Ian Welsh

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

India Is Cooked

On May 29 New Delhi was 52.9 degrees Celsius (127.2 F), only 1.5 degrees less than the world record from Death Valley.

Records are being set all over the world:

And this is in May, which is, in a way, a good thing, since humidity is relatively low and the wet-bulb temperature wouldn’t have been as high as it would be, in say, August. At a humidity of 66%, people would have been dropping like flies.

I have noted, for many years now, that I do not expect India to survive and that I expect, along the way, large famines and death tolls of at least two to three hundred million.

Temperature is only part of it, but it’s not going to be a small deal. Most of India’s groundwater is contaminated, and while some states are fine, many are over-using groundwater to the extant that farmer suicides because wells drying up are a regular event. As the Himalayas get hotter and glaciers dry up, rivers will first swell then either die or have far less water in them. (The Monsoons, at least, will be stronger in most areas of India.)

The combination of less water, more heat, extreme weather events and unreliable planting seasons means that at some point India’s harvest is going to fail in a big way. If this was a “India only” problem, well, the rest of the world could get India thru, but it isn’t, India’s just one of the most vulnerable countries.

In most famines, there’s enough food, it just isn’t distributed to people who need it, but we are going to have famines where there just, genuinely, isn’t enough food, period and India is very vulnerable to this.

(This is, as an aside, one of the main reasons for the China/Russia alliance. China has great difficulty feeding itself, and Russia has massive food surpluses. China wants and needs to be first in line when food becomes scarce.)

Now there are potential solutions to a lot of this, but India, though ostensibly rich in GDP terms, isn’t rich on the ground and has terrible state capacity. China will be able to implement effective public policy for quite some time. India won’t.

Finally, and I want to return to this, the fact that population replacement rates are falling around the world is GOOD, not bad. We have too many people and are in classic population overshoot. Increasing population is the idiot’s way of increasing GDP. (Canada and Britain, take note.)

So one good piece of news for India is that population is now at replacement and in many states has fallen below replacement. But, it’s a little too late, I fear.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 02 2024

by Tony Wikrent

 

Strategic Political Economy

Can Democracy and Billionaires Coexist?

Sam Pizzigati, May 30, 2024 [inequality.org]

…Back in that same 1976, the always helpful World Inequality Database reminds us, the 40 percent of Americans in the nation’s statistical middle held just over a third of America’s wealth, 33.7 percent. The top 1 percent’s considerably smaller share that year: 22.6 percent. Today’s story? Our richest 1 percent hold just about 35 percent of our nation’s wealth, our middle 40 percent less than 28 percent.

The wealthiest of our wealthy, a just-released report from Americans for Tax Fairness points out, are doing their best to keep these good times — for America’s rich — rolling.

“Just 50 billionaire families,” the new ATF report details, “have already injected more than $600 million collectively into the crucial 2024 elections, with that number sure to show accelerating growth in the final six months of the campaign.”….

What can we do to significantly limit how deeply political candidates can feed at the billionaire trough? The Billionaire Family Business — the new Americans for Tax Fairness report — advances two core recommendations.

Off Leash: Inside the Secret, Global, Far-Right Group Chat 

Ken Silverstein, May 30, 2024 [The New Republic]

Military contractor Erik Prince started a private WhatsApp group for his close associates that includes a menagerie of right-wing government officials, intelligence operatives, arms traffickers, and journalists. We got their messages….

All of which makes Off Leash arguably more concerning, because the group can’t be dismissed as merely a collection of harmless cranks. Many of the participants, though not all household names, are wealthy and politically wired—which makes their incessant whining in the group chat about being crushed under the bootheel of the deep state particularly grating—and they will collectively become wealthier and more influential if Trump wins the November election. That’s especially true of the Americans in the group, but the same holds for the international figures because the global right will become immensely more powerful and emboldened if the former president returns to the White House. That prospect is a source of great hope to Off Leash participants. “Trump, Orban, Milei, it’s happening,” former Blackwater executive John LaDelfa posted to the group during a trip to Argentina on December 4, two days after Prince created it. “Around the Globe, we are the sensible, the rational, the majority. Don’t give in to fear. We will defeat the Marxists.”….

