Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The other side of the "tariff war" with China


There's a great deal of talk in the news about the tariffs President Trump has imposed, and/or threatened to impose, on imports from China.  That's an ongoing issue that isn't likely to be resolved overnight.  However, it's worth bearing in mind that, while the US economy overall is larger and stronger than the Chinese, that's changing fast.

One example is that General Motors has for some years sold more cars in China than it does in the United States.  Most recent figures, for the second quarter of 2018, show that GM sold 758,376 units here, and 858,344 in China.  That's a difference of 99,968 vehicles, or over 13% more sales in China than in the USA.  Other companies are rapidly approaching the same threshold, or even passing it.

Other major economic indicators are also slowly but steadily swinging in China's favor.  This morning Flight Global reported:

For a one-word summary of the megatrend shaping the world's commercial airliner fleet, read simply "China". Our annual World Airliner Census, built on Flight Fleets Analyzer data, reveals that during the past year the distribution of the global fleet crossed a milestone. A year ago, North America – always the biggest fleet region – led the in-service jet table with 30% of the global total, ahead of Asia-Pacific and China, with 29%. This year those percentages are reversed.

(Bold print is my emphasis.)

Tariffs are intended to restore a level economic playing field between the USA and China . . . but, as the saying goes, "quantity has a quality all its own".  The US population is about 327 million people.  China has approximately 1.415 billion inhabitants - outnumbering the USA by well over four to one.  As China's population earns more, and is able to afford a higher standard of living, China's internal markets will become much larger than the USA's, and its economy will inexorably power past ours in every respect.  Within 50 years, the USA will be far behind China in terms of overall economic numbers (unless something catastrophic happens to change that).

Tariffs can provide a short-term equalization impetus, but they can't change that reality.  In the not too distant future, China will be in a position to impose its own punitive tariffs on other nations, and make them stick.  It would be wise not to provoke the dragon too much.  It has a long memory.

Peter

Tab clearing


Several articles and posts caught my eye recently.  In no particular order, they include:

  1. On Security Clearances (The Diplomad)
  2. Pulling Their Clearances Is Only the Start – It’s Time to Stamp out Elite Privilege (Townhall)
  3. Trump Is Not Trying to Silence Brennan.  The president’s strategy is the opposite: to make the former CIA director more prominent and use him as a foil (Bloomberg)
  4. Connecting some dots (Reddit - if true, this list of people and their links uncovers the "Swamp Conspiracy" against President Trump more clearly than anything else I've read)
  5. Top Far Left Organizations Bragged About Working with Facebook and Twitter to Censor and Eliminate Conservative Content (Gateway Pundit)
  6. Police Body Cams: The worst thing that could happen to Race Baiters (Gun Free Zone)
  7. And there you have it:  the NRA's many failures and self-inflicted injuries (In the Middle of the Right)
  8. Study: Humans Are Almost Surely The Only Sentient Life In The Universe (Federalist)
  9. The Best Handgun Caliber - A Real World Study (YouTube - flawed statistical analysis, but nevertheless a useful real-world study)
  10. We've Reached "Peak Vagina" (Captain Capitalism)
  11. IMPORTANT – Michael Pillsbury: China Has “New Respect” For U.S. Trade Strategy (Conservative Treehouse - new insights into how President Trump's so-called "tariff war" is working)
  12. And, last but not least:  Hippos Poop So Much That Sometimes All the Fish Die (Atlantic).

They're all interesting reading.  Enjoy!

Peter

Quote of the day


From an article at the Kakistocracy blog:

So a functioning brain is one that forms accurate models about what it will actually see next. Such as a bushman on the Serengeti whose brain predicts he will soon see the inside of a lion’s intestinal tract upon realizing one is in full sprint for his neck. This model is one likely to incentivize enthusiastic flight, and thus result in a bushman who lives to model another day. In contrast, inaccurate models about lion behavior tend to have a suppressive effect on bushman longevity.

