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Where all Aussie Talking Heads go to Die.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/11/2020 - 6:09pm in

Australian housing is the subject confounding all and sundry would-be economic prophets, particularly those presenting themselves as mavericks. And after the GFC the population of econo-mavericks exploded.

The prototype of that creature would be Steve Keen, the wannabe-Copernicus cum Chicken Little old bloke whose repeated and repeatedly failed prophecies of housing market doom inspired countless jokes.

There are other, however, less known examples. Say, the Unconventional Economist (aka Leith van Onselen) and the Macrobusiness crew.

Their theories differ, to be sure. For Keen, as a Keynesian (or Keensian, if you prefer), downturns are the result of fiendish Animal Spirits. In particular, his obsession is mortgage-holders panicking when faced with decreasing housing prices. They would all rush to the exit door to sell their properties, at the same time, lowering prices in the process and losing equity. Then they would have had no choice but to cut down aggregate demand, plunging Australia into recession. Worse: that could have a compound effect, for rising unemployment keeps mortgage-holders from servicing their debts, and housing prices would keep falling.

On the other hand, the obsession of the MB crew is immigration, which they see as a (if not the) cause of all of Australia’s ills. For them Australia’s high immigration at least in part props housing prices up: a fall in immigration should do what the Keensian panic failed to do. [*]

(source)

Well, Australia went into recession for the first time in 30 years. Sars-Cov-2, not Animal Spirits, was the poltergeist causing that. Specifically, the Morrison Government response to COVID-19 (take that, Stevo). And with the COVID-19 response, employment and participation rates fell (already recovering), immigration has all but ceased with entry restrictions and net migration intake is projected to plummet to negative levels for the first time since World War II.

And yet, the Aussie housing bubble barely noticed, even during the trough of the recession:

(source)
 

No mass defaults or repos or evictions, nobody desperately trying to pass on mortgage-based securities.

Why?

Eliza Owen, from CoreLogic, comes with a plausible answer:

  1. Low cost debt: “RBA research previously suggesting that a 100 basis point reduction in the cash rate can lead to an 8% increase in property values over the following two years”. The RBA has reduced interest rates to historical lows.
  2. Mortgage repayment deferrals. Although household debt remains a vulnerability and RBA research shows that “each 100 basis point increase in the unemployment rate could lead to an 80 basis point increase in the portion of mortgages in arrears”, the RBA not only reduced interest rates, it has also injected heaps of money in the economy, which together with a bank temporary mortgage holiday has kept defaults to a minimum.
  3. Job losses affected much more disproportionately those already locked out of the housing market: accommodation and food services, arts and recreation services the two most affected by job losses, are the two worst paying industries in Australia (employing many young Australian and visa workers). Even if these kids lose their jobs, they won’t default their mortgage: they hold no mortgage.

That’s not to say Australia is out of the woods yet. The dumbnamic duo Josh Frydenberg and Phil Lowe may still screw things up big time, what with the reduction of JobKeeper and JobSeeker, as China tightens trade restrictions against Oz.

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As Bill Mitchell explains in the British context, Labor and/or the Greens could praise openly the Morrison spending package, while highlighting insistently before the Australian voter why there’s no need to cut fiscal spending yet. If Morrison insists on cutting spending -- as he is bound to do -- he will only be alienating the voters.

Labor won’t do that, though. Albo and Co couldn't be stupider if they tried. Paraphrasing Princess Leia: Help us, Adam Bandt and the Greens, you are our only hope. 

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Although I see little “unconventional” in the Unconventional Economist’s comments, you have to admit something most unconventional in him: to his credit, the guy actually admits he was wrong (he’s the one summarising Owen’s research).

Something is something, I suppose. And it’s a lot more than you can say about Keen.

Notes:
[*] Increasing housing prices that immigration makes possible, their argument goes, mean that a large and growing number of Aussies are priced out of the market (on top of creating all sorts of other problems, from unemployment and low wage growth to environmental and public services degradation and a fall in tertiary education standards).

People policing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/11/2020 - 8:13am in

In some ways I feel the need to apologise for drawing attention to this thoroughly shameful video of three French policeman beating up a black man while calling him a ‘sale nègre’, when he was going back inside after realising he had not put on his mask (compulsory even outside, in many areas of France).... Read more

Iranian Nuclear Scientist Assassinated – But Do They Really Have a Nuclear Weapons Programme?

I’ve just seen this report on YouTube from the Beeb reporting the assassination of the top Iranian nuclear scientists, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Reports were confused at first, with the Iranian nuclear authority claiming that Fakhrizadeh had survived, but the country’s defence minister then confirmed that he had died. The Beeb’s Middle East editor for the World Service, Sebastian Usher, states that he was the head of Iran’s cover nuclear weapons programme. This has been extremely controversial for years, and is at the heart of the way Israel and America look at Iran. They see Iran as close to becoming a massive risk all across the region because of its nuclear programme. Fakhrizadeh was the ‘father’ of the nuclear weapons programme, and so the prime target, particularly for anyone trying to send a message by whoever was responsible that action would be taken against their weapons programme.

The head of the Revolutionary Guards said that these attacks had happened in the past and have been revenged in the past, and would be revenged this time. Usher states that was quite true. Between 2010 and 2012 there was a spate of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, four of whom were killed in relatively mysterious circumstances, but Iran blamed the Israelis. Netanyahu hasn’t made any comment on what has just happened. Usher states that we should look at the context of this assassination. Trump was in power with a very overt foreign policy from Saudi Arabia and Israel, which had a very strong attitude and ‘strategy of maximum pressure’ against Iran. Usher says that in the last few weeks there has been speculation what Trump’s administration would do to get its message across and make it more difficult for the president elect, Joe Biden, if he were to try to go back to the Iranian nuclear deal which Trump walked away from in 2018.

Top Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated – BBC News – YouTube

I’m calling bullshit on some of this. I’m not at all sure that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons programme – not after the lies Netanyahu and the Americans have told in the past, and definitely not after the total hogwash we were also fed about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction.

Readers of this blog will know that I despise the Iranian regime. They are a bunch of corrupt mass-murderers and torturers, who oppress and rob their people. But it’s a very good question whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons. As the Beeb report says, concerns about this have been around for years. The Iranians do have a nuclear programme, but denied it was military. They said it was all about supplying domestic power. Some western commenters I’ve read have said that’s probably true. Iran’s economy is heavily dependent on oil exports. They want to increase these, and so it would make sense for them to develop nuclear power to generate electricity for their people, so they can export more to the rest of the world.