Off Leash was launched less than two months after Israel commenced its assault on Gaza following Hamas’s deadly October 7 attack on Israel, and that topic has been one of the group chat’s main concerns since it was established by Prince on December 2….

But Biden was merely a figurehead controlled by “elements that are actually ruling for the Deep State,” he continued. The real problem was that Democrats had been “in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood and infiltrated by their proxies and agents, as well as Ayatollah sympathizers” ever since President Bill Clinton’s administration.

With the Democratic Party captured by Islamic terrorists, Marxists, globalists, and other foreign and domestic evildoers, the U.S. was “being destroyed from within,” warned Kasraie, whose fears were shared by many among the Off Leash crew.

 

US Immigration: How many people are coming to the US and where are they coming from?​ 

[Angry Bear, via Naked Capitalism 05-29-2024]

Open Thread

Use to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.

Trump Found Guilty: Will It Matter?

As for the politics, I don’t know. My guess is it won’t make much difference. Even if he’s given prison time, he’ll appeal and I can’t see him having to run his campaign from prison.

In the larger American domestic context, I think this may presage an era of lawfare. One of the norms of American politics is that elites, unless they betray other elites, are immune to prosecution for a wide variety of crimes which would ruin an ordinary person. Democrats, of course, consider Trump, thru the Jan 7 riot/coup attempt, to have betrayed, but many Republicans don’t see it that way and the likely response will be to use their prosecutors in Red states to go after Biden, just as Democrats used prosecution in a blue state.

This will go until one side wins and other submits, or until both get sick of it and decide to go back to old norms or create new ones.

As for the crime itself, there’s no question that Trump paid blackmail money then tried to hide the payments. As crimes goes, it’s pretty lame. The real crimes Trump committed, like helping kill over 350,000 Yemenis, are crimes where the norm of never charging elites still hold solid. Mass murder IS the business of US government, after all, and virtually every still-living President has engaged in it.

Meanwhile, Obama helped banks steal people’s houses with forged paperwork: literally forged. If you want to prosecute white collar crime, that seems a little more consequential than a payment covering up extra-marital sex.

But hey, that’s just me. I’m in that small un-American group of people who think mass murder and using fraud to steal people’s homes are more serious than covering up adultery, but, hey, whatever.

Anyone, Trump’s guilty, and I’m entirely sure he really is guilty of the crime, such as it is, and it’s not like I have any sympathy for the schmuck: he was a crook all through his business career (and, note was never prosecuted, even though it was common knowledge) and committed plenty of crimes as President. Prosecuting him for what is one of the least his crimes (even among his frauds) is pretty lame.

The entire episode really displays how screwed up American values and the US legal system are.

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The Revival Of Anti-Semitism By Israel And Its Defenders

Anti-semitism has been over-stated and used as a political weapon for generations now. It became beyond the pale after World War II and has stayed that way in the West and America. This isn’t to say there weren’t anti-semites, but they were powerless and damn near meaningless.

But that is changing, and it is going to keep changing. The problem is the constant use of the charge of anti-semitism itself to ward of criticisms of mass-murder, child killing, and other crimes by Israel in Palestine.

Israel wraps itself in the cloak of “we are Jews” to justify its crimes.

The distinction between Israeli, Zionist and Jewish isn’t being blurred most dangerously by Israel’s enemies, but by Israel itself.

And the intellectual propaganda is making it worse.

Take this article from “Tablet Magizine”, which according to their “About US” is a “Jewish Magazine about the world.”

It’s a long screed saying that the Talmud has a different conception of morality than Christian morality. “So far, so good”, you might think if you weren’t aware of Israel’s recent actions.

Let’s read a large chunk to get a feel for the argument.

