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Either the Eurozone as we know it is dead or Italy goes out – latest research

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/04/2021 - 5:01pm in

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Eurozone, Music

It’s Wednesday and my snippet day, which just means I don’t write as much so that I can write more elsewhere. But today, I summarise some research that has just been released which seeks to assess the sensitivity of the commitment by the Italian population to the euro to tolerating further austerity. The research finds that if the technocrats start forcing Italy into austerity measures via a return to the Excessive Deficit Mechanism (and enforcement of the Stability and Growth Pact fiscal rules) then the majority will prefer to leave the Economic and Monetary Union. The majority are happy to retain the euro but only if there is no austerity and structural reforms imposed on the nation. This is a big swing in public sentiment and will give the neoliberals in Brussels one huge headache. Either their neoliberal monetary union is done, or they will face instability from one of the largest euro economies.

So Brussels is being warned

I read an interesting academic study over the last weekend – Till austerity do us part? A survey experiment on support for the euro in Italy – which was published in the journal, European Union Politics.

The study by Lucio Baccaro, Björn Bremer and Erik Neimanns, who are associated with the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, in Cologne, Germany investigated the sensitivity of Italians to the decision to remain in the Eurozone or not.

Specifically, the research asked:

… how Italian voters would evaluate the trade-off between remaining in the euro and implementing austerity in case of a fiscal crisis. To what extent would they accept the costs of austerity for the promise of a bailout and continued membership in the common currency?

They note that when a Member State can no longer “fund itself” (remembering the 19 states use a foreign currency – the euro) then they can access the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) but only if they accept the requirement to impose “austerity measures and structural reforms as a condition for assistance”, which are deeply unpopular.

They used survey data where they posed “six different hypothetical scenarios to elicit preferences for the trade-off between austerity and euro membership”.

You can read the paper yourself to dive more deeply into their methodology.

Their conclusions:

1. “in the control group, a majority of respondents favours remaining in the euro”. No surprise.

2. But, “informing participants about the conditionality associated with a bailout package changes the majority for remaining in the euro into a majority for ‘Italexit’.”

That result has been brewing for some time.

Remember that Italy had a much lower support tolerance for remaining in the euro than other Member States before the pandemic.

3. “Overall, our results suggest that opposition to further austerity trumps support for the euro in Italy.”

4. While they used a number of other variables to condition the analysis, the “dominant effect of austerity” stood out.

5. While citizens in the Southern European states are “cross-pressured: “on the one hand, they are opposed to austerity; on the other hand, they are attached to the euro” and the latter attachment has been dominant, this study found that the situation is now very different.

A majority of Italians now are no longer prepared to endure the costs of austerity just to remain in the Eurozone.

If remaining requires austerity, then the respondents preferred to exit and take their chances.

So if this research is reliable then it presents the technocrats and neoliberals in Brussels with a major headache.

Essentially, it spells the end of the Eurozone as they have constructed it.

Effectively, the stability of Italy within the EMU, if these survey results are indicative, depends on the continued relaxation of the Stability and Growth Pact rules, which were relaxed under the extreme circumstances allowances within the Treaty annexe.

As soon as the Commission starts reasserting the Excessive Deficits mechanism, which will require massive austerity to bring the nations back within the fiscal outcomes dictated by the fiscal rules, then the instability will intensify.

In other words, the fiscal rules are dead or Italy will be pressured by its citizens to leave.

Further, implicit in all of this is the fact that the ECB continues to fund the Member State deficits through its various government bond buying programs.

If you reflect on that reality then you see how nonsensical the whole arrangement has become.

It set out in the Maastricht process to be the exemplar of mainstream macroeconomic thinking – tight fiscal rules imposed on Member States, no bailouts from the central bank, and all the rest of it.

But in 2021 it has become the exact opposite of that surplus-biased mentality.

It is now ‘allowing’ Member States to run whatever deficits they like, even though none of them have any currency sovereignty, and to make that work, the system is allowing the central bank to fund these deficits and keep funding costs around zero or better.

Think about that for a moment.

An amazing state. And expect the technocrats and mouthpieces to continue denying all this as they try to work out how they can get their neoliberal show back on the road.

While people die in droves because they cannot even organise a vaccination process effectively.

Music – J.J. Johnson

This is what I have been listening to while working this morning.

This song – Gone with the Wind – features – Jay Jay Johnson – on trombone and was released on his 1957 album – Blue Trombone (Columbia Records).

I put this record on when I just want to cruise along in a hard bop sort of way and collect my thoughts etc.

The foot doesn’t stop while listening but it clears the mind a bit.

J.J. Johnson was a pioneer of the trombone in the bepop tradition, making the transition for the instrument from trad jazz and dixieland music into bebop.

The early bebop bands didn’t particular favour the trombone because they considered the sliding intonation (rather than the valve-based trumpets etc) was ill-suited to the fast tempo changes that characterised the genre.

J.J. Johnson proved them wrong and it was – Dizzy Gillepsie – who gave him his break.

He had a terrific career, particularly during his Blue Note label period

After contracting cancer, and still mourning the death of his wife, he committed suicide in 2001 at the age of 71.

The other players (who were in the J.J. Johnson Quartet) are:

1. Tommy Flanagan (piano).

2. Paul Chambers (bass).

3. Max Roach (drums)

Before the more modern bass players turned the bass into a solo instrument, Paul Chambers created beautiful bowed solos on his double bass and played with Miles Davis for 8 years betweeo 1955 and 1963.

Unfortunately, he was an alcoholic and became addicted to heroin and died of tuberculosis at the age of 33. A big loss.