I also remember how Netanyahu nearly a decade ago now was screaming that the Iranians were close to developing a nuclear bomb, and that action had to be taken against them soon. It was a lie from a man all to practised in lying. It was contradicted by that mamzer’s own security service and his generals. Unsurprisingly, William Blum has a chapter on Iran and the US’ hostility and lies about it in his book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. He talks about the scare in 2007 when the Israeli state was telling the world that Iran was on the point of developing nuclear weapons and a threat to Israel. But three months before that, Tzipi Livni, the same foreign minister making the claim, had said instead that the Iranian nuclear weapons programme was not a threat to Israel. Blum also quotes Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International, on how cooperative the Iranians were when the Americans negotiated with them in the 1990s.

The one time we seriously negotiated with Tehran was in the closing days of the war in Afghanistan [early 199s], in order to create a new political order in the country. Bush’s representative to the Bonn conference, James Dobbins, says that ‘the Iranians were very professional, straightforward, reliable and helpful. They were also critical to our success. They persuaded the Northern Alliance [Afghan foes of the Taliban] to make the final concessions that we asked for.’ Dobbins says the Iranians made overtures to have better relations with the United States through him and others in 2001 and later, but got no reply. Even after the Axis of Evil speech, he recalls, they offered to cooperate in Afghanistan. Dobbins took the proposal to a principals meeting in Washington only to have it met with dead silence. The then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he says, ‘looked down and rustled his papers.’ No reply was ever sent back to the Iranians. Why bother? They’re mad. (p. 104-5).

Dobbins himself states that it was the Iranians who included the references to democracy and the War on Terror in the Bonn Agreement and insisted that the new Afghan government should be committed to them.

Blum goes on

Shortly after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran made another approach to Washington, via the Swiss ambassador, who sent a fax to the State Department. The Washington Post described it as ‘a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table – including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.’ The Bush administration ‘belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax.’ Richard Haass, head of policy planning at the State Department at the time and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Iranian approach was swiftly rejected because in the administration ‘the bias was toward a policy of regime change.’ (p. 105).

Blum concludes

So there we have it. The Israelis know it, the Americans know it. Iran is not any kind of military threat. Before the invasion of Iraq I posed the question: What possible reason would Saddam Hussein have for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? He had no reason, and neither do the Iranians. (p. 105).

Blum also has a chapter on Iraq, and how Hussein tried again and again to make a peace deal with the Americans and show them he didn’t have WMDs. And each time he was rebuffed. A little while ago Trump had an Iranian general assassinated in a drone strike, and there are reports that he would have liked to have had others assassinated in the final days of his presidency. He’s frustrated that he couldn’t. We don’t know who was behind this assassination. It could be the Israeli state, or the Saudis, but it may very well be Trump.

And I’m afraid that over the next few days or weeks, we shall hear more about an Iranian nuclear weapons programme and how they’re a threat to America and its allies. And I fear that the hawks are also preparing to demand war with Iran. If they are, then we’ll hear all the same lies we were told about Saddam Hussein and Afghanistan – that the Iranian government is a tyranny oppressing its people, and that we shall go in there to give them democracy and freedom while eliminating them as a threat to the region’s peace.

But any invasion very definitely won’t be for the benefit of the Iranian people, or to give them freedom and democracy. It will be for the same reasons Iraq and Afghanistan were really invaded – for the oil and the maintenance of American geopolitical power. Plus in the case of Iraq, American and western multinationals also wanted to buy up the country’s state industries.

And the results of any invasion of Iran will be the same as Iraq: bloody carnage. There will be ethnic and sectarian violence, the country’s economy will collapse and unemployment skyrocket. Whatever the country has of a welfare state will disappear and the position of women will get worse. Iran is an Islamic theocracy, but it was also one of the most westernised and industrially advanced societies in the Middle East. I think it still is. The Iranian middle class go skiing in the mountains during which they sport the same fashions as the west. Yes, it part of the developing world, but I got the impression that it was also a comparatively rich and sophisticated country.

We’ve got no business whatsoever invading Iran and the other Middle Eastern nations, and so much of what we’ve been told about them, about the threat they pose, is just one lie after another. And it’s utterly disgraceful that our leaders sent our brave young men and women to fight, die or come back maimed and scarred in body and mind, not to defend this country, but simply so the multinationals can see their stocks and their managers’ salaries rise.

We were lied to about Afghanistan and Iraq. And I’m afraid our leaders will lie to us about Iran, and the Beeb will repeat these lies.

For the sake of millions of people, No War!

Saturday’s good reading and listening for the weekend

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/11/2020 - 6:20am in

Tags 

Economy, Politics

What people in other forums are saying about public policy

The US election


For newcomers it’s hard to find a parking place in Washington

Beware of Trumps to come

“Unless Biden fights big money, he could pave the way for someone even worse than Trump”.

That’s how George Monbiot introduces his article Monster Makers – a warning that unless Biden confronts neoliberalism, which has so badly damaged his country, he will simply be paving the way for a monster worse than Trump.

Neoliberalism disenchants politics by sucking the power out of people’s votes. When governments abandon their ambition to change social outcomes or deliver social justice, politics become irrelevant to people’s lives. It is perceived as the chatter of a remote elite. Disenchantment becomes disempowerment.

Years of public policy based on neoliberalism, and on Democrats’ weakness in confronting the moneyed elites, created the conditions for Trump to storm into the resulting political vacuum.

His success was a product of the fake unity and fake healing of elite political agreement. When mainstream politics offered only humiliation and frustration, people turned to a virulent, demagogic anti-politics.

Monbiot calls for America’s left to assert itself against those who have appropriated the spoils of economic growth. But he is pessimistic, seeing Biden’s presidency as “an interregnum between something terrible and something much worse”.

Why do so many Americans vote against their class interests?

Perhaps those Trump voters in the “red” states – the people who were left behind by globalisation and technology – were voting in line with their class interests when they elected Trump four years ago, and again turned out to support him this year.

