Ordinary World for 3 Dec 2018

Ordinary World for 18 Oct 2018

Ordinary World
3 Dec 2018

[Wo1] Macron surveys damage after worst riots in Paris for decades, calls for talks: “French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday surveyed the damage from a day of riots across Paris and led crisis talks that ended with a call for further talks with anti-government activists who have staged two weeks of protests.”

[Wo2] UK’s Labour will seek no confidence vote in May if Brexit bill fails: “Gove told the BBC Sunday that if ministers don’t pass the bill “the alternatives are no deal or no Brexit.” The likelihood of rejection could increase Monday if Labour is successful in forcing May to reveal the full legal advice she sought before agreeing the deal with European leaders last month. The UK’s attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, is due to brief lawmakers on the matter Monday, but Downing Street is seeking to avoid publishing the full advice, in defiance of a Commons vote last month obliging it to do so. The government argues Cox’s briefing will be sufficient, but Starmer said “if they don’t produce it tomorrow then we will start contempt proceedings, and this will be a collision course between the government and Parliament.”

[Wo3] Tracking China’s Muslim Gulag: “A United Nations panel has accused China of turning its far-flung western region of Xinjiang “into something that resembled a massive internment camp shrouded in secrecy, a ‘no rights zone’.” It estimates that there could be as many as one million Muslims who have been detained there”

[Wo4] India and Pakistan Aren’t Ready for Another Terrorist Crisis: “On the week of the 10th anniversary of the Mumbai terrorist massacre, the bilateral cooperation between India and Pakistan to open a visa-free corridor for Sikh pilgrims to access a sacred place of worship offers a rare moment of inspiration. Ten years ago this week, India awoke to the horrific three-day assault on its financial capital of Mumbai by Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists, much of it broadcast live, in which at least 170 people were killed, hundreds more were wounded, and South Asian rivals raised fears of a major conflict and nuclear crisis. Today, the impromptu corridor of free passage between decades-long adversaries might signal the triumph of back-channel diplomacy and pragmatic confidence-building.”

[Wo5] Mattis: Putin a ‘slow learner’ who tried to ‘muck around’ in midterms: “Mr. Putin is clearly a slow learner. He is not recognizing that what he is doing is actually creating the animosity against his people,” Mattis said. “He’s not acting in the best interests of the Russian people, and he is actually causing NATO to rearm and to strengthen the democracies’ stance, the unified stance of all the democracies together.”

[Wo6] Trump wants to grant Kim’s wishes, South Korea says, as new round of summits looms: “After meeting Trump at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires, Moon said the U.S. president gave him a message to bring to Kim. “And the message was that President Trump has a very friendly view of Chairman Kim and that he likes him, and so he wishes Chairman Kim would implement the rest of their agreement and that he would make what Chairman Kim wants come true,” Moon told reporters on his presidential plane over the weekend. But Trump and Moon also agreed on the need to maintain existing sanctions against North Korea until it completely denuclearizes, presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan said.”

[Wo7] Alberta premier announces 8.7% oil production cut to increase prices: “The reduction will drop to an average of 95,000 barrels a day until curtailment ends at the end of 2019, when Enbridge’s new Line 3 pipeline starts operating.The Alberta government also expects to acquire locomotives and rail cars by the end of next year to transport 120,000 barrels a day. Notley said the decision to impose mandatory curtailments was difficult, but necessary. “In Alberta we believe that markets are the best way to set prices, but when markets aren’t working, when companies are forced to sell our resources for pennies on the dollar, then we have a responsibility to act,” Notley said, adding the government has “a responsibility to defend our province and to defend our resources.”

[Wo8] EU begins disciplinary procedures against Italy after rejecting its controversial budget plans: “Italy’s populist and partly right-wing coalition wants to increase the country’s deficit to 2.4 percent of annual economic output in 2019, as it looks to make good on pre-election spending pledges. A previous Italian government had submitted a 2019 budget which would have recorded a deficit of just 0.8 percent. In a statement, the European Commission — the EU’s executive arm — said: “With regret, that today we confirm our assessment that Italy’s draft budget plan is in particularly serious non-compliance with the Council recommendation of 13 July.”