Max Roach is, well, Max Roach – one of the greatest drummers in the history of bebop.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2021 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

That Real Shit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/04/2021 - 4:19am in

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Music


Nobody sounded like X. If he wasn’t your favorite rapper then he was better than your favorite. He rapped in a way no one else could. He didn’t ride beats so much as drive them, and when they didn’t suit him he rolled right over them. Irv Gotti, then an A&R rep at Def Jam, tried to capitalize off the stunning early success of Ja Rule, Jay-Z and DMX by forming a supergroup called Murder Inc. It fell apart almost immediately, and it’s easy to see why. You can’t have a man gunning for the title of King of New York and Best Rapper Alive in a group with someone who doesn't even seem to recognize the legitimacy of the throne.

Graham Linehan’s Trans Day of Visibility: It’s Against a Harmful Ideology, Not People

I’m almost two weeks late writing about this, but I think it needs to be covered. On the last day of March, Graham Linehan and his conversationalists on The Mess We’re In channel held their own Trans Day of Visibility. As well as being the writer behind the awesome Father Ted, Linehan is very much a male feminist. He’s become notorious over the past few years for his opposition to the transgender ideology, along with Kellie-Jay Kean, Abigail Shrier, Benjamin Boyce, and the host of another YouTube channel, You’re Kidding, Right?. This last lady presents the arguments against the ideology from the perspective of a Black American woman, which is very enlightening. Especially when she forcefully tells the trans rights activists not to true to compare their ideology to the Civil Rights movement. One of her critics tried to tell her that she was the equivalent of the Klan. Her antecedents came from Georgia when the Klan were powerful and extremely frightening. She made it very, very clear that she was nothing like the Klan. But I digress.

Linehan is joined on his videos with Welsh feminist Helen Staniland and gay Canadian Arty Morty. Morty is, by his own admission, very much a part of the Canadian gay scene and worked as a bar man in a trans bar. Staniland is concerned about the threat to women and girls from biological men being allowed into female spaces on the grounds that they identify as women. Morty is particularly concerned that gender reassignment is being used as a form of conversion therapy to ‘cure’ gender non-conforming children and teens by parents who are afraid that their children will grow up gay. He’s particularly concerned as he was one of these kids. As a boy, he preferred to play with dolls, and he’s afraid that if he was a child today, he would have been put down as transgender and been put on the path to transition.

It was the ‘trans day of visibility’ a few weeks ago, and so Linehan and his friends have as guests in this video their transgender friends and supporters – Debbie Hayton, Miranda Yardlemort, Scott Newgent, and a transman who appears simply as Aaron. These gents and ladies give their perspective on the dangers of trans movement and ideology as transmen and women, and how they came to oppose it.

They did so for a variety of reasons. In the case of Yardlemort, it was through looking at what the gender critical feminists actually wrote for herself, and being horrified at the grotesquely exaggerated response by the trans activists to entirely reasonable points as well as the way opposing feminists were stalked, abused and maltreated. She was also concerned by the way the pro-trans stance of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Women actually invalidates those rights and endangers women. She was thrown off Twitter for such crimes as saying that there are only two genders, transwomen shouldn’t be allowed into women’s spaces, and that rape and death threat to women aren’t acceptable. Yardlemort has also suffered her share of bullying from trans activists, as when one tried to take her to court for alleged ‘transphobia’.

Debbie Hayton joined the anti-trans movement because she was afraid that their extreme claims would actually damage the trans movement, and make trans people less accepted. She argues that being gender critical does not mean being anti-trans. She and Helen Staniland looked back to a time when transwomen and women were largely in harmony with each other, although there was occasional conflicts over the inclusion of transwomen in female-only events, such as the Michfest women-only music festival.

They also talk about the vexed issues of pronouns. The attitude of Arty Morty is that, while he doesn’t believe that there should be laws demanding transgender people be referred to be their chosen pronouns, he has no problem doing so for decent people. It’s only the misogynists he refuses to call ‘she’.

Aaron made it very clear that he believes transitioning is beneficial for some people. It worked for him, but he didn’t have a mental illness. This is important, as some of those being diagnosed a transgender may simply be mentally ill or have a neurological condition like autism. He turned against the trans ideology three years ago from concerns about the homophobia. He’s afraid that the excesses of the trans activists, such as the attacks on J.K. Rowling, will eventually lead to a ban on transitions, which will harm those who really need them. He is also afraid, like Linehan, Staniland, Morty and the others, that children and vulnerable adults are being misdiagnosed as trans and consequently mutilated. Debbie Orlander also shares this fear, especially when it comes to children as young as four or five.

Scott Newgent makes the point that part of the problem is medical corporations, who stand to make a profit from these drugs and treatments, telling vulnerable people they have the solution. This is compounded by social media, as Twitter and other sites will not allow the opposing side to be heard. He also makes the point that the trans ideology is supported by genuinely good people, who want to do the right thing, and have been falsely persuaded that the trans issue is the same as gay rights and comparable to the struggle over gay marriage. He believes that there is a positive side to trans activism, but this is a problem as its acceptance leads also to the acceptance of the negative aspects as well. He and the others also take down some of the ridiculously inflated and entirely false claims of the trans activists. Over here in the Blighty, the trans activists wanted a ‘trans day of remembrance’ for all the transgender people, who’ve been murdered. Except the numbers of transgender people who’ve been killed over here is vanishingly small. No transpeople have been killed in Scotland, for example. Newgent makes the same point about similar claims in his part of the US. He attended a talk about trans rights, in which the speaker claimed that trans children in his state of South Dakota were in danger of committing suicide. Except they weren’t. No trans children have committed suicide there.

