My Reply: Guess They’ll Just Have to Live with It ….

“From what I can tell from what I know of my classmates, there are still some people have not changed a whit since high school, same easy going racism, same blind patriotism, same scorn for the different, same indifference to idea and intellect. The best thing, and it’s a poor best, is that they are all going crazy with anger in the knowledge their spokesman on the national and world stage is going to be sent packing.”
< E.L.

Thought Crimes

Continuing correspondance …
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I don’t really have the energy to get outraged over the rushed nomination to RBG, the idolation of whom is typical of the current state of “liberal” culture. Make that liberal “culture”.

Hypocrisy, such as McConnell’s, is the name of the political game. Did anyone think Trump wouldn’t rush to appoint? But hypocrisy of the ones justifies, in my opinion, the hypocrisy of the others. The GOP will prevail on this Scotus nomination but what will be their eventual cost?  I personally hope that revenge will be sought and obtained — a somewhat different wish than yours for eventual balance and restraint. I don’t know if the Dems will prevail in the White House or the Senate. But all gloves are off, and should be.

For the record, you know already, that I am radically pro-choice, but I am also increasingly anti-woke. Another recent tweet of mine: “How many racists can dance on the the head of a pin?” A turn of thought a little too complex for Twitter, I admit. The Woke Ones probably didn’t get my point.

John remarked in a tweet that he had felt the help of that beer. I think the recording session took place late in the afternoon, so cocktail hour. I remember his personal taste as being more inclined to chardonnay.

Interesting about the Le Monde magazine piece, alas only a snipet available this side of the firewall, though easy to imagine backhanded French dédain therein expressed: https://www.lemonde.fr/m-le-mag/article/2020/09/18/thomas-chatterton-williams-glenn-loury-coleman-hughes-les-anticonformistes-de-l-antiracisme_6052654_4500055.html

Orwellian dimensions to what is going on, including at Princeton (the nominal home of that imperialist, racist pig Woodrow Wilson). Turns out that some animals are more equal than others. And what people are being charged with is what we used to call “thought-crimes”.

All of this is further proof to me of the incipient chaos of a disintegrating empire, one which will take many down with it. I am even beginning to want to live long enough to see more well-deserved damage on the US body politick. Let the chickens come home, I say, transitioning from Boomer to Doomer.

Cheers,

George

Sad New Year’s Greeting

In guise of New Year’s greetings an old friend sent the following link to a piece in Truthdig by Neil Gabler:  https://www.truthdig.com/articles/trump-era-wont-pass-without-serious-damage-america/.  Here is what I replied to him (revised for publication here).
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Thanks for sharing this piece, and of course best wishes for 2018.

Yes, there is a lot of truth in what Gabler says, not just about the racial, gender and generational dimensions of the right wing ascendency, but the religious or quasi-religious social psychology behind it.

Yet I find him overly optimistic about the future of progressive politics in the US. To some extent, Gabler himself is contaminated by the American religiosity he describes. There may well be such a thing as “good” ethically-oriented religion, but I see religion as being generally on the wrong side of the proverbial long arc of which many progressives have spoken, sometimes with but a wing and a prayer. Religion has never been about compassion and ethics; on the rare occasions it moved beyond the primal reaction to fear and the subsequent tribalistic belief in being in some way a chosen people, religious ethics were at best a mitigating overlay, a cover. Marx had it right: religion is the opium of the people. Roughly 40% of the US people are addicted to it, and the rest still fall under its sway.

So I shall not be acting as if I believe that compassionate ethics will serve as a base for the mass movement required to reverse the capitalist order of things, or even the much more modest goal of social democratic movements to improve the lives of those who have only marginal, non-liquid capital, often the paltry pensions and home “equity” acquired via mortgages, those who are paid wages, those who pay rent and are not paid it.  Plus those not paid at all.

