Ian Welsh

The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

How Much Does Genocide In Gaza Effect The US Presidential Election?

I’ve been saying it mattered a lot for quite some time, but, finally, some numbers:

Foreign policy debates rarely determine U.S. presidential elections, although polling suggests that 2024 might be an exception. Nationwide, nearly 4 in 10 voters (38 percent) say they are less likely to vote for President Biden because of his handling of the war in Gaza, according to a July 2024 Century Foundation/Morning Consult poll of 1,834 registered U.S. voters. Many core constituencies—including independents, swing state likely voters, and Democratic Party activists—are angry at Biden’s unqualified support for the Israeli assault on Gaza.

The issue isn’t that people who hate genocide will vote Trump, he’s pro-genocide as well. Instead it’s that they will stay home or vote third party and that if they do hold their nose and vote Democratic, they’re less likely to donate or, more importantly, to volunteer.

In a close election, and Biden’s best case is a close election, that matters.

To put it simply, Biden decided that mass-murdering Palestinians in service to AIPAC and Zionism was more important than being re-elected, and in affect that all the things he claims to care about which might help Americans are less important than helping Israel commit genocide.

That’s a choice, just like his choice to run again even though he’s clearly in serious decline and obviously can’t act as President for another four years.

Biden has chosen to lose the election, and anyone who blames anyone but Biden for his loss is full of it.


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Get Out If You Can. If Not, Prepare

Starting in 2009 and especially after Citizens United, I’ve been advising Americans who can get out to do so. I recognize that many people can’t: you have to “shelter in place”, but for those who are able to leave America and haven’t, well, the advice is the same, but more urgent.

The US is no longer meaningfully a Democracy. The funneling of wealth and income to oligarchs continues unabated and even accelerated during the pandemic. Official economic statistics from the US are now almost entirely fantasy based: completely unrelated to reality due to how inflation and other statistics are “calculated” and due to the over-reliance of GDP, which is no longer tracking welfare.

The massive increases in necessities like food is a very very bad sign.

The possibility of civil war is real, and so is the chance of collapse. Nothing is going to get better for the majority of Americans; everything is going to get worse.

So, at the least, if you can get a second passport, do it. If you don’t have any passport, apply for one. If you can go somewhere reasonable and make a decent living, consider it. If you’re rich enough to set up a second citizenship and home, get it done.

Where to go is difficult. If you speak Mandarin and they’ll let you in, China’s not a bad choice. Avoid the UK unless you have no other options: Britain is in terminal decline. In general Europe is in decline and the chance of the Atlantic Meridian Overturning Current (AMOC) stopping makes it questionable for those who are younger or who have children, but while Europe is going down, the welfare state still exists and will take longer to go away, so long as you choose your destination carefully. (Obviously Greece is out of the question.)

Canada is trending right hard, and is “too close” to America, but if you can’t get anywhere else and have money or skills in demand, it might work for you. This is especially true if you’re healthy, younger and comfortable on the frontier, of which there is still plenty.

The truth is that there are no longer any completely “safe” choices. But there are places where government and society are more functional and more caring, and where the destruction of the welfare state (which includes, oh, universal healthcare, functioning power and sewage) is less far along.

If you have to stay and indeed if you’re in many countries, do what you can to improve your “grid collapse resistance.” Brownouts and blackouts and failures of water systems will become worse. A couple of big camping batteries + solar recharging may keep key electrical appliances running. Find some way to store or produce water and keep some surplus food around. If you’ve got power, water and a way to boil said water, something as simple as a lot of vacuum packed rice and beans can keep you going for quite a while.

In general, take measures. Assume that things are going to keep getting worse for the rest of your life. There will be some exceptions, but there’s no way the majority of people can or will avoid these trends.

Don’t sleep on this. Back in 2009 it wasn’t urgent, but we’re now at the point where local collapse or violence is a real possibility: we don’t know when exactly, but we do know the conditions have been met. Once that happens, when is hard to predict, but bad is dead simple to predict.