The peeps do, however, express concerns that these threats and prophecies of suicide may be self-fulling. There is the danger that people, who have been misled into transitioning, may kill themselves when they find that it is not the cure they have been promised. Lesbian girls may be particularly affected by this. One of them talks about how they’re horrified by the the people, who’ve been physically harmed by the treatment – people with osteopathy and shrunken hearts due to puberty blockers and the hormones they’ve been prescribed. There’s also the case of the medical doctor, who contacted Linehan in distress at being officially barred from telling upset trans people that J.K. Rowling does not in fact want to kill them.

The team talk about the toxicity and violence of the trans activists. One of them physically attacked a gender critical feminist, Cathy Brennan, at Speaker’s Corner, a situation made all the worse by the actions of Stonewall, the gay advocacy organisation. They also criticise the left for its handling of the debate. They state that the left is undemocratic, intolerant of free speech and has a problem with racism and misogyny. Stonewall by its actions over a number of issues has provoked a backlash, of which the gender critical movement is only one part.

Hayton is optimistic, believing that more people are turning against the trans movement and being aware how it affects women’s rights and children’s safeguarding, as well as the way it harms transpeople themselves. Fionne, another transwoman, is also optimistic, noting the success of the Keira Bell case. Like Aaron, she believes that medical transition should be an option, but only for adults, not children, who need psychotherapy and a more diverse approach. She believes that transpeople have made a mistake in demanding access to women’s spaces, and should instead have demanded their own, third spaces. Yardlemort actually emailed a number of LGBTQ organisations about the need for gay spaces away from transpeople, but none of them replied.

The team also debate whether Donald Trump was the only person, who would have been able to stop the progress of trans ideology. They feel we need more people like J.K. Rowlings, who stand up to the trans lobby simply out of principle without any benefit to themselves. Newgent states that he has sacrificed his own career for his principles. He states that when it comes to the treatment of children,

I am very much aware that this is a very emotive issue and that many of my readers don’t share my views on this topic. However, I strongly believe that Linehan and his guests here are correct, and that vulnerable people, particularly women and children, are being unnecessarily put on life-changing, harmful medical treatment. And there is a problem with biological men being allowed into female-only spaces, such as prisons. There have been a series of rapes of women prisoners by biological men, who have been placed in women’s prisons because they have identified, or claimed to identify, as women.

I don’t hate transgender people, and definitely don’t wish anyone to come to any harm, much less be killed. But there are genuine dangers here, but unfortunately the climate of liberal opinion and many ‘official’ gay organisations, like Stonewall, mean that the gender critical side is silenced and their arguments not heard.

As you can see from this video, Linehan and his friends very definitely don’t hate transpeople, although they do discuss some extremely dangerous and predatory individuals. And they clearly have friends and supporters in the trans community, who share their concerns.

At the very least, they need to be heard and listened to. The topic should not be the monopoly of intolerant trans activists.

The Mainstream Worldview Is As Garbage As Mainstream Music And Movies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/04/2021 - 9:59pm in

I hate the mainstream scoff.

Do you know the mainstream scoff? It’s the scoff people who’ve been indoctrinated into the mainstream worldview make when you say something which falls outside that worldview. Something like “Nothing of substance has changed since the Trump administration.” Or “The west sided with al Qaeda in Syria.” Or “Check out this link to an article from an alternative media outlet.”

It’s any kind of swift, vapid dismissal someone makes when you offer a perspective that isn’t a part of the mainstream perspective, solely on the basis that it is not part of the mainstream perspective. A laugh. A “Pfft!”. A “LOL”. A laugh-cry emoji. Whatever form it takes, the dismissal can be summed up as “That’s a fringe position, so I’m dismissing it.” Which is really just saying “That’s not how they told me it works on CNN, therefore it’s not real.”

One of the many major obstacles to spreading awareness of what’s really going on in the world is the widespread belief that the mainstream worldview is mainstream because it is better. More accurate, more sensible, more reflective of objective reality. And of course this is nonsense. The mainstream perspective isn’t mainstream because it is better, it’s mainstream because wealthy and powerful people have poured a vast amount of energy and wealth into making it mainstream.

That’s why it’s such a joke that someone who sits in the ideological middle ground between the warmongering corporatist Democratic Party and the warmongering corporatist Republican Party gets labeled a “moderate” or a “centrist”. There’s nothing moderate or middle-of-the-road about supporting war and corporatism; it’s actually a violent extremist position. Someone who sits between two corporatist warmonger parties isn’t a moderate, they’re a corporatist warmonger. But because so much wealth and energy has been poured into ensuring that both mainstream liberalism and mainstream conservatism support the interests of oligarchs and the war machine in the United States, the middle ground between them gets labeled moderate.

In reality it makes no more sense to say that the mainstream worldview is mainstream because it’s the best worldview than it does to say mainstream music or mainstream movies are mainstream because they’re the best. Hollywood movies are artless garbage and so is the conveyor belt pop music that gets churned out and marketed to mainstream demographics today. They’re popular not because they deeply profoundly move people, open their eyes, leave them changed forever, or take them on journeys into parts of themselves that they never knew were there, but because a lot of money was spent promoting contrived escapist candy to a stressed and overworked population.

The news media are owned by giant megacorporations and billionaires. The modern schooling system was constructed by plutocrats for the purpose of molding new generations to turn the gears of industry. Hollywood movies are routinely co-authored by the CIA, NSA, and Pentagon. Scientists have shown that popular music has become more homogeneous and formulaic than ever before. There is no reason to believe that something is good because it is mainstream, least of all information and perspectives. Across the board it’s ruling elites who dictate what’s mainstream, not the people.

