2017 12 – Newsnotes

Notes on the News

by Gwydion M Williams

 

Tories at the end of the road?

I’m amazed that today’s Tories can be so incompetent and unsuccessful, and yet not know it.  But their self-image is not harmed by many on the Hard Left seeing them as sinister Machiavellian geniuses plotting world dominion.

They can be devious conspirators.  Back in 1975, Thatcher’s supporters acted very depressed during her challenge to the leadership of Edward Heath.  She got votes from people who would have sooner had someone else replace Heath, and became unstoppable.

As Prime Minister. Thatcher was boosted by the Falklands War.  The Argentines mysteriously believed that Britain would not react.  Then an Argentine Exocet sank the Sheffield soon after the questionable sinking of the Belgrano: thereafter they mostly failed.[A]  I’d not believe that Thatcher herself would have authorised it: but many devious covert people wished her to win the next election.  Helped her follow Feed-the-Rich policies, in the sincere and ignorant belief that she was saving British traditions.

That’s efficient conspiracy.  But on larger matters, they are often bunglers.

The USA let post-Soviet Russia be looted by crooks.  Called it ‘Upper Volta with Nuclear Weapons’.  Whining when Russia bounced back with its traditional toughness, just happening to raise up a man called Putin in the process.  And cannot understand why China (excluding a few silly dissidents) is not keen to get the same treatment they gave Russia in the 1990s.042 Russia and the USA

The Tories are now in trouble.  The smart supporters of US-dominated Globalisation always depended on voters with old-fashioned prejudices.  They are no longer in control of them.  They are driving into a brick wall with Brexit.  Just the problem of an Irish-proof border for Northern Ireland may break them, since the Tories need the votes of the hard-line anti-Republican MPs in the DUP to stay in power.

They also face growing public anger over how unequal we’ve become, ever since Thatcher and Reagan transformed Centre-Right politics.

Their run of success wasn’t mainly the fruit of conspiracy: they were pushing at an open door.  Many 1960s radicals liked the idea of throwing the Big Bad State out of the lives of ordinary people.  Slay the monster of Corporatism: Corporatism was an obsession of many on the left.  Later the New Right later got clever glib-speaking recruits certain that they had seen through leftist falsehoods and now had The Truth.

Only none of it was true.  The mild and unashamedly Corporatist systems they attacked gave education, health and decent jobs to people who had lacked these things before.  The former enemies West Germany, Italy and Japan had Economic Miracles using these methods.[B]  Likewise the Asian Tigers.  Britain and the USA had their best-ever period of stable growth, though nothing like as impressive.041 West Past its Optimum

Social values came apart in the 1960s and 1970s.  Young people wanted sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.  Faced down mild disapproval from Mild Corporatism, and cast themselves as heroes against Nazi-style tyranny.  Were persuaded that Trade Unions, state intervention in the economy and laws against financial gambling were part of the same Wicked Corporatism that maliciously stopped them having a good time.  (That was before so many famous names died of drugs overdoses.)

Meantime the Soviet Union took a massive wrong turn with Brezhnev’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.  Back then, the Soviet economy was still healthy.  But a planned economy depends on honesty and idealism, which faded under Brezhnev.

The New Right line flourished, but none of it was true.  Small well-divided property was supposed to flourish, and it withered.  Inequality got so bad that the centre-right can’t defend it.  Even the rich are all for more equality, just so long as it does not hamper their own quest for ever more wealth.  But far too many people are still firmly against policies that have been shown to work: no return to Wicked Corporatism.

Mild Corporatism successfully reduced the privileges of the rich.  These returned when it came to be seen as wicked.  The new ideology got such a grip on the public mind that the 2008 economic crisis, caused by speculation, was used as an excuse to bail out the speculators with cheap loans under the gibberish name ‘Quantitative Easing’.  To pay for this vast state expenditure, ordinary people had to suffer Austerity.043 Inequality in the USA

You can’t say that Austerity did not work.  It did not work to revive the economy, but that was never the priority.  To avoid inflation while bailing out the rich, it worked wonderfully well:

“Last year the report revealed that £1.2bn had been wiped off the wealth of the UK after the vote, but that Britain remained a very attractive place for ultra-high net worth individuals, beaten only by the US and China.