Dead being the operative word.


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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 14 2024

by Tony Wikrent

The Trump Shooting: The Most Shocking Act of a Shockingly Violent Age

Michael Tomasky, July 14, 2024 [The New Republic]

This was not an abnormal incident. It’s a sign of the times….

ut whatever his motivation turns out to be, his act not isolated. There was the shooting of Republican Congressman Steve Scalise in 2017. The attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of Nancy, in 2022. Those are just the headline-grabbers, but political violence, or at least the threat of it, is now a constant in American life.

Threats of political violence against members of Congress have skyrocketed. The Capitol Police investigated 902 such threats in 2016. That jumped up to 3,939 in 2017, and by 2021, the number was more than 9,600, or 10 times the number from just five years before. Hate crimes in 2022 hit 11,288, which is up from recent years (the number was 7,759 in 2020.) Domestic terrorism is on the rise, with the preponderance coming from the political right; the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the Department of Justice, reported earlier this year that since 1990, “far-right extremists have committed far more ideologically motivated homicides than far-left or radical Islamist extremists, including 227 events that took more than 520 lives.”

Strategic Political Economy

What Liberals Get Wrong about the Right with Corey Robin – Factually! – 236

[Youtube]

.

Rising Market Power Has Led to the Rise in Far-Right Political Parties 

[ProMarket, via Naked Capitalism 07-02-2024]

 

Is the Heart and Soul of Trump’s MAGA Base Really the White Working Class?

Les Leopold, January 16, 2024 [Wall Street’s War on Workers Newsletter; Common Dreams]

The corporate media and all too many politicians are blaming working people for the rise of Trump and MAGA. Yet, if we open our (lying) eyes a bit more, we can’t miss the massive horde of lawyers and businesspeople who serve as Trump’s enthusiastic enablers….

Political scientists Noam Lupu (Vanderbilt) and Nicholas Carnes (Duke) definitively disproved the notion that most of the people who voted for Trump in 2016 were white working class. They showed that only 30 percent of the Trump voters could be considered a part of that group….

The 2018 Primaries Project, at the Brookings Institute, reported that those voting in congressional Republican primaries in 2018 were better educated and richer than the public at large. Again, the white working class formed no more than one-third of the Republican primary base.

What about the January 6th insurrection? Wasn’t that a white working-class riot? Not according to the University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats, which analyzed the demographics of the 716 individuals who had been charged with various January 6th crimes, as of January 1, 2022. Fifty percent were either business owners or white-collar workers, and only 25 percent were blue-collar workers (defined as no college degree).

The research for my book, Wall Street’s War on Workers, provides new data that confirms the white working class does not in any way pour into Hillary Clinton’s “basket full of deplorables.” In fact, most white working-class voters have become decidedly more liberal on divisive social issues over the last several decades, including LGBTQ+ rights, immigration, and racial discrimination….

Why Blame the White Working Class?

The attacks on working-class populism have been around for more than 140 years. Corporate owners and their newspapers viciously denounced the populist movement of the late 19th century, which aggressively challenged financial and corporate power. To counter that increasingly successful movement, newspapers, as well as pro-corporate politicians, depicted the populists as ignorant bomb-throwing radicals and worse….

Hard To Care About the Attempted Assassination Of Trump

Disputed if this picture is real, but it doesn’t matter, it’ll be the iconic picture.

Obviously it makes him more likely to be elected. Obviously you can’t call someone Hitler and a fascist and a threat to everything good without an increased chance for violence. If he is Hitler reborn, after all, killing him would be the right thing to do.

Blame will be apportioned, whether rightly or wrongly, and it increases the chance and amount of violence and repression down the line when and if Trump becomes President.

I don’t, personally, care much except as regards the consequences. I wouldn’t care if Trump or Biden was killed, not for them, anyway. They’re both mass murderers and Trump has spent the last nine months going on about how much he supports the Gaza genocide.