And so now here we are, drifting through a psychologically enslaved civilization where culture is manufactured for the convenience of the powerful and everything’s shallow and phony. America is the bastion of liberty and democracy. Soldiers fight for your freedom. Capitalism is working fine. The TV would never lie to you. Everything’s exactly as it seems. Stop thinking and dance to this song about money and butts.

We float rootless in the current of power and profit motives which have nothing to do with us. Without any grounding in truth. Without any grounding in art. Without any grounding in depth or authenticity. An ocean of blaring screens and billboards full of idiotic nonsense being marketed to minds that have been warped by idiotic nonsense through a worldview which consists of nothing but idiotic nonsense, as far as the eye can see.

And nobody’s really fine with it. Everyone’s starving for truth, desperately hungry for reality; they just don’t know where to go for it because their entire field of perception is cluttered with fake, power-serving bullshit.

That’s really what we’re here for, at this point in history. To help point each other to the truth. To help one another sink our roots into something real. To expose the lies of the mainstream manipulators and show each other what’s really going on. To create real art and real culture that arises from sincere encounters with our inner leviathans instead of being cooked up by a bunch of suits around some corporate conference table. To help life blossom between the cracks in the concrete of social control. To create glitches in the matrix.

And there will be scoffs. Of course there will be. But we keep sowing seeds, keep throwing sand in the gears of the machine, because what the hell else are we going to do? Either humanity will rise to the occasion and move from the artificial hallucinations into a meeting with reality, or it will follow the mainstream worldview into the oblivion of extinction. All we can do in the meantime is try our level best to coax those eyes open.

___________________________

New book: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix.

The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

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Advanced nations must increase their foreign aid

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/04/2021 - 6:08pm in

Its Wednesday and only a short blog post day. I have been following the disaster unfolding in Timor-Leste over the last few days as I continue to compile research material as part of the development of a plan to increase the resilience of the Island state. We know that accumulating new public infrastructure is a key to the growth process. It crowds-in private investment, which leverages off the capacity provided by such infrastructure. A lack of essential public infrastructure is a major aspect of poverty and exclusion. While natural disasters impact on all nations when afflicted, the problem for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Timor-Leste is that they regularly face major capital destruction as a result of natural disasters and do not have the capacity to defend themselves and reduce the consequences of the events. Climate change is rendering this problem more severe. This is where the creation of a new multilateral agency to replace the corrupt IMF is necessary.

Timor-Leste – the development challenge

Like most nations, Timor-Leste is now fighting the coronavirus.

The last thing that it needed was for a natural disaster to necessitate the crowding in of people in emergency shelters where any sense of social distancing was near impossible.

But as we know, that is exactly what happened.

The pictures coming out of the nation have been devastating.

While flooding is not uncommon during the wet season in the region, what happened in the last week has been of another scale.

The floods and mud torrents have wiped out houses, bridges and roads in the island state. And the accumulation of rubble has meant assessing the full-scale of the crisis has been difficult, including gaining access to survivors, especially, in the regional areas outside of Dili.

With so much water around, the next problem is the waterborne diseases such as typhoid, cholera, etc.

There are economists who think that natural disasters have a beneficial effect on less advanced nations – the so-called ‘blessings in disguise’ idea.

The notion draws on Joseph Schumpeter’s concept of – Creative Destruction – which posits that out of industrial turmoil, the economic structure of a nation is revolutionised with the strong squeezing out the weak firms.

As a result, the conjecture is that the economy becomes more efficient (lower cost of production) and grows more strongly.

Schumpeter, got the idea from Marx and Engels, who in – The Communist Manifest – of 1848, wrote that (p.17):

Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity – the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.

I have always loved that characterisation of economic crises driven by a shortfall in overall spending. Marx knew about macroeconomics long before Keynes articulated the same idea about effective demand.

Marx refined this idea of the destructive characteristics of economic crises in Chapter 17, Volume II of the epic – Theories of Surplus Value – published in 1863 where he wrote (p.496):

the destruction of capital through crises means the depreciation of values which prevents them from later renewing their reproduction process as capital on the same scale. This is the ruinous effect of the fall in the prices of commodities. It does not cause the destruction of any use-values. What one loses, the other gains. Values used as capital are prevented from acting again as capital in the hands of the same person. The old capitalists go bankrupt. If the value of the commodities from whose sale a capitalist reproduces his capital was equal to £ 12,000, of which say £ 2,000 were profit, and their price falls to £ 6,000, then the capitalist can neither meet his contracted obligations nor, even if he had none, could he, with the £ 6,000 restart his business on the former scale, for the commodity prices have risen once more to the level of their cost-prices. In this way, £ 6,000 has been destroyed, although the buyer of these commodities, because he has acquired them at half their cost-price, can go ahead very well once business livens up again, and may even have made a profit. A large part of the nominal capital of the society, i.e., of the exchange-value of the existing capital, is once for all destroyed, although this very destruction, since it does not affect the use-value, may very much expedite the new reproduction. This is also the period during which moneyed interest enriches itself at the cost of industrial interest.

Marx did not fully anticipate the rise of monopoly capitalism, where concentrated sectors dominated by large firms, have greater capacity to withstand crises and maintain their nominal capital intact.

Schumpeter built on Marx’s views but instead of seeing crises as the manifestation of the inherent contradictory, self-destruction of Capitalism (Marx), he rather saw the process of capital being destroyed and recreated as a creative, beneficial process.

Development economists who call on this idea of creative destruction – claiming that such crises provide opportunities to purge inefficient sectors and to add resilience and efficiency – however somewhat miss the boat when it comes to the type of disasters that less-advanced nations in the Pacific region face on a regular basis.

