2020 02 – Newsnotes

Notes On The News

by Gwydion M Williams

Climate Change – Burning the Next Generation

Had the 1997 Kyoto Protocol been taken seriously, Australia would not now be having its worst fire season ever.

Not suffering the hottest and driest weather that Australia has ever had.[A]

Our winter is their summer, remember.  Perhaps the worst is yet to come.

Delays are not excusable.  Deniers point to doom-mongers who are always against something.  But from the 1970s, and much more strongly in the 1990s, expert opinion decided that global warming was real.  And caused by us:

“In the 1960s, the warming effect of carbon dioxide gas became increasingly convincing. Some scientists also pointed out that human activities that generated atmospheric aerosols (e.g., ‘pollution’) could have cooling effects as well.

“During the 1970s, scientific opinion increasingly favored the warming viewpoint. By the 1990s, as a result of improving fidelity of computer models and observational work confirming the Milankovitch theory of the ice ages, a consensus position formed: greenhouse gases were deeply involved in most climate changes and human-caused emissions were bringing discernible global warming. Since the 1990s, scientific research on climate change has included multiple disciplines and has expanded.”[B]

California had a long drought in 2011-17.[C]  In Africa, “Victoria Falls dries to a trickle after worst drought in a century”.[D]  Britain just now is unusually mild and wet.  But storms Elsa and Fabien hit Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and France, killing nine.[E]

We do still get cold weather.  The experts never forecast warmer weather everywhere and for all seasons.  Computer models always showed occasional local cooling.  And they were surprisingly accurate:

“Climate models have accurately predicted global heating, study finds…

“We found that climate models – even those published back in the 1970s – did remarkably well, with 14 out of the 17 model projections indistinguishable from what actually occurred,”[F]

Small minorities of scientists who hold out against the consensus are mostly wrong, though we hear much more about it when they happen to be right.  Or when it suits the powerful to believe them – physicists who rejected Einstein’s Relativity got a big boost when Hitler came to power.

Oddly, Nazi ideology helped them believe early science-based warnings of the dangers of smoking.  It was Capitalist Democracies that put up gigantic resistance to accepting that tobacco was a killer, and cigarettes the worst.

Smoking was still seen as glamorous in the 1960s, when I was a teenager.  Thankfully, I was advised by my father to avoid it.  He himself was too committed to pipe-smoking to give it up.  It probably contributed to his death at 66.[G]

Risks are never certain doom.  Suppose a man tried Russian Roulette six times with six separate six-shooters?  Certain death?  Or almost certain?  Surprisingly, they’d have a one in three chance of surviving, just by impersonal statistics.[H]  And yet most people would see it as a miracle.  (And don’t try this at home.)

Big shifts are now so obvious that hardly anyone still denies them.  But a few scientists hold out against human guilt for Climate Change.  Some well-funded by the offenders.

Small minorities of scientists who stick to old ideas in defiance of the majority are almost always wrong.  I can’t think of a single case in the entire history of science where they have ever been proved right.

But politicians who need to be re-elected have to think about public opinion.  About right-wing media that cultivate ignorance and prejudice.  About gigantic coal and oil industries, which anyway need to put enormous efforts into getting political permission and protection.

Many politicians also think about getting nice jobs when they are ready to quit stressful electoral politics.  Or lose power despite their best efforts.

Or just favour the rich.

Both Trump and Putin are denying humans causes.[I]  But Putin is being smart: Russia has few coastal cities, and a vast mass of cold lands now thawing very nicely.


Hong Kong – Doomed Protests

I knew from the start that Beijing was never going to let the Hong Kong government punish its police for doing their duty.

Nor replace the current pro-business electoral system with one likely to produce a Regional Government with no coherent ideas beyond arguing with Beijing.

The protests did help re-elect an anti-Beijing government in Taiwan.  This may be why they were originally encouraged by outsiders.  But what exists now is a leaderless movement, unable to do anything sensible.

There is little sympathy for the protests on the mainland.  Even Overseas Chinese are increasingly sympathetic to Beijing.  In the USA, the flag of the People’s Republic is replacing that of the Taiwan Regime, which still claims to be the ‘Republic of China:

“Most newly established Chinese-American groups fly the PRC flag, and across the country the PRC flag has become more and more ubiquitous in America’s Chinatowns, as several older associations in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco changed over.”[J]

It also seems that Beijing no longer hopes the protests will die down, and is preparing for drastic changes:

“Beijing replaces its top Hong Kong representative…

“Mr Luo‘s appointment marks the first time that anyone without direct experience of Hong Kong has been appointed to the top Communist party position in the territory…

“Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based independent political commentator, said the Chinese leadership was looking to take more direct control of Hong Kong policy with the appointment and to make a clean break from the territory’s bureaucracy, which Beijing sees as having failed to handle the protests effectively.

