Politics recap January 2020

Julian Assange is in prison in the UK being tried for extradition to the US on espionage charges. Sweden has dropped its case. But you’re not going to defend Assange, are you, because you learned that “Assange is a rapist”. And who would defend one of them against the all-seeing and benevolent forces of the state? If you think this way, dare I suggest that you’ve been had.

Brexit is happening at the end of this month and nothing will change. No truck queues down south, no shortage of medicines, no mass exodus of business. If Boris Johnson had any sense he would at that point declare victory and extend or go slow with the transition period for as long as possible. It seems the Tories want to press ahead, and I can only assume it’s because some part of British business values deregulation more than the single market. Either way, Brexit is a slow-burn, unwise choice, inconvenient to people like me. It’s not and was never going to be a disaster.

Scottish independence is back in the news, but I don’t think it’s happening. As said Brexit will pass uneventfully and the opportunity to use it politically likewise. I don’t think a referendum would turn out very different than last time, given the uncertainty of exiting both the EU and the UK, having to re-enter the EU and adopting the Euro. I could be persuaded to vote for it but only for cynical immigration reasons. I’d vote for it with my heart if Scotland were to abolish the monarchy and become like Ireland with blue post boxes.

Trump, despite being a pig of a man, has turned out a pretty good president. Being an outsider he recognizes that the time of America offering “protection” around the world, in both senses, is over. Since the 50s the dogma was that spreading capitalism would benefit the US foremost as well as lifting all boats. Now that’s no longer the case and the US needs to adjust to being one of several developed powers, as well as get out of the protection business. For all the alarm in the press, Trump is making the post-superpower transition as peacefully as anyone could have hoped. War in Iran, which many in Washington are thirsty for, keeps failing to materialise. It’s hard to get full facts about Syria, but it’s possible Trump may have killed fewer people than any president since Carter and, although I don’t like him, utilitarian arguments count.

In all likelihood, Trump will get re-elected. Especially if Sanders and Warren fight each other while the press and the middle-class do all they can to nominate a centrist. I think US society is rapidly approaching the point of being beyond repair, and it’s because the so-called progressive elite refuses to check its privilege and accept socialist policies. Beyond repair means the role of the state disintegrates, beyond security, and the US becomes a libertarian -topia. What kind depends on your point of view.

Climate may have been saved in 2019, mainly thanks to Greta Thundberg. We should build the young woman a statue. For the first time there’s wide realization that something has to change, even in the US, and people are vaguely aware that might mean changing their personal habits. Eating less meat and driving less, for example. Maybe accepting the the Earth has seasons and not trying to negate them with air conditioning. Technological change is happening everywhere except the US, where they’re waiting for the prophet Elon Musk. Saving the climate means Bangladesh will be uninhabitable due to floods, and the Arabian peninsula due to heat, but hey we get to survive as a species.

I don’t know much about China, but I’m a more hopeful observer than most. I see them as a threat economically, because they don’t play by the rules and I don’t see them as an evil empire politically. Comparison with the Soviet Union is inept. The Chinese regime, as far as I can tell, prioritises material welfare above all else and that goal is the source of its authoritarianism. I wouldn’t like to live in China, but I think it’s much more benign than a regime based around a strongman or an ideology. The more Chinese society feels economically secure, the more freedom is likely to emerge.

Europe I think is poorly and is unlikely to get a reprieve until 2021 when Merkel, Europe’s most destructive leader since WW2, leaves office. West Europeans need to reflect on the relatively undramatic departure of Britain, discontent and inequality within the block, as well as repairing its relationship with Russia. If the Germans are willing to compromise, Europe could move forward to a federal structure with shared debt, banking, tax and welfare arrangements across the continent. But if the new chancellor continues to block these reforms it’ll be endless crisis management and containment as it is now.

As for me, I intend to get my stupendously named permit “Indefinite Leave to Remain” and figure out what hoops we need to jump through to let my son migrate to Scotland. I think in the long run that means citizenship, and if that could come somehow without a queen I’d have done it already.

Dear America

Dear America,

Trump is the least of your problems. Sure, he’s a playground bully, petty mafia, or a dirty old man. Take your pick. But he’s not the cause of your troubles. Nor is it the Russians.

Trump didn’t bring fascism to America. That honour belongs to George W. Bush, when you had vindictive war, torture, and indefinite detention. But you were gripped in atavistic fear of 911 so you didn’t notice. The heroes who tried to keep you honest with yourselves in this period are still fugitives in fear of their lives.

You got Trump because you allowed the Republican party to rig districts and buy elections. A few intellectuals made a passionate case to stop this but were ignored. You got Trump because the Democrats, supposedly the good guys, refused to put forward a people’s candidate. Voters looked at the options for who would screw them and went for the more visceral. You’re doing this again.

Your economy doesn’t work. Things are expensive, basics are unaffordable. The middle class lives a life of 24/7 self marketing, fearful or taking vacations and falling behind, or spending too long in a job. Competition doesn’t work. The innovative tech startups of thirty years ago are now monopolies, suppressing or absorbing everyone else. Like half a century ago, you idolize people who go to space but your day to day is an assault of brands and consumerism.

You have a healthcare system that doesn’t work. Your schools don’t work. Transport  doesn’t work, and no Uber is not a reasonable way to provide it. Work doesn’t work, for most people. The gig economy only makes sense because of rampant class divisions. You have no welfare system, and use the army to absorb otherwise bereft young people. Like the Romans.