Indeed, this crisis may be marking the return of hard-line socialist, indeed communist alternatives to capitalism, or at least renewed consideration of them. Unfortunately, Americans, with their base-line religiosity and jerk-knee belief in (their own) human good have been ideologically innoculated against coherent materialist visions which would drive such a serious “class” struggle.

In other words, we are returning to the nineteenth century political logic in which Marxism and other socialist ideologies were understood by a minority as the sole way to resist capitalism. That will further exacerbate the conflict, especially since the plutocrats are already in power and will ruthlessly try to quash any prospects of change.

All this is say: I don’t like our chances, in 2018 or beyond.

Soothsaying for 2017

The 29 December Financial Times published its annual round of predictions for the New Year and invited readers to chime in with their own. Here are mine. I have omitted a few of their questions as being of local interest (e.g. the future of Jacob Zuma as president of South Africa), as inherently unpredictable (the precise points of the growth rates, the US Fed fund rate and the S&P index a year from now), as well as banal CEO gossip (the fates of Blankenfein, Dimon and the like). I have added a few questions of my own, marked with an asterisk. See you in twelve months.

Will Article 50 be triggered in the first quarter of 2017?

Yes, unless it is delayed by either the Supreme Court or last minute political manoeuvers, which would buy time for compromises on all sides to seek softer conditions for Brexit. Once it is triggered, the grounds will definitely be set for a hard Brexit with consequences which are unpredictable but will likely bear no good for Britain or Europe, though beneficial to both the US and Russia if they can avoid coming to conflict over the morsels spread out between them.

Marine Le Pen win the French presidency?

No. Enough of the left-centre vote will shift to François Fillon’s “poujadiste” candidacy to defeat her in round two, compensating for the votes Le Pen will attract from the disaffected and unemployed working class. If she were to prevail, France would likely leave the Euro and seal a bargain with Russia and the US, creating a pseudo-Vichy state in the heart of a disintegrating Europe. Brexit would become even harder than before, as historical Anglo-French animosity rises again.

Angela Merkel win re-election in Germany?

Yes. She will have shifted enough to the right to forestall the AfD, but will still need to devise a motley parliamentary coalition, one including the SDP and the FDP, who will return to the Bundestag. Even supposing major terrorist attacks, the AfD will not gather enough support to rule without a coalition for which there would be no potential partners.

The Iran nuclear deal collapse?

No. Whatever Trump and the Republican hawks might like to believe, the JCPA is an international treaty with six signatories. The US can of course withdraw, but doing so would put it at odds with its potential partner Russia, whose interest is to maintain the nuclear club as is and who will, up to a point, continue to protect the Iranian position. With the exception of Germany, the continental Europeans will drift towards Russia, in the case of France no matter who wins the presidentials. In any event, the Iranians have cards of their own to play.

Trump and Putin do a Syria deal?

Yes, though this deal will be just one stage in the ongoing Great Game now turning around the Middle East. The Assad regime will be enscounced in a rump state while the interests of the Kurds will be sacrificed to those of other powers, which are all, let us note, non-Arab: Turkey, Iran, Russia and, yes, Israeli. This in no way means the end of slaughter and mayhem.

ISIS be destroyed as a significant global force?

No, if “global force” means to support and direct sporadic terrorism outside of the retrenched territory it will control even after the lost of Mosul and Raqqa. The division of labour in the alliance behind Assad (land forces and militia supported by Iran, air force courtesy of Russia) will be insufficient to root out ISIS, which will derive sustained legitimacy and hence attract adherents as the sole armed defender of Sunni ultra-orthodoxy. Expect Turkey, whose primary concern is the Kurdish threat to its unity, to be nominally involved but no more. Neither Russia nor rump Syria nor Turkey would want to see a strong US force with boots on the ground.

* There be progress on a two-state solution in Palestine?

