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

Open Thread

Use to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.


Disease, Thirst and Hunger Spread In Gaza / How Erdogan Could Help


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 12, 2023


  1. Richard Holsworth

    China was my Socialist paradise, my own, Private Idaho. Now I’m thinking that capitalism has infected it to the point where…
    [Left this (belatedly) at the last open thread. I solicit your comments. ]
    Will the company set to topple Tesla be worse?
     “Tokyo, October 25, 2023 – BYD, the world’s leading manufacturer of new energy vehicles, took center stage at the Japan Mobility Show 2023, …”
    Among its customers are Dell, Apple, Xiaomi and Huawei. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns about 6% of BYD

     BYD Company limited investigative report : China Labor Watch
    “BYD became a low-cost supplier of Best Buy, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, T-Mobile, Verizon, L’OREAL, Jabil and Vtech, by using low-wage workers while providing workers with subsidized housing in company-owned dorms and cheap, low-quality food. Workers are unable and unwilling to go back to their hometown, yet the salaries they earn cannot support a reasonable standard of living in the city. As a result, despite the realization that their work is extremely underpaid, many workers find themselves reliant on the poor salary and cheap housing that BYD provides. This situation has an astonishing similarity to the 19th century sweatshop factories in Britain…

    They provided them with free meals and housing and a low base salary. In order to control them, they were locked in the factory and separated from the rest of society. The attraction of free room and board lured many young men to come work in these factories. Over the long-term, in light of the meager salary they earned, these young workers were not able to support a life outside the factory. Thus, they were forced to stay and work in the factories indefinitely.”

  2. Tallifer

    I am immensely enjoying the two biographical mini-series “Boswell & Johnson” and “Wordsworth & Coleridge” by Frank Miller and Denise Mina. They travel about the British Isles in the footsteps of those writers, marvelling at the sites, extolling the men’s accomplishments and acknowledging their flaws, all with genuinely funny and intelligent wit and conversation with various people they meet on their journeys. Balm in a stressful world.

  3. StewartM

    About the “Five Eyes” alarmist screeds over China.

    I can’t help but watch this and roll my eyes, especially when they talk about the ‘threat to Main Street, not just Wall Street’ as it was Wall Street that shipped manufacturing to China in the first place.

    Moreover, I am beginning to think that the US’s only salvation is for Asian companies to take over our industries. From what I’ve read and heard, when Japanese or Chinese companies buy out a Western companies, there are few or no layoffs of ordinary workers and technical staff (unlike our private equity lootings). Instead, who is ‘purged’ is the senior management immediately. Then, within a few years, more upper-tier managers (vice presidents; directors, etc.) may be purged. Maybe that’s the real reason they hate China? That ‘they’ lose their jobs while ordinary workers keep their jobs?

    And instead of running the company as some financial service (like Jack Welsh ran GE) they focus on actually improving a company’s products. Gee, isn’t that a novel idea instead of ‘stockholder value’!

  4. Chuck Mire

    The future of globalization?

    Globalization Is Fracturing. So What Comes Next?: (7:51)

    After the Cold War ended, globalization took hold as the world became a network of interconnected economies. But events of recent years have caused fractures along geopolitical lines, prompting both leaders and companies to reevaluate who they do business with, and how. Amid the turmoil, a group of countries are capitalizing on this new reality, and thriving.

    Inside China’s Tech Boom | Full Documentary | NOVA | PBS: (53:52)

    The inside story of China’s meteoric rise to the forefront of global innovation.

    In the span of just a few decades, China has transformed into a science and technology superpower. But how did it get here and where is it headed? Take an insider’s tour of high-profile tech companies and labs that are driving China’s meteoric rise to the forefront of global innovation. How does China innovate? What drives its bid for technological supremacy? And what does its rise mean for the future of the global economy?

  5. mago

    It doesn’t matter the cut of their hair, or their nails or their Seville Row suits, their appearance and demeanors are ugly and toxic. Not to mention their ideologies.
    Talking about the endocrine challenged “leaders” of the west who were brain damaged in the womb.
    Or maybe their nannies dropped them on their heads.
    Don’t know, but these walking talking zombified untermenschen are savages killing everything in their paths.

  6. GrimJim

    Soon enough, globalization will be impossible on the modern level.

    Three major factors.

    First, and soonest, dissolution of the globe into competing political and economic blocs that won’t use the same currencies, let alone have the desire to trade. Protectionism within blocs, even. Consumers will just have to survive on what is available regionally, as will local technology.

