Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Monday, May 16, 2022
Sunday, May 15, 2022
There are intermittent shortages of foodstuffs in supermarkets; now I hear from more than one source that they have noticed the sell-by dates on fresh fruit and veg have gotten much shorter and the perishables are looking less than pristine; presumably stocks are running low.
We already know that the harvest in Ukraine is likely to be badly affected by the war there. This post outlines some of the other problems upcoming:https://www.bournbrookmag.com/home/disaster-in-the-rye
Gonzalo Lira is predicting economic collapse and hyperinflation (25%- 35% in Europe 'minimum').
P.S. The Prime Minister has deferred the banning of 'Buy one, get one free' offers in supermarkets, citing the difficulties of poor families. The middle-class finger-waggers are protesting that BOGOF is linked to obesity.
On the other hand a friend told us the other night he has seen mothers bringing used clothes into a shop in exchange for money so their children can buy lunch in school.
Perhaps it is time for overprivileged lifestyle lecturers to get their tanks off poor people's lawns. If the Goodies want people to be slim and healthy they should campaign for better terms of international trade so that the lower classes can earn a decent living.
Saturday, May 14, 2022
Friday, May 13, 2022
Wednesday, May 11, 2022
Is Ukraine to be the new Guernica?
|Pic: South China Morning Post|
Unlike in the western part of Ukraine, the population of Donetsk is predominantly Russian-speaking and/or of Russian descent. The breakaway state declared its independence four years ago, but so far has only been formally recognised by South Ossetia.
Under the 2015 Minsk II agreement, Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany brokered a ceasefire and progressive demilitarisation. But the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has now cancelled ongoing treaty negotiations, claiming that the assassination is "an open provocation aimed at hindering implementation of the Minsk agreements" and linking it to the recent increase in US sanctions against Russia (announced 8 August) in the wake of the Skripal poisoning case in Britain, which has been blamed on Russia (denied by the latter and not yet forensically proven.)
The Kiev administration has failed to implement Minsk II and last year the United States was saying that the US did not wish to be limited by the agreement and suggested that Kiev should seek an accommodation directly with Moscow. Now the US special envoy for Ukraine has said that Washington could increase arms supplies to Kiev to buttress the country’s naval and air defence forces.
There is some evidence to suggest that the Ukraine has become a testing ground for Western weaponry. A "Ukraine based" firm called LimpidArmor has just announced the extension of a battlefield sensor system from fighter planes to tank warfare:
"The Land Platform Modernization Kit uses four cameras positioned strategically around the tank to create a seamless display of the environment surrounding the vehicle. Crew members wearing the HoloLens headgear would then be able to look around their environment without being hampered by the tank’s heavy armor while also not having to potentially expose themselves to enemy fire."
Although run by a Ukrainian, Mikhail Grechukhin, and conducting its research and development in Kiev, LimpidArmor's headquarters are in Walnut Creek, California. And in March this year the Ukrainian Defence Minister said that the US' supply of anti-tank missiles "opened the door for closer military cooperation in the face of Russian aggression."
Anti-Russian rhetoric was a major feature of Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign in 2016, to the extent that Russians were getting nervous. When Trump won, it appeared to be a chance to normalise relations and shortly afterwards he was tweeting "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think that it is bad!" But since then the US President has seemed to row back, perhaps in response to the sustained campaign by the Democrats to paint Russia as in collusion with Trump to get him his election victory.
Doubtless there is a deep geopolitical game being played, but aside from Mrs Clinton's disappointed hopes one has to wonder what the real motivation may be. Is it really a cold, then a hot war with Russia - now no longer a Communist country, thanks to its people who have every reason not to wish the return of the Reds?
Or is it to rehearse weapons and tactics for war - perhaps by proxy - against another, still Communist, mightier and clearly expansionist potential foe: China? If so, the increasing sophistication of China's defence capabilities ought to give the three-dimensional chess players of Washington pause for thought - see for example this article on the PRC's development of next-generation unmanned aerial vehicles.
Could the "military-industrial complex" (as Eisenhower called it) be endangering us with its hubris?
Monday, May 09, 2022
Why are postal votes needed, except for the significantly disabled? It is so easy to vote in person. Voter participation can be affected by the distance to the nearest polling place -
- https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmpolcon/writev/1463/1463.pdf (p.8)
Participation in local elections tends to be much lower than for General Elections: in my own constituency - another densely-populated urban one, in Birmingham - the 5 May turnout was only 27%. Yet in this Tower Hamlets it was 42% (and in 2014, almost 48%.) Perhaps the size of the Tower Hamlets mayoral election turnout is because it was not merely for local councillors but for the Big Man running the borough, the Man who can grant your wishes; insinuations of procedural jiggery-pokery may not be necessary to account for it.
By contrast, in the US, I read, some places deliberately make it difficult to vote by setting up polling stations far from population centres and perhaps not even easily reachable by public transport. Those Americans who suspect that the 2020 Presidential election was 'stolen' by late or fake postal votes should, if their concern is that participation should be fair, look at other solutions to accessibility issues.
But even if polls are fairly conducted, what about how those votes are canvassed? The system is set up to make the aspiring politician focus on what voters think (or can be made to think) matters, rather than systemic problems. The tail is wagging the dog; instead of the people calling their leaders to account, political parties have learned how to cultivate the vote. Billions are spent on psephological analysis, focus groups, opinion polling, advertising, lobbying etc - how can good long-term governance arise out of this mess?
One method currently used to divert the public's attention from domestic policy challenges and cloud their minds with emotion is to wage wars and proxy wars on foreigners. America and Britain are like Lewis Carroll's Walrus and Carpenter, happily prepared to eat Ukrainian Oysters until the last is gone. Such a useful distraction from what Americans need; and so good for the arms industry. Instead of a welfare state, the US has opted for a warfare state.
Yes, the US has a welfare system at the moment, but the GOP is pressing for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.) For their part the Democrats' plan seems to be to encourage the 'undocumented' immigration of relatively poor people, who may look to the Dems for financial benefits of various kinds. There is no plan either from the Republicans or from the Democrats, to help the indigenous lower classes thrive by protecting their work and wages.
The people are waking up to this, when not mesmerised by other 'woke' issues or military drum-banging. Was it not the slow-dawning realisation that in the US Red v Blue has become a 'uniparty' scam that led to the election of the unprofessional maverick Trump (with all his faults)? But the Establishment did everything it could to hamper him in office, and does everything it can to bury him in lawfare now. The uniparty wants Business As Usual until the machine breaks down.
Similarly, here in the UK, although the Northern 'Red (socialist) Wall' collapsed in 2019, Granniopteryx notes that it still far from being rebuilt, despite the Conservatives' difficulties in the last couple of years. We are in a wider political crisis in which Labour has failed to make itself credible but as Peter Hitchens says, 'You need something better than the Tories, and soon.'
We must hope that there will be replacements for both parties before it is too late; but how can they possibly replace themselves, and alternatively, how could we do it, without a revolt?