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

Month: April 2024 Page 1 of 3

How To Deal With Student Protest Camps (FDR Edition)

Students in America and increasingly across the world are demonstrating against the Gaza genocide. They’re right to do so, opposing a genocide is never the wrong thing to do.

The reaction of campus and civil authorities has been predictable. Send in the cops, who violently disperse the camps, similar to how they have decided homeless people aren’t allowed to live anywhere. This video, of a professor who is the wife of the Dean of admissions (and who was not part of the protest) makes the point.

Police, of course, are police because they like hurting people, with vanishingly few exceptions. Any excuse is enough of an excuse for most of them. The Professor found out how much her “privilege” really matters.

What’s interesting about all of this is how stupid it is. Attacking the protestors is, as those of us who’ve been around for many protest cycles know, not going to stop them. It’s the beginning of the cycle of protest, not the end, and it drives news. In some ways it’s a victory for the protestors’ cause.

In 1932 a large group of Great War veterans went to Washington D.C and set up a camp. They wanted their bonuses for WWI paid early, because it was the Great Depression and they needed them. Hoover, still President, sent in the Army, lead by Douglas MacArthur (and opposed by Eisenhower) and burn the camp. FDR, who actually opposed paying the bonus because he felt it helped one group without helping all, said that the scenes of brutality had just elected him.

Burning Down The Bonus Army

The Bonus Army didn’t give up, and when Roosevelt took power, he took a very different tack: he sent his main political advisor, Louis Howe, and his wife. Instead of attacking the encampment, they arranged for them to have three meals a day and a clean encampment, and FDR arranged for younger veterans to receive jobs with the Civilian Conservation Corp.

Four years later, over FDR’s veto, Congress gave the Bonus army their bonus.

The point here is that FDR essentially de-fanged people he opposed by treating them kindly. Violence produces opposition and even if it “works” it makes people hate you and harden their positions.

The protestors are right about Gaza, of course, and right that the US shouldn’t be helping commit a genocide. But even if you oppose them, the correct thing to do is to treat them kindly unless they truly become violent or massively disruptive (and even then, give them rope.)

The response of university administrators is clearly emotionally driven: they believe in Israel’s genocide and want it to continue and are offended and ashamed by students who point out the evil of what they are doing. If they weren’t emotionally compromised by their commitment to genocide, they’d be a lot more sensible, even if they disagree with the protestors.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – April 28 2024

by Tony Wikrent

Global power shift

Ukraine: A Guide For The Perplexed 

Aurelien, via Naked Capitalism 04-27-2024]


Gaza / Palestine / Israel

Naked Capitalism Links 04-21-2024, by Lambert Strether, has a series of X-tweets regarding the suppression of pro-Palestinian protests in USA, France, and other countries, the attempt to label protestors as anti-Semitic, and commentary about ties to intelligence agencies and suborning of police.

Israel’s defense minister calls for halting pro-Gaza protests at US universities 

[Anadolu Agency, via Naked Capitalism 04-25-2024]

Netanyahu Calls for Crackdown on Pro-Palestine Protesters in the US

Dave DeCamp [via Delphi Initiative, April 24, 2024]

Echoing President Biden, Netanyahu labeled the demonstrations ‘antisemitic’ by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday called for a crackdown on Americans protesting against Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza at college campuses across the United States. “What’s happening in America’s college campuses is horrific. Antisemitic mobs have taken over

Israel’s Doom Loop for Our Democracy

Skip Kaltenheuse [via Thomas Neuburger, God’s Spies, April 26, 2024]

Would it go over if any other foreign country’s minions publicly announced they’d spend a hundred million dollars to defeat a handful of US Representatives who opposed ethnic cleansing? If they offered bribes of 20 million dollars to people to primary those they want removed?

Free Speech on the Ropes: Legislation to Revoke Not-for-Profit Status of Organizations that Support Palestine Protests Passes in House

[Naked Capitalism 04/26/2024]

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 04-27-2024]


[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 04-23-2024]


Open Thread

Use to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.

Canadian Housing Market Craziness

So, the CBC is the the national broadcaster in Canada, similar to the BBC in Europe. They’re pretty stodgy, they run good radio programs and they are wary of the government, as you’d expect.

They just wrote a really good article in problems in the housing market.

The two graphs that really matter are:

But here’s what I find interesting. Quotes like this:

“What started happening in B.C. and spread throughout the country is that we weren’t just satisfied with paying off our mortgage to build equity. We’re like: ‘You know what? I want this home price to double, triple, quadruple.'”

