China’s Economic Engine Is Running Out of Fuel (YI FUXIAN, 12/22/23, Project Syndicate)

[H]owever appealing to China’s leaders Lin’s economic forecasts may be, they have proved wildly wrong, not least because they fail to account for China’s bleak demographic outlook. Both a higher median age and a higher proportion of people over 64 are negatively correlated with growth, and on both points, China is doing far worse than the three countries to which Lin compares it.

When Germany’s GDP per capita was equivalent to 22.6% that of the US, its median age was 34. In Japan and South Korea, the median age was just 24. After those 16 subsequent years of strong growth, the median age in the three countries stood at 35, 30, and 32, respectively. Contrast that with China, where the median age was 41 in 2019, and will reach 49 in 2035.

Likewise, at the beginning of the 16-year period to which Lin refers, the proportion of people over 64 in Germany, Japan, and South Korea was 8%, 5%, and 4%, respectively; at the end, it stood at 12%, 7%, and 7%. In China, that proportion was 13% in 2019 and will be 25% in 2035. In the 16 years after the proportion of people over 64 reached 13% in Germany (in 1966) and Japan (in 1991), these economies’ average annual growth was only 2.9% and 1.1%, respectively.

Moreover, in Germany, Japan, and South Korea, the labor force (aged 15-59) began to decline in the 12th, 38th, and 31st years after their per capita GDP equaled 22.6% that of the US. China’s began to decline in 2012.

If one imagines China’s economy as an airplane, the 1978 launch of the policy of reform and opening up would have been what ignited the fuel – the young workers – that enabled the economy to take off and fly at high speeds for three decades. But, in 2012, the fuel began to run low, causing the plane to decelerate.

Instead of adjusting to their new reality, the Chinese authorities – heeding the advice of economists like Lin – continued to lean on the throttle by investing heavily in real estate, thereby creating a massive property bubble.


The Missed Opportunity of George W. Bush’s ‘Ownership Society’ (Kevin D. Williamson, Dec 22, 2023, The Dispatch)

The Wall Street Journal reports: “More Americans than ever own stocks.” In fact, a majority of U.S. households—58 percent—are corporate shareholders, either directly or indirectly through retirement accounts or managed funds. That is up from 53 percent in 2019—many Americans became investors, or more active investors, during the COVID-19 shutdowns and disruptions: Not all of those stimulus checks were spent on rare whisky and expensive sneakers.

One way of understanding the “ownership society” is this: The best way to spread the wealth is to spread the wealth.

If you are concerned that returns to labor are not keeping pace with returns to investment, then you could try to goose the labor market in various ways and pray to the gods of central planning that the unintended consequences of your monkeying around do not cost more than the value of whatever benefits you are able to achieve. Alternatively, you could encourage people who work for wages and salaries to invest in equity—and here I do not mean equity as the social-justice knuckleheads use the word but real equity—so that returns to capital end up in their pockets. Progressives talk about “putting people over profits,” but the “ownership society” understands that the relationship is not, or need not be, fundamentally rivalrous.

Napoleon supposedly spat that England is “a nation of shopkeepers,” being so ensorcelled by the prospect of la gloire that he could not appreciate what a fine thing it was to be a nation of shopkeepers—thrifty, prudent, commercial, not given to urgent enthusiasms. To be a nation of shareholders would be a very fine thing as well, for similar reasons.

We have, of course, been doing this with some success for many years, not only in the United States but around the world, with a great share of the world’s business enterprises being owned not by men with pinstriped suits and manicures but by ordinary people of ordinary means, in large part through retirement accounts and similar funds. The top 20 worldwide owners of assets—which hold something on the order of $27 trillion in investments—include the Government Pensions Investment Fund of Japan (which has long been at the top of the list), the Government Pension Fund of Norway, and the National Pension of South Korea, along with such U.S. representatives as the Federal Retirement Thrift and the public employees of California. The typical corporate shareholder in the United States does not look like Gordon Gekko—more like a retired teacher from Sacramento departing Port Canaveral on a weeklong cruise.


How DeSantis’s Ambitious, Costly Ground Game Has Sputtered (Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Nicholas Nehamas and Kellen Browning, Dec. 22, 2023, NY Times)

This spring, the main super PAC backing Mr. DeSantis laid out a costly organizing operation, including an enormous voter-outreach push with an army of trained, paid door-knockers, that would try to reach every potential DeSantis voter multiple times in early-nominating states.

Seven months later, after tens of millions of dollars spent and hundreds of thousands of doors knocked, one of the most expensive ground games in modern political history shows little sign of creating the momentum it had hoped to achieve.

Mr. DeSantis’s poll numbers have barely budged. His super PAC, Never Back Down, is unraveling. And Mr. Trump’s hold on Republican primary voters seems as unshakable as ever. With time running out before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15, Mr. DeSantis, the governor of Florida, appears in danger of losing the extraordinary bet he made in outsourcing his field operation to a super PAC — a gamble that is testing both the limits of campaign finance law and the power of money to move voter sentiment.

I’m a short animatroc version of Donald was always going to be a tough sell.