That said, I wouldn’t kill either myself or advise anyone to assassinate them, as it is counter-productive and pointless. Both of them are symptoms, not causes, and if Trump had been killed whoever replaced him would have been as bad or worse and likely won on a sympathy/vengeance surge.

America’s problems aren’t about any individual. If only it were so.

(Also, I don’t see why everyone’s so worked up. As Trump once said about a school shooting, “get over it.” This is the country the right and neoliberals wanted: all these weapons available + an economic and political pressure cooker. What did you think would happen?)


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Open Thread

Use to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.

Apparently Covid Didn’t Get The Notice That’s It’s Cancelled

I sometimes think the defining characteristic of our age is reality denial:

I suppose 1.37% may not seem high, but the point is that Covid just keeps rolling along. Each time you get it, odds are that it’s doing some damage to your organs, including your brain. Most of that is sub-perceptual, it doesn’t qualify as “Long Covid”, but it’s there. Then you get it again, and again, and again.

Meanwhile, in Britain:

I’m sure Labour’s program to get the back to work will do nothing but make people miserable. That chart doesn’t suggest “malingering.”

Spain’s numbers are particularly interesting

Now what’s visible here is that the numbers keep increasing. The long Covid continues to circulate, the higher the disability numbers. This is exactly what I’ve been predicting for years: as time goes by, people get Covid again and again. Eventually that causes enough damage to cause long term illness or disability.

I shudder to think what it will mean for kids, since those in school get Covid the most often. Since they’re young they have more resistance, but I’m willing to bet (and will not be wrong) that this will show up in very high illness and early death numbers as they age.

The solution to all this is fairly simple: we need to clean our air up: filtration, UV and so on. This isn’t that expensive, although it has to be done in all buildings. Numbers drop, once they’re fairly low, stop all non-essential travel for three months or so and track and trace. Do this is a group of countries and permanently ban travel from any country that hasn’t done it, until they do.

Yes, there is a cost to this, but it’s a lot less than the cost of having more and more disabled and sick people.

Covid is still a big deal, the only thing that’s a bigger deal (unless we have a world war) is climate change/ecological collapse. And we are failing to deal with an issue which is relatively simple because we won’t take a small percentage of our manufacturing and building capacity and refit all buildings to clean the air, then make such air cleaning permanent going forward. This is exactly what we did with water, in the past, to stop disease spread, but our current society is sclerotic and stupid.

This is true everywhere. China’s ZeroCovid policy was the right thing done STUPID. If any country had the capacity to clean air it was China, but they just stuck to shut-downs till the public lost patience.

It’s dismaying to live in societies where we know what’s wrong, we know how to fix what’s wrong and we simply refuse to do what is necessary.


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The Dollar Is Impregnable & The West Will Always Control International Banking (Honest)

What is geopolitical risk, you ask, and the Saudis answer:

Saudi Arabia warned it could sell off some European debt holdings in retaliation to a move by the G-7 to seize almost $300bn in frozen Russian assets, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The veiled threat was passed along from Saudi Arabia’s finance ministry earlier this year to some G-7 counterparts, as the group weighed seizing Russian assets designed to support Ukraine.

Saudi Arabia specifically signalled out the euro debt issued by France, according to Bloomberg.

Riyadh has been concerned about western efforts to seize the Kremlin’s assets for months. In April, Politico reported that Saudi Arabia, along with China and Indonesia, was privately lobbying the EU against confiscation.

Notice that Indonesia is also involved. China is less surprising, they know that freezing and even confiscation is in the cards for them when things heat up between the West and china.

China has been reducing its risk:

Edit: (Or perhaps they aren’t?)

