Notes On The News
by Gwydion M Williams
- Cuckoo Capitalism
- Top Accountants as ‘Easy Priests’
- Let them starve, but do not sin!
- Death of a God-Salesman
- China facing the 2020s
- Czech Majority Undemocratically Elect Anti-Western Candidate
- From Outer Space came Baked Alaska
Classical Capitalism died in the 1930s. It had been unhealthy, ever since the rival Global Empires tore each other apart in the First World War. Ex-Marxist Benito Mussolini had pioneered the idea of a healthy economy in which the state was much more active. The rich kept their property, but the working class was looked after. He called it Corporatism, and it was widely copied.
The USA’s New Deal was Corporatism without dictatorship. President Roosevelt depended on allies in Congress, including Southern Democrats who stopped him doing anything about racism and segregation. They did favour work and welfare. Black people with a vote knew he was on their side. Even so, the Supreme Court overturned some of it. The recovering economy might have been re-strangled in the name of Sound Finance, without World War Two.
Economists are agreed that measures suitable for killing large numbers of foreigners in warfare would be disastrous if used to help ordinary people in peacetime.
The Cold War had many causes: but the USA made it pay to justify continuing tax-and-spend. Money was pumped into every anti-Communist regime, though many were Corporatist and some dictatorships. In South Korea, military dictator and later President Park Chung-hee had Communist connections vastly more serious than the minor links Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of. Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore talks in his biography about secret meetings with the region’s armed and illegal Communist movement. Along with the Kuomintang, which never replaced the Leninist party structure it gained from its early-1920s alliance with the Soviet Union, they were the big successes of the Cold War in Asia. Successes then propagandised as victories of ‘capitalism’.
A lot of this was the fault of the Far Left, which is where most new thinking begins before it spreads into the wider society. An intelligent approach would have been to say that Corporatist Capitalism had replaced Classical Capitalism, as a sensible step towards full Socialism. Instead there was an hysterical fear of Corporatism, identified with fascism, even though Corporatist USA and Stalin’s Soviet Union had defeated Nazism.
Incomes policy and workers control were rejected as Corporatist, seen as an unusually wicked variety of capitalism.
Corporatism as a wicked distortion of capitalism was the New Right’s argument. It attracted voters weary of pointless leftist militancy. Except you couldn’t actually kill Corporatism. The half-forgotten economic crisis of 1987 was solved by Keynesian methods: more government spending to avoid a slump. Ronald Reagan talked capitalism, but ran up huge debts. Vastly increased military spending, anathema to Classical Capitalism. And when the Soviet Union finally collapsed – a long-term decline due to the crushing of Reformed Leninism back in 1968 – they soon found fresh enemies.
We have had Corporatism fine-tuned for a more-than-millionaire class. Cuckoos who depend heavily on accounting fiddles like Carillion:
“Predominantly in the 1980s and 1990s, timeshares were marketed as holidays without the hassle, and many investors were told their timeshares would increase in value and be easy to get out of, whenever they wanted.
“But for many, like Wendy, this did not materialise.
“Instead she has been left to pay the maintenance charges that come with the property, which have now increased to £900 per year.”[A]
Most home-owners have done OK, but this has hurt others:
“The extent to which young people are locked out of the British housing market has been revealed in new figures from economists.
“The biggest decline in home ownership in the last 20 years has been among middle-income 25 to 34-year-olds, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said.
“In 1995-96, 65% of this group owned a home, but just 27% do in 2015-16, with the biggest drop in south-east England.”[B]
My friends from Roman Catholic backgrounds tell me that believers would go looking for ‘Easy Priests’. Priests who would give you light atonements for whatever sins you’d recently been up to. How this would work out theologically, I don’t claim to know. I don’t anyway believe any of it. What worries me is how it works out in accountancy:
“MPs have accused the ‘big four’ accountancy firms of ‘feasting on what was soon to become a carcass’ as it emerged they banked £72m for work linked to collapsed government contractor Carillion in the years leading up to its financial failure.”[C]
Corporations choose their own accountants, and can feed them profitable consultancy work. Accountants do not bite the hands that feed them.