“And the super-rich appear not to be suffering to the extent the average household is. A recent report from UBS and PwC showed that billionaires across the world increased their combined wealth by almost a fifth in the past year.”[C]

Depressingly, the message is slow to get through to ordinary people. Tories are a solid 40% of the electorate, occasionally polling ahead of Labour.[D]

Not all is dark.  Continental Europe allows destructive financial gambling, but kept the basics clear.  Japan somehow wrecked its Engine of Growth, but is still a coherent society.  Post-Mao China, unlike post-Soviet Russia, imported Mild Corporatism rather than ‘capitalism’.  But their version was much less mild about Party authority.  Much more interventionist and hostile to financial speculation.  And remains a tremendous success.

In the Anglosphere, the dogs returned to their vomit from the 1980s.  Are puzzled that it does not taste very nice.  But even on the left, few can accept that Mild Corporatism was the best human system that anyone has yet made workable

 

Syria: Russia’s Impossible Victory

Sending troops into the Islamic World is a formula for disaster, right?  The former Soviet Union proved that in Afghanistan, and the USA is now showing it again in Afghanistan and Iraq, right?  So Russia is doomed to fail in Syria, right?

Wrong.

Trying to impose your values on an alien society does not work.  It discredits those home-grown forces you were closest to: they get called ‘slaves of foreigners’.  Become almost that, as in Vietnam after they ousted President Diem.  As did not happen in Singapore, where the USA backed Lee Kuan Yew despite his close contacts with the local Communists.  As did not happen in Korea, where they tolerated military dictator Park Chung-hee, once a member of the South Korean branch of Korean Communism.[E]  Where they allowed protectionist and semi-socialist policies that the New Right call ‘disastrous’.[F]

In Syria, the war began because the opposition refused an offer of open elections.  And were utterly surprised when actual warfare favoured extremists much more alien in their outlook than Assad.  They should have known better: the emergence of extremists is normal in Civil Wars.  But they believed the advice they got from the West, which was ignorant and incompetent.

At high cost, Arab secularism survives in Syria.  Small minorities can live there, even as they are being driven out of Iraq.

It’s not that Assad is a desirable choice: it’s that all the other plausible choices are so much worse.  That used to be said of democracy, sometimes attributed to Churchill, whose real views were more complex.[G]  But from the 1980s and particularly the 1990s, the West’s main notion has been to push for a Great Leap Forward to True Democracy.

A Great Leap Forward to True Democracy is no more valid than Mao’s Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s.  Mao has more excuses: his previous policies had worked well despite warnings from more conventional leaders.  Overall, Mao ended Chinese stagnation and produced economic growth matching the global average, while also increasing Chinese life expectancy well beyond poor-country norms.[H]

Mao had reasonable excuses.  The West has no real excuse for still demanding a Great Leap Forward after repeated failures.

The big trouble with lying is that it’s not true.  That also applies to False Beliefs, as with right-wingers insisting that Climate Change is a leftist myth.  A few individuals have shown their honesty by admitting their former errors.[I]  But most hang on to the bitter end.

I fear it will be very bitter indeed for Britain and the USA.

 

The finest Free Media that money can buy

“Google is to ‘derank’ stories from Kremlin-owned publications Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik in response to allegations about election meddling by President Putin’s government.

“Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt said the search giant needed to deal with the spread of misinformation.

“RT has been described by US intelligence agencies as ‘Russia’s state-run propaganda machine’.

“The publications said the move was a form of censorship.”[J]

They are also banned from buying advertising on Twitter.[K]  Understandable, since they have a populist style that neatly exposes all of the troubles and failures of the West.

I start each morning watching four news services: the BBC, Russia Today, the Chinese and Al Jazeera.  Each has an agenda: between them one gets something like the truth.

The BBC was once trustworthy.  Repeated Tory complaints about ‘Leftist Bias’ and the appointment of compliant top managers has ended that for news, at least.  It would be beyond the New Right to realise that this costs Britain more long-term than they could ever gain.

Right now, there is a smear campaign. A handful of people in Russia took an interest in the US election and posted stuff.  This would not have mattered had the West’s politics been competent, which is just the problem.  So Russia Today is harassed on unproven charges.  Mrs May, having foolishly weakened herself with a snap election back in June, is now claiming to be powerless before the Might of Putin.[L]  Hilary Clinton, having snatched the Democratic Party nomination from the more popular and more left-wing Bernie Saunders, now blames anyone but herself.