Liberals may understand the material needs of the “white” working class, but they don’t understand their emotional needs. They cannot empathise with their situation.  But Trump comes across as one who does understand their needs, and who respects their culture.

In a Jolly Swagman podcast Joe Walker interviews University of California sociologist Arlie Hochschild, who over five years came to know and befriend a community of Tea Party and Trump supporters in Louisiana –  Despair And Indignation Among The American White Working Class. They feel they have paid their way in society, but the benefits have accrued to others. Even though they are heavily dependent on government transfers, they support “small government” parties because they don’t see governments as attending to their needs. (71 minutes)

Hochschild is author of  Strangers in their own land: anger and mourning on the American right.

State budgets: compensating for Commonwealth neglect

Tax reform is possible: even a Coalition Government can do it if it wants to

The New South Wales budget contained a significant tax reform, one recommended by the Henry Review ten years ago.  Those who purchase property will have the opportunity to axe stamp duty at the point of purchase and to choose an annual property charge instead. Upfront stamp duties have been the time-honoured practice in all other states except for the ACT. It’s a reform that will benefit first home buyers, and those who change residences for family or work reasons.

Crispin Hull sings the praises of the Berejiklian Government’s reform: Fairer tax is possible, NSW shows. He goes beyond lauding this specific reform, arguing that there are many other tax reforms waiting to be implemented (death and gift taxes, a carbon tax, road user taxes) – and other taxes to be simplified or abolished (payroll tax for example).

The Berejiklian Government has achieved a significant tax reform without bringing the crowds on to the streets. Surely other governments can do tax reform.

Victoria provides a stimulus model: pity the Commonwealth doesn’t emulate it

The Victorian budget has a few tax cuts, (some payroll tax relief, and a 10 per cent tax credit for small firms that expand their payroll), but unlike the Commonwealth which sees government spending in terms of handouts, the Victorian government’s emphasis is on public investment. There are investments in physical infrastructure, particularly public housing and urban rail projects, in renewable energy, in early childhood, school and TAFE education, and in health care.

Danielle Wood and Tom Crowley of the Grattan Institute  summarise the Government’s budget as “targeting some of the most effective stimulus measures – measures which most economists support but the federal budget ignored” – Lifters not leaners: Victoria steps in where the federal budget did not.

The Australia Institute has drawn attention to the Victorian Government’s plan to make the state a renewable energy powerhouse – an initiative in line with the renewable energy initiatives of the New South Wales Government.  “We are seeing a growing pattern of state government leadership in the absence of a national climate and energy plan.”

The Coalition’s war on renewable energy

Missed opportunities, but it’s not too late

On Late Night Live Phillip Adams interviews Tim Flannery on solving the climate emergency. In his usual way he puts the science and politics of climate change into plain language.

He draws our attention to the way in 2009 the Greens thwarted our opportunity to have a climate change policy, by siding with Abbott to defeat Rudd’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme – a modest scheme that would have provided the basis for a more enduring set of policies taking advantage of our tremendous renewable energy resources. Instead we are left with an economy based on dying industries – oil and gas.

The situation is urgent, but it’s not too late. He points to Germany’s Coal Compromise as a model for Australia – a deal that ensured that as Germany closed coal mines there were guarantees that no jobs would be lost, and where possible those jobs would make use of miners’ existing skills.

Flannery’s latest book is The Climate Cure: Solving the Climate Emergency in the Era of COVID-19.

The coal industry should fund a natural disaster levy

The Australia Institute outlines a plan for a climate levy on fossil fuel exports, to provide a fund to pay for the damage inflicted by climate-induced disasters such as last summer’s fires, which cost the economy $50 million.

Their proposal at $1 per tonne of embodied carbon is modest. Of course it has little hope of getting up in the present political environment, but it does help to remind us that the use of coal has costs that are not covered in its market price – negative externalities in the language of economists. It’s a reminder that a price on carbon, which its opponents conveniently call a “tax”, is actually a payment for its full cost of production, and the failure of our government to impose a price on carbon is actually a massive subsidy to that industry. Why should we not make the coal industry pay for the economic damage to which it contributes? The answer to that question should be a straightforward issue in accounting, rather than one involving “left/right” ideology, or identity politics, as Taylor and Morrison would like to frame it.

Morrison and Taylor have to deal with a new administration in Washington

Biden’s pre-election talk about climate change as an existential threat and “the number one issue facing humanity” could be seen as typical political rhetoric in a message to his political base, but an article in Foreign AffairsA climate-first foreign policy – stresses the sincerity of this commitment, noting his appointment of former Secretary of State, John Kerry, as his cabinet-level envoy.

The authors point out that Biden could follow Europe’s lead in using the threats of countervailing duties against countries without carbon-reduction plans to press China to drop its support for coal plants – a possibility that will bring no joy to our “carbon club” and its supporters in the Coalition.

Other economics

Australia is on track to closing the gender pay gap – in 2050

A report by the Workforce Gender Equality Agency – a Commonwealth statutory agency charged with promoting and improving gender equality in workplaces – finds that over 2019-20 the gender pay gap dropped by 0.7 percentage points, to 20.1 per cent. (At that rate it will be 2050 before the gap is closed.)

Unfortunately the media has given the report superficial coverage, without explaining what the pay gap is.

It is different from gaps in men’s and women’s pay when they are performing the same work (covered by legal equal pay requirements). Rather it is “the difference between the average earnings of women and men, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. It is the difference between the pay of women and men, on average, across organisations, industries and the workforce as a whole”.  The gap therefore is influenced by factors such as women occupying more junior jobs than men in many (most) industries, or working shorter hours than men.  The WGEA points out that it is an indicator of women’s overall position in the workforce.

WGEA’s press release – New WGEA data shows employer action on gender equality has stalled – covers some of the key points, but in a disjointed form. A more rigorous presentation of findings, with disaggregation by industry, is in the agency’s key results document. Unsurprisingly the greatest gap is found in the financial sector, and the lowest gaps are in industries dominated by the public sector.

Among its positive findings are a strong increase in employer action on family and domestic violence and more availability of flexible work arrangements for men and women.

Australia remains a safe country for old men

A quick read of Treasury’s Retirement Income Review  may leave one with the impression that all is basically well with our retirement income arrangements, with no more than a few policy tweaks needed to fix pockets of inequity.