Speaking in terms of religious archetypes, a Jew and a Christian can come to vastly different conclusions about what the right thing to do is in a given situation, particularly where something as ugly as war is involved. What would Jesus do if a Hamas fighter held a Gazan Arab child up as a shield while firing? Hard to say for sure, but anyone who argues that a properly humane response is to die rather than to try to shoot around the child has ample basis in Christianity. The image of the Crucifixion may mean many things, but part of what it means is that accepting corporeal defeat in this world can be a path to God-like virtue and spiritual victory in the world of tomorrow. You will not hear Jesus mentioned when Western leaders speak on how important it is that Israel adhere to international laws of war, but the concept of the innocent civilian enshrined in these laws grew practically out of wars fought within Christendom during the last several hundred years.

More importantly, the very idea of the innocent civilian makes sense in an explicitly Christian context: “Render unto Caesar” plus the idea of a universal community of faith that transcends nationality means the conscience of the individual is paramount, and a person cannot so easily be classed as a targetable enemy “just because” of his membership in some nation waging war.

There is no propaganda from Israel’s enemies that is as dangerous to Jews as this is. If you read carefully, it basically says that there are only innocent civilians, even innocent children, if they are of the same faith as the nation fighting the war, especially if Jews feel that their existence as a people is threatened. (Leave aside, of course, that committing mass murder of women and children is likely to make Jews less safe, not more.)

I mean, this is Nazi anti-semitic level propaganda. There is nothing the Nazis said about Judaism that was worse than what this idiot has just said. “It’s OK to kill non-Jewish innocents, en-masse, if we think it protects Jews.”

And further on he spends time saying it’s what Yahweh wants. (Admitted, the God of the old Testament is often a bastard, but do you want to lean in to, embrace and announce to the world that this is what Judaism is?)

There is no world in which there is not going to be a massive upsurge in anti-semitism, because there is no world in which Israel is not using Jewish identity and religion to justify mass murder of children and women.

Further, the US empire is collapsing. It’s clear to everyone that it’s weak. It’s being kicked out of Africa. It can’t keep the sea lanes open against a bunch of Yemenis. The BRICS are creating a new trade currency, countries are using local currency for trade and China is dumping dollars by the container-ship load. Meanwhile NATO proxy forces in Ukraine are being whipped, the Israelis can’t conquer a small city and Europe is losing its industrial base.

Coming down off the high of being the hegemonic power is going to hurt like a multi-decade hangover, and Israel has been flaunting its control of American government (no, don’t waste my time or yours denying it.)

The only people who have done more damage to Jews than Israel and its defenders are the Nazis.

And that’s before we get to to the fact that they’re losing this war.

Like anyone sane, with the least pretense of morality, I abhor real anti-semitism, as opposed to the fake shit used as a political weapon.

But this is being done to Jews, by the country which wraps itself in its Judaism. It’s not Nazis leading charge to ramp up anti-semitism, it’s Jews who support Israel.

And, speaking personally, after the use of anti-semitism charges to take out Jeremy Corbyn and to whitewash a genocide, well, even I will have to assume that any charge of anti-semitism against anyone is prima-facie fake and just a political weapon.

That isn’t on me, it’s on those who have used charges of anti-semitism as a political weapon to justify mass murder and avoid humane welfare policies.

Again, Jews have no greater enemy in the world than Israel.

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Continued Privatization

Last year I wrote a fairly long article on why everything was being privatized: Western elites are in a duel where those who lose are squeezed out of the actual elite. They may still be rich, but they don’t have power. This duel is particularly dire in the US and the UK, but affects all Western countries to some extent and Anglo countries severely.

Since the real economy isn’t growing as much as it used to (and certainly less than measured), they have to steal from the commons and from government.

Consider the British Mail privatization of 2015, done by the Conservatives and the Liberals: the mail service had been owned by the Crown for five hundred years. Britain has privatized all its railways. Service has gone to shit. More literally gone to shit is the water system, where millions of tons of raw sewage are being dumped into Britain’s rivers and coast, while the water utilities pay massive dividends.

