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Category: USA

One China or Two?

29 April 2021

The One China policy was basically the recognition of reality. Mainland Communist China won the revolution in 1949, and when China got its economic act together the world needed to trade with it as it was far more economically significant than Taiwan.


Chiang Kai-shek, the Kuomintang leader, was defeated by Mao Tse Tung and fled to the island that had previously been called Formosa, now Taiwan. He maintained the idea that he would lead a counter-revolution, so there was One China.  This counter-revolution became increasingly ridiculous with time, but was not abandoned.  The Communists claimed Taiwan and treat it as a rebel province, and they stated that there is One China and that the price of trading with them was to have Taiwan excluded from the UN and other international bodies. That has been the situation for many years, and almost all countries accepted the One China policy, and stopped recognising Taiwan, even if they traded with it.

By definition, if there is One China, who governs Taiwan is an internal Chinese matter. We may not like what China does in Hong Kong, with the Uighurs or in Taiwan, but it is the US that has accepted the One China policy for years. 

After WW2 at Bretton Woods it was assumed that free trade would allow countries that were competitive to rise, and those that were not competitive to fall. This was so that there would not be war over markets.  But the system that the West set up gave an advantage to countries with lower wages, and if they were smart enough to get the fruits of their labour rather than stay as colonies with foreigners owning their industries, they rose.  So China rose and is now a world power and the US are now seeking to intervene in Taiwan and re-create a two-China policy. One can hardly expect China to accept this massive loss of face. 

The assumption was that Taiwan would eventually solve its differences with mainland China peacefully.  After recent events in Hong Kong, this has become less likely in the short and medium term, but is still viable or even inevitable in the long term, which has always been China’s position.

China has done some sabre-rattling with flights over Taiwan and obviously the recent events in Hong Kong have made everyone nervous.

This article looks at the similarities of the Chinese way of doing business to capitalism.  It could be said that the model of an intelligent government cooperating with industry is more successful than a few large industries competing.  Competition works if there are many small producers competing in a market.  When there are a few oligopolies using trademarks or patents to make more money and not to share knowledge, the old adage that ‘private competition is the best way to run things’ starts to break down.  It may not just be cheaper wages that is allowing China to out-compete the US.

Starting a war because you are losing the peace seems a very unwise course of action. 

Australia has to stop being the US lapdog. We are not taking the right path.

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Our Military

April 15 2021

If you ask soldiers to do totally unreasonable things, you should probably expect totally unreasonable things.

The Australian Commander, John Cantwell was of the opinion that the Afghan war could not be won, and every Australian life lost in Afghanistan was totally wasted. He was on the short list to be the supreme head of the Australian armed forces but he took himself off the list and retired in 2011 with PTSD and wrote ‘Exit Wounds- One Australian’s War on Terror’ in 2012. It is inconceivable that he did not tell the Australian hierarchy that the war was unwinnable prior to his resignation in 2011, which is 10 years ago.

To ask for ethical behaviour from the troops, when there is none at the top of the nation is hypocrisy writ large.

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Australia to follow the US out of Afghanistan

15 April 2021

Australian troops are to leave Afghanistan, now that Biden has taken the Americans out.  The fact that we had no strategic interest there, and that we were merely there to please the US merely shows how pathetic our efforts to please the US are. 

We go into foreign wars in the hope that if we are ever attacked the US will defend us as they did in the Second World War.  Let us look at some realities.  The British had promised to defend us in WW2, but when we were attacked they sent two battleships that were promptly sunk and they wanted to keep our troops in North Africa and assured us that if we were captured they would come and recapture us when they had (hopefully) won in Europe. 

The US came to help Australia as they could not let the Japanese take us over and they were already at war with them.  The US visited Jakarka just before Indonesia invaded East Timor, so it must be concluded that they were happy to let that little country go.  If in  future the US has a global war problem, they will act on their immediate strategic interests which may or may not mean helping us.  Being a bit player in historic wars in Vietnam or the Middle East will not be top of mind.

So we are giving our troops absurd tasks where they go overseas and see their mates killed for no real purpose.  Note that the Australian commander in Iraq and Afghanistan,  John Cantwell wrote ‘Exit Wounds- One Australian’s War on Terror’ and developed PTSD from what he said was an unwinnable war in Afghanistan in 2012. 

