fighting unions, reclassifying employees as independent contractors, outsourcing anywhere around world where parts are cheapest, shifting their profits around the world wherever taxes are lowest, and paying their top CEOs ludicrous sums.”
Going To Pot?
“Marijuana seems to be on an unstoppable march to legalization in the United States.
“New York and New Jersey are racing to join the 10 states that already allow recreational use of cannabis. Some 65 percent of Americans favor legalization, and several potential Democratic candidates for president support ending federal prohibitions on marijuana.
“This huge shift in public attitudes comes even though most Americans do not use the drug. Only 15 percent of people over 12 used it even once in 2017, according to a large federal survey. That year, only three million people tried it for the first time.
“Instead, the change has been largely driven by decades-long lobbying by marijuana legalization advocates and for-profit cannabis companies.
“Those groups have shrewdly recast marijuana as a medicine rather than an intoxicant. Some have even claimed that marijuana can help slow the opioid epidemic, though studies show that people who use cannabis are more likely to start using opioids later.
“Meanwhile, legalization advocates have squelched discussion of the serious mental health risks of marijuana and THC, the chemical responsible for the drug’s psychoactive effects.”
In my view, widespread drug use was a lot of what was wrong with 1960s radicalism. Something that fed the “liberation of Wonderful Me” outlook.
People did learn that heroin was often lethal. Discovered that LSD might drive you insane, even if the first few doses were wonderfully inspiring.
Pot seemed much less risky, and for most people it was. But for a minority it was otherwise:
“What Advocates of Legalizing Pot Don’t Want You to Know
“The wave toward legalization ignores the serious health risks of marijuana…
“With large studies in peer-reviewed journals showing that marijuana increases the risk of psychosis and schizophrenia, the scientific literature around the drug is far more negative than it was 20 years ago. Comparing two major reports from the National Academy of Medicine, the nonprofit group that advises the federal government on health and medicine, makes the difference clear…
“In 2006, emergency rooms saw 30,000 cases of people who had diagnoses of psychosis and marijuana-use disorder — the medical term for abuse or dependence on the drug. By 2014, that number had tripled to 90,000…
“Worse — because marijuana can cause paranoia and psychosis, and those conditions are closely linked to violence — it appears to lead to an increase in violent crime. Before recreational legalization began in 2014, advocates promised that it would reduce violent crime. But the first four states to legalize — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — have seen sharp increases in murders and aggravated assaults since 2014, according to reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Police reports and news articles show a clear link to cannabis in many cases.
“As Americans consider making marijuana a legal drug, it would be wise to remember the choices that fueled the devastating opioid epidemic. Decades ago, many of the same people pressing for marijuana legalization argued that the risks of opioid addiction could be easily managed.
“A half-million deaths later, we have learned how wrong they were.”
And outside of the USA, drug legalisation is not popular. A free and safe supply to addicts of drugs like heroin is another matter: safe and a way to contain it and reduce crime. But the Dutch are increasingly reversing their earlier tolerance. Western Europe as a whole has decided that cannabis is not really acceptable. The USA seems increasingly out on its own.
Loving the Rich, Shouting About God
In the USA, the mainstream culture resents people who are clever or better-informed than they are, even though it costs them nothing.
They admire the rich, without thinking where that wealth came from.
They let the very rich take a much larger cut of wealth for doing a rather worse job. Saw their comfortable Blue-Collar life-style decline, but still haven’t caught on as to why.
Fox News certainly helps keep them fooled:
“A study by Emory University political scientist Gregory Martin and Stanford economist Ali Yurukoglu estimates that watching Fox News translates into a significantly greater willingness to vote for Republican candidates.
“Specifically, by exploiting semi-random variation in Fox viewership driven by changes in the assignment of channel numbers, they find that if Fox News hadn’t existed, the Republican presidential candidate’s share of the two-party vote would have been 3.59 points lower in 2004 and 6.34 points lower in 2008. Without Fox, in other words, the GOP’s only popular vote win since the 1980s would have been reversed and the 2008 election would have been an extinction-level landslide.
“And Fox is not the only thing out there. The Sinclair Broadcast Group is not a television network in a traditional sense. Instead, it’s a company that owns a disparate bunch of local television stations affiliated with all four major networks. But Sinclair does exert centralized control over the ‘local’ television news broadcasts. And research … found that when Sinclair buys a local station, its local news program begin to cover more national and less local politics, the coverage becomes more conservative, and viewership actually falls — suggesting that the rightward tilt isn’t enacted as a strategy to win more viewers but as part of a persuasion effort.”
But such things depend on a weak culture that makes a big noise about religion, but where most people are unwilling to be inconvenienced by the bits of Christianity they don’t like. And that is one drawback of having ‘bottom-up’ churches: churches controlled by their members rather than having an Establishment. It encourages versions of religion that play up to the faults of their audience.
God is often used as a cover for substandard ethics, or even downright wickedness.
It justifies violent acts, by people who fail to consider that of God cared, God is quite competent to do it all by Himself.
Thankfully, all this is also in decline.
“The politicisation of white evangelical Christianity is hurting it…
“Several polling firms have detected a decline in the share of Americans who describe themselves as white evangelicals over the past decade. The Pew Research Centre found a two-percentage-point drop from 2007 to 2012. PRRI found a six-percentage-point drop in the share of the population that identify as white evangelicals, from 23% in 2006 to 17% in 2016. ABC and the Washington Post found a still larger decline of eight percentage points, larger than the drop among mainline white Protestants. The problem is partly generational: in the PRRI data just 8% of young Americans aged 18-29 say they are white evangelicals, while 26% of those aged 65 or older are white evangelical Protestants. Together with the decline in the share of whites who identify as Catholics, this has caused anxiety among some of the faithful that white Christian America is under threat.”