Soy Califa! On Dexter Gordon’s Life and Music: a review of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon by Maxine Gordon (Alex Harvey, December 22, 2023, LA review of Books)

WHEN DEXTER GORDON played the role of Dale Turner, a fictional, self-destructive saxophonist living in Paris, for Bertrand Tavernier’s 1986 film Round Midnight, he drew on his experience as an African American jazz musician exiled to Europe. The emotional intensity of his performance gained Gordon an Oscar nomination, but it wasn’t straight autobiography. In the figure of Turner, Gordon created a composite persona, based on the stories of Black American artists, who had been marginalized in the United States and sought respite from the racism they had experienced. Writers such as James Baldwin and Chester Himes, along with jazz musicians like Sidney Bechet, Ben Webster, and Bud Powell, found not only deep respect for their artistic talent in Europe but also some refuge from white hostility. Gordon knew he had the ability and the chance to embody this experience in Round Midnight, as he acknowledged:

There was a sense of responsibility in this film. […] I felt like I represented all these hundreds of cats. Not that they’d all been to Europe, but they were all jazz musicians who’d paid their dues and got no admiration and got no remuneration. […] [W]e were able to enlarge the character of Dale Turner. There must have been 100 personalities in him. All my heroes.

Round Midnight reads like a valedictory statement, since Gordon died only four years later. But the story of Dexter Gordon isn’t only that of a long career spent exploring jazz’s possibilities, or a matter of honoring an extraordinary generation of musicians. To mark the centenary year of this great Black musician, one who was formed and nurtured in Los Angeles’s thriving African American jazz community of the mid-20th century, it is important to affirm Gordon’s continuing relevance. His story goes to the heart of contemporary America and the way “it embraces and also pushes away brilliant creative Black people,” as Maxine Gordon, scholar and widow of the musician, puts it in her 2018 book Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon.

He also has a turn in the best Crime Story arc–Moulin Rouge–which has one of the greatest endings in tv history.

SO BY 2040 THEN…:

Electric utility plans are consistent with Renewable Portfolio Standards and Clean Energy Standards in most US states (Grace D. Kroeger & Matthew G. Burgess, 12/18.23, Climatic Change)

Electricity is one of the easiest—and therefore most urgent—sectors to decarbonize. In the USA, state-level Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and Clean Energy Standards (CES) are key policy tools pursuant to this objective. These policies mandate that electric utilities achieve specified renewable compositions on specified timelines. In recent US history, electricity has been decarbonizing faster than major agencies predicted, which raises the question of whether utilities are decarbonizing faster than RPS and CES targets prescribe. We address this question by comparing state-level RPS and CES targets to historical progress and stated decarbonization targets from 220 utilities, comprising at least 52% of sales in every state and 76% of sales on average. In 18 of 26 states with current RPS or CES and 9 of 11 states with expired RPS or CES, utilities’ generation and targets meet, nearly meet, or exceed state targets. We project that utility targets and linear progress thereafter put six states without current RPS or CES on track for over 90% renewable electricity by 2050, and they put US electricity on track to reach 100% renewable by 2060.

No matter how much the Right hates the environmentalists they can’t stop an economic revolution.


Brett Kavanaugh Could Strike Killer Blow Against Donald Trump (Ewan Palmer, 12/21/23, Newsweek)

In a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court said that former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office can be allowed to request Trump’s financial records as part of an investigation into the former president’s real estate company, The Trump Organization.

“Pop quiz: Which sitting SCOTUS justice wrote this in a 2020 case? ‘In our system of government, as this Court has often stated, no one is above the law. That principle applies, of course, to a President,'” Vance posted.

“Would it stun you to learn the answer is…Brett Kavanaugh, concurring in the judgment, in then-Manhattan DA Cy Vance’s bid for Trump’s tax and financial papers?”

No. The Federalist Society is conservative, not MAGA.


Jan. 6 rioters the far right claimed were antifa keep getting unmasked as Trump supporters (Ryan J. Reilly, 12/22/23, NBC News)

In nearly three years since a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, far-right figures have made a claim that flies in the face of reality: That the Jan. 6 attack was actually driven by far-left antifa activists dressed up like Trump supporters, or by federal agents dressed up like Trump supporters, or by some combination thereof.

The only trouble with the conspiracy? The feds keep arresting these supposedly far-left agitators, and the rioters’ own social media posts and FBI affidavits show they’re just Trump supporters.


Why are so many young Chinese depressed? (Nancy Qian, 12/21/23, the Strategist)

China’s high youth unemployment rate and increasingly disillusioned young people—many of whom are ‘giving up’ on work—have attracted much attention from global media outlets and Chinese policymakers. The standard narrative is to associate the problem with the country’s recent growth slowdown. In fact, the issue goes much deeper.

The rise of youth depression has been decades in the making, and owes much to China’s rigid education system, past fertility policies and tight migration restrictions.


The case of al-Shifa: Investigating the assault on Gaza’s largest hospital (Louisa Loveluck, Evan Hill, Jonathan Baran, Jarrett Ley and Ellen Nakashima, December 21, 2023, Washington Post)

But the evidence presented by the Israeli government falls short of showing that Hamas had been using the hospital as a command and control center, according to a Washington Post analysis of open-source visuals, satellite imagery and all of the publicly released IDF materials. That raises critical questions, legal and humanitarian experts say, about whether the civilian harm caused by Israel’s military operations against the hospital — encircling, besieging and ultimately raiding the facility and the tunnel beneath it — were proportionate to the assessed threat.

The Post’s analysis shows:

The rooms connected to the tunnel network discovered by IDF troops showed no immediate evidence of military use by Hamas.

None of the five hospital buildings identified by Hagari appeared to be connected to the tunnel network.

There is no evidence that the tunnels could be accessed from inside hospital wards.


Reports: Hamas seeks release of Marwan Barghouti in any hostage deal (MEMO, December 22, 2023)

Barghouti, 64, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, is most favoured to chair the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA), according to Palestinian opinion polls.

He was arrested by Israel in 2002 and handed five life sentences.

Barghouti “can change the face of the Palestinian Authority,” the newspaper said. Despite his imprisonment, Barghouti enjoys strong support and has been able to affect events on the ground in the occupied West Bank.