The ‘blessings in disguise’ approach is inherent in mainstream neoclassical growth theory, which posits that natural disasters do not impact negatively on the rate of technological progressin the long-run.

Marx and Engels were talking about the capital that owners of the material means of production hold. The aim of Capitalism is to convert nominal capital (money) into productive capital (machinery etc) to produce surplus value, which can be realised as profits and return a larger stock of money capital the so-called M-C-M’ cycle that typifies Marx’s approach to capital accumulation.

But the problem facing these island nations goes beyond the damage that natural disasters cause to the profitability and the private capital accumulation process.

The process of growth for any nation requires the accumulation of both productive and social capital, such as public infrastructure (roads, bridges, transport systems, telecommunications, water supply, power, etc).

Usually, it is the latter that crowds in the former as private sector investors take advantage of the growing stock of public capital and leverate profit-seeking opportunities.

For advanced nations with large capital stocks – both private and public – a natural disaster can interrupt the accumulation process but usually not derail it.

In the last 2 years, Australia, for example, has had widespread bushfire trauma and then the recent floods (which are still abating).

These events are disruptive but the capacity of the nation to quickly restore opportunities is large and the disruption is short-lived, which is not to say, the problems do not cause considerable trauma for those impacted the most.

But less-advanced nations lack this capacity to defend themselves against natural disasters and minimise the negative consequence of them

There is nothing creative or a ‘blessing’ about having a large proportion of a nation’s public infrastructure wiped out regularly by major weather events.

In ordinary times, the so-called Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face the prospect of losing a considerable proportion of their capital stock when a major weather event occurs.

The SIDS face multiple developmental challenges at the best of times – isolation, fragmented islands making up the nation, remoteness from major shipping routes (which increases the difficulty of creating export opportunities), dependence on imports for food, energy etc.

But then to have to regularly deal with the destruction of essential infrastructure makes the challenge that much harder.

And now, climate change has meant that these events are no longer just ordinary capital depletion disasters.

The intensity and frequency of these events are increasing and the capacity of the nations to rebuild their capital to get the process of development restarted is now reduced.

When Hurricane Irma struct the Caribbean in September 2017, 1.7 million people were displaced and Barbuda lost 90 per cent of its infrastructure (Source).

50 per cent of its population became homeless.

The current chaos and destruction in Timor-Leste will be similarly detrimental.

What the advanced nations need to do is recognise that they have currency sovereignty which means their foreign aid allocations can increase dramatically to help the SIDS deal with the regularity of capital destruction and to provide buffers to deal with climate change.

The IMF needs to be dissolved and a new multilateral body created to funnel capital into these vulnerable nations from the advanced nations without the sort of neoliberal conditionality that essentially makes it impossible for these nations to develop in any coherent way.

I am working on a plan for Timor-Leste which requires it to spend more of its oil revenue immediately and abandon the dollarisation.

More on that another day.

And I hope all my friends in TL are safe at present.

Music – My latest album

This is what I have been listening to while working this morning.

I often feature albums I have had for years (decades) but sometimes a fabulous new release takes my breath away.

Such is the latest release on Blue Note records – Breathe (no pun intended) – which became available on March 26, 2021. I am an early adopter!

It is from master organ player – Dr Lonnie Smith – who is now 78 years of age and has been a Blue Note staple.

Here is a – Review.

Lonnie Smith is one of the reasons I love Hammond B3 organs.

He played a lot with George Benson and Lou Donaldson.

If you are wanting some chill out today then this is it.

The track is World Weeps – one of Dr Lonnie’s own tracks.

It was recorded live in 2017 at New York’s Jazz Standard to celebrate his 75th birthday.

The other players are:

1. Jonathan Kreisberg – guitar.

2. Johnathan Black – drums.

3. Richard Bravo – percussion.

The Dr bit has nothing to do with medical training or a PhD in another discipline.

It is because he loves to “’doctor up’ their music” (Source)

Very cool record.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2021 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Tory Flag-Waving Now Reaching Reaganite Proportions

Patriotism, someone once said, is the last refuge of the scoundrel. And the Tories have done their best to show how true this is, especially last week when it seemed that they wasted no opportunity to wave the flag. This also led them to generate more synthetic outrage towards the BBC. Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty raised Tory ire when Stayt joked about the relatively small size of the union flag on display during an interview with Matt Hancock or one of the other Tory ministers. This led to howls from the Tory press that the Beeb was sneering at the flag. They weren’t. They were laughing about the Tory’s sheer opportunistic use of it.

It’s no accident that they’ve started waving the flag in the weeks running up to the local elections. Their performance on health, the economy, Brexit and just about everything else has been dire. They’re still trying to privatise the health service by stealth, they insulted the nurses with a 2 per cent pay rise, which is in real terms a cut in their salaries, wages are still frozen, more people are being forced into real, grinding poverty, the queues at the food banks are as long as ever, or longer. The Brexit that Boris has been so desperate to ‘get done’ is spelling disaster for Britain’s manufacturing industry, and businesses dealing with the continent and ordinary Brits wishing to travel abroad are now faced with mountains of paperwork and bureaucracy. Bureaucracy which the Brexiteers blithely assured us wouldn’t happen. Hopefully this year will see us coming out of lockdown and the Coronavirus crisis. We’ve a far higher rate of peeps receiving the vaccine than the EU, but that shouldn’t distract attention from the colossal way the Tories have mismanaged the Covid crisis as a whole. As Mike’s pointed out in one of his articles, Tory bungling and corruption – they gave vital medical contracts to companies owned and run by their friends and supporters, rather than to firms that could actually deliver – that over 100,000 people have died of the disease. One of the good peeps on Twitter has shown how this compares to the numbers killed in some of the genocides and ethnic massacres that have plagued recent decades. And the report, which was supposed to show that Britain isn’t institutionally racist, has been torn to shreds with some of the academics cited claiming they were not properly consulted and seeking to distance themselves from it. And then there are the mass demonstrations up and down the land against their attempts to outlaw any demonstration or protest they don’t like under the guise that it would be a nuisance.