“’It’s always been the same group of people managing Hong Kong and Macau affairs, but their abilities are now in doubt,’ he said. ‘They did not want to take responsibility and produced self-serving reports that misled Beijing when making decisions about the situation in Hong Kong.’”[K]

One adjustment would be to spend more.  The rich business people who back Beijing have done too little for their ordinary citizens.  This now may change:

“In the latest move by the government to try pacifying its unruly citizens, Carrie Lam… has announced a HK$ 10 billion wodge of handouts mainly for the elderly and the poor.”[L]

There is also a suggestion that the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle could be kept beyond its official 2047 expiry date.[M]  Beijing is currently moving sharply away from Western values, so this might be easier – if Hong Kong is sensible about it.

But actual policy is likely to be carrot-and-stick:

“The Hong Kong government first tried to introduce the national security legislation mandated by Article 23 of Hong Kong’s mini constitution, the Basic Law, in 2003 but was forced to abandon it after 500,000 people marched in opposition.

“That was the largest protest in Hong Kong post its handover from Britain to China in 1997 until last year, when millions marched against an extradition bill to allow people in the territory to be sent to the mainland for trial.”[N]

If people protest whatever you do, why not grasp the nettle and toughen up the laws?

Hong Kong’s Chinese inhabitants were mostly docile servants of the British Empire, and were looked after.  This continued after 1949, when rival Shanghai became a leftist stronghold.   Hong Kong took over as the main link with the wider world.  But before being returned to Beijing’s rule, Chris Patten as last governor of Hong Kong set them up to be a wedge into People’s China.

They are still being used, when the scheme looks unlikely to succeed.  When renewed and loyal Shanghai was anyway replacing them.

Outsiders encouraging the protests are either criminally foolish, or not much concerned if a bunch of mildly Westernised Chinese get hurt.  People who were prevented from coming to Britain when handed over to Beijing, with most Britons fully approving this.  And that was before the nasty turn to Brexit.


Rules of Privacy

In public places, someone watching or just casually passing may spot who you really are.

This has always been the case.  And the ordinary citizen has no protection if someone rich or powerful decides to have them watched.  There have been television programs proving that the ordinary citizens will have no idea if private detectives are following them.

But this is little protection for the ordinary person, at risk of being mugged, beaten up or sexually assaulted.

Yet each improvement in public watching of public spaces is seen as a terrible threat.

There was utter panic when CCTV became widespread from the late 1990s.[O]  This faded, as CCTV became familiar.  And when people saw that it was often useful to track criminals: you see it all the time in popular ‘Police Procedure’ programs.

Now the panic is over automated recognition of people’s faces.  First widely mentioned as something else to throw at China.  But now it has come to London:

“The Met rejected claims the scheme was ‘a breathtaking assault on rights’ and claimed that 80% of people surveyed backed the move. It said the system would launch next month and would be aimed at catching serious criminals and tracking down missing persons…

“The Met said the system was 70% effective at spotting wanted suspects and falsely identified someone as wanted in one in a thousand cases.”[P]

Do protesters wish for everyone to move about in a bubble of total secrecy?  They fail to think that this would mostly benefit criminals.  And criminals don’t respect your rights, if they are strong enough to take an interest in you.


Jews and Poland

“75 years on, Holocaust survivors struggle to recover property in Poland…

“Lea Evron, 85, has only fragments of memories of the fur factory and the three-story apartment building her family owned before World War Two in Zywiec, a small town in southern Poland.

“What she does remember clearly is returning after the war, when most of her family had been killed in the Holocaust.

“A local woman said to her and her mother ‘Hitler promised to get rid of all of the Jews, and here they come home,’ Evron told Reuters in her apartment in New York.

“Evron and her mother were told they could live in the apartment building, but only in the maids’ quarters. They moved to Israel soon after.

“Evron is just one of the thousands of Jews whose families’ property was seized by Poland’s Nazi occupiers and then kept by its postwar communist rulers.

“Home to one of the world’s largest Jewish communities before the war, Poland is the only EU country that has not legislated on property restitution.”[Q]

And where are the media protests about this?  Why such softness, happening at the same time as harassment of the Labour Party over supposed anti-Semitism?