[Wo9] Trump shifts focus to Japan after trade truce with China: “Analysts are watching how the Trump administration will balance its ambitions for a comprehensive pact like a free trade agreement with the U.S. agricultural industry’s thirst for a deal when other farming nations such as Australia and Canada are gaining greater access to the Japanese market through the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-nation FTA that will enter into force on Dec. 30. Similarly, Japan and the European Union are speeding up domestic procedures for the early enforcement of an FTA, making American farmers and ranchers less competitive than their European counterparts in terms of access to the world’s third-largest economy. “What the Japanese are hoping to do is to drag this out as long as they can, even potentially waiting out the end of the Trump administration,” said Benjamin Self, vice president of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation in Washington.”

[Wo10] ‘It’s the real me’: Nigerian president denies he died and was replaced by a clone: “With that declaration, Buhari broke his silence about a rumor that had taken root on social media last year, when he was away in London being treated for an undisclosed illness. The theory went that the president, who is running for reelection in February 2019, had been swapped out with a look-alike from Sudan named Jubril — even that he was “cloned,” as he put it in relaying the rumor to his nearly 2 million followers on Twitter. There was no evidence to back up the rumor, an AFP fact-check concluded. But posts on social media claiming that Nigeria — the most populous country in Africa and the continent’s largest economy — had come under the control of an impostor were viewed more than 500,000 times. The earliest online mention of the rumor identified by the Paris-based news agency was in a Twitter post from September 2017, in which a user wrote, “The Man Who Parades himself as ‘Buhari’ Is Not The Real Buhari. Is Jubril From Sudan.”


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Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire.

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35 thoughts on “Ordinary World for 3 Dec 2018

  1. Wo2: 116 days to go. Tomorrow the ECJ’s Advocate General will publish the (nonbinding) opinion he gave to the court on the question of whether the UK can unilaterally withdraw its Article 50 notice. Also tomorrow, Parliament starts debating the deal that May got from the EU, with the vote on that deal scheduled for next Monday.

    If I were betting, I think I’d go with:

    The ECJ says that the UK can’t simply say, “Never mind.” Either they can’t withdraw the notice at all, or there’s a heck of a price that has to be paid. They won’t establish the precedent that a member can give formal notice that it’s withdrawing and then pull back when things don’t go their way in the negotiations without paying a steep price.

    Parliament turns down the May deal. May loses the subsequent no-confidence vote and steps down as Tory leader. Neither her replacement nor any of the other party leaders can put together a government, so a snap election.

    Time runs out and the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal. It’s not as ugly as the real pessimists think, in part because of humanitarian aid of various sorts from the EU and US. Trump’s advisors somehow convince him that offering the UK immediate membership in the new NAFTA-replacement makes him the knight in shining armor and the UK accepts.

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    • I don’t really get the EU has to be tough to set a precedent arguments. If the EU has to keep its members by virtue of implicit threats, that doesn’t say much for the positive case for the EU.

      This is the larger EU problem. Lots of people, myself included, are reflexively pro-Eu, because we don’t like the Brexiters and the other assorted Members of the European far-right and see them as motivated largely by xenophobia. But once we get past that, there needs to be a more realistic version of what the EU is and can be.

      The EU in its present state is untenable. And as far as I can tell, there is no real constituency for a United States of Europe. So what’s the alternative?

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      • We’re inside 120 days. Big banks are already relocating a bunch of their operations from London, including people. Companies have started shifting their import plans out of UK ports and into Rotterdam and elsewhere. Electricity generators who sell power to UK utilities are working to figure out what the rates are under WTO rules. Airlines are building contingencies for the event of a no-deal Brexit, where the UK has none of the agreements that allow international flights in place.

        It’s not the EU making implicit threats. It’s simply going to be the ECJ saying, “Once the rest of the members start spending money to accommodate your departure, you don’t get to just say ‘Sorry.'”

        I don’t think the current EU is long-term stable either. At the same time, I think the UK has played its hand very badly.

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  2. Wo5 – Putin’s a slow learner who has been in power since 1999 and will probably be in power for at least another 10 years, barring any sudden health issues.

    Mattis isn’t wrong that Russia being a bit more bold and overt recently has given NATO more of a raison d’etre – though those NATO countries that are geographically closer to Russia have always been more all-in on the alliance since their joining, compared to some of the western members who treat is as more of a social club. (except for a few years at the begining of the Afghanistan campaign, and then again in the first few years of Obama’s presidency)

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  3. Wo7 – I’m surprised this requires government action. I had thought when oil gets to 50ish bucks a barrel or below, the oil sands fields aren’t economical anymore and the operators idle production on their own.