Having been in the company of Bushmen for extended periods, and having been in lion country on many occasions, I'm here to tell you, that's not a bad analogy!  (Of course, there are no Bushmen left in or near the Serengeti - that's spread across northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, while today they are concentrated in Botswana - but what's a couple of thousand miles between friends?)




Peter

Monday, August 20, 2018

Doofus Of The Day #1,019


Today's award goes to the marketing genius (?) responsible for approving the photographs below.

Courtesy of a link at Daily Timewaster, I came across this US-flag-themed wallet on Amazon.com.




The inside of the wallet looks pretty normal . . .




. . . until one zooms in on the banknotes in the image.




That's right - they're Chinese renminbi, not US dollars!  I guess that illustrates where the wallet was made.  So much for "American"!




Peter

Afghanistan: yet another band-aid plan that won't work


I've written extensively about Afghanistan in these pages, mostly several years ago.  Examples:







In the first of those articles, I said:

We're not going to win in Afghanistan, because a clear-cut military victory isn't possible. Sooner or later, negotiations are going to have to happen. Unless we grasp that reality, and learn from history, and do something about it, we're going to go on losing our servicemen and -women to no good purpose.

That remains the case to this day.  I see no reason to change my views.  Others agree with them, for example, Eric Margolis:

... the Pashtun defeated the invading armies of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, the Mogul Emperors and the mighty British Raj.  The US looks to be next in the Graveyard of Empires.

Nobody in Washington can enunciate a good reason for continuing the colonial war in Afghanistan.  One hears talk of minerals, women’s rights and democracy as a pretext for keeping US forces in Afghanistan. All nonsense.  A possible real reason is to deny influence over Afghanistan, though the Chinese are too smart to grab this poisoned cup.  They have more than enough with their rebellious Uighur Muslims.

And the Ron Paul Institute:

Sometime late next year, possibly as early as September, news crews will gather in Afghanistan for a unique event: To interview an American serviceman or woman who was not born when the war they are fighting began. He or she will not remember 9/11, and will have grown up with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as background noise. No doubt also a senior commander will be on hand to pronounce that the war against the Taliban is making progress, the same pronouncements the young recruit will have seen on TV all his or her life.

. . .

Terrorists have exacted a grievous toll in attacks on America and Americans, but they do not threaten the continuance of the union.

. . .

The president has been asking, in his caustic style, just why the US has men and women in harm’s way in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, places that pose no direct threat to the United States.

A new proposal by Erik Prince, founder of the security company Blackwater (now known as Academi), offers a new approach in Afghanistan.

Prince calls his proposal “A Strategic Economy of Force.” It entails sending 5,500 contractors to Afghanistan to embed with Afghan National Security Forces, and appointing a “viceroy” to oversee the whole endeavor. Prince said some version of the idea had been percolating in his mind since he first went to Afghanistan in 2002; he knew then, he said, that the Pentagon wasn’t going to be able to resolve this.

. . .

Under Prince’s plan, the viceroy would be a federal official who reports to the president and is empowered to make decisions about State Department, DoD, and intelligence community functions in-country. Prince was vague about how exactly this would work and which agency would house the viceroy, but compared the job to a “bankruptcy trustee” and said the person would have full hiring and firing authority over U.S. personnel. Prince wants to embed “mentors” into Afghan battalions. These mentors would be contractors from the U.S., Britain, Canada, South Africa—“anybody with a good rugby team,” Prince quipped. Prince also wants a “composite air wing”—a private air force—to make up for deficiencies in the Afghan air capabilities.

. . .

Critics say Prince’s plan will lead to a moral and legal quagmire, as contractors from around the world fighting in place of U.S. forces present a host of possible problems. What happens if a Canadian, for example, kills an Afghan civilian while fighting as a contractor under the leadership of the American “viceroy”? What if the contractors get in a real bind—does the U.S. send our military in to help them?

“Quality is a problem, accountability is a problem,” said McFate, who wrote a book about modern mercenary warfare. McFate raised the possibility of the Prince fighting force changing allegiances: “It could go into business for itself. It could be bought out by ISIS, China, Russia.”