Attacking Corbyn’s Labour suits the rich.  Harassing Poland is unattractive for the large non-Jewish majority of the rich elite.

Poland is useful for the Crusade against post-Soviet Russia, which is being blamed for resenting abuse by the West in the 1990s.

Poles before Hitler would accept converted Jews, basing its prejudice on religion and culture rather than supposed racial differences.  And the Polish Underground did bring news to the West of the Death Camps.  These were on occupied Polish territory and also killed many non-Jewish Poles.  But there was also general hostility to Jews in Poland.  Little wish to see them return.

Yet for now, it is largely ignored outside of purely Jewish sources.

It is also only thanks to a few Jews who wrote memoirs that I learned that maybe a million Jews were saved by Stalin moving them east, when he occupied territory that Poland had seized after its victory over Trotsky’s 1920 invasion.  Territory east of the Curzon Line, which the West had selected as a fair division between Poles and non-Polish peoples.[R]  And which Stalin restored as the frontier after World War Two.

None of this is commonly mentioned in the West.  I’ve not seen anyone deny that it is true.  But the media and even most historians seem to think that it is best that the public do not have their minds troubled with such off-message facts.

I also have a definite memory of Germany being hit by a wave of extra claims by Jews after German Unification, when Germany was no longer the front line of the Cold War.  When they needed general goodwill to get unification accepted.



Capitalist Extremists

“The UK has one of the most extreme forms of capitalism in the world and we urgently need to rethink the role of business in society. That’s according to Prof Colin Mayer…

“Most ownership in the UK is in the hands of a large number of institutional investors, none of which have a significant controlling shareholding in our largest companies. That is quite unlike virtually any other country in the world, including the United States.”[S]

The sort of people who funded Brexit.  Who can flourish even if Britains’ economy declines sharply.

And none of the rich are suffering.

“Richest 10% enjoy biggest gains in household wealth”[T]


Trump Hurts Almost Everyone

“’It’s killing us’: midwestern workers savaged by Trump’s trade wars..

“Trump campaigned on promises to bring back jobs, particularly to communities in the midwest that have been devastated from the decline of industry. But manufacturing has continued to suffer. Employment in US manufacturing peaked in 1979 with 19.4m jobs, and has steadily declined since to around 12.8m in 2019”.[U]

1979 was just before the election of Ronald Reagan, who boosted the rich and hurt everyone else.  But sounded amiable, unlike Trump:

“Germans think Trump more dangerous than Putin and Kim Jong-un, poll finds..

“Forty-one per cent said Trump posed the greatest threat to global peace out of the five world leaders. Seventeen per cent opted for Kim; Putin and Khamenei were tied on 8 per cent; and Xi was considered least threatening, at 7 per cent”[V]


Why a Virus from China?

China, unlike India, has lots of meat-eaters.  And they like their meat as fresh as possible:

“A wet market, where animals are freshly slaughtered rather than chilled was identified as the source of the coronavirus outbreak. But experts have long warned of dangers…

“The Chinese prefer freshly slaughtered pig, chicken and beef over chilled or frozen meat that has been slaughtered before being shipped.”[W]

“The coronavirus spreading in China and the SARS outbreak of 2003 have two things in common: Both are from the coronavirus family, and both started in wet markets.

“At such markets, outdoor stalls are squeezed together to form narrow lanes, where locals and visitors shop for cuts of meat and ripe produce. A stall selling hundreds of caged chickens may abut a butcher counter, where uncooked meat is chopped as nearby dogs watch hungrily. Vendors hock skinned hares, while seafood stalls display glistening fish and shrimp.

“Wet markets put people and live and dead animals – dogs, chickens, pigs, snakes, civets, and more – in constant close contact. That makes it easy for a virus to jump from animal to human.”[X]


Boeing Pump-and-Dump

“‘I Honestly Don’t Trust Many People at Boeing’: A Broken Culture Exposed

“A trove of internal employee communications shows that the aviation giant’s troubles go beyond one poorly designed plane…

“The very culture at Boeing appears to be broken, with some senior employees having little regard for regulators, customers and even co-workers.

“Perhaps most tellingly, the documents show Boeing employees repeatedly questioning the competence of their own colleagues, and the quality of the company’s engineering…

“Once relentlessly focused on safety and engineering, Boeing employees are shown obsessing over the bottom line.”[Y]

The fault of management.  Boosted by the New Right notion, popular from the 1980s, that giving managers a chance of vast wealth tied to share prices would make them better managers,

“Ousted Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg to receive $60m in stock and pension”[Z]

Eighty million, according to the Financial Times.[AA]  And all quite legal.  Most likely untouchable.