The inequities it exposes are significant however, but its authors have done little to draw them to our attention. It has a chapter devoted to equity, showing that superannuation tax concessions, particularly the tax-free treatment of superannuation earnings in the retirement phase, are highly regressive. But it fails to point out the gross inequity in concessions on superannuation earnings – the fact that a retired couple enjoying a $200 000 annual income from $4 million in assets, with a little simple planning, would pay no tax, while a  working couple would pay $50 000 a year in income tax.

The report points out that “By 2047, the [budgetary] cost of superannuation tax concessions is projected to be greater than the cost of the Age Pension as a percentage of GDP, and that most of this increase will result from superannuation earnings tax concessions”, but it makes no suggestion that these concessions need to be withdrawn.

Conveniently for the financial sector, the study does not consider the effect of fees on superannuation incomes (other than a passing mention on Page 202).

The report is strongly in favour of maintaining the superannuation guarantee at its current 9.5 per cent rate, rather than lifting it to the already-legislated 12 per cent. Their argument is convincing, but that’s only because it is built around a hypothetical “median income earner” who remains in employment over his or her working life.  A male public servant employed by Treasury perhaps? Otherwise surely an endangered species?

Writing in The Guardian Amy Remeikis does what the report fails to do – she brings to our attention some of the main inequities that are buried in the report’s 650 pages, particularly the gross difference in fortunes between those who do and do not own their homes: Bet your house on it: three things to know from Australia’s retirement income review.

In view of two long-term trends – people’s increasing life expectancy and the disappearance of lifetime full-time jobs – there should be a thorough public engagement around policies to spread lifetime income. Such a process would involve interactive on-line models into which people could vary assumptions, rather than accepting the assumptions given from on-high, and could consider the effects of different employment patterns for example. But it’s clear from the way the government has gone about this exercise that it has no intention to address these difficult issues.

Without redistribution, pushing more money into the economy is futile

Writing in The Conversation Mike Keating points out that stimulating the economy through low interest rates and tax cuts won’t work: From here on our recovery will need more than fiscal policy, it’ll need redistribution. For various reasons, which he outlines, funds made available through such measures are unlikely to be spent on either consumption or investment. Fiscal policy should be directed at provision of public goods, particularly health care and education, and at redistributing income towards those who can make use of it to improve their lot and to keep the economy functioning.

The stock market has little relationship with the real economy

The price of shares as measured by the S&P/ASX 200 index hit an all-time high in February this year.  The index dropped sharply in March, but since then has been clawing its way back towards its high point.

What has been driving this rise in share prices, over a short term when Covid-19 has been tearing through the economy, and over a longer term as productivity, per-capita GDP and wages have all been showing unimpressive performance?

Robert Reich has a five-minute video describing how the stock market works – The stock market is not the economy.  Over the period 1952 to 1988, almost all the gain in US stock market prices resulted from economic growth. Over that period we could say that within the limits of economic indicators (GDP in particular) share prices tracked the real economy. But from 1989 to 2017, more than half the gain in stock prices comes from suppression of wages, and only a quarter from economic growth.

Reich’s explanation draws on US experience. A similar analysis of Australian share prices may reveal less stark figures, but the same dynamics are in play here: the benefits of economic growth are accruing disproportionately to those holding financial assets, at the expense of wage and salary earners.

Australia in the world

Australia in a world no longer run by America – back to multilateralism

Delivering a lecture at the ANU Security College Foreign Affairs Secretary Frances Adamson spoke about Australia’s security landscape, and what needs to be done to promote our national interest.

A world in which China is displacing the US as the world’s largest economy, and in which neither country will have unbridled hegemonic power, is different to the postwar world that has shaped our approaches to security and diplomacy.

She stressed the need for strengthening international institutions, and pointed out that although China is powerful economically and militarily in its own right, it is still in its interests to support institutions that sustain a peaceful and cooperative world order.  It will want “to lead, rather than simply join international institutions”.

As an experienced public servant she has carefully avoided upsetting her political bosses, but her speech can be read as a re-assertion of Australia’s interests in multilateralism – a stance Australia has taken over most of the last seventy years, but which recent Coalition governments have tended to dismiss in favour of bilateral relations.

Australia through Chinese eyes

One basic rule in any negotiation is that in preparing our approach we should try to see the situation from the perspective of the other party. That doesn’t mean we should agree with that other party, but we should try to understand where they are coming from. In fact the stronger the disagreement the more important it is to gain that perspective.

Writing on the ABC website Stan Grant has done what Scott Morrison and Marise Payne didn’t do before unnecessarily provoking China about the origins of Covid-19. He has put together an account of what Australia’s gauche attempts at diplomacy would look like from China’s perspective: Australia’s trade clash with China is a lesson in what Beijing’s power really means. Whether we like it or not we have to respect China’s position in the world.

The art of disagreeing while maintaining respect for the other side is the essence of diplomacy.

The SAS – our bearded and secretive soldiers

Ian McPhedran is an experienced war correspondent, and author of the book The Amazing SAS: the inside story of Australia’s special forces.  On the ABC’s Saturday Extra he describes the developments that led to the disgraceful events described in the Afghanistan Inquiry Report. He describes how some SAS sergeants and corporals became bullying, killing demi-gods.  The SAS operates in tiny and cohesive units (5-6 soldiers directed by NCOs in the field), almost entirely separated from other soldiers (the only bearded men in the army). The SAS developed as a highly skilled and respected counter-terrorism and reconnaissance operation. But through a series of bad decisions at the top, in Afghanistan it was deployed in a “search and destroy” role – a role usually performed by infantry.  Ian McPhedran on the SAS.  (13 minutes)

McPhedran understands that because SAS units operated with autonomy, with little involvement by officers, it is unsurprising that incidents of atrocious behaviour did not come to the attention of senior officers. He does not advocate disbanding the SAS, but he does believe its culture can be changed.

James Wolfensohn’s death

To its credit, The Australian seems to be the only Australian paper to note the death of James Wolfensohn, an Australian who, after his success as an Olympic sportsperson, went on to become head of the World Bank – a position he achieved without the assistance of a government-funded VIP airplane.  (He was nominated by then-president Bill Clinton.) He helped shift the focus of the World Bank towards being concerned about poverty and corruption.

The Australian’s obituary is behind its paywall. The ABC has a short obituary pointing out his proficiency as a cellist as well as his other achievements.

