Saturday 26 November 2016

Jeremy Corbyn's Momentum betrays the 70% of Labour voters who voted Remain

Jeremy Corbyn's Momentum group repackages betrayal as a nationwide campaign to 'Take Back Control' of Brexit and push it through despite only 37 per cent of the electorate voting Leave.

Around 70 per cent of Labour voters chose Remain in the EU referendum but Remainers are unrepresented by the main parties. Instead of robustly challenging the Brexit narrative and the referendum result which was always advisory only, Labour plans to help the Conservatives slip it through with a few tweaks if we're lucky.

Far from saving £350 million per week to give to the NHS, the politically neutral Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimates that Brexit will cost an EXTRA £250 million per week or a weekly total of £600 million, and forecasts a £220 billion increase in national debt by end of parliament to a shocking £1.945 trillion. If this happens, you can forget state pensions, saving the NHS or having anything like a stable economy.

If it hadn't been for Bank of England chief Mark Carney pumping another £60 billion pounds into the economy by buying up gilts (government debt) after the EU vote, extending the existing quantitative easing (QE) programme to £435bn and keeping the stock markets artificially inflated, it would have been even worse.

How many of us knew that we were voting to make ourselves poorer?

Philip Hammond's Autumn Statement on Wednesday confirmed that there's already a £100bn hole in the treasury, £58bn of which is a direct result of the Brexit vote.

So the worst off who suffered most under Bullingdon brat George Osborne's "austerity" measures when he should have been spending to stimulate the economy at rock bottom interest rates have even more to lose in the years ahead. Will the richest who tripled their wealth during the same period take their turn to recapitalise the banks? I wouldn't bet on that.

EU immigrants may be a net gain to the public purse but they are anathemised with barely a whisper from Labour. If their numbers fall, public finances will take an even bigger hit. Theresa May knows this. Jeremy Corbyn et al know this. The economy is reeling, the pound plummeting way below the level necessary to be advantageous to our exports. Britain's population is getting older and needs immigrants to do the work but Labour still panders to the right's obsession.

In response to a catastrophic future, Corbyn's Momentum leaders squeal breathlessly about a series of events whose objective appears to be to bamboozle their audiences that Brexit is an inevitability and the result of an "overwhelming majority". Only a quarter of the population voted for this permanent wrench and yet only the terms of Brexit are to be debated, not the legitimacy of it happening at all.

Momentum's Emma Rees gushed:
“After the success of The World Transformed in Liverpool, ‘Take Back Control’ is a series of exciting events that will bring together leave and remain voters to debate the terms of Brexit, the future of Britain and give a platform to voices too often left out of political conversations.”

Momentum's "exciting" sounds more like the ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times".

It's like asking how you would like the poo in your dinner. Hard or soft? The answer, "I'd rather not have any, thank you," is not up for grabs at all.

LATEST: LABOUR LIST: The Brexit referendum wasn't legally binding, however ...Corbyn: “Article 50 has to be invoked now” 

GUARDIAN: State pension under threat as pension age may be about to rise again, says former minister. Not what most people would describe as "exciting" prospects.

INDEPENDENT: John McDonnell: Labour will not block hard Brexit – but will rely on 'moral pressure.'

INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES: Hard Brexit could lead to '25 years of economic pain' for UK.

SUNDAY TIMES: Why Brexit means a bigger debt burden for Britain

Andrew Coates thinks the Momentum membership might not have been consulted.

Saturday 19 November 2016

Trump's protectionism could be midwife to prosperous Asian region — if he doesn't nuke it first

New Beijing-backed RCEP trade treaty offers hope to emerging markets in Asia

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has just had a grovelling meeting with President-Elect Donald Trump. My guess is that Abe offered Trump unconditional support in the South China Sea and Pacific. (There are moves to allow Japan to have an army and nuclear weapons which, considering the history of Nanjing and concerns about rising Japanese fascism, is alarming.)

As Europe implodes and the US goes into protectionist lock-down, the strongest potential area of growth is the Asian region (including Australasia) due to powerful demographics. Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts Asia to drive nearly two-thirds of global growth over 4 years. But that was BT (before Trump).

President Barak Obama saw China as an economic rival and tried to strangle it by creating the Tran-Pacific Parternership (TPP) consisting of 12 South American and Pacific nations and the US but EXCLUDING China in its own backyard. Poking the sleeping dragon with a sharp stick, Obama also transferred military from the Middle East to the Pacific Rim and the South China Sea.

Whether you like it or not, China saw what was coming down the pike and asserted its presence by building those islands.