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    • The problem is that oil sands production is fairly economical once the plant is set up, its just very expensive to build new production. When the price drops new production stops but the existing production keeps going or ramps downward. When the limited factor is investment money due to expect ROI, its a self-regulating system.

      This isn’t a return on investment problem, its a problem of price on the marginal barrel due to inadequate transport. The problem is that existing production built to meet expected external demand but the transport capacity doesn’t exist to ship that production. This creates a crisis on the marginal barrels of production that doesn’t effect the industry equally, as some producers have transport lined up long term or even own transport or own refining capacity so aren’t effected by the low cost of crude. As the ill-effects aren’t equally spread, its difficult to get industry to self-coordinate a response and government has to step it.

      The net cause of the problem is the backlog of building pipeline capacity to tidewater which has been building for about 15ish years and now has become a full on crisis. The biggest issue being that political efforts to expedite the process have generally made the matters worse by making the process more vulnerable to gumming up by protests and litigation.

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  4. I’m more familiar with unconventional oil production in the US, where there are lots of small producers and things can get very complicated. Leases (which are assets) typically have expiration dates — if the company has not started producing (and paying royalties) by the expiration date, the lease is just gone. Many of the small producers have large amounts of debt, with odd trigger conditions — eg, if gross income falls below a certain level, the debt comes due in full. Selling oil at a loss might make them bankrupt next month, but not selling oil at all makes them bankrupt right now. Things can also look like the old joke about the bear — company A doesn’t have to stay solvent for a known amount of time, they just have to stay solvent longer than enough of their competitors. Cutting production by putting companies out of business means that when prices start back up, it’s much harder for production to follow it up.

    Alberta appears to be hoping to do the same thing the Texas Railroad Commission used to do. The TRC was interested in price (and business) stability. When prices fell, the TRC cut production limits across the board. When prices rose, the TRC raised production limits. During their glory days, the TRC controlled enough of the world’s available oil supply to run a proper negative-feedback system and keep stable prices. OPEC always said that the TRC was their model, and they wanted to run a proper negative-feedback system. They weren’t ever as successful as the TRC was, largely because they lacked the equivalent of the Texas Rangers (police, not baseball team) to enforce the production cuts.

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  5. Wo5:
    Yeah this made me laugh.
    Putin interfered with our elections, got the result he wanted, suffered no repercussions whatsoever…and HE’s the slow learner??

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  6. [Wo1] Not sure if Macron is what we’d have gotten if Hilary had won, or if he’s what we’ll get after we beat Trump in 2020.

    What I am sure is that Macron is an object lesson for the Neo-Con-Liberal Center… now is the time to study and learn.

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    • What sparked this particular round of rioting was an attempt to raise fuel taxes and the introduction of a carbon tax that was approved under Hollande. The protestors demands are a populist mish mosh. The overriding theme is: We want more of everything and we want someone else to pay for it.

      So what exactly is the lesson? The French riot at any attempt to reform the more sclerotic elements of their economy. They did it under Sarkozy. They did it under Hollande. If no French government, left, right, or center, can come up with a reform plan that keeps French citizens from taking to the streets to demand that things never change, it’s not Macron that we should be studying.

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      • It’s not Macron that we should be studying, is probably right; its an ironic point, I suppose.

        I see also that Twitter (which, I am not on) has taken today to pick on Max Boot (as good a day as any): “To defeat populism, America needs its own Macron–a charismatic leader who can make centrism cool.”

        But I found this observation by the French writer Christophe Guilluy illustrative.

        The paradox is this is not a result of the failure of the globalised economic model but of its success. In recent decades, the French economy, like the European and US economies, has continued to create wealth. We are thus, on average, richer.
        […]
        So if the hike in the price of fuel triggered the yellow vest movement, it was not the root cause. The anger runs deeper, the result of an economic and cultural relegation that began in the 80s. At the same time, economic and land logics have locked up the elite world. This confinement is not only geographical but also intellectual. The globalised metropolises are the new citadels of the 21st century – rich and unequal, where even the former lower-middle class no longer has a place. Instead, large global cities work on a dual dynamic: gentrification and immigration. This is the paradox: the open society results in a world increasingly closed to the majority of working people.

