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It won’t be business as usual for very much longer.  The mantle of world power is quite possibly changing hands within my life time.  Lovely.  Alfred McCoy tackles the large geopolitical issues that we will all be facing in the future.

 

The Bipartisan Nature of U.S. Decline

America’s decline started at home as a distinctly bipartisan affair. After all, Washington wasted two decades in an extravagant fashion fighting costly conflicts in distant lands, in part to secure the Middle East’s oil at a time when that fuel was already destined to join cordwood and coal in the dustbin of history (though not faintly soon enough). Beijing, in contrast, used those same years to build industries that would make it the world’s workshop.

In 2001, in a major miscalculation, Washington admitted Beijing to the World Trade Organization, bizarrely confident that a compliant China would somehow join the world economy without challenging American global power. “Across the ideological spectrum, we in the U.S. foreign policy community,” wrote two former members of the Obama administration, “shared the underlying belief that U.S. power and hegemony could readily mold China to the United States’ liking… All sides of the policy debate erred.”

A bit more bluntly, foreign policy expert John Mearsheimer recently concluded that “both Democratic and Republican administrations… promoted investment in China and welcomed the country into the global trading system, thinking it would become a peace-loving democracy and a responsible stakeholder in a U.S.-led international order.”

In the 15 years since then, Beijing’s exports to the U.S. grew nearly fivefold to $462 billion annually. By 2014, its foreign currency reserves had surged from just $200 billion to an unprecedented $4 trillion — a vast hoard of cash it used to build a modern military and win allies across Eurasia and Africa. Meanwhile, Washington was wasting more than $8 trillion on profitless wars in the Greater Middle East and Africa in lieu of spending such funds domestically on infrastructure, innovation, or education — a time-tested formula for imperial decline.

When a Pentagon team assessing the war in Afghanistan interviewed Jeffrey Eggers, a former White House staffer and Navy SEAL veteran, he asked rhetorically: “What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth a trillion? After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.” (And keep in mind that the best estimate now is that the true cost to America of that lost war alone was $2.3 trillion.) Consider it an imperial lesson of the first order that the most extravagantly funded military on Earth has not won a war since the start of the twenty-first century.

Donald Trump’s presidency brought a growing realization, at home and abroad, that Washington’s world leadership was ending far sooner than anyone had imagined. For four years, Trump attacked long-standing U.S. alliances, while making an obvious effort to dismiss or demolish the international organizations that had been the hallmark of Washington’s world system. To top that off, he denounced a fair American election as “fraudulent” and sparked a mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, functionally making a mockery of America’s long history of promoting the idea of democracy to legitimate its global leadership (even as it overthrew unfriendly democratic governments in distant lands via covert interventions).

In that riot’s aftermath, most of the Republican Party has embraced Trump’s demagoguery about electoral fraud as an article of faith. As it happens, no nation can exercise global leadership if one of its ruling parties descends into persistent irrationality, something Britain’s Conservative Party demonstrated all too clearly during that country’s imperial decline in the 1950s.

  Liz Theoharis writing for Tom’s Dispatch on poverty and the solidarity and ingenuity of the American people when it came to helping the poor in their country.  The underclasses in the USA have begun to organize again, I just hope it isn’t too late because the road before them is steep and filled with many pitfalls.  The recent addition of social media to the mix with it’s tendency to fragment and cause division among groups will provide a significant challenge for those organizations that wish to once again reform and reforge the poor into a political force in the US.  I hope they succeed as the survival of their nation is dependent on them achieving their goals.

“Another example was the transformative work of the Black Panther Party, whose legacy still impacts our political life, even if the image of the party remains distorted by myths, misrepresentations, and racist fearmongering. This October marked the 55th anniversary of its founding. For many Americans, its enduring image is still of ominous looking men in black berets and leather jackets carrying guns. But most of their time was spent meeting the needs of their community and building a movement that could transform life for poor Black people.