When existing homeowners want prices to rise faster than earnings in the local economy “is the moment you want a wealth windfall for those who are owners now that will come, by definition mathematically, at the expense of affordability for those who follow,” Kershaw said.

“That’s the trouble we’ve gotten ourselves into. And if we cannot have that conversation, we will never solve the crisis of housing affordability.”

If housing is an investment; a way to get rich, then by definition it’s going to get expensive faster than most people’s income. This is common sense. It’s acknowledged in Japan, for example, but in North America we’re addicted to our free riches, and since most people are locked out of the other sources of unearned wealth, real-estate prices are politically off-limits, they’re supposed to go up faster than inflation and wages forever, and the government colludes to make it happen, including by guaranteeing mortgages and stepping in 2008 to limit the price crash.

Homeowners and home investors, after all, vote and donate to political parties.

Anyway, CBC is stodgy and politically wary, for it to allow an article saying that home owners aren’t saints and perhaps housing prices shouldn’t be allowed to float into the stratosphere is very interesting.

The technical solutions to fixing rent and housing prices are well known: if Japan, with way less land, fewer resources and far more people can keep housing affordable, obviously Canada can do it.

But we can’t do it political parties want housing prices to keep rising and rising because it make an important chunk of voters happy.

And lack of housing (aka. homelessness) and increased food prices are going to lead to political unrest if something isn’t done.

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French Troops Have Been Forced To Withdraw From Three African Sahel Countries In the Last Two Years

France has been forced to withdraw its troops from Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. All three countries have forged closer ties with Moscow.

Every since de-colonization France has been the primary power in these countries. When France left most of its colonies it charged them for what it had built during colonial times and has made them pay those debts back. With interest, the debts are still being paid.

Beautiful that, “we conquered you and occupied you and you’re going to pay for that.” France also had a great deal of trade with its former colonial subjects. But that hasn’t been going so well lately.

I’m a bit of a broken record on this, but almost anything you can buy from the West, you can now buy from China. If you’re an African country who needs hydrocarbons or wheat, military equipment or mercenaries, well, Russia is happy to supply those.

And African countries are huge resource exporters, as a rule. China’s deals for resources are better, too. Want a railroad, hospitals, ports, even an entire city? They’ll build it for you, faster and for less than the West, and if you want to borrow money to pay for it, their rates are lower.

Same thing with internet. Want to buy cell phones or computers? China’s are cheaper and essentially as good. Want a telecom network? China’s prices are cheaper and the build faster.

The West doesn’t have a good reputation in Africa. We conquered them, colonized them, and post colonization we have treated them like garbage and with serious disrespect, as if they’re morons, not a region suffering from what we did to them.

On an individual level there’s a fair bit of Chinese racism against Africans, but not at the diplomatic level. Russia and China have a fairly simple policy towards African countries: their internal affairs are their business.

The best quote is from a Kenyan official, “Every time China visits we get a hospital, every time Britain visits we get a lecture.”

This goes back to what I’ve been saying about Europe, they think their shit doesn’t smell. They believe they are the peak of civilization, with the best government and organization and that they have the right to tell everyone else what to do, because obviously, they’re right, not the inheritors of five hundred years of colonization and looting, currently protected by America as satrapies, occupied after WWII, but no longer even (when lumped all together) in the top four creators of new scientific advances. (Those are China, America, Japan and South Korea.)

This delusional view of their virtues and everyone else’s flaws doesn’t go over well, but Africa and everyone else didn’t have any choice but to put up with it: after the USSR fell and until recently, the West and its conquered subjects (Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) were the only game in town. If you wanted anything remotely advanced, you had to buy it from the West and if you didn’t play by the West’s rules, they would coup you or punish you in various ways you couldn’t resist.

Those times are ending. America can’t even coerce or bribe a country as fundamentally weak and poor as Yemen.

So the Africans are turning to China and Russia, who treat them with a great deal more respect and give them far better terms.

France’s evening glory is ending. Soon they’ll be out everywhere or almost everywhere. The same is true of Europe as a whole. And even the US is being kicked out (most recently out of Niger.)

And Europe will return to it’s normal state: a backwards and largely unimportant peninsula on the periphery of Asia.

Oh, and those colonial debts for being conquered and ruled: about the time the Western financial system becomes one of only two financial systems, the ex-colonies will just stop paying.

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EU Delusion on Sanctions and Europe’s Future

While the EU was considering more sanctions against Iran because it attacked Israel in retaliation for Israel bombing its embassy, Russia is sending Iran:

Meanwhile America is threatening China that if they don’t stop sending Russia “dual use” goods, the US will slap on more sanctions.