Wolfensohn’s death has been reported by many world media – an example is this obituary by Deutsche Welle. But here his life and achievements have commanded far less attention from our media than the death of an Argentinian sportsperson. On the ABC Breakfast website is a short (9 minute) account of Maradona’s importance to Argentina, explaining in terms of political economy why his death has prompted the government to announce three days of national mourning.

World safety

Where children thrive, and where they don’t

Singapore tops the list among countries in Save The Children’s ranking of child-friendly countries, followed by Slovenia in second place and then the Nordic countries. Their index is a weighted score based on indicators related to child health, education, labor participation, early marriage, childbirth and violence.  We come in at #16 in their list of 180 countries.   The USA comes in at #43, just behind China and Russia. All of the 20 lowest-scoring countries are in Africa.

Terrorism – on the wane?

In 2019 worldwide deaths from terrorism fell for the fifth consecutive year, to 14 000, having hit a peak of 33 000 in 2014.  That’s the main finding of the Global Terrorism Index 2020, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace. Afghanistan continues to account for a large proportion (40 per cent) of deaths.

It’s not good news all around. In North America, Western Europe and in our region far-right political terrorism has been growing.  The attack in Christchurch by an Australian fanatic accounts for much of last year’s increase in far-right terrorism, but there is also an underlying trend of increasing terrorism attributable to the far right.  It appears that political violence may be becoming more publicly acceptable, particularly in strongly polarised societies.

The report lists the following as socio-economic factors associated with terrorism:

  • high levels of group grievances and a weak rule of law
  • in more “developed” countries, social disenfranchisement and exclusion
  • in other countries, religious or ethnic ruptures and corruption.

(It’s notable that they separate out “far-right” terrorism from the terrorism of groups such as Boko Haram, IS, Al-Shabaab and the Taliban, but surely there is little that distinguishes these groups from groups normally classified as “far-right”. By no stretch of the imagination could these groups, influenced by an authoritarian and misogynistic fringe cult of Islam, be classified as “left”.)

Oxfam’s guide to Christmas shopping

When we buy clothing how aware are we of the pay and conditions of those who have made it?

Oxfam is helping us in that job, with a report Shopping for a bargain: how the purchasing practices of clothing brands in Australia impact the women who make our clothes. In conjunction with researchers from Monash University and the University of Liberal Arts in Bangladesh they have investigated the purchasing practices of ten fashion retailers operating in Australia, and have found a wide range of practices. Some retailers score well, some badly; some retailers give themselves much higher ratings than justified by Oxfam’s research; and three of the retailers chose not to participate in the research.

Practices deleterious to the conditions of clothing workers identified by Oxfam include aggressive price negotiations, and ordering practices that disrupt the lives of those workers. Last-minute cancellations result in layoffs affecting women already living in poverty, and last-minute demands for extra supply can subject those same women to gruelling long hours.

Go to Part 5 (Page 17) for Oxfam’s findings, including lists of the brands used by retailers. For example the Just Group (one of the poorest performers by Oxfam’s ratings), operates under many different brands – Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Jacqui E, Peter Alexander, Portmans and Dotti.

The pandemic’s progress

Australia – can’t we learn from Victoria’s experience with hotel quarantine?

We were going to discontinue this graph of local transmission, but then came South Australia’s outbreak.

Their response has been effective – none of the indecisive shilly-shallying that allowed Victoria’s outbreak to become a disaster – but how did they let it happen in the first place? Why did they use a CBD hotel for quarantine? Why did they use private security firms with poorly-paid employees who must work in multiple jobs? Why were those found to have Covid-19 not shifted?

For months epidemiologists have been calling for more effective quarantine arrangements in appropriate facilities. That would be expensive, but nothing like the cost of dealing with quarantine outbreaks which may pop up at any time, making for caution in business and personal planning. That caution – business projects put on hold, holidays not planned, people’s irrational fear of exposing themselves to the virus when doing normal business – does not reveal itself as easily as the cost of a business closure, but it is a real cost. It’s an opportunity cost in economists’ terms, and is rarely considered by government decisionmakers who believe that it’s OK to allow a bit of virus to be circulating, and who criticise state governments for trying to eradicate the virus.

On the graph we have kept Victoria on the legend, but note that it does not appear over this four-week period, qualifying for the working definition of “effective elimination”. New South Wales might achieve the same by this time next week.

Other countries

Here’s the regular graph, with the Y axis once again extended, squashing Australia’s curve to look like no more than a couple of minor blips compared with the experiences of USA and Europe.

There are plenty of media stories coming out of America – we have picked this one from the Washington Post – and we are yet to see the inevitable Thanksgiving Day surge. (Thanksgiving was on Thursday.) The Atlantic has an article A tragic beginning to the holiday season from their Covid Tracking Project, showing Covid-related data. Its map of daily cases per million people (the same indicator as we use in the graph)  shows extraordinarily high rates in the Midwest, where most states show rates above 1000. North Dakota holds the record at 1546 daily cases per million.

Over the last week there has been a turnaround in Europe, where most countries are coming off their highs as governments re-impose restrictions on wearied populations. The only countries doing reasonably well (with fewer than 100 new cases a day per million) are Ireland and Finland, both of which enjoy a degree of geographic isolation.

On the ABC’s Coronacast Norman Swan draws our attention to evidence that the virus may have a seasonal pattern with a natural peak followed by a tapering off, possibly to do with the virus’s response to ambient temperature, quite independent of human behaviour.

Are lockdowns and facemasks assaults on our civil liberties?

Nick Gruen has an article on Club Troppo –  How culture war is destroying public reason: COVID edition – berating those who call anti-Covid measures assaults on our civil liberties, and those who take a utilitarian view that the cost of suppressing (or eliminating) Covid-19 exceed the costs of letting it run without restriction. (The two arguments are often made by the same people, and they merge into a general criticism of state-imposed lockdowns, mask requirements and so on.)

His article pragmatically stresses that if we are to intervene to control Covid-19, we should do it properly: our measures to date seem to be inconsistent with any single policy objective.

The responses to his article are worth a glance, for they involve a lively debate between Nicholas Gruen and Paul Fritjers – basically an argument between pragmatism and utilitarianism. It’s a dispute that arises in several domains of public policy, and will almost certainly remain unresolved until some time in the future when vaccinated Australians put Covid-19 behind them.

