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

Author: Ian Welsh Page 1 of 379

Open Thread

Use to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.

Scratch A CEO, Find A Fascist

Not that they require fascism, but they’re OK with it:

David Zaslav, the CEO of CNN’s parent company, at the Allen & Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, on Tuesday:

Asked about the upcoming Presidential election, Zaslav said it mattered less to him which party wins, so long as the next president was friendly to business.

“We just need an opportunity for deregulation, so companies can consolidate and do what we need to be even better.”

One of the few things Biden has been good on is anti-trust, so this means Trump.

In a similar vein:

The pull quote:

“France’s corporate bosses are racing to build contacts with Marine Le Pen’s far right after recoiling from the radical tax-and-spend agenda of the rival leftwing alliance in the country’s snap parliamentary elections”.

The left, and real left, not the so-called “Center Left” will always be opposed by corporations, just as most of them opposed FDR. They want to get bigger and richer, whether that’s good for the country or not. High marginal tax rates, vigorous anti-trust and high corporate tax rates with laws forbidding stock options and other nonsense produced America and Western Europe’s best economy in history—the post-war states from 45 on.

Of course, during that time period the CEO/Worker pay ratio tended towards 30/1 or so.

But, as we all know, workers made enough so that a single wage-earner could support a family, and as for GDP growth rates, well:

These charts are pretty clear. Consolidation and deregulation do not lead to higher GDP growth, and that’s leaving aside redistribution.

This is important because the argument for deregulation and allowing consolidation was that it would make growth better and that there would be a “trickle down” which would leave everyone better off even if inequality soared.

Well, we did get trickled on, I suppose


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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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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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