As the society becomes less religious, politicians are more willing to be secular, even when they themselves are privately religious:
“Secular Democrats Are the New Normal in the USA
“Today’s white liberals don’t only talk about faith less than their predecessors did. They talk about it in a strikingly different way. Earlier Democrats invoked religion as a source of national unity…
“O’Rourke exemplifies a new normal. None of the other major white progressive candidates — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or Kirsten Gillibrand — invoked God in their presidential announcements either…
“Today’s white liberals don’t only talk about faith less than their predecessors did. They talk about it in a strikingly different way. Earlier Democrats invoked religion as a source of national unity…
“Today, by contrast, progressive white candidates more often cite religion as a source of division. In his announcement video, O’Rourke boasted that during his Senate campaign in Texas, ‘people allowed no difference, however great or however small, to stand between them and divide us. Whether it was religion or gender or geography or income, we put our labels and our differences aside.’ The only reference to faith in Warren’s announcement speech was an acknowledgment that ‘we come from different backgrounds. Different religions.’ The lone reference in Sanders’s was a call for ‘ending religious bigotry.’ While white progressives once described religion as something that brought Americans together, they’re now more likely to describe it as something that drives them apart.”
And there is the growing realisation that the New Right has failed:
“If a person is not a liberal when he is 20, he has no heart; if he is not a conservative when he is 40, he has no head.” No one is sure who said that (it’s sometimes erroneously attributed to Churchill, like everything else), but everyone is familiar with the sentiment: we are supposed to get more conservative as we age.
“Elizabeth Warren didn’t get that memo. The 69-year-old Democrat and US presidential hopeful was a free-market-loving Republican when she was younger, described by old friends as a “diehard conservative”. Now Warren isn’t only a Democrat – she is one of the most progressive voices in US politics, with a similar ideological stance to Bernie Sanders. Indeed, Warren may be heading even further to the left than Sanders. On Monday, she proposed a plan to forgive $50,000 (£38,000) of student loans for people earning less than $100,000 a year, with the money coming from a new wealth tax. Warren also proposed an ambitious plan for free higher education, which she described as “bigger” than Sanders’ free college bill.
“Warren has explained that she joined the Republican party because she believed in its conservative approach to markets. She left the party in 1996, she has said, because it started siding more with Wall Street, tilting the playing field against the little guy. While she has discussed her political journey in some interviews, it’s not something she has been keen to advertise, which is understandable: inconsistency isn’t seen as a good thing and we tend to look upon politicians who change their views with suspicion.”
The Sadness of Brazil
Even before they elected a right-wing populist, there was plenty wrong with Brazil:
“The mining industry puts lives at risk with shoddy maintenance of dams built to contain mining waste…
“Tailings are the wet waste from mining operations, often laced with toxic chemicals. At thousands of mines around the world, millions of tons of the muck accumulate behind dams. The most common type of dam — and the cheapest to build — is known as ‘upstream,’ made by piling up thick sludge and raising the height of the dam as the pond grows. At the mine where the accident occurred in southeastern Brazil, owned by the giant mining company Vale, the dam was 28 stories high.
“The danger posed by tailings dams is well known. Three years ago another upstream dam in the same Brazilian state, Minas Gerais, and co-owned by Vale and Australia’s BHP Group, collapsed, killing 19 people. The muck from that mine flowed 400 miles to the Atlantic Ocean. Other dams have collapsed in many countries around the world, and while the overall number of failures each year has been declining, the occurrence of major collapses has increased…
“One reason is increased rainfall because of climate change, which can erode a dam wall years after the tailings pool is no longer in use. One study found that heavy rain was cited as a contributor to a quarter of global dam failures. Given that there are thousands of tailings dams around the world, and that mining companies generate ever more waste — they produced 8.5 billion metric tons in 2017, more than double the amount in 2000, according to an Australian researcher — the dams pose a danger that arresting a few workers won’t address.”
Brazil was never as rigidly racist as the US South, in part because Portuguese settlers freely bred with the Native Americans. (Just as Spanish settlers did.) But vast numbers of African slaves were imported. Some were worked to death, though less than in Britain’s West Indian colonies, where this was found cheaper than breeding new slaves, with the cost being born by West Africa. And the descendants of the survivors are mostly found at the bottom of the society:
“Throughout elementary and middle school, Ricardo Pavan Martins remembers reading Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, one of Brazil’s most famous writers.
“So the 29-year-old, who lives in Bauru, was shocked to see a new image of Machado that has gone viral in the country. It shows him with chocolate-brown skin, considerably darker than how he appears in the black-and-white photograph that appears on virtually all of his books and hangs prominently in the Brazilian Academy of Letters.
“‘I always imagined him as white because this is the default image of most writers,’ Martins said. ‘I am certain that if the skin color of an author so important was at the very least discussed during my experience at school, my black friends would have felt more represented.’”
But in Brazil, as in the USA, things may swing back when people notice that right-wing ranters can’t actually achieve anything. They have all been infected by the New Right attitude. quite Feed-The-Rich policies, whereas Hitler had been quite good for non-Jewish Germans before he senselessly led them into an avoidable World War.