We go into wars for no godo reason without so much as a a Parliamentary debate- the Cabinet just decides.  We buy American arms wily-nilly to spend the 2% of our budget that the US demands in order to help their arms industry and balance of payments, picking up lemon fighter planes and overpriced and probably obsolete submarines. We let the US station its force in Darwin.  We cooperate with the Israelis in weapons development and we sell arms to practically anyone, including Myanmar and the Saudis  in Yemen. The arms industry is giving hugely to the Australian War Memorial but want more modern displays.  It seems that the object is not to remember the fallen and that they fought for peace, but rather to have a Temple of Militarism where our youth can have their warrior fantasies.

There are some Peace groups that have achieved good things. Australians for War Powers Reform want Parliament to decide before we are committed to wars, and other groups are active’  IPAN, the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network,  MAPW, the Medical Association for the Prevention of War, and  IPPNW, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

But a lot more action is needed if we are to stop this military folly.

www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/australia-to-withdraw-all-troops-from-afghanistan-after-biden-vows-to-end-war-20210415-p57jeb.html

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Sex, God, Anger, Mental Health, Guns, and Racism

20 March 2021

In a recent article about a mass shooting in a number of brothels in Georgia, USA, the Police were criticised for saying that the alleged killer had ‘had a bad day’.  Obviously his day was not as bad as those who were shot.  The Police were in trouble for not being condemnatory enough in their statement.  There was a lot of discussion whether the shootings were racially motivated as they were in Asian massage parlours.  An alternative explanation was that he was getting rid of the outlet for his temptations.

The study of accidents or ‘adverse events’ is a somewhat neglected science.  The legal system has graduated from ‘guilty or not guilty’ to ‘at fault or not-at-fault’, as this makes it simple to dispense justice.  The more nuanced study of adverse events has been mainly done in the aviation and oil industries where a number of small errors or omissions may magnify each other.  The oil industry has tried to quantify the probabilities, which of course is much beloved by the insurance industry, which wants to set its premiums on some sort of rational basis. (How many valves are there in the plant? What percentage of valves leak? What percentage of the valves control volatile liquids?  How many areas can form explosive clouds? What sources of ignition are there? etc.)

A common analogy used for major accidents is that there are a series of discs with a hole in each of them all revolving at different rates, and if all the holes line up, something can get through.  So if each disc is something that can fail, the combination of failures leads to the disaster.

There is then discussion of the environment, the primary, secondary and tertiary causes and the immediate precipitant.

So the headline of this article was an attempt to put some discs in line to look at why the shooting happened.  It is obviously a tragedy and totally unethical, but it is still helpful to discuss its elements coldly and logically.

Sex is a primal drive. An explanation offered for many species is that the males try to reproduce as much as possible, with the females acting as ‘quality control’ selecting who they will mate with and when.  Male libido is rarely discussed except as an embarrassment to harmony or a non-justification for unwanted sexual advances.  The Christian churches have generally had a very negative attitude to sex.  It seems that sex is defined as only acceptable in a monogamous relationship, the alternatives being states of either abstinence or immorality.  The word ‘morals’ has come to mean sticking to a sexual code, rather than behaving ethically in business, commerce or anywhere else.

This attitude to sex has made it an exceptional act.  When a baby girl first rolls over, everyone claps. When she first sits, stand, walks, talks or rides a bicycle everyone is similarly delighted.  But when she first has sex, the world seems terrified.   With boys it is similar, but there is much less terror.  Christian-ethos-based  societies do not seem to have come to terms with our basic humanity and its natural functions.  In consequence prohibitions and guilts are major elements in our society.

In Shakespearean society the serfs had nothing to inherit, so were not really concerned who fathered the village children. The middle class had money to inherit, so were very fussy who slept with who, and the kings staffed the Court with eunuchs just to be on the safe side.  In some Asian societies the men visit the brothels on the way home so that they will leave their wives alone. This also occurs in Western societies, but with the sex industry more marginalised. 