. . .

One criticism of the Feinberg and Prince plans is that they are being proposed by people who potentially stand to make a profit off of them.

“I think it will make Erik Prince billions of dollars while he loses the war for us,” a congressional aide who has seen the plan said.

Prince’s argument essentially boils down to: So what?

“If someone is doing that, saving the customer money, is making a profit so bad?” he said. “And let me flip that on its head even more. Before anyone throws that accusation, I think they should interview all the former generals, all the former Pentagon generals, and all the boards they serve on, and all their recommendations … advocating for the Pentagon $50 billion approach to continue on like we’ve been doing for the last 16 years. Which one is it going to be? I’m happy to have that debate.”

. . .

Prince said he intends to keep pushing what he calls “the moderate option” in the public discussion. “There’s pullout completely, there’s double down, triple down, after 16 years,” he said. “Even though you might not like the use of contractors, what is there as a better alternative?”

There's more at the link.

I'm afraid I don't think very much of Mr. Prince's new proposal.  It amounts to more of the "same old, same old", but substitutes contractors for US military personnel.  If what the latter have been doing for all these years has brought us no closer to a resolution in Afghanistan, how will continuing to do it - by contractors or by troops - achieve any better result?  It may mean that the US military budget can contract by a few tens of billions of dollars (less whatever the costs are to sustain thousands of contractors and their equipment), but it won't stop the fighting, and it won't solve the intractable social, cultural and extremist problems in Afghanistan.

There's only one approach guaranteed to work in Afghanistan:  "scorched earth".  If an occupier does to Afghanistan what Rome did to Carthage, there will be peace in that tortured nation.  There will also be no more Afghans.  They'll all be dead, because only dead people can be guaranteed not to make any more problems for the living.  We can't adopt that approach, for ethical and moral reasons . . . so, if we won't do the only thing that will guarantee peace there, why are we still there at all?

Peter

Truth in (modern) relationships?


This cartoon from Stephan Pastis made me both laugh and think over the weekend.  Click it to be taken to a larger version at the comic's Web site.




It's amusing, yes . . . but it's also sadly true of what a lot of people look for in a relationship these days.  People seem to have lost sight of the fact that a romantic or courtship relationship (the latter not necessarily romantic) is for two people to come together to make one family;  two parts of a whole;  two faces of a single coin.  It's not just about feelings, or sex, or whatever.

As a pastor, offering relationship and pre-marital counseling, I was constantly taken aback by how little people thought about that aspect, about complementing each other so that each contributed to a relationship that was bigger, and better, and more "whole" than either individual within it.  I don't suppose things have improved now that the Internet, social media and dating apps have replaced most of the traditional framework of relationships in which I grew up.  Swiping left or right to select a potential - and usually very temporary - partner, based almost exclusively on his or her physical appearance, seems insane to me.  Physical appearance matters very little when it comes to truly loving someone and committing oneself to another person.

I can't help but recall my first fiancée, many years ago, in South Africa.  I was at a party one night, and she walked in the door.  Our eyes met . . . and that was it, right there.  I felt as if I had champagne fizzing in my veins.  I knew, right then and there, that this was the one for me.  She later told me that she knew, at the same instant, that I was the one for her.  She wasn't very attractive physically - in fact, she might be described as a little dumpy - but that never even entered into my thoughts.  It was the person inside the body that mattered, and that person was beautiful to me.  If she hadn't been killed, some time later, in South Africa's perennial violence during that period, I've no doubt we would have married and made a life together.  Looks didn't matter.  The person within and above and beyond the looks was all that counted.

Something very similar happened with Miss D., many years later.  We lived thousands of miles apart, but were introduced online by a mutual friend, and corresponded via e-mail and talked by phone for three to four weeks.  By that time both of us were pretty sure about each other, even though we'd never met, and seen each other only in photographs.  When I flew up to meet her for the first time, I took a ring with me, with her full knowledge and permission - and when I left, she was wearing it.  Fast work?  Sure . . . but we've had nine happy years together so far, and look forward to many more.  We've had to help each other adjust to having someone else always around, and given up or adjusted many things that we cherished individually, in order to accommodate a two-person relationship;  but neither of us would have it any other way.