In a recent interview, Fredericka Jones, a Black Panther herself and the widow of the party’s co-founder, Huey Newton, explained that among their projects,

“the most famous and most notable would be the free breakfast the Panthers offered to thousands of children in Oakland and other cities, providing basic nutrition for kids from poor families, long before the government took on this responsibility. We knew that children could not learn if they were hungry, but we also had free clinics. We had free clothing. We had a service called SAFE (Seniors Against a Fearful Environment) where we would escort seniors to the bank, or, you know, to do their grocery shopping. We had a free ambulance program in North Carolina. Black people were dying because the ambulance wouldn’t even come and pick them up.”

Before his murder in 1989, Newton himself characterized their work this way:

“The Black Panther Party was doing what the government should’ve done. We were providing these basic survival programs, as we called them, for the Black community and oppressed communities, when the government wasn’t doing it. The government refused to, so the community loved the Party. And that was not what you saw in the media. You didn’t see brothers feeding kids. You saw a picture of a brother who was looking menacing with a gun.”

As Newton pointed out, the Panthers bravely stepped into the void left by the government to feed, educate, and care for communities. But they were also clear that their survival programs were not just about meeting immediate needs. For one thing, they purposefully used those programs to highlight the failures of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and the contradictions between America’s staggering wealth and its staggering poverty and racism, which existed side by side and yet in separate universes. In those years, the Panthers quite consciously tried to shine a light on the grim paradox of a nation that claimed there was never enough money to fight poverty at home, even as it spent endless billions of dollars fighting a war on the poor in Southeast Asia.

Their programs also gave them a base of operations from which to organize new people into a human-rights movement, which meant that all of their community work would be interwoven with political education, highly visible protest, cultural organizing, and a commitment to sustaining leaders for the long haul. While deeply rooted in poor black urban communities, the Panthers both inspired and linked up to similar efforts by Latino and poor-white organizations.

These were, of course, the most treacherous of waters. At the time, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI listed the Black Panthers and their breakfast program as “the greatest threat to internal security in the country.” Government officials recognized that such organizing could potentially catch fire across far wider groups of poor Americans at a moment when the War on Poverty was being dismantled and the age of neoliberal economics was already on the rise.”

The COP26 Summit, like other climate initiatives will be remembered as yet another paving stone laid on the path of collective good intentions by the nations of the world (excluding Russia and China…).

GLASGOW, Scotland — Climate activist Greta Thunbergsaid Friday that the COP26 climate summit is a failure, lambasting the U.N.-brokered talks for turning into a public relations exercise.

“It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve the crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place,” Thunberg said.

“The COP has turned into a PR event, where leaders are giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets, while behind the curtains governments of the Global North countries are still refusing to take any drastic climate action.”

Well, there looks to be a little substance behind all of the green washing:

Here’s a reminder of what has been happening today at COP26 – where there has been a focus on energy.

  • More than 40 countries agreed a pledge to shift away from coal but some of the world’s major coal burners, including the US and China, did not sign up
  • Critics said that because of that, the announcement fell short of what is needed
  • However the US, Canada and the UK were among the signatories to a joint statement on ending international public financing for fossil fuels
  • COP26 president Alok Sharma said coal was “no longer king” but admitted more needed to be done
  • The influential International Energy Agency said that promises made at the conference would keep the world to a 1.8C degree rise in temperatures
  • However that would depend on all promises being kept and delivered – which experts say is far from certain”

Glad to see all those promises being rolled out.  I think that a lukewarm response is justified as such promises, once they hit the reality of country’s national politics and ‘interests’ will be quickly ignored and the business will return to usual.

 

I think many, including myself, are now entertaining their own Dr.Strangelove moment.  Presently, renamed to How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Climate-Change.

The forthcoming changes to our way of lives will simply happen.

We will have arable farmland until after the nth season of drought, thenwe will not.

We will have polar vortex events consistently through Canada’s winter at a great pace.

We will have affordable energy and energy infrastructure, until well, we don’t.