And so, with all this discontent, they’ve fallen back to Thatcher’s tactics of waving the flag at every opportunity. One of the hacks at the Absurder in the 1980s said that Britain had three parties – the patriotic party, who were the Tories, the loony party, which was Labour, and the sensible party, which was the SDP/Liberals. Which showed you the paper’s liberal bias even then. The SDP, Liberals and their successors, the Lib Dems. have sold out utterly, while after four decades of Thatcherism Michael Foot’s Labour party looks far less than loony. But the hack was right about the Tories and patriotism. Thatcher waved the flag as frantically as she could and constantly invoked the spirit of Winston Churchill and World War II. One particularly memorable example of this was the Tory 1987 election broadcast, which featured Spitfires zipping about the sky while an overexcited voice told the world ‘Man was born free’ and concluded ‘It’s great to be great again’.

Here’s another feature of Fascism that’s been adopted by the Tories to add to those on Mike’s checklist. Fascism is an ideology of national rebirth and revival. Thatcher was claiming she was making us great again, just as Donald Trump claimed he was doing for America. Just as Oswald Mosley called one of his wretched books The Greater Britain. And unfortunately, as Zelo Street has also pointed out, Fascists like the Nazis have also used people’s natural loyalty to their flag as a means of generating support for their repulsive regimes. British Fascism was no different. Mosley also made great use of the flag at his rallies, and this tactic was taken over by his successors in the National Front and BNP. This has been an embarrassment to ordinary, non-racist Brits, who simply like the flag. One of my friends at school was a mod. At the time, the union flag and British bulldog formed a large part of mod imagery without meaning that the person was a racist or White supremacist. During one of the art lessons my friend started painting a picture with those two elements – the union flag and bulldog. The teacher came over and politely asked him not to do so, as he was afraid people would like at it and come to the wrong conclusion. This was just after the 1981/2 race riots, so you can understand why. But it is frustrating and infuriating that ordinary expressions of reasonable patriotism or simple pop culture iconography have become suspect due to their appropriation by the Far Right.

But the real excesses of flag-waving were to be seen over the other side of the Pond in Reagan’s America. Reagan was wrecking his country with privatisation and an assault on what the country had in the way of a welfare state, while murdering the people of countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua by supporting Fascist dictators and their death squads. But, like Thatcher, he did everything he could to use the symbols of American nationhood. Like the Stars and Stripes. A Republican party political broadcast in 1984 or thereabouts showed the American flag being raised no less than 37 times. This was so bizarrely excessive that one of the Beeb’s foreign correspondents commented on it. As far as I am aware, no-one took him to task for sneering at it.

This flag-waving is part of the Tories attempts to present themselves as the preservers of British national identity, tradition and pride against the assaults of the left, particularly Black Lives Matter and their attacks on statues. I’m not impressed with the attacks on some of the monuments, like that of Winston Churchill, even though he was a racist. But in Bristol the only statue attacked was that of the slavery and philanthropist Edward Colston. None of the other statues in and around Bristol’s town centre of Edmund Burke, Queen Victoria, Neptune and the sailors who made my city a great port, were touched. And then there was the protest last week against the new school uniform policy at Pimlico Academy in London. This ruled out the wearing of large afro hair styles. So the students started protesting it was racist. The headmaster also raised the union flag, which led the statement from one of the students, Amna Mukhtar, that it weirdly felt like they were being colonised. And then some idiot burnt the flag in protest. The headmaster has now rescinded the school’s uniform code and taken the flag down. Now I gather that one of the Tories is now calling for every school to fly the union flag.

It all reminds me of the comments the late, great comedian Bill Hicks made when Reagan and his supporters were flying the flag and their outrage when a young member of the Communist party burned it. After making jokes about the Reaganite rage and hysteria, Hicks said that he didn’t want anyone to burn the flag, but burning wouldn’t take away freedom, because it’s freedom. Including the freedom to burn the flag.

Quite. And the Tories are wrecking our country and taking away our freedoms while cynically waving the flag.

So when they start spouting about it, use your scepticism and think of Hick’s comment instead. And vote for someone else.

My blog is on holiday today

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 05/04/2021 - 9:14am in

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Music, Personal

My blog is on holiday today in the nation’s capital. It was safe to be here because all the politicians and their advisors have gone back home! Last night I saw the fabulous Demons outsmart the Giants (who seem to think punching behind play is the way forward). It was great to see the old MCG manual scoreboard (which was transplanted to Manuka Oval in Canberra when the MGC was rebuilt (some say modernised). Anyway, tomorrow we will be back, but for the rest of the day, you might listen to some music provided below.

The old MCG Scoreboard

I spent many hours at the Melbourne Cricket Ground as a youngster, wagging school, jumping fences, evading security guards to get into games etc.

All part of growing up in Melbourne I guess.

The scoreboard was an essential part of sport in Melbourne.

This story is worth reading – MCG Scoreboard – if, like me, you like the old scoreboards rather than the new digital ones, which bombard spectators with ads for gambling and other mass consumption items rather than sticking to the facts.

The scoreboard I grew up with at the MCG, which is now at Manuka Oval, was built in 1907.

Here it is in all its glory in the old City Stand (now gone) during the – 1981 VFL Grand Final.

There were 112,964 spectators turned up that day.

It was the last time the scoreboard was used at the MCG.