Thatcherism supposedly restored British values. It has in fact destroyed them. A bloated managerial and speculator class grabs more and more. The ‘Next Nine’ – people in the richest 10% but not the more-than-millionaire 1% – have gained little or nothing beyond what they’d have had without the New Right. People below that have lost out, including much of the solid Middle Class.
The ‘invisible hand’ has been picking the pockets of the working mainstream. The money mysteriously flows to a more-than-millionaire class.
The ‘deregulated’ economy mostly scrapped useful regulations that had hampered them and kept them honest.
“Former staff who worked for the charity in Chad alleged that women believed to be prostitutes were repeatedly invited to the Oxfam team house there, with one adding that a senior member of staff had been fired for his behaviour in 2006…
“‘Our code of conduct now stipulates: ‘I will also not exchange money, offers of employment, employment, goods or services for sex or sexual favours.’ In 2011 the code only prohibited sex with beneficiaries and anyone under 18.’”[D]
New rules that please well-off Western Feminists. Some of whom have traded sexual favours for nice jobs, but never as crude as cash.
The new rules do not say ‘I will never promote anyone for sexual favours’. Something that’s widespread, and unfair to those who don’t seek advancement that way. And a ‘gateway’ to sexual harassment, obviously.
In Australia, a formal ban was imposed during a general scandal over the Deputy Leader.[E] The man quit after leaving his wife for his former media adviser. He is also accused of sexual harassment, which he denies. But if there was a rigid rule that you don’t have sex with anyone you have power over, a lot of the problems would vanish. It is often an informal rule, but needs to be beefed up.
Paying for sex with existing prostitutes should not be a crime, and in most countries it is not. Making this normal would make it less likely for other women to get harassment.
But women who are already privileged try to use the overall inferior and vulnerable status of women to lever themselves into equality with over-privileged men. Show too little concern for vulnerable people of both sexes: often they cover for unfair treatment. Sometimes fronting for outrageous pro-rich policies, as Thatcher did. And showing that women can be fully equal in shitty behaviour, if anyone doubted it.
Overall, the New Right have proved themselves as pure as the driven sludge
Not many Britons cared, when Billy Graham died at age 99. The satirical magazine Private Eye long ago called him ‘the American God-salesman’, when he tried his methods in Britain. But in the USA, he pioneered a wave of right-wing populist preachers.
Graham used tricks from commerce to debase religion. Made it the servant of business. He has been praised for his stand against racism and segregation:[F] but that was part of the package that led to the New Right. Nixon was another pioneer, easing the Southern Racists out of their allegiance to New Deal politics. They could then be robbed of job security and good wages. Given small concessions, but without restoring segregation. But since state power was now seen as bad, informal segregation could and did flourish. Useful non-whites could be brought into the elite, while poor whites and non-whites were encouraged to resent each other.
Preachers like Graham rant a lot about how much they read the Bible. They actually ignore most of it. The entire teaching on care for the poor. The firm belief that wealth is dishonest. The rejection of violence. We now learn that Graham wanted Nixon to target water-control in North Vietnam, causing massive death by flooding.[G]
Will this last until skepticism and atheism triumph? They are already growing. But I recently saw a claim that younger Christians were turning against preachers who support social injustice:
“The devil’s bargain by which the evangelical Protestant churches sold their souls to the Republican Party in exchange for political influence was never destined to have a long shelf life, and it’s starting to stink too strongly for a good many sensitive noses. Donald Trump, interestingly enough, seems to have been the bright orange straw that broke this particular camel’s back; a great many young evangelical Christians, watching their elders turn cheerleader for a man who’s a poster child for every one of the seven deadly sins, have had enough.”[H]
Fine if it happened. It probably will not happen.