So if a man is at the extreme end of the libido spectrum, but due to personality characteristics is continually denied sex, he may become angry and frustrated.  This is unsurprising.  If his libido is then defined as abnormal, he may be termed ‘sex-addicted’.  Is this then a psychiatric diagnosis?  Probably not.  There is no real connection between psychiatric diagnoses and physiological brain function, and mental illness is often a question of definitions, which change significantly with time.  The diagnosis ‘nymphomaniac’ has gone out of use.

In the US with guns readily available, killing people is much easier; uncontrolled anger is much more dangerous.  Obviously an angry man is far more likely to kill 8 people if he has a gun that if he does not.

In that brothels tend to be staffed by people who are marginalised either by race or income, it is observed that many are staffed by Asian women.

If one accepts that there were 6 discs that had holes in them, one could argue which causative factor was the most important.  The Police may have been keen to play down the racist element.  They may assume that the guns and the ‘moral framework’ are not able to be changed, hence not worthy of mention.

Australia has no gun problem like this, but sexual consent is certainly the topic of the moment. A more natural and secular approach to sex education would seem to be necessary, and an obvious approach is to put it into a civics and ethics class into schools.  The crunch question will be whether it displaces scripture, which increasingly seems an anachronism.

www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/alleged-killer-says-sex-addiction-not-racism-motivated-atlanta-shooting-spree-20210318-p57bqb.html

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Trump Acquitted. Significance?

14 February 2021

President Trump was not impeached because it needs a two thirds majority of US Senators and the Democrats and Republicans have 50 each, with the Vice President having a casting vote.  So 13 Republicans would have had to vote for the impeachment, and only 7 did so. 57 to 43 was not two-thirds.

 Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said that Trump could not be impeached as he was no longer President, but this was because the Senate delayed the debate while he was, so it looked like a convenient cop-out.  Whether it was ‘loyalty to the Republican party’ is a moot question. In practical terms, Trump has a lot of support at the grass roots of the Republican party, and if he directs his supporters to oppose a Senator’s pre-selection next time it will be likely to cost them their seat.  So they were willing to toe the line that the election was rigged, and now vote that Trump did not incite supporters to storm the Capitol. It is remarkable that they were in the Chamber when the Capital building was stormed, and the Senators were in physical danger, but now they decline to condemn Trump.

It is worth looking at the Republicans who did have the courage to cross the floor:

Mitt Romney of Utah was an Independent until 1993, and a Mormon.  He stood as the Republican Presidential Candidate against Barack Obama in 2012, and was elected to the Senate in 2019.  He is 73 now, but has probably a very strong base.

Bill Cassidy MD, aged 64 was a Democrat who changed to the Republicans in 2001.  He was the only Republican Senator who did not challenge the result of the 2020 Presidential election and was condemned by his Louisiana Republican party for this stance, even prior to his voting for Trump’s impeachment.  He was elected in 2020, so will face the voters again in 2024.

Susan Collins of Maine aged 68 was elected in 1996, and is the longest-serving Republican woman Senator, most recently re-elected in 2020.  She declined to support the bill to repeal Obama’s ‘Affordable Care Act’ and also declined to support the nomination of conservative judge Amy Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Lisa Murkowsi of Alaska aged 63 has been in the Senate since 1998, having followed her father into her seat but via a write-in vote, having been defeated in the pre-selection.  A survey showed her to be the second most liberal Republican Senator after Susan Collins.  She intends to run for a 4th term in 2022, but it has been tipped in Newsweek that Sarah Palin will stand against her in the next preselection.

Ben Sasse of Nebraska aged 48 has taken a strong stand against Trump and effectively bet his political career on what is currently not a popular stand in his State, though he paints himself as a strong conservative.

Richard Burr of North Carolina aged 65 surprised colleagues by voting against Trump. He was elected in 2005, but he had announced in 2016 that he would not seek a 4th term, so preselection is irrelevant for him.

Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania aged 59 was elected to the House of Representatives in 1998, then the Senate in 2011 and 2016, but has said that he would not stand again.

So it looks as if there are very few Senate Republicans who will put the national interest ahead of their own pre-selections and party loyalties. 

This is why we need the power returned to the people both in the USA and here. The interests of the political parties are not the same as the interests of the people.