Sources

Sources of generally reliable information and analysis about Covid-19 are on a separate web page. This week Norman Swan’s Coronacast is about the performance of vaccine candidates, and the crucial question of whether pizzas can be vectors of Covid-19. The Financial Times reports on a global survey of 16- to 30-year old people, which reveals a growing resentment against older people (who make public policy) as unemployment and restrictions bite.

Polls and surveys

Queensland’s post-election poll: pre-poll voting is here to stay

William Bowe’s Poll Bludger directs us to a post-election survey conducted by JWS research – 2020 Queensland post-election poll.

It confirms the generally-held belief that while Labor voters prioritised the government’s dealing with Covid-19 and health care, LNP voters prioritised “the economy” and jobs, and even less surprisingly it confirms that Greens voters prioritised the environment and climate change.  It also confirms the general belief that younger people tend to be more reliant on social media for political news than older voters. LNP voters were particularly reliant on free-to-air commercial TV.

As we already know, only 27 per cent pf voters cast their vote on election day. But Covid-19 was not a major issue in driving people to early voting: only 25 per cent of those who didn’t vote on election day nominated Covid-19 and social distancing as reasons for their decision. Rather, early voting was about convenience. It seems that early voting is here to stay, which means we may be losing democracy sausages and Anglican Ladies’ cake stalls.

When the election was called only 22 per cent of voters had already made their minds up about whom to vote for.  That means 78 per cent made their minds up during the campaign, at the same time as voting was spread out over a long period. Party strategists are going to have to deal with some complex timing issues in future elections.

Were the US elections fair?

The Pew Research Center finds sharp divisions between Biden and Trump voters on  questions about the election process and the accuracy of the vote count.  Only 21 per cent of Trump supporters have a positive view of the conduct of the elections, compared with 94 per cent of Biden voters who hold a positive view. And a clear majority of voters rate Biden’s post-election behaviour ahead if Trump’s.

Pew does not speculate on the reasons for these differences in perception of the voting process. In any contest there is a bias for the winners to have a more positive view of the process than the losers. But one particular feature of this election was that Trump supporters were more likely to vote on the day, while Biden supporters were more likely to vote early.  Because most states’ counting methods prioritised votes cast on the day, and because votes from some big urban areas were slow to be counted, figures generated until quite late in the evening of election day pointed to a Trump victory.

A counting process that produces clear signs of a win for one side, only to be reversed in later counts, is bound to lead to much more disappointment than one which is clearer from the start.  A little psychology applied to official vote counting may be in order.

Gender roles

A lollipop man in action

See what “family values” mean to one of our relatives.

Watch out tomorrow, Sunday, for Peter Sainsbury’s Sunday environment round up

Book for Learning Arabic in Three Months

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/11/2020 - 3:09am in

Mohammad Asfour, Arabic in Three Months: Simplified Language Course (Woodbridge: hugo 1990).

I bought this nearly thirty years ago when I was briefly trying to do a postgraduate degree on Islam in Britain. Hugo are a publisher specialising in languages. According to the blurb and the introduction, this book is written for people, who want to speak the language but don’t want to be able to read or write it. There are a number of different dialects spoken in different countries, but the book states that the standard, written language isn’t used in ordinary verbal communication and it’s very unusual for foreigners to use it. The author is a professor at the University of Jordan, and so the form used is the Jordanian dialect, which will allow the student to converse in ‘almost any Arabic speaking country’.

Along with the chapters taking the reader through the language, there’s also sample conversations and an Arabic-English mini-dictionary in the back. Like many other language books, this also includes written exercises, whose answers are also in the back of the book.

I bought it because I wanted to get an idea of what the language was like before learning the script. That’s almost certainly a mistake, if the spoken and written forms of the language are so different. You almost certainly need to learn the standard language if you also wish to be able read and write it. No language is easy, but some are definitely more difficult than others. Arabic is a Semitic language like Hebrew, Syriac and some of the languages spoken in Ethiopia. They’re very different from the Indo-European languages, like French, German, Welsh, Polish and so on spoken in Europe, and so Arabic is particularly difficult. So much so that I eventually gave up.

I think the book was partly written for tourists to the Middle East, as well as possibly people from the English-speaking world working out there, but not in jobs which require the literary language. I remember one of the words in the vocabulary is ‘funduq’, which I think means ‘hotel’. It’s also a sad reflection of the politics of the region that another word that crops up is ‘inqilab’, which means ‘coup’ or ‘uprising’.

Unfortunately since the attacks of 9/11 and the ensuing chaos of the War on Terror, the invasion of Iraq, the Syrian and Libyan uprisings and the rise of Islamic State, much of the region is in turmoil and far too dangerous for western tourists, quite apart from the international lockdown everywhere due to the Coronavirus. Still, hopefully peace will return to this fascinating, ancient and historic part of the world, and Europeans will once again to be able to visit it and meet its peoples in peace and friendship.

BBC corrections..

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/11/2020 - 12:41am in

And Positive Money doing its educational best: Am I alone in thinking that if the BBC cannot properly train their reporters they should at least be preventing them from speaking on things they clearly know nothing about?... Read more

Conservative Hack Helen Dale Smears Labour with Fake Connection to ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’

The right-wing media just can’t resist pushing the anti-Semitism smears any way they can. But yesterday this reached a new low on Mike Graham’s programme on LBC. Graham was talking to Ozzie Conservative Helen Dale about Suzanne Moore’s departure from the Guardian, and a piece the veteran feminist had written in retaliation. Moore’s crime was that she had written a piece stating that she did not regard transwomen as real women. This is obviously intensely controversial and the subject of much acrimonious debate and horrendous, personal abuse. J.K. Rowling has been vilely accused of hatred and wishing to harm transwomen simply for stating this view, even though she said so in a tweet that wished transfolk to live the best lives they could, dress however they want and sleep with anyone who would have them. At the heart of the controversy is the issue of what defines womanhood and who has access to women’s spaces.