The logic of Gospel teaching, taken to be God’s Word, would be lives of quiet virtue and piety. To accept existing authority, while urging it to more mercy and restraint. This makes perfect sense if you see God as all-powerful, but choosing to let evil flourish because of ‘Free Will’. Plenty of real Christians do uphold those values, sometimes inconveniencing the USA. Russia’s Orthodox Christians get sneered at for doing just that, and for having noticed that pro-Western liberals made a mess of Russia when they ran it in the 1990s.
There is lot else Orthodox Christians could be criticised for, including corruption in Greece. But they mostly follow the logic of their faith. Loud-mouths like the late Billy Graham did not.
In 2020, President Trump comes up for re-election. The world could change in a number of different ways, depending on who wins. Trump might hold together his coalition and win, particularly if Bernie Saunders were Democratic candidate and the ‘Clinton Democrats’ backed a Centrist to split the vote. Or Saunders could win, making a radically different new world possible. Or the winner could be a ‘Clinton Democrat’ who would resume the USA’s efforts to bend the wider world to its values.
Meantime Climate Change is happening faster and proving worse than scientists forecast. Scientists tend to be cautious. As well as overall warming, there is unusual warming over the Arctic. This knocks the Jet Stream into odd patterns, so while the USA has a warm winter, Europe got a burst of Siberian weather covering what is officially the first day of spring.
Trump has blundered by becoming a committed denialist, whereas Britain’s Tories and many other right-wingers have shifted.
Seeing this and seeing the way in which US authority is in fast decline may explain why China has decided to change the rules on Presidential terms. Probably they will not now have a complete change-over of leadership in 2022, when they have their next Party Congress. This is seen in Western media as a power-grab by Xi. I see it more as the Party preparing itself for likely tough times.
Official commentaries stress the importance of concentrating power:
“It has been proved over history that a leadership structure in which the top leader of China simultaneously serves as the President, the head of the Party, and the commander-in-chief of the military is an advantageous and adoptable strategy.” [I]
“It has long been a reality that China is led by the CPC. To be more accurate, the new article is written into the Constitution as a historical choice and a summing-up of the Chinese people’s experience. There has been a related statement in the preamble to the Constitution, but this has been challenged by some who are supported and instigated by overseas forces. In this sense, stressing the CPC leadership in the Constitutional amendment proposal was essential.”[J]
In the Tiananmen Crisis of 1989, the West briefly hoped that China’s National Assembly might overturn party rule, as did happen in much of Eastern Europe later that same year.[K] That is no longer mentioned in the Western media– not exactly denied, but readers are nudged in an anti-China direction rather than encouraged to think. If you see the crack-down as a fight for survival, it becomes much less shocking.
There clearly is some Chinese fear of a repeat. One reform is a solemn oath that officials are now going to be required to take.[L] This may arise from the antics of opposition legislators elected in Hong Kong, who refused to take their own oath properly. Unlike the West, it seems oaths still have weight for many Chinese.
The existing anti-corruption work done by the ‘Supervision Commission’ is also being given a solid legal basis:
“China’s national supervision commission will be given a constitutional place…
“Making clear the legal status of the supervision commission as a national organ will significantly promote the full-scale supervision of public officers and press ahead with the strategy of comprehensively deepening reform, implementing the rule of law and strengthening Party discipline.”[M]
Law and actual power are being brought into harmony, but not in line with Western advice. With Trump in the White House and Britain in Brexit chaos, that is hardly surprising.
Stagnation with an unchanging leadership is a real danger. But perhaps not the worst danger.