        So, no, I don’t think it is simply “We want more of everything and we want someone else to pay for it.” But yes, I’d be concerned if that *is* the lesson we learn from Macron. These strike me as fundamental blindspots that are simply invisible to a large swath of folks – call them what you wish – we know who they are, we are who they are.

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        • Well, except the open society isn’t closed to a majority of working people. It’s closed to a majority of working people who aren’t immigrants.

          So, just as in America, when somebody talks about the “working class” in France, throw on a white modifier on that to get the reality.

          In realty, Trump supporters aren’t the poorest in society, just like gilet jaune aren’t the poorest in society. It many cases, the gilet jaune and the average Trump supporter are the petit bourgeois – small-business owners, property owners and inheritors, technicians, electricians, plumbers, policemen, firemen, and other highly skilled workers.

          Not the elite of society, but at the same time, they only consider themselves the lowest of society because of course, the immigrants aren’t even part of French society.

          In many ways, Marcon’s policies are terrible, but this is one of his less terrible ones – people should have to pay the actual price for the damage they inflict of the environment, not for it to continue to be subsidized.

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        • The globalised metropolises are the new citadels of the 21st century – rich and unequal, where even the former lower-middle class no longer has a place. Instead, large global cities work on a dual dynamic: gentrification and immigration. This is the paradox: the open society results in a world increasingly closed to the majority of working people.

          This model only works if you exclude immigrants from the category of working people.

          There is a similar problem in the US when people speak of the white working class, as if people of color and immigrants aren’t working class. For that matter, the relatively wealthy are still working class, as well. Between my wife and me, we have a relatively high household income, but we still have to work. We don’t have family money. We’re not living off of interest or rents.

          Really, maybe this whole 19th century conception of class analysis is wholly unfit for 2018 and beyond. Partly, we are struggling under the weight of models that no longer fit.

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          • Here’s an updated model of Class Analysis you might (or might not) like… I think it has some interesting insights.

            But I still think its weird to keep US parameters and arguments on what seems to be something that’s scrambling Left/Right Center establishment assumptions throughout the West.

            My original observation is that business as usual would have hit HRC, is hitting Merkel, is thumping Macron, and overtook Italy.

            To say “but what about immigrants” begs the question… what about immigrants?

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            • … a bureaucratic, managerial group in both the private and public sectors displaced an older, owner-operator-investor bourgeoisie. In this view, modern advanced industrial societies are divided chiefly among two classes. One is a substantial managerial-professional minority, as large as 30 percent or so if all recipients of college degrees are included in it, but arguably no more than the top 10 or 15 percent. The other is the working class, increasingly working in the nontraded domestic service sector as manufacturing jobs are eliminated by a combination of offshoring and automation.

              I actually think that this is a very good model for understanding the present. You could probably break it down a little further and say that there is a 0.1% of extremely wealthy global elites, an aspirational 10 to 15 percent trying to work towards the 0.1%, and another 20 or so percent of college-educated professionals and small-business owners, all of whom have a measure of social capital that can largely allude the members of the bottom 60 percent (I think that this helps explains for-profit universities).

              I also think it is worth pointing out that most of the populist sentiment, be it from the left or the right, isn’t actually coming from the “working class.” It’s coming from the people in the margins of the managerial class who are worried that they or their children are headed the wrong way.

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              • Good, I agree that the framing is more helpful given the current trends.

                And I think that your gloss is a key point… the fact that chunks of middle and even upper-middle class folks are experiencing the economic growth as an ebbing tide is precisely the contradiction we’re struggling to explain and deal with.

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              • j r: I also think it is worth pointing out that most of the populist sentiment, be it from the left or the right, isn’t actually coming from the “working class.” It’s coming from the people in the margins of the managerial class who are worried that they or their children are headed the wrong way.

                That’s been the case every since classically liberal revolutions were replaced by more socialistic revolutions post 1848. (for the classically liberal revolutions, it was people on the margins, or actually in, the managerial class merely wanting to have some formal political power that they almost entirely lacked)

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          • Really, maybe this whole 19th century conception of class analysis is wholly unfit for 2018 and beyond.