No. A two-state solution is already beyond reach. Part of any Russian-US Syrian deal will be to confirm Israel as the sole governing power in “historical Zion”, an arrangement to which Russia can readily agree in exchange for its bolstered presence in historical Mesopotamia and on the Mediterranean. The presence of an nuclear-armed Jewish state sitting between Egypt and the Shia crescent running from Iran through Iraq and to the Bakaa Valley, conforms to Trump’s bruited model of allied nuclear-armed states. His “defense” of Israel will score him considerable domestic points.

* Cyberwar break out between the US and Russia?

No. Global cyberwar began full-time in the Naughts but is still at the stage of incremental experiment and deployment. We should not imagine a bi-polar conflict, since China will be seeking cyber advantages of its own. This is the future of warfare, since even physical combat is controlled by algorithm and AI.

* China accept containment?

No. Moreover, why should it?  The Chinese will continue to create faits accomplis within the maritime zone defined by the Nine-Dash-Line and, albeit slowly, pursue their territorial ambitions to the West along the so-called New Silk Road. They will promote and stabilize the reminbi insofar as they can while they slowly begin to disengage from their US paper holdings, though these remain potential pressure points in retaliation against American provocations. The demise of the TPP was an unexpected windfall for Xi Jingping, making it even less likely than before that the rise of China can be stymied. All Asian states including those as far away as Afghanistan and Australia need to readjust their strategy in terms of China’s power. This process will continue in 2017.

North Korea successfully test a nuclear-capable missile?

No, though sooner or later they will, unless Kim Jong-un cuts a deal with the US. China would be ambiguous to say the least about the privileged rapprochement such a deal would imply, since, as the conflict between China and the US heats up, a nuclear North Korea could serve as a useful pawn the former can play against both South Korea and Japan. The latter have no choice but to shelter under the US umbrella, paying more for it.

Trump build the Mexican border wall?

Yes, if by “wall” we mean more partial barriers along the border, not necessarily a unbroken structure resembling the Great Wall of China. The growing damage to the Mexican economy and collaterally to US businesses sectors and consumers dependent on low cost immigrant labour will, on the other hand, exacerbate undocumented migration to the US. Mass deportations are not feasible but we should expect considerable bluster on this issue over the next year.

* Trump “tear up” NAFTA?

No, but it will be re-negociated, at least in part. In general, the demise of the TPP and the TTIP will seriously damage world trade, setting off a geopolitical recession and possibly a new age of protectionist merchantilism. With its large internal market, the US has perhaps less to lose than countries more dependent on exports. In the intermediate and long range though, the largest internal market in the world is China’s, India’s next. Trump’s economic chickens will not be coming home in 2017, though four years down the road the Federal government will fiscally devastated, as least the non-military sectors of it. This will fulfill the wish of the many on the right who want government out of their lives, including in health care, the environment and the regulation of the marketplace and banking for common social good.

* Registry of Muslims?

No. Expect, however, stricter, racially determined immigration rules and regulations, plus even more exacting and arbitrary US border point checks in which profiling will play an egregious role.

* Trump stuff the Supreme Court?

Yes. This is one issue Trump and recalcitrant Republicans can agree on. The Supreme Court will be reactionary for the whole next generation, ruling in favour of the privileges and the values of the shrinking white minority.

* Finally, is there anything good to look forward to in 2017?

No, alas.

Trump’s No Bug

I don’t really understand the shock at his victory. This is what … capitalists have been working toward for the past century. The corporations which have been running our country one step removed were clearly going to cut out the middlemen eventually, and it seems 2016 is the year public apathy was at a high enough level for them to properly capitalize on it. Leaders like Trump are a feature of capitalism, not a bug.

— Anonymous interviewee in The Guardian, 17 Dec, 2016

[see Is the Sky Falling? in which I write, “[Trump] is an agent of creative destruction, the essence of capitalism according to the Austrian economist Schumpeter, who saw this inner dynamic as the principal contradiction which would led to its collapse. Others are not so sure. Like a virus which mutates to ensue its survival and proliferation, the economic system based on capital may well have a long future ahead.