    Second, and soon thereafter, further collapse as available energy regresses to win, water, and horse flesh, and sometimes simple solar. No more massive ships. No more vast fleets of trucks. With luck, some trains and a return to canals, if enough labor remains.

    Final nail in coffin of even most regional trade will be, of course, ecological collapse. Hard to trade anything when there’s not enough food and water to even keep the cities going. If slow, metropolises collapse to wastelands, cities to towns, and towns to villages. Lots of locales just up and die, as they will not be suited for growing food or have clean water to drink.

    Globalization in the future? A sad, pathetic dream. Regional luxury trade at best, if there is any trade at all. Trade in food, other than imperial grain ships, is purely very local, and that’s when there is any surplus. Surplus is a word that will die out quickly, considered a cruel lie by future generations…

  7. Tallifer

    The late Victorian era saw the first globalization. Then the communists and fascists broke it. The fall of the Berlin Wall and reign of Deng Xiaoping saw the next wave. I hope this present growing cold war does not last as long as that between 1918 and 1989, because the opposite of globalization is not autarkic utopia but armed tension and nuclear proliferation.

  8. GrimJim

    The benefit of a fast collapse in globalism would be a limit on armed conflict… Assuming, of course, things do not go nuclear before the lights go out.

    Today’s global technological civilization is far more fragile than most realize. This was seen obliquely during the Pandemic, when lots of global consumer trade slowed to a crawl or stopped, significantly enough for everyone to notice.

    But it was far, far short of an actual stoppage.

    What happens when the global banking system collapses. Not some simple temporary pause, as followed 9/11, but a true, end-of-business collapse? Everything stops. Nothing moves.

    What happens when global oil shipments stop, completely?

    What happens when the US electrical grid collapses?

    How many days worth of food are in the cities? How many days worth of gasoline and oil can be retrieved from depots without electricity? Who let’s any of that happen without bank transfer? Cash? Who has cash?

    Imagine Cat 5 Hurricane level outages nationwide. No news… No Internet. No Internet, no phones. Minimal communication. Complete distrust of government.

    Any one full system failure — oil/gas, electricity, internet/communications, banking/money transfers, etc., let alone two or more of these at once will be an experience Americans have not had ever, in their lifetimes.

    Even a partial but more general collapse — say, a proper Greater Depression with minimal or no government support, as we will see under Trump and a Republican Congress — will spell the end of America’s participation in the global economy in a matter of weeks.

    The globalized economy and literally everything else is all so grossly interconnected today that any one major failure with any degree of permanence will have a cascade effect unlike anything ever seen before in history, especially under incompetent and/or dogmatically beholden leadership.

    It took Rome more than a century to fall following the Crisis of the Second Century.

    It will take the US merely months, if that, with a modern globalized crisis.

  9. ProNewerDeal

    Any informed prediction on the future of Covid? I believe the health advice expressed here at NC and by many other earnest health professionals, of wearing a N95-type mask in public indoor settings, especially riskier settings like schools/hospitals/airplanes/subways/etc, is valid for all persons, even very healthy and fit 25-35 year old adults, IN ADDITION to the use of any other actions like NPIs of taking Vitamins like Vitamin D (and I?) and getting the Novavax vaccine – per the multi-factor “Swiss Cheese” Harm Reduction approach. Such indoor masking can reduce Covid infection(s), and subsequent risk of long-term morbidity risk, including Long Covid and T-Cell permanent reudction.

    I also assume it is unlikely in the next 5 years for a future dominant Covid variant to become “common cold”-like and NOT have long-term morbidity risk. If I understand correctly virus evolution could possibly tend to more (like MERS) or less (like common cold) harmful than the current dominant Covid variant on morbidity risk, and it is anti-scientific to rely/hope on Covid “naturally evolving” to common cold-like with no long-term morbidity risk.

    Any estimate on when this indoor mask status quo will persist? Could it persist for 5+ years or even decades? Could the in-R&D nasal vaccine be sterilizing?

    BigCapital always cries about Uncertainty. But afaict this is huge individual/family Uncertainty.

    Afaict occupation selection (given “see your smile” anti-mask customers), romantic partner selection, traditional school vs home school decisions are possibly impacted by this Indoor Mask Uncertainty.