 

Various climate switches are being, and have been thrown, across the world.  For instance in the US the involuntary test and stress of its resiliency is already happening –

“Trevor Riggen, the head of the American Red Cross’s domestic disaster program, said the agency is “testing the limits” of its network. This week alone, more than 2,000 staff and volunteers have deployed across 10 states. Many of them are on their second or third crisis of the summer.

“It’s no longer, ‘We have a big event and then there’s time to recover,’” Riggen said. “Disaster has become a chronic condition.”

But the extent of damage wrought by climate change will be determined by how the nation plans for it, and how the communities rebuild.

Almost half of public roadways are currently in poor or mediocre condition, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers — making events like the deadly collapse of a Mississippi highway during Hurricane Ida more likely. The location and condition of some 10,000 miles of levees in the United States are unknown. Chronically underfunded storm water systems are unable to cope with record rainfall. Many electric utilities have not taken steps to ensure the grid keeps functioning amid worsening hurricanes and wildfires.

Communities need to start preparing for the unprecedented, Fugate said. Coastal cities should develop alternative evacuation plans to avoid getting caught off-guard by rapidly intensifying storms — for example, building comfortable, well-equipped shelters for people who don’t have time to flee. Levees and storm-water systems must be built to withstand floods that would have been impossible in a cooler world. Amid unstoppable wildfires, homes at the edge of forests can be made safer with flameproof building materials.

Social systems are also in need of repair, said Arcaya. During heat waves, early warning systems and check-ins from neighbors have been proved to save hundreds of lives. After hurricanes, research shows, people with strong connections to their neighbors experience less trauma and are better able to get back on their feet.

The country will need a robust support system to help thousands of displaced people navigate the bureaucracy required to obtain federal assistance, Arcaya said. And since disasters often destroy affordable housing, the nation will need to invest in building more places for people to live.

These changes will be expensive, Fugate acknowledged. But the cost of responding to disasters already totals more than $81 billion per year. “It’s a choice between spending now or spending more in the future.”

   I’m not going to go out on a limb here and state that we are going to choose to spend now aaaand spend more in the future as we try to correct the fuck ups of the present day.

   The saving grace of the entire situation is that when the truly calamitous events start, I most likely will be dead.   Strangely reassuring I suppose, but honestly, I think it’s the only way the exploitation driven economic system we have ends.  When it starts fucking over the ‘important’ people – then and only then – will we move as a collective to ‘save the earth’.  Vastly too little too late, but at least the effort will be genuine then.

 

 

 

Well I’d like to change the channel from the Pandemic Gloom & Doom to the similarly depressing and helplessness inducing topic of climate change. The actors in feel similar in both channels, for instance, the vaccinated can only sit by and watch as the ignorant anti-vax crowd spreads Covid-19 to each other and fills the ICU wards past capacity. Concomitantly we can observe China and the US vie for world dominance economically and militarily while continuing to put stunning amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, catastrophically heating the planet.

Micheal Klare sets out the bare-bones minimum guidelines to avert the upcoming climate catastrophe. Unfortunately said guidelines involve China and the US backing down from their military buildups, finding a peaceable solution to Taiwan, and focusing their economies on moving away from using fossil fuels.

Awesome. No problem. We got this…

“Only when China and the United States elevate the threat of climate change above their geopolitical rivalry will it be possible to envision action on a sufficient scale to avert the future incineration of this planet and the collapse of human civilization. This should hardly be an impossible political or intellectual stretch. On January 27th, in an Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis, President Biden did, in fact, decree that “climate considerations shall be an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security.” That same day, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a companion statement, saying that his “Department will immediately take appropriate policy actions to prioritize climate change considerations in our activities and risk assessments, to mitigate this driver of insecurity.” (At the moment, however, the thought that Republicans in Congress would support such positions, no less fund them, is beyond imagining.)