Trump is throwing out TPP but his protectionist policies as trumpeted have already hit emerging markets just as they they were about to bloom (and boom!). EM stocks are falling off a cliff. Peaceful prosperity for nations such as Vietnam, which has suffered horribly, has been snatched away at the very moment of its flowering in 2016. Its markets are sharply down since the US election and bouncing around like an ECG chart.

It's the same for all of the EM. The stable economic conditions that would have seen the growth and expansion of a new middle-class as great slices of the population were raised out of poverty – and probably would have brought with it more stable, democratic governments – have been torpedoed.

It's little wonder that China proposes a new trade deal that Australia is supporting in a significant pivot away from the US.

Reuters reports Xinhua News Agency as saying:
China's Xi is selling an alternate vision for regional trade by promoting the Beijing-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which as it stands excludes the Americas.

Chinese state media has warned Trump against isolationism and interventionism, calling instead for the United States to actively work with China to maintain the international status quo.

"The billionaire-turned-politician needs to prove that derailing the global economy has not been one of the reasons why he ran for U.S. president," Xinhua said.

So a region that was set to be a new area of hope in the world, now that western leaders have screwed our economics, our politics and our principles, could very well find itself a war zone if the new administration follows through. War is, after all, only economics by other means and investments in defence stocks are on the up. I wonder if one of the things Obama is drilling into Trump in his presidential tuition sessions is continuing US ambition in the very, very wealthy Asia.

If the US doesn't engineer a war, then Trump's protectionism is the very mechanism that could give China and the region the chance to break out as world economic leaders while the US self-destructs and developed Europe splinters — under hard conditions in the short term but clear winners in the long.

Of course, the alternative would be a world revolution in favour of all humanity but how likely do you think that is given the current circumstances?

My dream is that the Asian region will enjoy the springtime that the West had after World War II, complete with its own equivalent of the 1960s (ours, not theirs when the Allies bombed the hell out of Indo-China). And that they won't make the same mistakes.

My dread is that the West will spend those decades choking on our own fossil-fuel pollution under the draconian rule of the Trump era and jealously stamp out all sparks of life elsewhere.

I am my brothers' keeper and I am my sisters' keeper. Love is the glue that holds us together. Without that we are nothing.

EDIT: More information.

THE DIPLOMAT: Should America Fear China’s Alternative to the TPP? "RCEP is unlikely to include any provisions on issues such as labor, food safety, and the environment, or on sensitive political areas like government procurement. ... the U.S. should practice more restraint in framing the TPP as a counterweight to the Chinese-led RCEP. ... Finally, the U.S. should pressure its TPP partners which are also negotiating the RCEP (there are seven: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Brunei) to press for standards and regulations in the RCEP that can be consolidated with the TPP."

CNBC: A likely beneficiary of Trump’s tough talk on trade: China

CHINA DAILY: Both the US and China deserve better than TPP

THE TELEGRAPH: China will struggle to fill vacuum in Asian trade after US's ill-judged exit

Monday 7 November 2016

Zombie Punks vs Scary Clowns in the New World Order after Clinton or Trump wins POTUS election

With only one day to go before the US votes for its next president, one question remains: who is the least worst?

Think about this. Trump, Putin and now, it appears, China, are contemplating a period summed up in the famous term of the early 20th Century economist Joseph Schumpeter as ‘creative destruction’.

Tom Phillips writing in the Guardian:
... “It was Mao Zedong who said: ‘Without destruction there can be no construction’. And, if I interpret him correctly, Donald Trump is the suicide bomber of American politics,” said Orville Schell, the head of the Centre on US-China Relations at New York’s Asia Society.

... Trump’s statements questioning US support for its Nato allies and defence treaty with Japan meant he would be “an absolute gift” to Beijing as it strove for superpower status.

“Trump - even though he is ‘anti-China, anti-China, anti-China’ - has always talked about deals. That’s his shtick… [and] the Chinese would be only too happy to do a deal with Trump if that was on the cards.”

Recession is coming to the UK thanks to inflation of at least 4 per cent headed our way. (Mark Carney is staying on at the BOE until 2019 'cause he knows the chickens will be coming home to roost by 2018.) Employers won't match inflation, wages will freeze or effectively fall, our spending will drop and companies will go bust. And there's that great big global debt bubble that has to eventually go "pop" ...

But for capitalists who can hang on through the slump, there are fortunes to be made as Britain then "recovers" and stocks bought at fire sale prices rise. Same for the US where markets are at the end of a bull run that has been fuelled by easy money injected into the system by the central banks. Only the fittest survive in Trumpworld, everyone else is going to find it very hard.

War and slumps reset the bankrupt old system and I have to admit I'd rather take my chances in a slump than in a war, especially with Russian nuclear bombs that can take out an area the size of Texas and trigger-happy Amurkins missing their targets.