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/president-donald-trump-acquitted/story?id=75853994
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Congress Impeaches Trump- What is Next? 14/1/21

Congress, the lower house of the US Parliament has quickly voted to impeach Trump for false claims of election fraud and his part in inciting the storming of the US Congress. That is today.

Tomorrow in 50 State Capitals there will be demonstrations by Trump supporters carrying guns.  This vote will not make them happy.  It is hard to believe that there will not be violence somewhere and that there will not be deaths.  I would not like to be a policemen in the front line of controlling these armed demonstrators.

After the demonstrations the Senate, the upper house, which has even numbers of Democrats and Republicans with only the casting vote of the Democrat speaker will consider the impeachment.  My understanding is that to stop Trump standing again, a two-thirds majority is needed, so a third of Senate Republicans would have to support the motion.  If the demonstrations turn ugly, will they?

The other question is whether the Democrats will bring it on immediately.  The inauguration of the new President Biden is in 6 days, on 20/1/21.  The nature of this ceremony was likely to be hugely modified by COVID, but now there is a new security dimension.  Biden will also want to have his legislative agenda pushed forward, as there is a huge demand for action in many areas, and impeaching a soon-to-be-ex-President, or an actual ex- President may seem an act of petty revenge, particularly if it is delayed.  Biden needs to be seen to be bringing the US together and getting on with the job, but he is unlikely to let the issue go.

The next few days will be interesting, even by 2020 standards.

www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/10-house-republicans-voted-to-impeach-trump-heres-what-they-said

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US Election Aftermath 8/1/21

All the commentators are saying that Trump has no case and that the US election was properly run and the result is correct.  No doubt they are right as far as they go.

But we might ask why people are so upset that they will storm the Capitol and make the US look like a tin pot third world rabble, where police line up to stop raging demonstrators and shoot a few.

Many years as a young child I went to the first version of ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ with my mother.   There is scene in that with a huge rally with banners, shouting, festivities and people squirting each other with hoses.  I asked my Mom, ‘What are they doing?’.  She replied, ‘They are having an election, son’.  I said, ‘That is not how you have elections’.  She said. ‘It’s how they do it over there’.

It has always stuck on my mind.  She regarded the US as not actually a civilised country.  At that time we watched Westerns where they had shoot outs and wars with the baddies a.k.a Indians.  Later she explained that they carried guns and had no health system for poor people.  When my parents retired they went on a trip to the USA and were held up at gunpoint at their motel in Los Angeles by men who needed money for drugs, which tended to prove her point.

This morning on  Radio National singer/songwriter Tori Amos told of how as an aspiring artist she played in bars and heard how the powers behind the throne arranged judicial appointments such that there was a court decision to allow unlimited money into political donations without the source of it being clear. 

Looking at the choices of president facing the US electors last time, there was Trump, the anti-Establishment TV reality host v. Hillary Clinton, an existing Establishment figure. The progressive voice of Bernie Sanders had been eliminated. This time there was Trump with his failed rhetoric and COVID non-policies against Biden, an existing Establishment figure.  Sanders had again been side-lined.  So, yes the count was correct, but how much use is this to the common person, whose job is no longer secure and whose income has not risen for decades? 

Inequality has been rising apace. Everyone may be aware of this, but some are more aware than others, some are much more affected than others, and some want to do much much more about it than others.

The vote count and procedures may be correct, but the system is not delivering a fair outcome.  Taking jobs from US workers to ones in China or elsewhere allows importers to make supernormal profits, and this process, which amounts to the undoing of colonialism where the raw materials came  from overseas and were processed in the First World will not be complete until all the world’s workers are equal.  In the meantime, the poor in the First World get a lot poorer and the rich, initially in the First World, but now elite as much by class as  by nationality, get richer (as Marx had predicted).

The Trump demonstrators are wrong about the election, but not so wrong if you talk about the system and their place in it.  Sanders may have had a solution, Trump never did.  The US elite have avoided confronting the issue so far, but it is still there, and will be ongoing.