Franco, after brutally supressing all opposition, avoided another war and did make Spain into a modern nation with good welfare. This lot just spread misery and resentment.
Capitalism as a Fading Creed
“For decades the US and others have pursued a free-market agenda which has failed spectacularly”
“The neoliberal experiment – lower taxes on the rich, deregulation of labour and product markets, financialisation, and globalisation – has been a spectacular failure. Growth is lower than it was in the quarter-century after the second world war, and most of it has accrued to the very top of the income scale. After decades of stagnant or even falling incomes for those below them, neoliberalism must be pronounced dead and buried.
“Vying to succeed it are at least three major political alternatives: far-right nationalism, centre-left reformism and the progressive left (with the centre-right representing the neoliberal failure). And yet, with the exception of the progressive left, these alternatives remain beholden to some form of the ideology that has (or should have) expired.
“The centre-left, for example, represents neoliberalism with a human face. Its goal is to bring the policies of former US president Bill Clinton and former British prime minister Tony Blair into the 21st century, making only slight revisions to the prevailing modes of financialisation and globalisation.”
Of course it has not failed for a more-than-millionaire Overclass, who have more than they would have got in under pre-1980s Mixed-Economy Capitalism. An elite that Blair and Clinton are now part of. As indeed is Margaret Hodge, whose heritage as a daughter of the extremely rich Oppenheimer family makes sense of her otherwise puzzling obsession with anti-Semitism in Labour under Corbyn’s leadership. I have detailed elsewhere that the rare instances of anti-Semitism are not worse in Labour than elsewhere in Britain – see “Tunbridge Wells has a Drugs and Murder Problem”.
It is notable that she and others only made a big noise about anti-Semitism after Labour dared to elect a leader who challenged the gross increase in inequality that have happened since the 1980s. Inequality they treated as necessary when they were running Labour.
New Right policies have also not really hurt the Next Nine – people earning maybe five times the average income. Most are easily persuaded to identify with an Overclass they have very little chance of joining.
It fails for the majority, but they are slow to notice. Particularly in the USA.
“Capitalism’s Original Myth, and How America Proves It’s False
“America’s the richest and most powerful country in the world. And yet half of its people have ended up less than broke — with a negative net worth. That’s how badly capitalism’s failed America.”
Having a Welsh father and a Welsh name, I always had a sentimental view of our Celtic heritage. Not without qualifications – and my father did this much more coherently in several chapters his splendid historic novel Peoples of the Black Mountains. But DNA evidence now shows things were much worse than we suspected:
“Starting 5000 years ago, the Yamnaya embarked on a violent conquest of Europe. Now genetic analysis tells their tale for the first time
“The iconic sarsen stones at Stonehenge were erected some 4500 years ago. Although the monument’s original purpose is still disputed, we now know that within a few centuries it became a memorial to a vanished people. By then, almost every Briton, from the south coast of England to the north-east tip of Scotland, had been wiped out by incomers. It isn’t clear exactly why they disappeared so rapidly. But a picture of the people who replaced them is emerging.
“The migrants’ ultimate source was a group of livestock herders called the Yamnaya who occupied the Eurasian steppe north of the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains. Britain wasn’t their only destination. Between 5000 and 4000 years ago, the Yamnaya and their descendants colonised swathes of Europe, leaving a genetic legacy that persists to this day. Their arrival coincided with profound social and cultural changes. Burial practices shifted dramatically, a warrior class appeared, and there seems to have been a sharp upsurge in lethal violence. ‘I’ve become increasingly convinced there must have been a kind of genocide,’ says Kristian Kristiansen at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. As he and others piece together the story, one question resounds: were the Yamnaya the most murderous people in history?
“Before about 5000 years ago, Neolithic Europe was inhabited by people much like those who raised Stonehenge. They were farmers with an urge to work together and build large stone structures. ‘It looks like these people were quite communal,’ says Kristiansen. And that community spirit continued into the afterlife: many of their megalithic monuments served as shared graves – some containing the remains of up to 200 people.
“They were also innovators. Patterns of wear on ancient cattle bones suggest they had worked out how to use livestock to pull heavy loads. They probably had wheeled vehicles and there may even have been proto-roads connecting communities. It looks like they were coming together to live in what Kristiansen calls ‘mega-settlements’ with populations of up to 15,000 people.
“In other words, Neolithic Europe appears to have been prosperous, community-minded and relatively peaceful. Then everything changed.
“Starting about 5000 years ago in south-east Europe – a region bounded today by Ukraine in the east and Hungary in the west – a new style of burial custom appeared. The dead were interred alone in what archaeologists call ‘pit graves’ rather than in communal structures. The body was decorated with a red pigment called ochre, and the grave chamber covered with wooden beams and marked by a mound of earth a few metres tall, dubbed a kurgan. This distinctive burial custom originated on the Eurasian steppe where it was associated in particular with the Yamnaya. … Its appearance in Europe indicates a traumatic shift that disrupted existing social patterns…
“Yamnaya migrants were dynamic and aggressive. This might suggest they were mainly young male warriors, riding into new territory. Most Yamnaya women don’t seem to have joined the migration until later.”
The Yamnaya are thought to have brought the various Indo-European languages – spreading into what are now Persia and India as well as invading Europe. Those who pushed into Western Europe probably spoke an early form of Celtic. They must have absorbed some of the older inhabitants – but in Britain, far fewer than in Mainland Europe.