Even if Clinton wins, the chances of military conflict are high(er) and the inevitable correction in the markets will happen but it might take longer to get to the end of this round of pass the parcel with a live grenade.

'Fonly we had a strong, humane, effective, intelligent left to lead us through this.

In the meantime, everyone with an outside area should have a water butt and learn to grow food. And organise locally. If we all pull together on the basis of need not greed we can raise our collective consciousness in the struggle as well as survive.

And take comfort that those of us who possessed little in the last slump in the 1970s barely noticed it except for bin bags piled high in the streets and corpses left unburied. At least we got punk out of it. Expect Zombie Punks versus Scary Clowns in the next phase of the science fiction writer's coma dream where we are all trapped.

EDIT: Monday 2pm. I think they are both awful in their own ways but I reckon it's a Clinton win and so does the Independent.
INCOMING: Oh, good god. All bow to our Orange Overlord.

Friday 4 November 2016

BBC turns Terracotta Warriors origins into culture wars

The world is changing, the sun sets on the British empire and all that is solid melts like a Mr Whippy ice-cream in the summer heat.

Some people can't stand it. In terms of cultural appropriation, Dan Snow's claim in his programme, The Greatest Tomb On Earth: Secrets Of Ancient China, that the Terracotta Warriors (made some two centuries before the Common Era), were Greek-led innovations takes the chauvinist biscuit.

Snow dons his best Victorian colonialist demeanor to assure BBC viewers that, joy of joys, it was us who did it after all. All is right with the world.

According to the BBC puff, "Mobilising the latest technology, delving into some of the oldest texts, enlisting world experts and employing forensic science, together the three reveal an explosive secret from the foundations of the Chinese empire".

That "explosive secret" is the leap from simplistic human representation in art to the full-on 3D life-size figures discovered in the tomb of the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi (259-210BC). For which Snow credits the west on not very much evidence.

As if, as in every culture, the Chinese weren't already on the road to increasingly "accurate" representations of the human figure. European art underwent its own revolutionary leap in human depiction in the middle-ages, more than a thousand years later: from stiff, unreal figures (similar to early Greek sculptures) where man was peripheral to God, to man placed at the centre of the universe as a spiritual being, giving rise to perspective and an attempt to inject life into the art. But even that is not as a big a leap as Snow taking credit on behalf of the West. History isn't — or shouldn't be – a competition. (Yes, that goes for Chinese chauvinism as well.)

Qin Shi Huangdi unified China, often brutally, and standardised weights, measures and language. It was a period of massive change giving rise to a super-state that could draw on all its resources.

Of course, cross-fertilisation happens. Hey, the West got China's silk, porcelain, tea technology, gunpowder and hydraulics and a whole lot more. The Jesuits may have introduced the water screw to China but the Chinese soon replaced it by vastly more efficient piston-pumps.

But, let's say Greek statues found their way into China. If it was such a massive influence, then surely there would be copies of the Greek style cropping up elsewhere? That distinctive fluid, muscular style: where is it in ancient Chinese art?

The whole weight of the programme rests on the assertion that the terracotta warriors would not have been possible without the Greeks teaching the Chinese how to do it, even though the Chinese were technologically more advanced.

During Qin Shi's reign there occurred a paradigm shift in figurative representation in the plastic arts, a vast improvement on how the Chinese had hitherto comprehended the world. Given that China had the ceramics technology, how long would it have been for them to size up? The puppyish Dr Albert Lim (not a threat to Dan Snow's officer-class authority) happily bounds alongside providing ethnic and scientific cover with lots of excited gasps but he never challenges the narrative swerve being constructed out of the flimsiest evidence.

On closer inspection, China history buff Hooi Yau Ming writes in one Facebook discussion:
The evidence was not conclusive, and they acknowledged that in the documentary. The skull that was found in Xi'an, whilst not of Chinese origin, was not of European origin. And the DNA test which showed genes of European origin, was done on DNA located in Xinjiang province, which is nearly 3,000km away from Xi'an - I myself am not surprised by this particular result.

Why don't we ever see what the Greeks learnt from Egypt? Two years ago, I proposed to the BBC history department for their 2017 Hong Kong handover anniversary season that, among other subjects, we make a programme about Joseph Needham's scholarship around China's innovations that have affected the west. I suspect mine was a perspective they'd rather not deal with.

The BBC should be making programmes about the richness of human diversity and celebrating how we are all interconnected, not blowing up some jingoistic arts and tech turf war. Dinosaurs from a fading empire comfort themselves that Chinese are mere copyists and Mighty Whitey the true innovators, but from what I've seen, the reverse is true.

Sadly, I suppose we can expect more of this twisted history now that the sun is setting on the empire.

Now THIS looks interesting: why didn't science rise in China? Jonathan Spence and Alan L Goodman debate.