In Ontario, where I live, alcohol sales were, for generations, restricted to the “Liquor Control Board of Ontario” and the “Beer Store.” Are most recent Prime Minister, ex-drug dealer (this isn’t a slur, it’s a fact) Doug Ford, has reduced the duopoly,  and continues to do so. The most recent step is to allow corner stores to sell beer. Thing is, the LCBO and Beer store routinely make billions for the government.

(The Beer Store is run by Ontario’s brewers, they had a contract that ended in 2025 and the 225 million is buying out that contract early)

So this is going to cost Ontario a low estimate of 800 million or so a year. There’s also the fact that the LCBO and Beer Store are very good at checking IDs, so there’ll be a lot more under-age drinking, though I personally don’t care all that much. But social conservative types, one would think, would.

Ontario, since Covid, has a huge problem with hospital waiting times, both for emergency and regular services. Perhaps instead of giving away government money, Ford should spend it on that?

But the point is simple: this is privatization of profits, and ordinary people will pay for it: it has to result in increased taxes, reduced spending or increased public debt.

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How The Great Space Failure of the Seventies Doomed Industrial Society

The simplest fact about the Earth is that it has finite resources.

The simplest truth about this era is that we are burning through those resources faster than we can replace them: both renewable and non-renewable. This is deliberate: we chose planned obsolescence, for example, to juice profits without a corresponding increase in standard of living. We chose to subsidize suburbs and exurbs, which sped the destruction of the ecosphere. We destroyed the old transit networks of streetcars so GM and Ford could sell more cars, etc, etc…

Back in the 70s a series of books came out, starting with the Third Industrial Revolution. They explained how to move industry and energy generation off Earth.

I read it at the time, and was impressed and I’m given to understand it’s very influential in China, today: part of the blueprint of their plans for space.

We knew by the 70s that we were in trouble, the famous “Limits to Growth” had come out, there were widespread concerns about overpopulation and study of issues like energy ratios (how much energy it takes to produce a unit of energy. The lower that number, the more prosperous a society can be.)

But after the moon landing, the space budget was gutted and later so was research and development of technologies like solar power. The powers that be, and the population of the US at the time wanted the world to be as it had been, to hang on to the petrochemical economy, the cars, the suburbs with white picket fences and so on. They opposed change and wanted unearned wealth from asset price increases rather than earned money from real growth.

But the only way to save the old technological world was to change it, and the only way to overcome limited resources and to reduce pollution was to get the resources from space, and move the pollution off Earth. (Note that we’re not talking colonization of space: no huge habitats full of people. We’re talking using space for resources.)

If you wanted to “save” the old world, you had to go into space, big. Public investment on a massive scale was needed, while we still had the resources and while serious consequences of climate change and ecological collapse were still decades in the future.

But, well, most of the people voting and making decisions in the 70s and 80s knew they’d be dead before those consequences hit. It was easier, and, in the short run of a few decades, more profitable to do nothing. So instead of going big, they went small and thus didn’t do the one thing that could save their civilization from the limits of growth.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 26 2024

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

The Middle-Out Moment Is Here

[Democracy Journal. Spring 2024, No. 72]

Eleven years ago, this journal published a symposium called “The Middle-Out Moment,” touting a new theory of growth no one had heard of. Today, everyone has heard of middle-out economics, but most people still don’t know exactly what it is. With this issue, we revisit the topic: naming its core tenets, touting its successes, acknowledging its hurdles and complexities—but still arguing forthrightly that this is the economic future the country needs.