Dale and Graham clearly found it ironic that someone from the censorious left should find herself censored in turn. Dale went on to say how surprising it was for her to share a view with Moore in this, as Dale herself is a Conservative and not a feminist. She then went on to say that she found the whole notion of the patriarchy problematic, as it sounded like a conspiracy. And her she made the smear about the Protocol of Elders of Zion. Because feminists’ idea of the patriarchy was similar to the bogus piece of conspiracy literature, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This nasty forgery, concocted by the monk Nilus in the Tsarist secret police, the Okhrana, in order to encourage Nicholas II to be even more persecutory in his treatment of Russian Jews, has been the inspiration for countless Fascist and anti-Semitic movements. And according to Dale, it was behind the anti-Semitism in the Labour party.

She says this in a video of her interview with Graham put up yesterday, ‘Young people believe being called a slur is the same as physical assault,’ says Helen Dale, at around 1.42 or so in.

No! The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were definitely not part of the anti-Semitism controversy in Labour.

I’ve said again and again that Corbyn and his supporters were anti-racists, and opponents of anti-Semitism, just as they opposed all forms of fascism. And they included plenty of Jews, such as the good peeps of Jewdas and Jewish Voice for Labour. Jackie Walker, who is one of the victims of the smear campaign, is both of a woman colour and Jew by birth and faith, as well as a veteran anti-racism campaigner. Marc Wadsworth, another victim of the smear campaign, is also a longstanding anti-racism campaigner. He’s Black, and in the 1980s worked with the Board of Deputies to bring in legislation to stamp out genuine anti-Semitic attacks made by members of the NF and/or BNP in London. Neither of them, like so many of Corbyn’s other supporters, should ever have been accused of anti-Semitism. And as for the wretched Protocols, it may well be very likely that they’ve been the victims of people whose view of Jews has been poisoned by it.

They certainly haven’t been influenced by it themselves.

But it is true that the anti-Semitism smears were made by the self-proclaimed British Jewish establishment, the Board, Chief Rabbinate and other organisations, as a way of deflecting criticism away from Israel for its oppression of the indigenous Arabs. This has been the standard tactic of the Israel lobby since the 1980s. They obviously can’t defend Israel’s actions, so the only way they can nullify such criticism is to claim that those, who stand up for the Palestinians like Corbyn, must be anti-Semites.

This is despite the fact that many of the opponents of Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians are self-respecting Jews.

The vilification of Corbyn’s gentile supporters is vile enough, but the smearing and abuse of his Jewish supporters has been particularly so. Many of them have been the victims of real anti-Semitic abuse and violence, as have their gentile friends and allies. But these people have been reviled as ‘self-hating’. And the accusation that they are anti-Semitic is particularly noxious and harmful given Jews’ centuries of persecution.

I am absolutely sure that the vast majority of Corbyn’s supporters heartily loath the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. They know what it is, and the immense pain and suffering it has caused. And for Dale to claim that they were the inspiration for anti-Semitism in the Labour party is a new low. Though I note that she was very careful not to say Corbyn or any single individual was inspired by them. Obviously she didn’t want m’learned friends to get involved, and get sued for libel.

Starmer’s now in power in the Labour party, but the right-wing media and political establishment are still terrified of Corbyn and his supporters in the party. Hence the use of this lie to smear them. Which shows how desperate and utterly ideologically bankrupt they are. Thatcher’s precious neoliberalism is zombie economics. It should have ended decades ago, and the Tories know it.

And the only way they can stop people realising this is to distract them with poisonous lies about Labour anti-Semitism.

‘I’ Report on Walkout by Left-Wing Labour NEC Members

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 10:33pm in

Starmer’s attack on the Labour left and his drive to centralise authority around himself and the Blairites continues. On Tuesday the left-wing members of the party’s NEC staged a Virtual walkout at an online meeting in protest against Starmer’s imposition of Margaret Beckett as chair. Starmer’s action had breached party rules stating that the position was elected. The I published a piece about this, ‘Left-wingers ‘walk out’ after Beckett wins NEC chair’ by Harriet Line and Alan Jones in its edition for Wednesday 25th November 2020. This ran

Members on the left of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee staged a digital walkout in protest at the election of veteran MP Dame Margaret Beckett as chairwoman.

In a letter to the party’s general secretary, David Evans, a dozen NEC members said the “longstanding protocol” of the vice-chair being elected as chair was not being followed.

They said Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had lobbied for Dame Margaret to be elected to the position, and accused him of “promoting factional division within Labour”.

The members staged a Virtual walkout from the NEC’s “away day”, which was being conducted via Zoom, yesterday morning.

In the letter, they said: “We believe the true reason for the leader lobbying for Dame Margaret, and indeed the reason that had been given by senior party MPs in private, is because the vice-chair, Ian Murray, was a signature to the previous correspondence sent to you seeking admonishment of the Leader.”

Signatories to the letter are believed to include the NEC’s outgoing chiar, Andi Fox, Mick Whelan, the Aslef general secretary, former MP Laura Pidcock and youth rep Lara McNeill, as well as Mr Murray. Ms Fox said the “disregard and disrespect for the left is something we could not allow.”

Some in the NEC had already expressed anger at Sir Keir’s decision to withhold the whip from Jeremy Corbyn, despite the body allowing him to return as a party member.

On Monday, Labour’s chief whip Nick Brown asked Mr Corbyn to apologise for claiming that the scale of anti-Semitism in the party was “dramatically overstated for political reasons.” In a letter seen by the PA news agency, Mr Brown said Mr Corbyn’s response to a damning Equality and Human Rights Commission report caused “distress and pain” to the Jewish community.

This looks to me like Starmer trying to keep control of the NEC after a large number of people from the party’s left were elected. As for Starmer’s imposition of Beckett as chair, of course it’s not democratic. Starmer’s a Blairite, and Blair hated grassroots democracy in the party along with anything that smacked of traditional Labour values and policies. He did everything he could to centralise power about himself and the New Labour faction.

Corbyn’s comments about the exaggeration of anti-Semitism in the party for political reasons was absolutely correct, and he has nothing to apologise for. The actual incidence of real anti-Semitism in Labour was very, very low. In 2019 the party had the joint lowest level of anti-Semitism of all of them. And contrary to what we’re now being fed, anti-Semitism, like racism generally, comes overwhelmingly from the fascist and populist right. But the right-wing British political and media establishment exaggerated its incidence in Labour in order to smear Corbyn and his supporters. They took their cue from the self-proclaimed Jewish establishment – the Board, Chief Rabbinate and various other malign organisations – who don’t represent all of Britain’s diverse Jewish community by any means. These organisations just represent the United Synagogue and were not concerned with protecting Jews from real anti-Semitism as protecting Israel from criticism for its barbarous, inhuman treatment of the Palestinians.