 

Marketing sex?

There is fierce skirmishing between the alternatives of legalising prostitution and making it criminal for the customer as well as the prostitute.  (Britain, with typical hypocrisy, criminalises only the prostitute.)

Thinking in terms of boundaries rather than some mysterious entity called The Freedom, I’d like to make a separation between commercial sex and normal life.  I would clamp down on advertisers using sexual attractiveness: so many displays of women indicate sexual availability.  Stop newspapers and magazines dropping it in on various pretexts.  Call it absurd that there is no significant difference between music videos and soft-core pornography.

If you ask for definitions, I’d favour random juries of a dozen mature women with ordinary sex lives to set the rules.  Women are much clearer on the difference between looking nice and looking sexually available.

I would also relax most of the rules on pornography, provided it is clearly labelled as such and you don’t encounter it except by choice.  Make a simple rule that anything that can legally be done can also legally be shown.  (This would criminalise bestiality, for instance, assuming that society wants to maintain laws against actually doing it.)

I would also remove current laws that stop prostitutes from advertising or organizing themselves.  The actual act has never been illegal under British law, meaning that customers cannot be touched.

Feminists are likely to object, of course.  But on what grounds?

You’d find it ridiculous if I started objecting to what some men do with their bodies, because I personally had no wish to do such things.  So how is it different when women who are mostly in a privileged position try to tell other women what they should or should not do?  Sauce for the gander, sauce for the goose.

Please remember that women are not a minority: they are slightly over half the human race.  On most matters, they differ from each other enormously.  Are often closer to some of the men.

But a lot of the social strength remains male.  Legalised brothels can become places of exploitation.  Maybe something much larger should be promoted instead: Sex malls, which rent rooms and provide openly priced support services, leaving it to the women to control their own business.  (And pay taxes, and have an independently appointed Welfare Officer in place to prevent exploitation.)

As for advertising such places, I would favour something that does not intrude on the public, unless they click a link or get a magazine and see much more.  It could be as simple as a sign saying [♀£] along with a link or address.  Or [♂£], [♀♂£], [♀♂?£] etc.  Whatever some people would want, and not intruding rudely on the majority.

All of this would establish sanity, safety and decency to commercial sex, which is going to exist anyway.

It would also undermine an important part of the New Right political package.  It is no coincidence that you often find the same people pushing mostly-feeble commercial sex and making complaints about modern morals.

 

Come not between the Redneck and his vanity

The USA was made by its elite, not its ‘little people’.  But it always suited the elite to pretend otherwise.

Small-property values only flourish with a seriously interventionist state that defends them.  But I doubt that the current generation in the USA will ever grasp this.  Which is a pity, but their good qualities are easily found elsewhere.  They are nothing like as special as they think themselves.

Electing Trump was maybe the last gasp for the poor white minority who yearn for an older America.  Trump may indeed move away from the pointless wars that Bush Snr, Bush Jnr, and Bill Clinton favoured, that Obama tolerated, and that Hilary Clinton was keen to expand.

Lots of US citizens voted for a man as ignorant as they are.  As arrogant and rude as they’d like to be.  And don’t yet feel sorry, sadly.

Warlike bluster by Trump is what most of his people want.  Not an actual war.  He seems to be getting there.  Has quietly accepted Russia’s victory in Syria.  Talks peace with China.

But when it comes to looking after ‘his people’, Trump shows that ‘his people’ are the very rich.  The Republicans are putting together a tax ‘reform’ that would throw scraps to ordinary people but be another gigantic feast for the rich.

 

Snippets

Mafia End-Game

Gangsters are part of the sickness of commercial society.  Lackeys for those rich enough to hire a gross of thugs.  But if they dare to be more, they get quickly slapped down.

“‘Riina was still the boss of Cosa Nostra when he died…

“Riina’s war against the state was part of a plan to create a new order of mafia power in politics and business…  But Riina’s war almost destroyed Cosa Nostra. His attacks provoked an unprecedented backlash from the state. Law enforcement in Sicily came down hard on the organisation and even high-level mafiosi, including Riina’s golden boy, Giovanni Brusca, collaborated. The ruling commission of Cosa Nostra was unable to meet, for fear of arrest, and remained scattered and weak. The police became so effective at surveillance and capture, in Sicily the organisation has struggled to re-establish itself.”[M]

Other more obedient criminal outfits have taken its place.