A long period of relative stability may have left the older populations vulnerable. Something similar happened in what is now Spain:
“A migration from Central Europe transformed the genetic make-up of people in Spain during the Bronze Age, a study reveals.
“DNA evidence shows the migrants streamed over the Pyrenees, replacing existing male lineages across the region within a space of 400 years.
“It remains unclear whether there was a violent invasion or whether a male-centric social structure played an important role…
“The Bronze Age migrants traced some of their ancestry to Neolithic (Stone Age) farmers found throughout Europe – including Spain – while the rest of their genetic make-up was like that of people living at the time on the Russian steppe.
“This steppe ancestry was introduced to Europe by nomadic herders who migrated west from Asia and the eastern fringes of Europe…
“When the team analysed DNA from across the genome – the full complement of genetic material found in the nuclei of cells – they found that later Iberians traced 40% of their ancestry to the new population.
“The newcomers – of Bell Beaker origin – brought innovations such as bronze-working (including the manufacture of bronze weapons) and were probably riding horses. These may have given them a military advantage over Stone Age farming societies, but also probably conferred higher social status on males carrying these traditions…
“An even more extreme pattern of replacement occurred at much the same time in Britain, where Beakers replaced 90% of the overall ancestry that was there before they arrived.”
The ‘Bell Beaker’ people are identified by pottery. But they are mostly assumed to have spoken Celtic languages and been the founders of the later cultures.
As I said earlier, we stand on the shoulders of cannibal giants. The past was nothing so wonderful. And we need to work to make the future into something better.
I myself have more of Ancient Europe than most Aboriginal Europeans. I did one of the tests, which made me 46% Hunter-Gatherer, 43% Neolithic Farmer and only 12% Bronze-Age Invader. But much of that is probably from older populations in Continental Europe who were absorbed by the proto-Celtic culture and brought it to Britain, replacing most of the original Britons.
Note also that the neolithic farmers had replaced and absorbed older hunter-gatherers, though it was probably fairly peaceful. But Europe has been made by waves of migrants from outside of it.
Aryans of India
“Hindu right-wingers believe the source of Indian civilisation are people who called themselves Aryans – a nomadic tribe of horse-riding, cattle-rearing warriors and herders who composed Hinduism’s oldest religious texts, the Vedas.
“The Aryans, they argue, originated from India and then spread across large parts of Asia and Europe, helping set up the family of Indo-European languages that Europeans and Indians still speak today.”
Linguists have long been convinced that Indo-European began somewhere in a region from the Baltic Sea down to Anatolia. Indo-Iranian languages are just one branch. The Baltic-Anatolian zone holds a majority of the others.
DNA evidence now confirms this. The first speakers of Indo-European were the Yamnaya. Horse-riding warriors, and sometimes the first people in the region to have bronze weapons.
Not the first globally. There is no clear point of origin, but the cities of Anatolia and West Asia got bronze very early. The wave of Indo-Europeans conquerors swept west of them, and east of them. But most of the older peoples hung on, and had their own formidable armies.
By some unknown process a people we call Hittites took over part of Anatolia. They became the first people to write down an Indo-European language. But they were an exception, and took over much of the culture of the older city-dwellers they conquered. They may have been brought in first as mercenaries and then staged a coup.
In India, the older civilisation of the Indus Valley was peaceful, but had collapsed. The remnants were overrun by an eastern surge of Indo-Europeans conquerors.
“Studies using ancient DNA have been rewriting prehistory all over the world in the last few years and in India, there has been one fascinating discovery after another…
“The study showed that there were two major migrations into India in the last 10,000 years.
“The first one originated from the Zagros region in south-western Iran (which has the world’s first evidence for goat domestication) and brought agriculturists, most likely herders, to India.
“This would have been between 7,000 and 3,000BCE. These Zagrosian herders mixed with the earlier inhabitants of the subcontinent – the First Indians, descendants of the Out of Africa (OoA) migrants who had reached India around 65,000 years ago – and together, they went on to create the Harappan civilisation.
“In the centuries after 2000 BCE came the second set of immigrants (the Aryans) from the Eurasian Steppe, probably from the region now known as Kazakhstan. They likely brought with them an early version of Sanskrit, mastery over horses and a range of new cultural practices such as sacrificial rituals, all of which formed the basis of early Hindu/Vedic culture. (A thousand years before, people from the Steppe had also moved into Europe, replacing and mixing with agriculturists there, spawning new cultures and spreading Indo-European languages).
“Other genetic studies have brought to light more migrations into India, such as that of the speakers of Austro-Asiatic languages who came from south-eastern Asia.”
The Hindu god India is called ‘breaker of cities’ in the oldest surviving Hindu scriptures. But in both India and Europe, their descendants adopted the city-dwelling way of life invented in West Asia by the enigmatic Sumerians and various speakers of lost Semitic languages. In time, it became a veritable ‘Civilisation Alley’ running from the British Isles in the north-west to Sri Lanka in the south-west. Conquerors passed up and down it, but none ever controlled more than a part of it. And it was detached by formidable mountains and deserts from the other main civilised zone, East and South-East Asia with China at its core and Hindi cultural influence spreading along both the Silk Road and by sea to South-East Asia.
That’s the interesting real history that various right-wing nationalists distort.