No one wants to do business with nations that will simply take away their money. Freezing was bad, but normal. Seizure is not. Since no one seized or freezed America’s overseas assets when it invaded, say, Iraq, and no one ever seizes or freezes West European assets, it might be thought that this isn’t about “law” but about “power.” For that matter, why haven’t Israel’s overseas assets been seized?

The level of geopolitical risk from doing business in the dollar or using the Western banking system is just too high. Freezing, seizure and sanctions, plus the US applying its law extra-territorially simply because a transfer happened to go thru an American bank even though the sender and end party were both outside of America.

This abuse is long-standing, you can read accounts from the fifties, but it really picked up in the 90s. Indeed there’s an entire book, Treasury’s War, about the phenomenon.

And this is what all the economists and similar pundits who go on about how the dollar can’t be replaced don’t understand: that they are right that the costs of replacing the dollar are significant; that it’s hard, and that it’s not really worth it.

Except it is worth it, because if the cost of trade and money transfers goes up slightly under a non-dollar regime, and even a slight increase is massive when multiplied by the number and amount of transactions, it’s still worth it because of the massive reduction in geopolitical risk. And nattering on about how the Yuan can’t be used because the Chinese can’t accept the costs of using the Yuan is stupid: that’s not what the BRICS are trying to do: the idea is to create a central, multinational currency, and to simply use local currencies whenever possible, while avoiding the Western banking system entirely.

Everyone knows that the dollar and the Western banking system are guns, and that everyone who uses the dollar and the Western banking system are under those guns and can be hit at any moment if D.C. or Brussels desires it.

When this was hardly ever done, it was a risk worth taking. When China was the main industrial power who you could buy almost everything you wanted from, and the West was the only option for most technological goods, well, you had no choice.

But now nations see a way out from under the guns, and they’re going to take it, even if it costs them, because the potential cost of not doing so is catastrophic.


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Don’t Call It Degrowth, Call It the “No Bullshit Society”

Or perhaps the leisure society, or the choice society.

As Mark Pontin pointed out, manufacturing is increasingly automated, with one Chinese factory reducing workers by 90%. This is the future and not just in manufacturing.

Whenever you point this out, people panic, scared of the jobs going away, but that’s ridiculous.

If we can produce more with less workers that should be a good thing, not a bad one.

The problem is our insistence on distributing the good, or at least acceptable life thru jobs, a holdover from pre-Industrial revolution times, when every worker was often needed.

That isn’t true any more, and we should be automating and reducing the work week: first to four days, then to three. Get rid of bullshit jobs and harmful jobs, which is probably half the jobs out there (almost all of Wall Street & the City are harmful jobs) and you might be able to get down to two day work weeks.

Focus AI and automation not on taking away work people love to do like artistic and intellectual jobs, and focus them on hard or degrading labour. Move heavily to true rapid transit, and get rid of cars. Make all manufactured products (or almost all) built to last, modular and designed for repair, so that we only have to make things a few times per human lifetime.

Reduce work. Let people find other, meaningful things to do with their lives. The worship of work, meaning crap you wouldn’t do if you didn’t have to, is a relatively recent thing, coming mostly out of the Protestant revolution: virtually no one before that believed that work was a good thing: it was necessary, but the good life was about art, learning, athletics, civic involvement and so on.

To create this sort of world we need to take “getting rich” off the table. You can get wealthy: say have four or five times as much as the median, but not rich. Focus competition towards status and prestige, and towards living a good life and contributing towards others.

And there will still be important things to do which require humans, not the least of which is fixing the environment. There will always be meaningful labour to do: action that matters, just not drudgery so that rich people can play “who has the most” games.

What’s so frustrating about human society is that it could be so much better, and we have almost everything we need to get their. But we’re stuck in path dependence and power games, unable to imagine or build the good world our technology makes possible.

What people want isn’t “growth” its better lives. Make a credible promise of better lives, and deliver and no one but psychopaths and greedaholics will look back.

Forget degrowth: let’s waste a ton less, build a ton less and live a ton better. It’s more than possible.

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