***

How the secrets of the rich were leaked

“The computers had never been connected to the Internet, so that they could be used to securely store the 13.4 million files … that were leaked last year … known as the Paradise Papers.”[N]

They knew that dirty money has dirty defenders.  That normal protections would fail.  So now the facts of massive cheating are known.

What’s done with them is another matter.  Ordinary people still dislike taxes, especially inheritance taxes, currently rigged so that the rich pay hardly anything.  May see ‘privacy’ as more important than the truth about who owns the things that control our lives.

***

Respecting a vote

“There is little appetite for a second referendum that would give a choice between the deal on offer and remaining in the EU. Most voters (53%) said that they did not want a second referendum, compared with 35% who did. Even a quarter of Remainers opted against another vote. Meanwhile, it appears pledging one would enrage those who voted Leave, with 82% against another national poll.”[O]

Britons have nearly 350 years of letting votes settle the matter.  From 1688, mainland Britons south of the Highlands stopped fighting each other.  Were happy to use armed force beyond this, sadly, yet it was a major step forward.  And though it then took till the 1880s to make the voting even loosely democratic,[P] it was a prize worth having.

***

Shooting the Messengers of Bad News

“As Hurricane Harvey roared toward the Texas coast in late August, weather models showed something that forecasters had never seen before: predictions of four feet of rainfall in the Houston area over five days — a year’s worth of rain in less than a week.

“‘I’ve been doing this stuff for almost 50 years,’ says Bill Read, a former director of the National Hurricane Center who lives in Houston. ‘The rainfall amounts … I didn’t believe ‘em. 50-inch-plus rains — I’ve never seen a model forecast like that anywhere close to accurate.

“‘Lo and behold, we had it.’

“That unbelievable-but-accurate rain forecast is just one example of the great leap forward in storm forecasting made possible by major improvements in instruments, satellite data, and computer models. These advancements are happening exactly when we need them to — as a warmer, wetter atmosphere produces more supercharged storms, intense droughts, massive wildfires, and widespread flooding, threatening lives and property.

“And yet the Trump administration’s climate denial and proposed cuts threaten these advances, spreading turmoil in the very agencies that can predict disasters better than ever. The president’s budget proposal would slash the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget by 16 percent, including 6 percent from the National Weather Service.”[Q]

Maybe Trump believes what some silly intellectuals have floated.  No reality, just opinions.

Websites

Previous Newsnotes can be found at the Labour Affairs website, https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/past-issues/.  Also https://longrevolution.wordpress.com/newsnotes-historic/.  Occasional blogs at https://gwydionmw.quora.com/.

 

References

[A]              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falklands_War#Sinking_of_ARA_General_Belgrano

[B]              See Feed-the-Rich Economics, https://gwydionwilliams.com/99-problems-magazine/the-mixed-economy-worked-quite-well/

[C]              https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/12/credit-suisse-global-wealth-brexit-super-rich

[D]              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_next_United_Kingdom_general_election#Poll_results

[E]              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Park_Chung-hee#Return_to_Korea

[F]              I learned of the Communist input to South Korea’s success from Joe Studwell’s How Asia Works, which I am planning to review in a future issue

[G]              https://gwydionwilliams.com/44-fascism-and-world-war-2/why-churchill-admired-mussolini/

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

[I]               http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/11/i-was-a-professional-climate-denier-i-was-wrong/#

[J]               http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-42065644

[K]              http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-41766991

[L]              http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41973043

[M]             https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/18/how-toto-riinas-war-on-the-italian-state-almost-destroyed-cosa-nostra

[N]              https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/how-a-german-newspaper-became-the-go-to-place-for-leaks-like-the-paradise-papers

[O]              https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/21/brexit-voters-spurn-new-referendum

[P]              https://gwydionwilliams.com/40-britain/665-2/

[Q]              http://grist.org/article/life-saving-weather-forecasts-cost-donald-trump-wants-to-slash-them/

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