“The claim that immigration is economically beneficial appears to be an article of faith amongst those who consider themselves progressive. However, mere changes in total GDP often mean little in terms of the lived reality of society. Much more important is whether or not mass immigration changes the social structure and the pattern of economic inequality.
“Economic inequality (in the distribution of income and wealth) has been growing in virtually every developed society. It is clear that there is no single cause, but one important driver is changes in the occupational structure. In some countries, but especially in the UK and the USA, occupational growth has polarised: there are more well-paid high-skilled jobs, there are more low-paid jobs, but there are fewer moderately well-paid secure jobs in the middle.
“A growing social science research suggests that the reason for the existence of low-paid jobs has been precisely the availability of a large pool of immigrant labour. Low-paid jobs have expanded simply because there are people prepared to do them. If this labour supply did not exist and, crucially, if there was no alternative labour supply, then the jobs would not exist. The argument that immigrants are ‘needed’ to fill existing jobs takes the existing jobs and hence the occupational structure for granted; furthermore, it accepts that immigrants are the only possible source of additional labour.
“In some sectors enterprises’ business model depends upon paying low wages. The transformation of agriculture in the USA and more recently in the UK has involved a shift to forms of production and even to crops that are only viable because of low wages. Employers, sometimes supported by immigration advocates, now argue that food production can only occur if there is cheap immigrant labour…
“Until the 1980s domestic servants were declining in numbers. Today professionals and managers expect to employ domestic labour to clean their houses, mind their children, etc. These jobs are overwhelmingly taken by immigrants who are often illegals. Intriguingly, the particular beneficiaries are women earners at the upper end of the income distribution – purchasing labour in the home enables them to devote more time to their remunerative career…
“The new availability of low wage labour has contributed to the survival and even expansion of low technology manufacturing. One US study shows that engineering firms are likely to use less capital in production in areas with high immigrant populations. Indeed, in some areas the availability of low wage labour is facilitating technological regression – the replacement of capital by labour. Instead of driving the car to a self-service car-wash, you get the car ‘valeted’ by workers who use nothing more advanced than a bucket and mop. Away from such public view, in many European cities there is a revival of the clothing industry, based on micro-workshops using only the very simplest technologies and immigrant workers with very long hours and low pay.”
The left has understandable sympathy for immigrants. And there is still the lingering dream of One World. But as I explained at the start of this magazine, the blunders of the 1990s have killed that possibility.
Europe should be changing the terms of trade to help poor people in their own countries. And also not inflicting wars on them, obviously – most of the current problems were caused by destroying Libya and sponsoring rebellion in Syria.
We need to ease the peaceful integration of those immigrants already here, which is happening anyway. But agreeing that there are limits should help that.
Taxes Needed for Civilisation
“Enthusiasm for a wealth tax on the country’s thin sliver of multimillionaires and billionaires may be unsurprising — after all, most Americans wouldn’t have to pay it. But now the idea is attracting support from a handful of those who would.
“A letter published Monday on the website Medium.com calls for ‘a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest one-tenth of the richest 1 percent of Americans — on us.’
“The ‘us’ includes self-made billionaires like the financier George Soros and Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder, as well as heirs to dynastic riches like the filmmaker Abigail Disney and Liesel Pritzker Simmons and Ian Simmons, co-founders of the Blue Haven Initiative, an impact investment organization…
“Eighteen individuals, spread among 11 families, added their names. All are active in progressive research and political organizations, some of which are pointedly focused on the swelling gap between the richest Americans and everyone else.
“A recent analysis of a Federal Reserve report found that over the last three decades, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans saw their net worth grow by $21 trillion, while the wealth of the bottom 50 percent fell by $900 billion.”
This, sadly, is just a few. Most of the Overclass are determined to grab more. And many ordinary people have accepted the story that we’d not have progress without them. This despite the West making more progress from the 1950s to 1970s than it has since. Despite China being the world’s most successful economy on the basis of state controls that are supposed to be disastrous.
Reforms were needed in the 1980s. But many of the economic and welfare changes were foolish and regressive. Often a reversion to 19th-century ideas that had already failed once.
Most people now want it fixed:
“A majority of people living in developed countries want their government to increase taxes on the rich in order to help the poorest in society, according to a major global study.
“In all 21 countries included in the OECD study, more than half of those polled said they were in favour when asked: ‘Should the government tax the rich more than they currently do in order to support the poor?’”
The Centre-Right defence is first to promise they will do this, while doing the opposite. And second to spread scare-stories about any political party that might be serious about it. That’s happened a lot in Britain after Corbyn was elected by a membership angered by the weakness and failures of the Blairites.
There is also the claim that high rates of tax don’t give many returns. They probably would do if the tax havens were closed down: this could be done by simply delaying every transaction to them by 24 hours until they started behaving. But anyway the main aim is to prevent excessive inequality. To hopefully kill the pointless speculative ‘industries’ that grew up after regulations were removed:
“Confiscatory taxation would be good for the economy because it would discourage talented people from entering lucrative lines of work.
“In a world of low taxes … talented people have strong incentives to work in legal or financial professions rather than be teachers or research scientists. If that sounds like a socialist decentralization platform, you would not be far off. Socialist Millennials are likely to reframe major tenants of capitalism on their term, which doesn’t officially begin for another five to ten years.”
Far too many clever young people have wasted their lives shuffling money, and destroying actual wealth. It needs to be stopped.
Too Rich to Pay Tax?