    What do ya think?! (c) Ed Schultz

  10. ProNewerDeal

    fwd jackrasmus dot com/2023/05/15/artificial-intelligence-vs-the-working-class-youtube-presentation by economist Dr. Jack Rasmus on AI’s detrimintal effect of the job market between now and 2030. Rasmus cites a “Goldman May 2023 60-page” report”, which I could not find via internet search. Rasmus covers the “increasing labor exploitation under Neoliberalism since the late 1970s”, citing involuntary PT, temp, and Gig jobs as examples. Rasmus states AI will be the next huge phase of labor exploitation. Job elimination, hours reduction/involuntary PT, de-skilling of jobs, and increasing neo-Taylor extreme micromanagement of remaining workers are components of this labor exploitation.

    It seems at the moment, the retirement of a significant portion of the Boomer Gen, and the 1% (at least current) Long Covid disabling of the workforce; has reduced US Labor supply and given US workers options, even if there is still a shortage of “good” FT with healthcare/401K benefits jobs.

    If Rasmus is correct, the AI job reduction to US Labor Demand would dwarf this current US Labor Supply reduction, and significantly worsen the US Labor Market for most US workers.

    What do ya think?! (c) Ed Schultz

  11. Curt Kastens

    We know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the west planned to start a war in Ukraine years in advance. It would have even been prior to 2014 that the west made to decision to go to war against Russia.
    I think that it is now obvious why Saudi Arabia made “peace” with Iran and appeared to be breaking away from US domination. I was always quite sceptical about this story. It did seem plausible that the Saudis were trying to break out of the US orbit. But I think based upon what is happening now it was all a ruse.
    If Saudi Arabia had publically maintained its atangonism with the Iranians the most effective counter move that the Iranians had to deter a US military move against their country would have been to have let their missles fly against Saudi oil fields and set them ablaze. The would have been a pretty hard body blow against the west.
    But now that move has been cut off. Everyone has been saying for quite a long time how the Chinese outmanouvered the US in the middle east. But it again looks to me like the US has at least temporarily come out on top. The US made it look like it was a Chinese idea rather than an American idea for peace to break out between Saudi Arabia and Iran. That way the Saudi change of heart looks much more sincere.
    The Iranians can not now attack Saudi Arabia in anyways shape or form. And the Saudis do not have to do any lifting at all to damage Iran. They just have to sit there and watch. Just sitting there and watching will clearly show where their true alliegence lies. The same goes with Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan.
    Egypt and Turkey could attack US forces in the region. But they will not even kick US military forces out of their own countries let alone attack US forces. In the case of Egypt such behavior is more understandable than with Turkey. Turkey could easily join an alliance with Russia because it shares the Black Sea with Russia.
    The brilliant chess (Go) move in the middle east shows that the US imperialist establishment is much more clever than people give it credit for.
    When General Solemani was assassinated in Iraq along with a number of Iraqis I wrote that if I had been in charge of Iran at that time I would have launched a tempertantrum and sent every weapon with enough range that I had at my disposal towards oil fields on the other side of the Persian Gulf.
    Now I have no advice to give Iranian military leaders other than to try to get China to station military forces in Iran as fast as possible. But that can probably not happen soon enough. I do not think that the Russians will attack US forces unless US forces attack them in Syria first. The Russians have their hands full. I doubt if the Russians will send military forces to Iran.
    Also India trys to be trying to maintain a foot in both camps in this world conflict. That seems to me to help the west more than it helps Russia and China.

  12. Curt Kastens

    I saw a video yesterday about excess mortality of different age groups in different countries. That made me do a google search on the subject. That brought me to several different sites that claim to collect this data.
    What the data showed in more than one instance was an extended period of excessive mortality, usually with a variation of between 5% to 15 percent per month and then the sudden appearence of of the opposite of excess mortality for an entire month with at least one case a substantial under occurance of expected mortality.
    Does anyone have a possible explination for this large and sudden statistical variation in mortality in the USA for example?
    At one time I wondered if excess mortality among young people (under 45) in the US was really being caused by opioids and this was being covered up. But that would not explain a sudden but short drops in expected mortality.
    So I ask again, can anyone offer a potential explination for this phenomena?

  13. Ian Welsh

    Most likely they’re averaging in the new mortality rates, so Covid mortality is now considered baseline. The UK had announced they were going to do that, I suspect it’ll be near universal.

  14. Curt Kastens

    I do not think that this could be the explination. A new baseline would still not explain the radical diviations from the new average. A baseline is a flat line or at least a flat line for a particular month or week. As I understand that there would of course be some kind of flucuation of death rates depending upon the season. But the graphs showed the deviation from these baselines. Saying that is caused by a new baseline does not cut it.

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