The cartoon above illustrates the modern, soulless approach to relationships.  "What am I getting out of this?"  The reality, in any good relationship, has to be, "What am I putting into this?"  That's the Biblical pattern, after all.  "Whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap."  "Give, and it will be given to you."  The Golden Rule appears in every major religion, not just Christianity;  "Do to others as you want them to do to you."  In every application of these principles, one has to make the investment of effort, time, love, goodwill, whatever, in order to receive those things in return.  If, instead, one sets out to demand what one wants before being willing to reciprocate . . . that's exactly the wrong way to get it.  There's no two-way street there, no acknowledgment that one is as dependent on the other as they are on you.

In particular, sex can never substitute for all the other elements that make up a successful relationship.  Our organs of sexuality take up less than five percent of our body by mass and/or size.  Over time, particularly when one's learned to love rather than to lust, that's a pretty good indicator of how much of a good relationship depends on the physical, rather than on everything else.  Sex is not intimacy, despite what the world would have you believe.  Sex is, instead - or should be - the physical expression of a mental and spiritual intimacy, a union, that ultimately transcends the physical.  Ask any long-term, happily married couple.

Bowling ball relationships.  Perhaps that's not a bad metaphor for those trapped in the hookup culture . . . God help them (and I mean that quite literally).

Peter

Sunday, August 19, 2018

A special Sunday morning request


Normally I don't put up regular blog posts on Sundays, instead offering something in my "Sunday Morning Music" series.  However, Kevin Baker, all-round good guy and author of "The Smallest Minority" blog, is in hospital.  He needs our help.

Let his daughter describe what's going on.  From the GoFundMe appeal she's launched:

Kevin was admitted back to the hospital last night (8/15/18) after collapsing and having to be taken by ambulance to emergency. He had just gotten out of the hospital on Tuesday.

. . .

A little about my fabulous father. This is a man who took me under his wing when I was 15 years old. I was a troubled teen and he still provided the best care and attention that any teen could ask for. He taught me how to enjoy cars, how to drive, how to change a tire, how to check my tire pressure and gun safety/shooting. A lot of survival skills that many aren't blessed to be taught. All have had a huge impact on my life.


Fast forward to more current times. His health in the past few months started to decline rapidly. He had previously been diagnosed with porphyria. They then found Cirrhosis of the liver (hereditary). Later they found a bleeding ulcer in which he became very anemic. His liver condition is progressing at a high rate of speed to the point that he has now become very confused and cannot even use the technology that he needs in order to perform his work. He has exhausted his paid time off due to this. He keeps saying that he doesn't need help but he is a very stubborn individual who doesn't like burdening others with his problems and is too proud to ask for help. So here I am.

. . .

Sorry that his is so long but I cannot express enough how much this wonderful man has made a difference in my life and his family. He has always been the greatest support for his family and friends amongst many others. Please take a moment of your time to contribute whatever you can. If you can't donate please just say a prayer. These are by far the worst times we have ever seen him in.

Thank you a million! His grateful daughter,

Jessica

There's more at the link.

I've encountered Kevin's illnesses before, as a pastor and chaplain.  Porphyria often leads to cirrhosis, and being a hereditary condition, it's often hard to detect and even harder to isolate what type the patient has.  Suffice it to say that it's not good.  Please keep Kevin in your prayers for a swift and full recovery, and his family for the emotional burden they're undoubtedly carrying right now.

The latest update on Kevin's condition is:

He had to [be] put on oxygen but has since been taken off. Bad and good news. He is coherent enough to have small conversations now. Which is more great news! However, when they did further examining they found that his kidney is not doing so well. This is not good news. Therefore he will be staying in the hospital yet another night and maybe more. We are still optimistic about him making it to his Mayo Clinic next Thursday.