“How Hidden Billions Are Making the Rich Richer…
“During the federal trial of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, prosecutors extensively detailed his lavish spending on clothing, listing multiple purchases that included an $18,000 suede coat, pairs of trousers at $2,800 each and total spending of nearly $1 million at one Manhattan store over a multiyear period. By enumerating these purchases, the prosecutors hoped to present a picture of unbridled greed to support their portrait of corruption and tax evasion. Though they were scolded by the judge, who snapped, ‘We don’t convict people because they have a lot of money and throw it around,’ they did win the case; Manafort was ultimately sentenced to seven years in jail.
“For many, the case was a leading indicator of the corruption surrounding Donald Trump, but for the British journalist Oliver Bullough, it is simply one more glimpse into a world he calls ‘Moneyland,’ a shadow system of trillions of dollars of hidden assets that transcends nations, feeds corruption and ‘quietly but effectively’ is ‘impoverishing millions, undermining democracy, helping dictators as they loot their countries.’ After years of exhaustive investigative research for the book he also calls ‘Moneyland,’ Bullough offers not just a bill of particulars spanning continents but a polemic about the dangers of a global cancer that must be exposed and combated.”
The USA and abortion
“The Long, Cruel History of the Anti-Abortion Crusade
“Abortion opponents don’t care what happens to an unwanted child, and they’ve never cared about the mother.”
“When US pulls overseas abortion funding, abortion rates go up not down..
“Many health clinics that offer abortions also provide contraception services, so more women got pregnant without meaning to…
“The US, which is one of the world’s biggest foreign aid spenders, has withheld money from overseas clinics that provide abortions whenever it has had a Republican president, ever since the Reagan administration.”
Those people are out to make themselves feel virtuous, or to win the votes of those who feel so. Not to genuinely help people who choose to assert freedom in the face of the USA’s dying religious culture. Nor to help those who count as ‘collateral damage’ – they want contraception but find it hard to get.
Older ‘Family Values’
“Christina Crawford on life after Mommie Dearest: ‘My mother should have been in jail’
“Her memoir of life with her abusive adoptive mother, the Hollywood superstar Joan Crawford, was perhaps the first ever to document child abuse from the point of view of the child. Now 80, is she finally free from the fallout?…
“‘The musical had absolutely nothing to do with the movie. I want to put that in big capital letters.’
“The movie she is referring to is, of course, the 1981 adaptation of Christina’s memoir that starred Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford, Christina’s adoptive mother, whose abuses, soberly detailed in the book, were turned by the movie into high camp. As chronicled in Mommie Dearest, Crawford slapped, kicked, punched and tried to strangle her daughter, while subjecting her to a severe schedule of cleaning and other household chores, driven by the movie star’s alcoholism and who knows what else.’”
It is a sad fact that it wasn’t taken seriously enough at the time. The film “brought a cult following to the film as an unintentional comedy”. And Paramount were happy to cater for this – it all made money.
The Fleshpots of Duty-Free
Flying from Birmingham to Belfast, I arrived 6:05 in the morning, but lacked a pass. And was sent downstairs and a long walk.
I had the wrong paperwork for the first check-in. I was sent to the far end for Thomas Cook, but I counted as Flyby. This was automatic, but would not give me the paper. I then went to the desk and whatever it was came out OK.
Up and through security. I remembered to put the laptop etc. in a bag, but not including the Kindle, so my bag got diverted. Sent round again and was OK, but I lifted it without realising it was open.
Got everything back, and on. Re-sorted it all in the hall, after resisting the Fleshpots of Duty-Free. I long ago noticed that wherever I knew the price, it was higher than a supermarket. I remember when there were real bargains – but that was decades ago.
The fact that people choose an inconvenient shop to buy goods at a higher price shows how thoroughly they have been fed the notion that taxes are bad for you, regardless. Tax-free must be cheaper, even when it is observably more expensive.
I also notice the long check-ins before your flight give you plenty of time to waste money and boost the airport revenue.
New Right theory says that passengers as customers should get the best for themselves.
Reality shows that we get pushed around by big corporations. And are helpless where we have lost faith in the state and collective action
“A quarter of betting shops on UK high streets have been slated for closure, putting 12,000 jobs at risk, with William Hill the latest bookmaker to blame job cuts on stricter regulation of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
“Restrictions cutting the maximum stake on the controversial betting machines from £100 per spin to £2 came into force in April after a lengthy campaign by activists and MPs, who linked the controversial machines to gambling addiction.”
I’d call that excellent news. The more addicts the laws can free, the less need for ‘pushers’.
Gambling exploits a deep human impulse that probably paid well when we were hunting animals or gathering vegetable foods. A series of small gains and the hope of a big prize.
Safer ways to satisfy such feeling exist. Bingo, for instance – an evening’s entertainment at little cost. No temptation to spend money you do not have.
Gambling used to exist underground, mostly run by criminals. It often keeps connections even when legal. Regardless, I would sooner push it back underground, where less people would be hurt.
Cats, Including Bad Black Cats
I fully intend to go and see the new film version of Cats, when it comes out in December.
If you’ve seen the trailer, it features CGI creatures. Cat-human hybrids who do indeed resemble something from Doctor Who. A step beyond the humans in cat costume of the stage musical.
Disconcerting, I agree. Some reviewers complained. But I felt it also worked. Would please fans of the original, which most reviewers probably were not.
What I found bizarre was that they chose a black actor, Idris Elba, for the villain Macavity. The original T S Elliot poem specifically says that he’s a ginger cat.