The left-wingers on the NEC were entirely right to protest, especially as Starmer is continuing his abandonment of Corbyn’s genuinely popular policies. Policies that this country and its working people, Black, White, Asian, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist or pagan, desperately need.

But Starmer doesn’t want to represent them, only the interests of the elite and affluent, and the neoliberalism that enriches them.

Providing the answers that are needed

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 7:49pm in

I have been asked by a number of people, from MPs onwards, to prepare answers to the types of questions being commonly asked about the economy in the Covid era. I can’t see why these things shouldn’t be shared. What follows was written as a Twitter thread - hence the brevity - but it provides some suggestions.

———

Should we raise taxes to pay for Covid 19?

Right now, definitely not. We’re facing an economic downturn in 2021. Almost nothing can prevent it. And increasing taxes will take more tax out of the economy, and make the down turn worse. So definitely don’t raise taxes now.

———

Does that mean we don’t need any tax changes now?

No, it doesn’t, but overall taxes mustn’t increase. Tax the wealthy more then, and reduce tax for the poorest. That increases overall spending power in the economy because those least well off spend all their income. But that’s it.

————

So what taxes could increase?

Capital gains tax could be increased to income tax rates. Corporation tax for large companies could be 25%. Tax reliefs on pensions for higher rate taxpayers could be reduced. We could tax investment income more. Increase council tax at the top end.

———-

What taxes could go down for the low paid?

National insurance would be a good place to start. Cancel council tax for those on benefits. Reduce council tax for low rate rate bands. Free BBC licence fee for those on benefits. Think laterally, in other words.

———-

Do we need to repay the national debt?

No, of course not. Firstly, we’ve only repaid tiny amounts since WW2 and nothing since 2001. So why start repaying now? And why do it anyway? The owners of the national debt want to own it. So why force them to sell it when they want it?

———

Any other reasons not to repay national debt?

Yes. £200bn is National Savings. £400bn has foreign owners. £800bn is owned by the Treasury and can’t be repaid. The rest is owned by pension funds, banks and the finance sector. Why force them to sell? It makes no sense.

———

So any other reason to leave debt as it is?

Many. Like, it’s never been cheaper, which is what really matters. And to repay the debt requires either more tax or cuts in government spending and both reduce demand in the economy - and we will need all the demand we can get in 2021.

———

Should we in fact be spending more?

Of course. The NHS is underfunded. So is care. Education and justice are at their limits. They need money, now. But most of all we need the government to lead investment in a sustainable economy for the UK. Why not spend when there is so much need?

———-

What does investing in a sustainable economy look like?

Most important, it is about making the UK’s 30 million buildings energy efficient. Triple glazing. Insulation. New boilers. Heat pumps. And solar power. All done street-by-street by a mass of newly trained people to do the job.

———

What else do we need to invest in?

New carbon neutral housing. Research into new transport solutions. More efficient wind, solar and tidal power. Better, safer agriculture. New energy grids. Real high speed broadband. Better business systems to deliver all this.

———-

But we’re already in debt. How do we pay for this?

First, people are queueing up to save with the government. Why don’t we let them? Second, let’s change the tax incentives on pensions and ISAs to drive money to green investment. And if that is not enough then there is QE.

———-

What changes to tax incentives?

Require pension funds invest 25% of all new contributions in programmes creating green jobs in exchange for tax relief. Ensure ISAs can only be saved in government backed green bonds - to be used to deliver the transformation this country needs.

———-

Why QE? Haven’t we had enough of that already?

QE is simply the Bank of England creating new money for the government to spend. So long as there is unemployment this can be done with no risk of inflation. So we can have all the money needed to invest in the transition we need.

———

But haven’t we already maxed out the credit card?

This claim is absurd. It assumes the government’s like a household. It isn’t. Unlike households governments can create money, without limit. So they can always pay their bills. There is no credit card. And there is no limit.

———

So we can create money forever?

No. There is a limit. It’s full employment. That’s the constraint. Money is not. So at full employment spending has to stop. But that’s why the aim should be to create a wide variety of jobs in every constituency. Think small to deliver big.

———

There will be more of these. But these will do for starters. And of course each is just a framework for an answer. But there’s never a reason, however short the time available, to not argue for the economy we need.

No deal was always the aim, as was the chaos it will bring

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 7:09pm in

I have for a very long time believed that the government’s real desire is a no deal Brexit, but they felt unable to say it.

The reasons for that inability should be obvious. They know, as everyone knows, that a no deal Brexit will be a disaster for the real economy and the people of the UK. So of course they could not be seen to be going for it.

I can’t forgive them for Brexit. It was won on the basis of electoral fraud and the vote would have been ruled illegal if only it had been binding rather than advisory.

I can’t forgive them for conning people.

I can’t forgive them for the populism that fuelled all this, and the divisions it has created that will scar real lives for decades.

And right now I can’t forgive them for something else. That is their utter incompetence in delivering on their promise.

If they really wanted Brexit they should, at the very least, have planned for it and made sure all the systems were in place well before time. After all, they had well over three years to do so. But instead we still don’t know what is happening. No one has the chance to prepare. Because no one knows what to prepare for. And literally nothing appears to have been tested.

And that makes me very angry, because this is really going to matter a very great deal. In the real world change is always hard. Humans simply make mistakes with the unfamiliar. That’s normal. To give people no chance to prepare, as has happened, exacerbates that risk of errors arising, through no particular fault of anyone.

Excepting, of course, those who neglected the need to resolve this. And why did they neglect their duty? Precisely because they are disaster capitalists, wanting chaos on behalf of their hedge fund friends who can than exploit the chaos to extract yet more money from the economy at cost to all the rest of us.

I cannot see how chaos can be avoided early next year. Of course, it will eventually get better. I do not pretend otherwise. But chaos on top of COVID, and Covid management that has already told us more than enough about the corrupted ethic at the heart fo this government? That will be disastrous. And they know it.

The only conclusion is that the current incompetence in negotiation is deliberate. I really do hope that those responsible are never forgiven. And at least Gove and Johnson got to be in charge as it is happening. The blame will be unavoidable.

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