Boo hoo.

Let us remember the results of chip sanctions. China now owns the legacy part of the industry, and is making progress western “experts” said would take decades in years. Huawei has recovered from the sanctions and created its own OS. It is now a massive electric vehicle manufacturer in addition to everything else. BYD will soon become the largest EV manufacturer in the world, eclipsing Tesla. Something about its cars being cheaper, and Tesla gave up on building a cheap version of their cars. Maybe Tesla will survive because the US keeps all Chinese EVs out, but my guess is that if Musk stays CEO, Tesla’s best possible future is as a luxury EV manufacturer. Their “Cyber Truck” is a disaster.

Iran has built a formidable military with hypersonic missiles while under sanctions, sanctions which started at the same time the Islamic Republic was created. But now, what I’m sure happens, is that China sells Russia goods and Russia trans-ships them to Iran. That hasn’t undone the sanctions completely, but as the world moves away from using the dollar as the medium of trade and routes around US, EU and anglosphere banks, the effects of the sanctions will continue to diminish.

There’s very little that Iran needs (though still some) that China and Russia don’t make. And anything sold to Russia by, say, India, can also make its way to Iran. Cutting Russia off almost entirely gives it no reason to play by Western rules, and it doesn’t.

This is especially true now that America has taken Russian reserves and will be giving them to Ukraine. Anyone who trusts the US with their money who isn’t a complete ally, or satrapy, is a fool. There’s a reason why money used to be frozen before, but not actually taken. There’s a big difference between the two.

But let’s move back to Europe. This article from FT is to the point, German gas prices are two-thirds higher, structurally, than they were before the Ukraine war.

That’s after prices dropped massively. The simple fact is that US natural gas costs a lot more. Russia was selling Europe and Germany oil and gas for bargain prices. Russia’s still willing to sell, but Europe has its head up its ass.

The recent history of European industry is simple. When the Euro came into effect, it raised everyone’s prices except Germany’s, pretty much. Industry in all of Europe except Germany was badly damaged (this was especially bad in Italy which was more of an industrial power than most realized.) Germany, in effect, received a subsidy: the Euro was worth less than the German Mark.

Germany has (had) a lot of heavy industry: a lot of energy intensive industry. To get energy for this, Germany got cheap, below market Russia oil and natural gas. Russia got bulk sales of one of the few things it had to sell and Germany kept its industry competitive.

Those days are over, essentially permanently.

And the problem is that Germany’s dominance was in legacy heavy industry and automobiles. They aren’t creating a lot of new tech and science. They don’t have large new industries developing. They don’t have scale costs like China does. They relied on being very efficient and already dominating industries.

But those industries are leaving. A lot of them are going to America, the actual company facilities, but the production is, effectively, also moving to China and other countries.

I know I’m a bit of a stuck record on this (do youngs understand that simile?) but Europe is walking into its decline with its leaders acting as if it’s no big deal, indeed as if they are, to use my father’s crude insult still “King shit of turd island.” Sanctioning Iran, lecturing Africans and acting as if they are superior in every way: the only truly civilized people in the world.

Even as they do, the foundations of their prosperity, their “garden” are eroding out from under them at the speed of soil blowing away during the Dust Bowl.

They’re insane. Completely detached from reality, and some of the stupidest elites in the world, even exceeding America’s very high bar.

The Sun always sets. European leaders seem determined to make it set as soon as possible.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – April 21 2024

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

Will the American Oligarchy Accept Limits or Choose World War Three?

Posted on April 14, 2024 by Conor Gallagher


Database Exposes ‘Illicit Network Undermining Democracy Around the World’

Brett Wilkins, April 05, 2024 [CommonDreams]

“Coups. Assassinations. Riots. Detentions. Disinformation. We know the tactics that have been deployed to undermine our democracies. But who is behind them?”

Progressive International (PI) asks and answers this and other questions with an extensive new database published Wednesday that connects the dots in what the leftist group calls the “Reactionary International“—a loose global network of right-wing leaders and organizations working to subvert democratic institutions.

PI calls it an “illicit network undermining democracy around the world.”….

A cursory search of the database’s contents shows users can:

  • Learn about Israel’s NSO, Rayzone, and Team Jorge, and how a team of Tel Aviv tech entrepreneurs fuel unrest in Latin America;
  • Meet the Grey Wolves, Turkey’s roving death squad with links to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ethno-nationalists in his governing coalition; and
  • Explore the global network of the Falun Gong, its Trump-connected media outlet The Epoch Times, and its traveling dance troupe known as Shen Yun….


Global power shift

Open Thread

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