Idris Elba was also the main villain in ‘Star Trek: Beyond’, and the recent CGI version of ‘The Jungle Book’. Also a decent minor superhero in ‘Thor’ and its sequels. But the pattern indicates a lot of underlying racist attitudes.
The irresponsible funster ‘Rum Tum Tugger’ is also played by a black actor. I think the original idea was a pop-star character, regardless of race.
[In the event I was put off, but did see it on disk. And felt the critics had been unfair: See The Lynching of Cats.]
Children and Good Examples
“Children are masters of imitation. Copying parents and other adults is how they learn about their social world — about the facial expressions and body movements that allow them to communicate, gain approval and avoid rejection. Imitation has such a powerful influence on development, for good and ill, that child-protection agencies across the world run campaigns reminding parents to be role models. If you don’t want your kids to scream at other children, don’t scream at them.”
I’d also apply it to media. At present, Anglo media is terrified of children seeing sexual feelings among adults, as if it were not part of normal life. But violence, if clean and sanitised, is rated as fine.
“New evidence has emerged linking an RAF veteran to the death in 1961 of the UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjöld in a mysterious plane crash in southern Africa.”
It always did seem suspicious.
But the larger issue is that Western interests sabotaged the first serious attempt to use the United Nations as an instrument of International Law. What they did in the Congo was an abomination, helping overthrow the elected Prime Minister and then letting him be murdered.
The USA was particularly guilty, though sometimes constrained by Soviet influence.
With this removed, they behaved worse, with the UN timid.
But also proved incompetent. Decades before, they did successfully impose right-wing dictators on the Congo and other places. But when it came to Iraq, they no longer had the nerve. They created a chaos that benefits no one.
Greedy and Self-Defeating
“U.S. Has Spent Six Trillion Dollars on Wars That Killed Half a Million People Since 9/11, Report Say…
“Despite initial quick victories there, the U.S. military has been plagued by ongoing insurgencies these two countries [Iraq and Afghanistan] and expanded counterterrorism operations across the region, including Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. In 2014, the U.S. gathered an international coalition to face the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), which arose out of a post-invasion Sunni Muslim insurgency in Iraq and spread to neighboring Syria and beyond.”
Had they spent even half of that ensuring that Russia and Ukraine did not suffer when the Soviet Union broke up, they would have gained reliable and useful friends.
But policy was dominated by fools who believed that the Marshall Plan was a disaster that only just coincidentally brought stability and wealth.
Their own failures are also viewed as quite inexplicable.
Greece – Hard Choices
“Critics, many from the left, blame the outgoing Syriza-led coalition government for accepting catastrophic EU- and IMF-driven austerity policies. For them, the former leftwing firebrands failed to do sufficient battle with the neoliberal forces in Brussels and Washington and this is why Greek voters punished the party. A crucial feature of this narrative is its very conscious omission of any reference to the September 2015 election. It was called by Syriza after it abandoned its radical left programme, and “betrayed” (according to some) the results of a referendum in which the Greek people rejected austerity and signed up to acceptance of the bailout conditions. Syriza won 36.3% of the vote in that election. Losing 5% since then does not represent a massive rejection, but it is a major setback.
“What Syriza attempted to do within the parameters of the situation it inherited was to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society. Among other things, it gave citizenship to second-generation migrants, and brought back within the Greek national health service the 1 million people who had been excluded by the previous government because they were uninsured – it did its best to act in defence of a social vision for Greece. It was also one of the few parties that upheld such a vision within Europe.
“Implementing the EU/IMF memorandum, however, meant that a big part of the taxation burden ended up on the shoulders of the lower-middle class and middle class, and many of these voters subsequently felt alienated”
And re-elected the centre-right party that created the original mess – voters are depressingly easy to fool. But at least the Greek Far Right has slumped, returning to the margins.
“The Green Book’s Black History”
“Lessons from the Jim Crow-era travel guide for African-American elites…
“Imagine trudging into a hotel with your family at midnight — after a long, grueling drive — and being turned away by a clerk who ‘loses’ your reservation when he sees your black face.
“This was a common hazard for members of the African-American elite in 1932, the year Dr. B. Price Hurst of Washington, D.C., was shut out of New York City’s Prince George Hotel despite having confirmed his reservation by telegraph.”
There is now a film called Green Book, which documents the era. As does Hidden Figures, about black woman who did calculations for NASA at a time when computers were still primitive. Both well worth watching.
But both centred on people who would be securely within the Overclass in today’s world. Inequality is mostly seen as OK if it is not racial.
Neither properly included the role of radicals in forcing the changes. Particularly not the role of the American Communist Party, the main multi-racial body demanding equality.
Iran and Atomics
“Iran will never pursue a nuclear weapon, its foreign minister has claimed, saying Islam prevented the country from doing so.
“Iran has previously said it is ideologically opposed to acquiring nuclear weapons and seeks nuclear power only for civilian purposes. But in the current unpredictable climate it is possible Donald Trump could pick up Javad Zarif’s remarks as a signal to talk.”
The Islamists of Iran inherited a nuclear power program from the Shah. He had also signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, keeping weapons to existing powers. Apparently they wondered about repudiating this. But then decided that nuclear weapons were anti-Islamic, being inherently killers of innocents.
What is odd is the way this commitment gets ignored.
Islam In Decline?
“The Arab world is turning its back on religion and on US relations, according to the largest public opinion survey ever carried out in the region.