As a nation “you’re not racist but…” Nobody is foolish enough to claim superiority for whites, but you treat African-Americans as non people. Police is an occupying force. Because you have so many non-people people you can’t conceive of any kind of sharing or collective solutions to problems. Not with them! For fear of the other you curse yourselves to live without public goods.

People pack guns and shoot children in schools, or just each other, and this is somehow normal. The price to pay, apparently, for freedom. Freedom from some imagined socialism or uprising that will never come. Or some supposed existential threat. The existential threat to life on Earth is you and your survivalism. You live in festering, unjustified fear and think yourselves ready to start a revolution, which you don’t do.

Anyway, see you soon!

 

Thoughts for Uncle Sam

Hillary is on the Ballot against Trump. Regardless of who wins, that’s already terrible. The two-party system became a one-party system. There is no choice, no democracy.

Everyone should vote for Hillary, even Republicans. Perhaps Republicans even more so. She’s qualified, she’s strong, she’d be the first woman president.

She’s also hawkish and extremely pro-establishment. That’s probably how the first woman president gets there. This is quite sad. We don’t want the glass ceiling to breed another Angela Merkel or Margaret Thatcher. Can we have Elizabeth Warren instead?

Hillary is also married to Bill. She really is very qualified, but are two of the best equipped people to run the country married to each other? How likely is that? How democratic? About as likely and democratic as the Bush father and son team. We have that in Britain, we call it a royal family.

The good candidate was obviously Sanders and the Democratic party buried him. Probably because he had actual New Deal policies. The interesting election would have been Sanders as an idealist Democrat, Clinton or someone like her as a status-quo Republican. We’ve lost that level of sanity.

Trump is a racist clown. At first when he ran I thought he’d be merely a bad Republican, even more incompetent than Ronald Reagan. Since then he went out of his way to insult everyone and paint himself as a racist, semi-facist, unstable guy totally unfit for the role. His behaviour pretty much compels that no-one vote for him. OK, so don’t vote for him!

I wonder if Trump and the Republican party really are tone-deaf dimwits, or if Trump is a calculated bet to force a one-party system. He goes out of his way to test limits, normalise thuggery, and question freedoms so I think the latter. Trump is not playing to win, he’s bringing about one-party rule, successfully.

What is saddest about Trump is not when he says something outlandishly offensive but when he says something sensible. He says a few sensible things, like let’s not attack Russia. Great idea! Only Trump and Jeffery Sachs (an economist, and adviser to Russia during the transition out of communism) dare say this in public. But because it’s Trump, these points which would make a sensible opposition are tainted and buried.

People say that Trump is how fascism comes to America. Not quite so. It’s how crass hatred and bigotry comes to America. Fascism already came to America with 9/11 and George Bush the son. We already have mass surveillance, extra-judicial indefinite detention, and torture. Snowden and Assange are still exiles. Manning is still in solitary confinement somewhere. Flawed heroes? Loony rebels? How we would think of these people if they were Soviet dissidents.

Fascism and hatred are not the same thing, although they often go together. Fascism is the doctrine of the all knowing, all powerful state that demands full submission from its subjects. Intolerance comes with fascism as part of it’s demand for absolute loyalty. Racism and thuggery are second-rate demons that go along for the ride.

Could Trump win? I don’t know. Unlikely, but a realistic chance. I’d give him about a 25% chance to win. Why so high? Don’t underestimate to what extent the US is about supremacy of white Anglo-Saxon men. In its better moments the US tries to be diverse or inclusive, but you have only to look at black America or the Middle East to see how much it’s still about white supremacy.

Supremacy or even existential survivalism. In the 60s this group would rather blow up all life on Earth than accept an inconvenient political system for a generation or two. Pause to think about that, and then ask can we trust Trump with the nukes? In theory the president is allowed to do wth the nukes as they see fit. I hope that’s not actually so, that sane officers in the US and Russia get to stop the apocalypse.

So Trump may start WW3 by mistake. Clinton is on track to start a war with Russia deliberately. Obviously between the two Clinton with her slow, choking destruction of the Middle East and controlled escalation of hostilities with Russia is the better choice. I mean obviously! Who would want to go into such misadventures carelessly… But really? This is the choice we get?

What do I care about the US election. We all live in the Anglosphere to some extent, I feel if you’re part of the culture you get an opinion. But more materially as Europeans we’ll pay a large fraction of the cost of what the US does. We’d rather not go to war with Russia, they’re people like us. Also last summer hundreds of thousands of refugees passed through our town escaping the destruction of Syria. They’re people like us too.

When I accuse Clinton of being hawkish, it’s not her. The US as a system is on a war path, courting a war with Russia as well as stepping up destruction of the Middle east. Japan is belligerent on the US side. Russia has been re-arming for a decade, and China is asserting itself too. Some form of war is ahead. Why? Probably a shift from unipolar to multipolar power balance, with the US resisting to give up it’s exceptional role. Also, a war would reset financial markets and allow a new cycle of destruction and growth to begin.

If Trump wins, and doesn’t blow us up, he’ll be very unpleasant and otherwise he’ll be like Reagan. A foolish king, while some neocon think-tank actually runs the show. After the shift to the intolerant right becomes norm, they may even paint his eulogy as a great president.

Meanwhile if Hillary wins we’ll have a one-party centre-right, meaning for the rich, system but women, gay people, and non-pale rich people will be allowed in. Syria and the middle east will continue to be destroyed. We’ll have the long-planned low-intensity war with Russia. We’ll have our stock market crash and rebound. I’d rather have Hillary lead us into a dark storm than Trump, no question, but into a dark storm we go.

Please go out today and vote for her…