In any case, such comments have already been overshadowed by the Biden administration’s fixation on dominating China globally, as have any comparable impulses on the part of the Chinese leadership. Still, the understanding is there: climate change poses an overwhelming existential threat to both American and Chinese “security,” a reality that will only grow fiercer as greenhouse gases continue to pour into our atmosphere. To defend their respective homelands not against each other but against nature, both sides will increasingly be compelled to devote ever more funds and resources to flood protection, disaster relief, fire-fighting, seawall construction, infrastructure replacement, population resettlement, and other staggeringly expensive, climate-related undertakings. At some point, such costs will far exceed the amounts needed to fight a war between us.

Once this reckoning sinks in, perhaps U.S. and Chinese officials will begin forging an alliance aimed at defending their own countries and the world against the coming ravages of climate change. If John Kerry were to return to China and tell its leadership, “We are phasing out all our coal plants, working to eliminate our reliance on petroleum, and are prepared to negotiate a mutual reduction in Pacific naval and missile forces,” then he could also say to his Chinese counterparts, “You need to start phasing out your coal use now — and here’s how we think you can do it.”

Once such an agreement was achieved, Presidents Biden and Xi could turn to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and say, “You must follow in our footsteps and eliminate your dependence on fossil fuels.” And then, the three together could tell the leaders of every other nation: “Do as we’re doing, and we’ll support you. Oppose us, and you’ll be cut off from the world economy and perish.”

That’s how to save this planet from a climate Armageddon. There really is no other way.

I think I’ve looked up and had explained to me what the term “inflation” is.  The concept has remained a bit of a mystery.  Mark Blyth the Scottish-American (Austerity – The History of a Dangerous Idea) economist parsed down the meaning of inflation to this – “too much money chasing not enough goods in an economy”.  I like that definition as it sticks easily in the mind.  However, without the necessary context, understanding what inflation is remains elusive.

Enter Yanis Varoufakis and his book “Talking to My Daughter About the Economy or, How Capitalism Works – and How it Fails”.  This short quote describes how inflation and deflationary pressures work in an economy – he tells a story based on a famous paper by R.A. Radford titled The Economic Organization of a P.O.W. camp (original linked here).

“The Exchange Value of Money

When I was your age I recall hearing a grown-up saying something I could not get my head around. I just did not get it, however hard I tried. Even when I thought I had understood it, I tried to explain it to a friend and realized that I hadn’t. What was it that this grown-up had said? That a one-thousand-drachma note (the currency we had then) cost only twenty drachmas to produce. How can it be worth a thousand dratchmas, I kept wondering, when it only cost twenty.

Maybe you are smarter than I was, but humour me nevertheless as I attempt to explain this puzzle in the context of Radford’s POW camp. Periodically, the Red Cross Would place a few more cigarettes in the prisoners’ packages but keep the quantity of chocolate, tea, and coffee the same. When extra cigarettes arrived, each cigarette now bought less coffee, less chocolate, and less tea.

Why?

Since overall a larger number of cigarettes now corresponded to the same amount coffee and tea, each individual cigarette corresponded to less coffee and less tea. The opposite also held true: the fewer cigarettes there were in comparison to the other goods that the Red Cross placed in the packages, the great the exchange value, or purchasing power, of each cigarette. In short, the purchasing power of a unit of currency has nothing to do with how much it costs to produce but, rather, its relative abundance or scarcity.

Imagine that a prisoner has been hoarding his cigarettes in order to make a large purchase when suddenly the Red Cross sends tons of cigarettes to the captives. Suddenly, the exchange value or his cigarettes drops, and his parsimony and abstinence have been to no avail.

In this way we see how having access to a currency lubricates transactions to no end, helping the economy move more commodities more quickly. On the other hand, for a currency to function it requires trust and faith: the trust that everyone will continue to accept it in return for any commodity, which is in turn based on faith that the currency’s exchange value will be maintained. It is no coincidence that in your second language, Greek, the word for “coin: (nomisma) straddles the verb “to think” (nomizo) and the noun for “law” (nomos). Indeed, what gives value to coins and paper money is the legal obligation to accept them across the realm and the belief that they are and will remain valuable.