“A survey of more than 25,000 people across 10 countries and the Palestinian territories found that trust in religious leaders has plummeted in recent years.
“The study, compiled by BBC News Arabic and Arab Barometer, a Princeton University-based research network, also identified a marked rise in the proportion of people describing themselves as ‘not religious’ – from 11% in 2012-2014 to 18% this year.”
It seems surprising, given the spread of militant groups. But maybe that is more a badge of cultural difference. Actual faith is fading:
“Since 2013, the number of people across the region identifying as “not religious” has risen from 8% to 13%. The rise is greatest in the under 30s”
They also thought better of Putin than of Trump. But Turkey’s Erdogan was generally ahead of both.
“The Lib Dems are deeply stained by austerity. Don’t trust them…
“When asked throughout this summer’s leadership campaign, Swinson (and her opponent, Ed Davey) consistently defended her party’s role in austerity measures. In an interview with Channel 4 News, Swinson said she had no regrets about the coalition, stating it was the right move ‘to get our country back on track’. This is despite the fact it has been shown that austerity shrunk the British economy by £100bn, and has even been linked to 130,000 preventable deaths. Swinson acknowledged ‘there were policies we let through [in coalition] that we shouldn’t have done’, naming the bedroom tax, but remained unrepentant on a whole host of others.”
Mad, Bad and Nearly Dead
“Mad magazine, the class clown of American publishing, is being shuffled off to the periodical equivalent of an old-folks home at the age of 67.
“After the next two issues, a publication that specialized in thumbing its nose at authority will no longer include new material, except in year-end specials”
Maybe because the world it mocked no longer has anything worth mocking.
Mission to Titan
“NASA announced Thursday that it is sending a drone-style quadcopter to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.
“Dragonfly, as the mission is called, will be capable of soaring across the skies of Titan and landing intermittently to take scientific measurements, studying the world’s mysterious atmosphere and topography while searching for hints of life on the only world other than Earth in our solar system with standing liquid on its surface.
“Part of the Dragonfly mission is to study whether the moon of Saturn could now be, or once was, home to life.
“Because of the nature of its atmosphere, Titan is a very Earthlike place. Chemically, it is very much like our world’s primordial past. The surface pressure of Titan is one-and-a-half times the surface pressure of Earth, and the same sorts of interactions between air, land and sea take place. Titan thus has familiar geology. Methane on Titan plays the role that water plays here. Its methane cycle is analogous to Earth’s water cycle. It has methane clouds, methane rain and methane lakes and seas on the surface…
“Dragonfly is similar in size to a Mars rover, or about the size of a large lawn mower. Where a Mars rover is limited to inching forward over a decade or longer, however, for the Dragonfly team, Titan’s sky and the drone’s nuclear fuel source are the limit.”
I feel like celebrating it in verse:
And NASA sent their dragonfly
To Titan-moon, to ponder it.’
Unions in the USA
“Democrats have an ambitious plan to save American labor unions…
“So-called right-to-work laws let unionized workers skip out on paying union dues if they don’t want to. Normally, every worker chips in for the cost of negotiating a labor contract, because everyone in the bargaining unit benefits from it. Giving workers the option not to pay means many won’t, which then lowers a union’s membership and political influence. Unions have lost millions of dollars in states that have passed these laws.
“The Democrats’ new bill would also allow workers to sue employers who illegally interfere with unionizing efforts, instead of forcing them to take all their complaints to the National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency that enforces collective bargaining laws. The new bill would also let the board hit employers with fines if they break the law. Right now there’s currently no financial penalty for employers who illegally fire workers who are trying to unionize, for example.”
Rejecting collective action has turned out to be rejecting civilisation.
Collective action turns out to be the root of what civilisation is. Markets have a small role and this must be kept small, to avoid a whole host of social evils.
There were some proofreading errors in the printed version, including 381 billion rather than 38.1 billion for the size of Hong Kong’s economy. These have been fixed.
Why I Write
For years, I have been doing regular monthly Newsnotes for the magazine Labour Affairs. But now I find I have more to say than the magazine has room for. Hence this grand multi-part analysis.
Previous Newsnotes are at the Labour Affairs website, https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/past-issues/. Also https://longrevolution.wordpress.com/newsnotes-historic/. I blog every month or so at https://www.quora.com/q/pwgwxusqvnzzrlzm/stats. I tweet at @GwydionMW.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money_(That%27s_What_I_Want), http://www.lyrics.lol/artist/19340-chuck-berry/lyrics/123436-money-that-s-what-i-want
 https://gwydionwilliams.com/newsnotes-historic/2019-newsnotes/newsnotes-2019-04/#_Toc5269096, https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/recent-issues/2019-05-magazine/2019-05-newsnotes/#_Toc13823186
 The 2011 Act requires the next general election to be held the first Thursday in May of the fifth year after the previous general election, if it has not happened earlier.
 https://www.newscientist.com/article/2204279-robots-conduct-daily-health-inspections-of-schoolchildren-in-china/. Access mostly for subscribers.
 https://abcnews.go.com/International/saint-saint-kind-demoted/story?id=23477573 and https://www.quora.com/Why-is-St-Christopher-no-longer-a-saint
 See https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/problems-magazine-past-issues/the-mixed-economy-won-the-cold-war/ for details.
 For more see https://gwydionwilliams.com/99-problems-magazine/the-invention-of-agriculture-and-cities/