A New Economics Takes Hold
BY NICK HANAUER DAVID GOLDSTEIN

Industrial Policy’s Triumphant Return
BY FELICIA WONG

Moving Past Global Neoliberalism
BY TODD TUCKER

 

Vladimir Roosevelt and Franklin Putin

Chuck Lindeberg, January 8, 2023 [VoteNo2BigDough Newsletter]

The prevailing popular understanding is Roosevelt and Churchill saw eye to eye on World War II grand strategy. In fact there were fundamental differences between them from the outset, as indicated by this exchange between the two heads of government at the Atlantic Charter conference held aboard ships anchored in Argentia Bay, Newfoundland, in August 1941:

“I [Roosevelt] am firmly of the belief that if we are to arrive at a stable peace it must involve the development of backward countries. Backward peoples. How can this be done? It can’t be done, obviously, by eighteenth-century methods. Now – “

“Who’s talking eighteenth-century methods?” [replied Prime Minister Winston Churchill]

“Whichever of your ministers recommends a policy which takes wealth in raw materials out of a colonial country, but which returns nothing to the people of that country in consideration. Twentieth-century methods include increasing the wealth of a people by increasing their standard of living, by educating them, by bringing them sanitation – by making sure they get a return for the raw wealth of their community.”

This disagreement was no mere tempest in a teapot. It played out in the deliberations of the Combined Chiefs of Staff that established the joint UK/USA strategy to be pursued, which in turn determined why, where and how many soldiers, sailors and airmen would be dying. From FDR down the Americans were determined no Americans should die to preserve the British colonial empire, and Churchill was determined the sun would not set on that Empire on his watch….

As we have seen President Roosevelt believed colonialism was the underlying cause of the wars of the 20th century. However he saw that a much more imminent threats existed and that were Facism and Nazism. Their appeal extended beyond Europe to the dictators the USA supported in Latin America and also, most disturbingly, to more than a few of America’s elite financiers and industrialists. Not to mention the southern wing of his own party, representing states the racist laws of which Hitler used as templates for Nazi legislation. Roosevelt felt it was so urgent the USA join the hostilities against Germany that he risked political suicide by deliberately putting the Pacific Fleet at risk. He understood that only a direct attack on the USA would overcome the America First movement that held sway right up to December 6, 1941. For Roosevelt, World War II was all about defeating Nazism in Germany so thoroughly the movement would never raise its ugly head again. Also it was likely the reason he pushed for the controversial phrase “unconditional surrender” as the ultimate war objective to be included in the Casablanca Conferences communique.

Well before World War II ended President Roosevelt, Vice President Henry Wallace, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Treasury economist Harry Dexter White and Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles began planning for a post-war international structure intended to promote widespread prosperity, while minimizing incentives toward war. Historians have dubbed their program “Rooseveltian Internationalism,” and it envisioned two main thrusts: to foster the recovery of the war-torn countries; and to assist former colonies to become prosperous and truly independent sovereign states now that the decolonization movement was re-energized by the exhaustion of the European colonial metropoles. The plan was fully fleshed out when it was presented to the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference held in the summer of 1944.

That gathering is better known by the name of the small resort town in New Hampshire where it was held, Bretton Woods….

But President Roosevelt died in April of 1945, 26 days before the end of the war in Europe and 4 ½ months before the surrender of Japan. This is widely assumed to be the turning point toward the demise of the Rooseveltian vision of the post-war world, however an equally significant pivot took place nine months earlier during the Democratic National Convention. About 10:00 PM July 20, 1944, the delegates were returning to their seats after marching around the floor of the Chicago Stadium celebrating the renomination of President Roosevelt by acclamation, and they were in a mood to do likewise for the incumbent Vice President Henry Wallace. At that point a cabal of southern Democrats and big city party bosses buttonholed the temporary chairman and leaned on him to gavel the session closed. There followed a sleepless night of wheeling and dealing. Wallace led the votes on the 1st ballot the following day, but he was short of the majority needed for the nomination. His support collapsed and Harry Truman, a machine pol from Kansas City in the border state of Missouri won the necessary majority on the 2nd ballot. Wallace was fully on board with Roosevelt’s domestic and internationalist agendas. Truman was not….

 

These Choke Points Pose Global Shipping’s Biggest Risks 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 05-24-2024]

 

Global power shift

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