Here is Bob Carr, ex-NSW Premier and ex- US Foreign Minister writing about how the problem will not go away.  He is less specific on why.

www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/capitol-chaos-is-just-the-first-act-the-republican-party-is-shattered-and-civility-is-not-coming-back-20210107-p56sdw.html

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Assange has Avoided Extradition to the USA for now. 5/1/21

But Judge Baraitser accepted most of the US government’s arguments that journalism could be espionage, that he would get a ‘fair trial’ in the USA. and that his extradition would have been legal, though political crimes are supposedly excluded from the extradition agreement. He has not actually been freed, and one might reasonably ask why he is being held at all, since the trumped up Swedish rape case is no longer being pursued. There is also a possible appeal from the US government, at a time when Trump is on his last legs and looking for publicity and a legacy.


Julian Assange is still in danger from COVID in Belmarsh prison. It is hard to see anything other than the British, US and Australian Establishments trying to destroy him, if not by COVID, then simply psychologically. One shudders to think what his mental state will be after being locked up for a decade with no substantial charge and having tried to do good. ‘All journalists beware!’ is the message.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/56130.htm

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US Health System and COVID-19 11/12/20

Here is an article about the US Health system and its response to COVID. Basically it seems that the US government is subsidising COVID treatments so that they are more lucrative than treatment of other diseases, so the private operators are filling their hospitals with COVID patients whether they need to be admitted or not, and non-COVID patients are excluded.

The other thing that is interesting is that there has been a huge growth in administrators since the 1970s. It has to be understood why private health systems are so inefficient. They have to keep individual insurance databases to keep track of premiums and churn as people change funds. When someone is treated they have to account for every band aid, visit, procedure or investigation, bill the patient and pay the practitioner. They have to market their product, compete for staff, and then figure out ways to avoid paying if possible.

Universal systems have everyone eligible, so do not need to worry about who is getting treated. No need to market the system, maintain many different churning databases, compete for doctors, keep accounts for every details of every treatment and bill and pay for them individually.

In terms of better health care there is no problem of adapting to whatever disease needs the most attention as the staff are motivated to do the most effective treatments, and there is no distortion of priorities to maximise profits.

The US health system is the least effective in the developed world in terms of delivering health care. but it is the most effective at its primary object- turning sickness into money.

No one has looked too closely at why the Australian system has been able to respond. Basically our public health system is State-based hospitals, which are still largely public and have doctors who could be re-directed to testing and vaccination. They can also change to do COVID if needed, and treat disease on their merit.

The private hospitals did very well out of the government subsidies here because they were emptied ready for a COVID influx that never came and they just pocketed the cash without much publicity for this from either themselves or the Government.

Australia has continued on its previous course, which is to starve Medicare and help the private system move towards a US system by stealth, and the COVID pandemic has so far not brought this to light. What is left of the public system has done well, helped by the fact that we are an island nation, so had some warning and could act to quarantine ourselves. The government was happy to take advice from the medical professionals because it had made such a mess of not taking advice from the firefighting professionals. But Medicare is still being quietly destroyed and we are moving to a US system of private medicine.

The government saves money on Medicare doing this, even though the system is much less efficient and much less equitable. But the key reason is not the savings on Medicare, it is the money to the Party coffers from the Private Health Industry (PHI), which is now much stronger with the changes John Howard did to the Aged Care system in 1997, which made it effectively a for-profit system, and the NDIS also a for-profit system, subsidised by the taxpayer through the Medicare levee, which was ironically not being used for health. (The discussion of the Aged Care system was in one of my posts last week).

The key thing to understand in the destruction of Medicare is that the rebate to doctors which was set at 85% of the AMA fee, so as to replace private medicine, has risen at half the inflation rate for 35 years and is now 46% of the AMA rate. Doctors are paid half what they were, so specialists mostly will not use it, and GPs who still bulk bill just do shorter visits.

Here is the article on the US response to COVID. Their prevention is also hopeless, as with such a poor welfare system the people cannot afford to stop work, and the story that it was a hoax was also promoted by President Trump. The obsession with ‘individual rights’ sits uneasily with the idea of staying home for the common good, and makes disinformation campaigns easier. People wanted to believe it was a hoax, because they could not afford to stop work anyway.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/55999.htm

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