Many of us know Kevin, and have already supported the GoFundMe campaign for his medical and other costs (including Miss D. and myself).  I'll be personally very grateful if you'll please show your support as well.  Kevin is good people, and has helped countless others over the years.  Now it's his turn to need help, and I hope he gets all he needs.

One important note:  If the campaign reaches its stated goal, please donate anyway.  We all know how medical expenses mount, and I'm sure the small amount his daughter has requested won't cover everything.  If we can help his family cope with that burden, they'll be better able to concentrate on giving Kevin all the love and support he needs, without financial distractions.

Thanks in advance, friends.

Peter

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Synthetic drug overdoses: a national crisis, or the ultimate cure?


I was saddened, particularly as a retired pastor, to read of the mass overdose crisis in New Haven, Connecticut, a few days ago.

This mass, rapid-fire overdose event was a sped-up version of what is happening across the US as local and federal governments struggle to reduce the colliding impacts of opioid, methamphetamine, cocaine and other addictions.

. . .

In 2017, drug overdoses killed nearly 200 people per day, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data released this week, a new record driven by the deadly opioid epidemic.

Since K2 was first detected in the US in 2008, clusters of overdose outbreaks have become more and more common. About 56 people overdosed from K2 in Brooklyn in May; 100 people overdosed in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, in July 2017 and 40 people overdosed in Dallas, Texas, in May 2014.

Sometimes K2 is laced with the powerful opioid fentanyl, but investigators including the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) said they have not yet found any in the New Haven sample.

Officials said there have not been any deaths from this batch of K2, but they fear the long-term consequences of a drug that causes hallucinations, vomiting and a rapid heart rate.

K2 is also known as synthetic marijuana because it interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system to produce psychoactive effects. But K2 is much more potent and is an unpredictable mix of differing concentrations of different chemicals that are poured or sprayed on plant material.

Despite the mystery of each batch, K2 is appealing to drug users because its cost is low, its chemicals aren’t detected on standard drug tests and its changing mixtures make law enforcement efforts more complicated than with purer drugs such as marijuana.

“It’s just a daunting, daunting thought for the future,” said Costello. “This is a much bigger problem and a much bigger threat to national security than other things.”

There's more at the link.

Yes, it's tragic:  yes, it's sad:  but it's also pretty much unavoidable, at least by traditional methods such as cracking down on the drug manufacturers and dealers, and expecting police or health services to cope.  They can't.  The problem's too big, and it won't go away, because the demand for the drug(s) won't go away.  Users won't or can't learn, and they don't get scared enough to stop . . . and so the crisis goes on.

I begin to think that the only way to solve the problem, or at least reduce it to manageable proportions, is to issue an edict that when people overdose (or use contaminated narcotics) to the point of becoming unresponsive, they should not be helped, but allowed to suffer the consequences of their actions.  We simply don't have enough police and emergency medical services personnel to cope with the situation, so let's stop trying.  Rather, let's direct our efforts to education, deterrence, and helping those who are getting into drugs before they get too far into trouble.  They, at least, hold out the hope of some return on society's investment of time, money and effort in them.  Those who are too far gone down the slippery slope . . . they don't.  There have been far too many cases of addicts being saved from an overdose by a timely dose of Narcan, who later the same day had to be rescued in the same way all over again.  They won't stop.  They can't stop.  Therefore, is it heartless or cruel to say that we should allow them to endure the inevitable consequences of their own choices, and allow nature to take its course?

There are those who protest that this is unconscionable:  that even the worst addicts, those needing resuscitation more than once per day, can be saved.  I agree that some of them (a very, very few of them) do hold out hope, like this man.  However, I venture to suggest that most don't.  Who's going to make the judgment call?  And how can we explain to the sober, contributing-to-society citizen who's had a heart attack, and is desperately waiting for an ambulance, that he's going to die, because the EMS crew that should be taking him to hospital are instead administering Narcan to yet another addict who's going to turn around and do exactly the same thing again?  To my mind, there's no contest as to which emergency deserves the higher priority . . . but right now, EMS isn't allowed to make that distinction.  I believe it's time that changed.