Don’t mention who won!

Here is a story about the relocation of the scoreboard to – Manuka Oval in Canberra.

This is what the board looks like now in its new location – it was relocated and rebuilt in November 1982.

Music – Idle Moments

This is what I have been listening to while working early this morning before I catch a flight home.

It fits with the theme of the day.

The – Idle Moments – album was released on the Blue Note label in 1965, two years after it was recorded.

The guitarist is – Grant Green – who us one of my favourite guitar players.

He isn’t a player who would appear on many lists of the most famous jazz guitarists but he is close to the top of my list.

He recorded a massive number of tracks as a session player for Blue Note during the 1960s.

He was in the hardbop tradition while at Blue Note, but later branched out in the early 1970s and started paving the way for what we now call Acid Jazz.

On this album (and the title track) are the best players of the day:

1. Joe Henderson – tenor saxophone

2. Duke Pearson – piano

3. Bob Cranshaw – double bass

4. Al Harewood – drums

5. Bobby Hutcherson – vibraphone

This is the title track in C-minor and was written by the pianist Duke Pearson.

If you follow up you will learn that the track was meant to be only 7 minutes long (to fit with vinyl LP conventional time limits of the day) but Green continued to solo for 64 rather than 32 bars and the other soloists followed his lead which meant the track was twice long as planned.

They tried another shorter take but decided the longer version was far superior. They then rerecorded the other two tracks on the album (making them shorter).

He also did weird things to his amp to get that sound – basically only turning the bass and treble down to zero and the midrange settings to 10! I tried that once to see the effect but it only seems to work on Gibson 330s with the P-90 pickups.

His later work was looked down upon by the traditional jazz players, in the same way that Miles Davis’ transition to fusion in the late 1960s was dismissed by the so-called ‘purists’ (aka narrow-minded bigots).

I especially like – Iron City (released in 1972 on the Cobblestone label) – if you are interested.

Grant Green died at the very young age of 43 in 1979.

Anyway, in fitting with my holiday today here is ‘Idle Moments’.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2021 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

edX MOOC – Modern Monetary Theory: Economics for the 21st Century – Q&A

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 31/03/2021 - 4:28pm in

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Music

It’s Wednesday, and our edX MOOC – Modern Monetary Theory: Economics for the 21st Century – ended its four-week run today. We are exploring making it available again in the coming months as well as floating an advanced course (see below). Today, I publish a short video where I answer the questions posed by students in the MOOC as part of our last week ‘Bill Board’. We asked students to pose questions and vote on which ones they thought should be prioritised. I chose the top (almost) 3 to answer. And then we have some music, being Wednesday.

MOOC Modern Monetary Theory: Economics for the 21st Century

Our 4-week edX MOOC – Modern Monetary Theory: Economics for the 21st Century – comes to an end today (March 31, 2021) and I hope those who participated in it found the experience rewarding.

This is was our first – MMTed – venture and working with the highly skilled team at the University of Newcastle has helped us develop a range of skills that will be useful into the future.

We now have experience in putting together a digital on-line learning course which we are deploying to not only improve the introductory MOOC (just offered) but also offer a more advanced course in the coming months.

Filming for the advanced course has started already and it will offer more detailed modules in areas like bond markets, trade and foreign exchange, labour market dynamics and banking.

I am also in discussions with universities to explore the prospect of delivering teaching material to their programs that would allow students to take award courses within existing academic programs.

Of course, I continue to be grateful to those who have donated amounts to help get MMTed off the ground.

The MOOC was a sort of demonstration case of what we think can be achieved. We need more financial assistance but we are extremely thankful for what we have been able to garner to date as a result of the generosity of many.

More than 3,200 students took the course and we will look forward to seeing you all participating in our future offerings.

In Week 4, we posted a Bill Board – which gave students a chance to pose questions and then vote on the questions once posted. I made the commitment that I would choose the top 3 or so questions and answer them.

Here is the short video response I made as part of that commitment.

The third-placed question (according to the votes) was not answered because it related to quite complex issues about trade, which I could not reasonably answer in a few minutes and will be part of the next course we offer.

Music – For Free

This is what I have been listening to while working today.

One of my best friends is in hospital today, and, very sadly, will not make it through. He was a working class man with hardly any formal education and lots against him.

But he was able to self-educate himself, learn Spanish, read widely and become erudite in all sorts of areas. He has an advanced social conscience. He is also a very generous person and I will miss him terribly.

This song is about the unheralded people in the world who do great things but are often passed by for those who seek celebrity and the glitz.

It was written and first recorded by – Joni Mitchell – and was on her excellent 1970 album – Ladies of the Canyon (Reprise)

This version is on Lana del Rey’s new album – Chemtrails at the Country Club – which has some great songs on it.

The harmonies are exquisite. It features Zella Day (first verse) and Weyes Blood (third verse).

Take care Geoff!

And this is the Joni Mitchell – version.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2021 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Extremity and Beauty

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/03/2021 - 4:52am in

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Music


The alaap is a formal and conceptual innovation of the same family as the circadian novel, in which everything happens, in an amplification of time, before anything’s begun to happen. At what point North Indian classical singing allowed itself the liberty of making the introduction—that is, the circumventory exploration that defers, then replaces, the “main story”—become its definitive movement, I don’t know; it could go back to the early 20th century, when Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan’s romantic-modernist proclivities left a deep impress on North Indian performance.

Students of Colour Object to Oxford Music Curriculum Because of Slavery

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/03/2021 - 2:19am in

The Telegraph ran a story yesterday claiming that they’d received documents showing that Oxford University was considering changing their classical music course. This was because, following Black Lives Matter protests, students of colour at the university had complained that they were left very distressed by the course on European music from Machaut to Beethoven, because this was the period when the transatlantic slave trade was developing. They also made the same complaint about western music notation.