One night Allied Bombers hammered the area where the camp was located. The bombs landed closer and closer, some falling in the camp itself. All night long the prisoners wondered whether they would live to see daybreak. The next day the exchange value of cigarettes had gone through the roof! Why? Because over the course of that endless night, surrounded by exploding bombs and consumed by anxiety, the prisoners had smoked cigarette after cigarette. In the morning the total number of cigarettes had shrunk dramatically in relation to the other goods. If previously five cigarettes had been needed to buy one chocolate bar, now only one cigarette was needed to buy that same bar.

In short, the bombardment had caused what is known as price deflation – a decrease in all prices as a result of a reduction of the quantity of money in relation to all other goods. The opposite, a genderal increase in prices as a larger quantity of money in the overall system, is known as price inflation.”

Talking to My Daughter About the Economy or, How Capitalism Works – and How It Fails. Yanis Varoufakis, pp 142 -144.

 

So, this is how I increased my knowledge of basic economic theory and what I think is a great heuristic tool if you happen to be trying to explain what inflation is and how it works in an economy.  I will need to reread both Blyth’s ( his writing is for the layperson but remains quite dense and meaty, a slow but rewarding go) and Varoufakis’s books again as both were invaluable to understand how our economy works.

 

The massive disparity between the social classes in the US make it difficult to find the equality as set down by their law, in their society.

“1. The United States, by the way, is fundamentally unjust. Even before the Trump Virus sparked a depression and corporate bailout that deepened inequality in the U.S., the three wealthiest Americans’ combined wealth already exceeded that of the nation’s bottom 50 percent. The top tenth of the upper U.S. One Percent already had a shared net worth greater than that of the nation’s bottom 90 percent and median Black household wealth amounted to 6 cents on the white median household dollar. The nation has long been riddled by massive, interrelated disparities of class, race, ethnicity, gender, and power that make an abject mockery of its claim to represent democracy and equality before the law. Exhaustive empirical research shows that progressive majority public opinion is close to irrelevant in the making of “public” policy, which consistently reflects the preferences of the wealthy Few and their giant corporations and financial institutions. You can learn all about this from mainstream researchers and journalists who never identify with “ideologies such as Marxism” or acknowledge that significant socioeconomic disparity and top-down class rule are inherent to the profits system.”

 

The US would do well to start to manage the current distribution of wealth.  A country that is run for the benefit of a small elite is a society that is doomed to fail.

 

 

A big shout out to those who will be starting and solidifying the next wave of the pandemic.

“Many B.C. restaurants and retailers already struggling to recover from the pandemic are now imploring the public to be patient with staff and respect the rules — after reports of customers behaving badly in response to COVID-19 safety protocols.

From verbal attacks to physical assaults, the backlash directed against employees is forcing some business owners to take extreme measures.

“It’s a death by a thousand cuts, it’s day after day,” restaurant owner Robert Stodola told Global News.

“This is stressful for every single person.”

Our society, to avoid the tailspin that the US is currently in, needs to adapt to a new normal.  The status quo is changing and the old expectations of ‘how things work’ must be discarded.

“Things literally reached a “breaking point” inside another restaurant in the Southern Interior city earlier this month, when one of the owners attempted to enforce a health order on a tour group that kept pushing their tables together.

“They threw their plate of food on the ground and actually assaulted the restaurateur,” said Pangilinan.

“That is completely unacceptable.”

Kamloops RCMP are investigating the July 4 incident at Mittz Kitchen, in which an owner was allegedly pushed over a table.”

Imagine that.  Thinking that you know better than the health authorities and the owner of the restaurant about how to behave within their private premise.  The people responsible for assaulting the owner and putting other people at risk should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Given the evidence available, it is possible to not have society in complete lockdown for the remainder of the pandemic.  What it does require though is people to alter their expectations and adopt new behaviours that won’t cause a further spread of the virus.

See you all in the Xmas Lockdown.  :(

 

Source: globalnews.ca

 

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