            If protestors start using an 18th century conception of class, we’re going to start seeing some really interesting analysis on their part.

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        • Thank you for the link, it was enlightening.

          At the heart of Guilluy’s inquiry is globalization. Internationalizing the division of labor has brought significant economic efficiencies. But it has also brought inequalities unseen for a century, demographic upheaval, and cultural disruption. Now we face the question of what—if anything—we should do about it.

          His descriptions sound familiar- an urban knowledge elite who only need compete among themselves, and a rural workforce in free fall to compete with the 3rd World.

          Its a hollow joke to tell these people that they should be happy that the GDP is higher and billions of Chinese and Indians are now lifted out of poverty.

          But it is also a lie to tell them that if the immigrants were banished, the good times would return.

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          • I think its fine to tell them that banishing immigrants won’t bring back the good times; but then admitting that we shipped the good times offshore, externalized lots of environmental and labor costs that we don’t want to pay for here so we don’t there, and that immigration is just a symbolic defection of the managerial class wasn’t as well received as HRC hoped it would be. But I paraphrase.

            That’s the challenge the Neo-Lib-Con Center has… everything is working as intended. {Its working GREAT for me, for now} But increasingly large numbers of people no longer believe that the Center/Managerial class is working for anyone other than themselves. So, how does the Center course correct from the correct course? That’s the question.

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            • The liberal/leftist response was that the Cold War dividend turned out not to be a dividend. Rather than invest a lot of money in generous social programs, the response was to start gutting the social programs for a variety of reasons and the wealthy were taking more and more wealth for themselves. If the peace dividend was used in a more social democratic manner rather than a neo-liberal one, we would not have these problems.

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                • That was not going to happen. Bill Clinton had to make some big lie about not inhaling marijuana even though millions of white people his age at least tried it once when they were young like he. The war on crime and the war on drugs was still high.

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              • Rather than invest a lot of money in generous social programs, the response was to start gutting the social programs for a variety of reasons and the wealthy were taking more and more wealth for themselves.

                Show me the numbers. Everything else is bedtime stories.

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              • Well, I’m not sure that’s a really great response?

                Do you think AOC is going to run around talking about a misspent peace dividend from 30-yrs ago? I don’t. Nor should she. How would that be a plan for the way forward in Ohio or anywhere outside the Paris banlieues?

                Plus, I’m not 100% certain that the impulse towards “social programs” is quite on mark… there’s a very real sense that “social programs” are a dodge for avoiding new economic patterns that distribute the wealth where wealth is created; admittedly its partly a cultural and economic shift, but one of the areas I think the Left is getting played by the Corporate Left is 1) faux social policing that cost them nothing, and 2) possible “social programs” that are fixed and determinable that prevent them from addressing wealth consolidation.

                The Old Left has not the answers… I haven’t seen anything from the New Left either, and I’m not sure the answer will even come from the “Left” at all. I’m not saying it will come from the Right, so don’t misread me… but peace dividends and social programs are ideas best left in 1989.

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                • Maybe what needs to be left behind is the term “social programs”.

                  Like we’ve mentioned here before, there are plenty of ways to funnel tax revenue into different pockets, without earning the label “social programs.”

                  Like funding a new Space Force fighter for 10 trillion dollars, with make-work jobs in every neighborhood building gizmos and whatnot, along with support infrastructure and housing for the workers.

                  Whether the damn thing flies or not is wholly irrelevant.

                  OK, ok, I kid and exaggerate.

                  But more seriously, cities can use new technology to issue free scooters or zip cars as a public utility. Not a social program, just good governance.
                  Or public broadband, public colleges, public mass transit infrastructure or postal savings bank, or microlending for startups…

                  Making it cheaper to get around or cheaper to get educated or cheaper to get healed is the same as issuing every citizen a check, but no one sees it that way.

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              • Right at the end of the Cold war was when crime was at its historical maximum in the US and local city governance was at its most dysfunctional.

                Attempting to plop down a New New Deal on such a shaky foundation would have not worked, probably been a disaster, and possibly created a reactionary backlash that makes Nixon and even Trump seem quaint.

                Now, it is also true that what we did – escalate the War on Drugs to historically high levels – wasn’t the answer either. But in the end, by 2000, however it happened, American society was a better place – and for all segments of society (class, race, gender).

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