Now this comes from the Torygraph, part of Britain’s exemplary right-wing press, who are known for their rigorous commitment to journalistic truth and integrity, ho, ho. So you wonder if it true, or is the product of some Tory hack’s fevered imagination, like many of the stories about the Labour party produced by Guido Fawkes. Is this all made up to discredit Black Lives Matter?

Thinking about the issue, it seems very much to me that the problem isn’t the curriculum’s links to colonialism, but an attitude of entitlement and the cultural prejudices of the rich and monumentally uninformed.

Let’s deal with their objection that western musical notation developed during the time of the Black slave trade. As the Torygraph pointed out, it didn’t. It developed before the transatlantic slave trade from the church’s Gregorian Chant. This is absolutely true. The origin of the western musical tradition is in the music written for church services. This soon expanded to take in secular subjects, such as the courtly lyrics of the troubadours, the celebration of kings and princes, drinking, war, and just about every aspect of life. As a genre, the emergence of western classical music has nothing to do with the slave trade. Machaut, the French composer mentioned as the beginning of that part of the Oxford music course, lived in the 12th century, three centuries or so before the development of the transatlantic slave trade in the 15th. The modern system of musical notation was also developed in that century by Guido d’Arezzo. The scale, Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Te Do, comes from the initial syllables of a line in the Latin Mass. And whoever thinks that Beethoven is connected to the slave trade is clean out of their tiny mind. Beethoven, I think, was a German liberal with a profound sympathy for the ideals of the French Revolution. His Eroica was originally dedicated to Napoleon, until the Corsican bandit invaded Austria. His Ode to Joy looks forward to a world where nations live together in peace and fraternity. Furthermore, it’s also been suggested that he may have had Black ancestry. Either way, I doubt very much that he had any sympathy for slavery or any other form of human servitude whatsoever.

The complaint about that part of the music course is just so wrong, that I do wonder about the motives of the people making these complaints. Assuming they exist, and that the complaints are genuine. Because the complaints are so wrong, and so ignorant, that either the complaint is some kind of mickey-take, or else the people making them are simply monumentally stupid and lazy. For example, what kind of individual, who seriously wants to learn music, objects to learning the notation? Yes, people can and do play by ear, and many non-western musical traditions don’t have a system of notation. But if you seriously want to play music, and certainly if you’re studying it an advanced level, then understanding its notation is very much a basic requirement. This includes not only classical music, but also Jazz, rock and pop. Much of this is composed through improvisation and jam sessions by the musicians themselves, and its form of reproduction is primarily through records rather than print. But nevertheless, they’re also published as sheet music. I’ve got several books of pop, rock and Jazz music on my shelves. They’re published as sheet music as people not only want to listen to some of these great pieces, but also play them for themselves.

So basic is an understanding of written music as well as the development of western music from the Middle Ages onwards, that I really do wonder if the people behind these complaints actually want to study music, or do so to the extent that they have to do some serious work that might stretch them. It doesn’t look like they do to me. I also wonder why, if they consider western music so intimately linked to colonialism and slavery that it causes them distress, that, if they’re foreign, they wanted to come to Europe to study it.

It’s therefore occurred to me that, if the complaints are real, the people doing the complaining may not actually want to study the subject. They just want the cachet of studying at Oxford. Years ago I read a history of Japan, which warned about giving in to the insularism and xenophobia of many Japanese. The Japanese highly value an education at Oxbridge and/ or the British public schools (God help them!) but they don’t like mixing with non-Japanese. Thus one or the other of Oxford or Cambridge was building a separate college to accommodate Japanese students so they wouldn’t have the inconvenience of mixing with people of other nationalities. Perhaps something similar is the case here? Do they want the prestige that goes with an Oxford education, but have their own racist prejudices about European culture and music?

If this is the case, then it’s a scandal. It’s a scandal because education at one of Britain’s leading universities is being dumbed down for these morons. It’s a scandal because it cheapens the real problems of Britain’s Black community, which were behind many of the Black Lives Matter protests. For example, there’s a programme on the Beeb this evening investigating the reasons Black British mothers are four times more likely to die in childbirth than Whites. It’s a scandal because there are doubtless plenty of kids of all colours in the UK, who would just love to study music at Oxford and have a genuine love of classic music. There’s a campaign at the moment to get more Black and Asians into orchestras. It’s been found that people from these ethnicities are seriously underrepresented. Hence there’s an orchestra, Chinikwe!, purely for non-Whites, in order to produce more Black and Asian orchestral musicians. This has also followed attempts to recover the works of Black classical composers. Back in the 1990s one of the French labels issued a CD of harpsichord pieces written by Black composers. Earlier this year, Radio 3 also played the music of Black classical composers. The best known Black British classical composer, I’m sure, is Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, who lived from 1875 to 1912. His father came from Sierra Leone while his mother was British. He was the composer of Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, based on Longfellow’s poem, which is still performed by choral societies up and down the country. And yes, it’s written in western musical notation. But these attempts to encourage the performance of classical, orchestral music by Black and Asian performers, and to restore and include Black and Asian classical composers in the western musical tradition, has also been effectively spurned by what seems to be rich, entitled, lazy brats.

The fault therefore seems not to lie with the Oxford music course or with Black Lives Matter, but with an admissions policy that favours the wealthy, even when they are racist and xenophobic, over those from poorer backgrounds, who are genuinely dedicated and talented. If, on the other hand, the people making those complaints seriously believe them, then the response should be to educate them to dispel their prejudices, not accommodate them.

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