This is not an actual newspaper headline, but it comes close. The Guardian, bewildered by the failure of liberal-left politics, used the headline “Czech Republic re-elects far-right president Milos Zeman”[N]
Zeman was a Social-Democrat for most of his political career. He broke away to form a centre-left Party of Civic Rights that the Wiki lists as “Social democracy, Direct democracy, Left-wing populism, Anti-immigration, Cultural conservatism, Soft Euroscepticism”.[O]
His party has an alliance with ‘Freedom and Direct Democracy’, which the Wiki lists as “Direct democracy, Hard Euroscepticism, Anti-immigration, Anti-Islam, Right-wing populism, Czech nationalism, Right-wing to far-right”. Linked to the French National Front and the Italian Northern League.
Zeman is not Far-Right. He is a leftist who rejects immigration, and the entire Blairite or Clinton-Democrat package. Rejects letting in clever foreigners from all over the world while neglecting ordinary people.
Liberalism isn’t working.
The best outcome is a revived left, as is happening in Britain. But the Guardian remains lukewarm about Corbyn.
Back in the 1860s, a clever cook found that ice cream covered in meringue can spend long enough in the oven to brown the outside, but not melt the ice cream
A object called ʻOumuamua may be the same thing, on a galactic scale.
It has long been believed that our sun sits in the middle of a vast cloud of icy objects, a few of which get knocked out of orbit and descend into the Inner Solar System to become long-period comets. (Different from short-period comets, which come from the Kuiper Belt.) The Oort Cloud has never been directly seen. But if it is not there, where would those comets come from?
Definitely not from between the stars. Comet orbits can be calculated, and their far end is almost always where the Oort Cloud is assumed to be. ʻOumuamua was a long-expected rarity – its orbit pointed way outside the solar system, to some unknown star.
The belief is that all stars have Oort Clouds. That objects in them get knocked into interstellar space. Most stay there: but with billions of them, some must pass through our solar system.
ʻOumuamua was the first seen, because it was also a Near-Earth Object. Never that close, but scientists now keep a close watch to be sure none of them are dangerous. This includes tracing their orbits – and ʻOumuamua was recognised as special.
It was also not a comet. There was no tail, despite the sun having warmed it to hundreds of degrees.[P] Leaving aside nonsense about interstellar spacecraft, was it a much rarer rocky fragment from some alien solar system?
Experts now think that it was actually a ‘Baked Alaska’ ice-ball. Cosmic rays over billions of years changed its surface to something that did not melt in the sunlight. Probably.
We should soon find many more such objects, as the watch for Near-Earth Objects improved. A new device called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will soon be working and should find hundreds.
“Earlier this month, Northamptonshire went effectively bankrupt…
“Northamptonshire’s seven MPs, all Conservatives, accused the council of mismanagement. Heather Smith, the council leader, said the government had starved it of funds. Eighteen backbench Conservative councillors called on Smith to resign…
“Furthermore, it has crashed after rigid adherence to the Tory ideological rulebook for local government. Northamptonshire embarked on a ‘next generation’ reform plan in 2014. Services would be outsourced or turned into profit-making companies. The council would drastically shrink in size and be run like a business.”[Q]
“One of the biggest growers of berries in the UK is moving part of its business to China because it cannot guarantee it will find enough fruit pickers available to work.
“Up to 200 seasonal jobs have gone at Haygrove’s farm in Ledbury, Herefordshire, and some of the company’s raspberry and blueberry-growing will be relocated to Yunnan province in China because of uncertainty over migrant labour due to Brexit.[R]
They could have kept decent farm jobs. But ‘market forces’ were against this.
“Boots billed the NHS £1,579 for one 500ml tub of a cream made up specifically for patients with skin problems in 2016…
“Reports claim the same moisturiser- a mixture of creams- is regularly prescribed in the UK for around £1.73.
“The NHS said companies increasing drug prices were harming both taxpayers and patients, it is reported.”[S]
Previous Newsnotes at the Labour Affairs website, http://labouraffairsmagazine.com/past-issues/. Also https://longrevolution.wordpress.com/newsnotes-historic/. I blog occasionally at https://gwydionmw.quora.com/.