Hurting Britain

“Regional divides in the UK are among the worst in the developed world, according to a report, which found that parts of England have higher mortality rates than places in Turkey, Romania and Poland.

“Research by the thinktank IPPR North found that the UK is more unequal than comparable countries on measures such as health, jobs, disposable income and productivity.”[BB]

These are mostly the people who voted for Brexit.  Who now have it, and may finally learn something.

But the Tories are likely to last till 2024, and go on causing damage.

Former employees of Thomas Cook, killed after managerial games left a basically sound business laden with debt, are now finding that the ‘reformed’ benefit system denies them the sort of help that they would have once got without hassle.[CC]


Weather, Again

“India’s Ominous Future: Too Little Water, or Far Too Much…

“This year, India experienced its wettest September in a century; more than 1,600 people were killed by floods; and even by the time traditional harvest festivals rolled around in October, parts of the country remained inundated.

“Even more troubling, extreme rainfall is more common and more extreme. Over the last century, the number of days with very heavy rains has increased, with longer dry spells stretching out in between. Less common are the sure and steady rains that can reliably penetrate the soil. This is ruinous for a country that gets the vast share of its water from the clouds.

“The problem is especially acute across the largely poor central Indian belt that stretches from western Maharashtra State to the Bay of Bengal in the east: Over the last 70 years, extreme rainfall events have increased threefold in the region, according to a recent scientific paper, while total annual rainfall has measurably declined.”[DD]


Five Stars, All Fallen

Good news from Italy.  The left won the Emilia-Romagna regional elections, where a right-wing victory was expected.  They gained, but mostly at the expense of the ‘alternative’ Five Stars movement.  Which hopefully is now discredited.



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.


[A]              https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/18/australia-experiences-hottest-day-on-record-and-its-worst-ever-spring-bushfire-danger

[B]              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_climate_change_science

[C]              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011%E2%80%932017_California_drought

[D]              https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/07/victoria-falls-dries-to-a-trickle-after-worst-drought-in-a-century

[E]              https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/22/storm-elsa-fabien-people-dead-europe-france-spain-portugal-weather

[F]              https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/04/climate-models-have-accurately-predicted-global-heating-study-finds

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

[H]              https://www.quora.com/q/mrgwydionmwilliams/Russian-Roulette-Quite-Often-Safe

[I]               https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/05/russia-announces-plan-to-use-the-advantages-of-climate-change

[J]               https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-51129460

[K]              https://www.ft.com/content/b8503ad6-2f48-11ea-9703-eea0cae3f0de

[L]              https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/01/19/take-bow-rioters-hong-kong-govt-responding-throwing-money-around/

[M]             https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/01/16/one-country-two-systems-remain-unchanged-2047-says-hong-kongs-carrie-lam/

[N]              https://www.ft.com/content/3c2bb6d4-3c17-11ea-b232-000f4477fbca

[O]              https://www.quora.com/q/mrgwydionmwilliams/Being-Watched-in-Public-Spaces

[P]              https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jan/24/met-police-begin-using-live-facial-recognition-cameras

[Q]              https://www.ynetnews.com/article/rkhrqbQbL

[R]              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curzon_Line

[S]              https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50562518#

[T]              https://www.ft.com/content/1dbb9820-175c-11ea-8d73-6303645ac406

[U]              https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/dec/20/iowa-midwest-manufacturing-trump-trade-wars

[V]              https://www.scmp.com/news/world/europe/article/3043501/germans-think-trump-more-dangerous-putin-and-kim-jong-un-poll

[W]             https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/23/appetite-for-warm-meat-drives-risk-of-disease-in-hong-kong-and-china

[X]              https://www.businessinsider.com.au/wuhan-coronavirus-chinese-wet-market-photos-2020-1

[Y]              https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/10/business/boeing-737-employees-messages.html

[Z]              https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jan/10/boeing-dennis-muilenburg-60m-stock-pension

[AA]           https://www.ft.com/content/58152562-33fa-11ea-9703-eea0cae3f0de

[BB]            https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/nov/27/parts-of-england-have-higher-mortality-rates-than-turkey

[CC]            Thomas Cook staff say ‘benefits system has failed them’, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50885242

[DD]           https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/25/climate/india-monsoon-drought.html