What say you, readers?

Peter

Oh, lord, the memories . . .


The anonymous blogger at HMS Defiant made me laugh out loud this morning when he posted this video montage of the "wisdom" of the legendary Chiun, the Master of Sinanju, from the "Destroyer" series of pulp novels.  It's an excerpt from the only film made from the series, "Remo Williams:  The Adventure Begins".





I remember those books very well.  They, along with other pulp series such as Mack Bolan ("the Executioner"), the Survivalist, and others were staples in almost every military base in which I found myself, along with Westerns by Louis L'Amour, J. T. Edson and sundry other writers.  Copies were circulated in barracks around the nation, many of them so worn that pages or entire chapters were missing from the beginning and/or the end.  That often led to constant searching for another copy, one that held the pages one had missed in the first copy one had read!  I daresay almost every military man from my generation has read far more than his fair share of such books.  As literature, they're eminently forgettable, but as nostalgia, I'm sure all of us are grinning at the memories this clip evoked.

My thanks to the blogger at HMS Defiant.  You made my morning!

(Oh - and for those who want to renew their acquaintance with them, most of the Remo Williams novels are now available in e-book format on Amazon at very low prices.  The first one is free, too.  Go on!  You know you want to!)

Peter

Heh


It's nice to encounter officials with a sense of humor now and then.  The Kennebunk Police Department in Maine put out this press release on their Facebook page this week (clickit to biggit):




After that, what can I do but post this?








Peter

Voter fraud is real


For those who doubt that voter fraud is a problem in the USA, a lawsuit in Georgia has highlighted many issues that give cause for serious concern.

It appeared, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, that Habersham County’s Mud Creek precinct in northeastern Georgia had 276 registered voters ahead of the state’s primary elections in May.

Some 670 ballots were cast, according to the Georgia secretary of state’s office, indicating a 243 percent turnout.

But on Tuesday at 10 a.m., the number of registered voters on the secretary of state’s website was changed for Mud Creek to 3,704 registered voters, reflecting a more likely turnout of about 18 percent.

The odd turnout figures last Friday were filed as part of a federal lawsuit against the state by election security activists that included a number of sworn statements and exhibits from activists and voters who experienced a series of bizarre and confusing issues at the state’s polling places.

That confusion comes amid swelling public concern for the security of Georgia’s voting systems. Georgia is one of four states that uses voting machines statewide that produce no paper record for voters to verify, making them difficult to audit, experts say.

And cybersecurity experts have warned that there were security flaws on the state election website leading up to the 2016 contest that permitted the download and manipulation of voter information.

. . .

Marilyn Marks, the executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, which has led the charge against the state’s management of the election system, said the statements filed in federal court are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to voter complaints.

“We are submitting only a small sample from scores of known system malfunctions and irregularities,” she wrote in an email. “But those examples should raise alarms with officials, political parties, candidates and voters. Something is terribly wrong at a systemic level, and is not being taken seriously by Secretary Kemp, or the state and counties’ election boards charged with conducting secure elections.”

There's more at the link.

This is a very important subject.  I think too many American voters have become complacent about our electoral system, and have lost sight of how it's been misused and manipulated for a very long time.  If you'd like to know more, I recommend these three books.  The last one is right-wing in orientation, rather than neutral like the first two, but the details it provides of actual electoral mistakes, errors and malpractice are nevertheless valuable.  (Click each image for a link to the book.)








I expect more problems than ever in this year's mid-term elections.  The stakes are very high, for both sides of the political spectrum.

Peter

Friday, August 17, 2018

Dealing with a riot or political unrest


We've seen how demonstrations on both the left and right of US politics have led to increasing violence on our streets.  For those of us living in cities where this sort of thing is common, it's an unpleasant reminder that we aren't necessarily safe from extremists, even in our own homes.  There's also the criminal element that takes advantage of such unrest for its own purposes.  Those of us living further away from such incidents may nevertheless find ourselves at risk if we have to travel to other centers.

Greg Ellifritz, whom we've met in these pages before, recently compiled a list of useful articles about what to do in a riot or unrest situation.  He begins:

With the riots heating up in the Pacific Northwest,  lots of folks have contacted me about re-posting some of my riot survival articles.

Here is my best advice...

Stay away from any scheduled protests, riots, uprisings, or large political gatherings.  It is absolutely not safe to attend such an event in today’s political climate.  I hope my readers are smart enough to recognize that.   Both sides of most of these “protests” are at fault.  Both sides show up looking for a fight.  Both sides get exactly what they came for.  The only way to avoid violence like that on a personal level is to avoid being present in the first place.

The only way to avoid such violence on a societal level is to refuse to give either group the attention they are looking for.  Don’t attend the rallies.  Don’t post news of the event on your Facebook wall.  Let these idiots die the obscure death they deserve.

There's more at the link, including links to several very useful articles.  They make informative and educational reading.

I strongly recommend that any of my readers who live in areas at high risk for such problems should read all the articles, share them with their families and friends, and bookmark, or save, or print them out for future reference.  The biggest aid to security is being aware of problems before they arise, and knowing what to do about them when they do.  These articles will help you do both.

Peter

The cashless society is meeting opposition again - this time from banks


We've discussed the so-called "cashless society" in these pages on prior occasions.  I'm fundamentally opposed to it for several reasons, not least of which is the added control it provides to Big Brother to monitor and control our every financial transaction.  However, its practical disadvantages now appear to be taking center stage with central and commercial banks.

“The digitalized system, it is easy for someone in Russia, China, whatever to just shut it off,” Björn Eriksson, the head of a pro-cash lobby group Cash Uprising and former head of crime-fighting agency Interpol. “[Cash] you can hide in your car, or your stove, or whatever.”

He added: “I can see a growing concern in my country about what is going to happen when someone decides to switch them off. What are the activities you can do to keep society moving?”

Central bankers are watching — and getting anxious.

“Increasingly, central banks insist that cash will also play a role. We do not foresee a totally cashless society,” said Ewald Nowotny, governor of the Austrian National Bank, at a recent conference in Brussels. “If there is for instance an energy blackout, cash is the only surviving way of payment.”

A senior official at the Dutch central bank echoed the sentiment.

“We’re under attack every day. If you don’t have your shields up, you notice activity straight away,” said Petra Hielkema, director of payments at the Dutch Central Bank, who watches over cybersecurity policy.

. . .

An outage of Visa services in June— caused by a system failure — gave a small taste of the risk, said Kevin Curran, a professor of cybersecurity at Ulster University in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Customers across the EU were left unable to pay for goods and services, and the situation revealed “there really is no backup,” Curran said.

“When the trolley came around on the train and the card payment wasn’t working, the only people who could eat were those with cash,” he said.

The move away from cash is driven partly by commercial interests, as businesses go card-only for efficiency and in response to consumer demands. Commercial banks are also shutting down branches in favor of digital services.

Some governments encourage a shift toward digital services because they see it as a way to address money-laundering and tax evasion, and also to boost competition in financial services.  Others argue that digital payments protect consumers from being robbed or losing money, as well as sparing them the hassle of constantly carrying a wallet.

There's more at the link.

Credit and debit cards, payment apps on a smartphone, and other electronic payment systems are dominant in many countries - and not just in the First World.  Africa has seen an explosion of smartphone payment and money transfer systems, because the banking infrastructure in many countries on that continent is still sparse and inefficient.

Nevertheless, the problems described above remain.  We've seen them here in the USA on several occasions.  It's one reason why keeping one to two months' worth of cash in reserve - enough to pay all your routine bills and expenditures - is a very good idea;  and not in a bank, either, but in cash, in a safe place (not necessarily at home, but somewhere thieves are unlikely to suspect it might be stashed).  If a technological or criminal crunch comes, and banks and other payment systems are no longer available for some time, it might be a life-saver - literally.

Peter