S&P 500 Rises As Turkey Concerns Offset By Improved Trade Deal Prospects, Earnings

The doldrums of summer are here, which perhaps explains why investor reaction to geopolitical news would seem to be the only thing really moving the needle for the S&P 500 in the third week of August 2018.

After last week's concerns over the risk of contagion from Turkey's economic dilemmas began to be offset by a double dose of good news in the form of improved prospects for U.S.-China and U.S.-Mexico trade negotiations. But what really seems to have moved the needle during Week 3 of August 2018 was the solid earnings results that came out from both Walmart (NYSE: WMT) and Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) on Thursday, 16 August 2018.

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2018Q3 - Standard Model with Redzone Forecast for 2019Q1 Focus between 20180808 and 20180911 - Snapshot on 17 Aug 2018

That said, this being the doldrums of summer, there wasn't a whole lot of major market-moving news in the week that was.

Monday, 13 August 2018
Tuesday, 14 August 2018
Wednesday, 15 August 2018
Thursday, 16 August 2018
Friday, 17 August 2018

For the second week in a row, Barry Ritholtz identified more negatives than positives in the week's economics and markets news.

The good news is that the S&P 500 is continuing to track along with our redzone forecast, where in a week where there really wasn't much going on, stock prices behaved as expected.

Climate Grief

Below is a pretty good description of what the author calls "climate grief"—the crushing realization that everything at all lovely about this world of ours is dying. I can certainly empathize with his feelings although for myself, grief would be a vast improvement over the the feelings that wash over me whenever I allow myself to think deeply about our rapidly changing climate. In no particular order they are:

Naked Terror. When a person grows up on the high prairie, the idea that mother nature is this incredibly beautiful, benevolent, life-sustaining force is tempered by the reality that mom can easily kill you with tornadoes, howling blizzards, sleet, brutal heatwaves, or tennis-ball-sized hail. When I was 16, I nearly froze to death changing a flat tire less than a half mile from our house in North Dakota. Add a few experiences like this together, and the idea that this will all get a lot worse very soon because humanity conducted an arrogant chemistry experiment in the atmosphere is enough to make me very, very afraid.

The wrath of natural laws. Science teaches a bunch of natural laws that work every time, all the time. Raise the temperature of water to 100°C and it will turn to steam. Step off a cliff, and you will fall to the bottom. This is a world where there is no appeal. This is the world of climate science. Pump excessive CO2 into the atmosphere and the planet will get hotter—of this there is no rational debate.

Head-pounding frustration. I have been writing about environmental matters since the 1980s. Almost all of it can still stand close scrutiny. When I think about the vast possibilities of the sustainable society, I can have feelings close to elation. When I consider that very little has been accomplished compared to the problems, the frustration can be overwhelming.

Disgust at useless symbolism. Nothing upsets me quite like a climate change enthusiast who outlines the sordid tales of woe followed by some lame suggestions of raising consciousness and political organizing, or more conferences followed by targets and carbon taxes. This is the biggest calamity ever faced by humans. Most of us in the "developed" world live in societies powered by fossil fuels at every turn. Without them, we have no drinking water, weather-sheltered housing, food, medicine, or mostly anything else. This infrastructure must be redesigned and rebuilt. Since it required hundreds of years to build what we have—building the new world will take a least a few decades. And that's if we immediately embark on an organized crash program.

The builder's perspective. I have been building things since I can remember. Some of my favorite memories are of industrial tours. I can hardly look at at anything without speculating how it was constructed. And what this has taught me is that everything, and I mean everything, is more difficult to build than anyone can possibly imagine without actually doing it. And even if one has carefully planned out all the relevant operations, it always goes much more quickly in one's head than in the real world where real-world problems show up on a daily basis. Of all the reasons for my despair over not accomplishing anything meaningful about climate change, the saddest fact for me that even those with the necessary credentials to build the new sustainable world will take more time than their worst guesses.

The Best Medicine for My Climate Grief

A climate scientist talks to a psychologist about coping with the crushing stress related to climate change. Here’s what he learned.

Peter Kalmus, Aug 09, 2018

Sometimes a wave of climate grief breaks over me. It happens unexpectedly, perhaps during a book talk, or while on the phone with a congressional representative. In a millisecond, without warning, I’ll feel my throat clench, my eyes sting, and my stomach drop as though the Earth below me is falling away. During these moments, I feel with excruciating clarity everything that we’re losing—but also connection and love for those things.

Usually I don’t mind the grief. It’s clarifying. It makes sense to me, and inspires me to work harder than ever. Occasionally, however, I feel something quite different, a paralyzing sense of anxiety. This climate dread can last for days, even weeks. It can come with nightmares, for example, my favorite shady oak grove baking in the full sun of a heat wave, the oaks all dead and gone. During these periods, writing about climate change becomes all but impossible, as if hundreds of thoughts are jostling to squeeze through a narrow doorway onto the page. My scientific output slows to a trickle, as well; it feels like it just doesn’t matter.

I sense a social barrier to talking about these emotions. If I bring up climate change in casual conversation, the topic is often met with awkward pauses and the polite introduction of new subjects. Aside from increasingly frequent articles in the news about the typically incremental and sometimes disastrous progression of climate breakdown, we seldom talk about it, face to face. It’s as though the topic is impolite, even taboo.

With so much at stake—our security and normalcy; the futures we’d envisioned for our children; our sense of progress and where we fit in the universe; beloved places, species, and ecosystems—the psychology is going to be complex. So I reached out to Renee Lertzman to gain insight into how we’re coping with such huge impending losses. Lertzman is a psychologist studying the effects of environmental loss on mental health and the author of Environmental Melancholia: Psychoanalytic Dimensions of Engagement.

“There is overwhelming research that distress and anxiety relating to climate is on the rise,” she told me. “Many people, I’d argue, are experiencing what I’d call a ‘latent’ form of climate anxiety or dread, in that they may not be talking about it much but they are feeling it.”

If we’re feeling these emotions or if we know others who are, it would be helpful to talk about them. “The main thing is that we find ways to talk about what we are experiencing in a safe and nonjudgmental context, and to be open to listening. All too often, when anxiety or fear comes up, we all want to push it away and move into ‘solutions.’”

A 2017 report by the American Psychological Association found that climate change is causing stress, anxiety, depression, and relationship strain. The psychological weight of climate change can lead to feelings of helplessness and fear, and to climate disengagement. Not surprisingly, those directly impacted by climate-augmented disasters fare even worse: For example, after Hurricane Katrina, suicide in affected areas more than doubled; the situation in post-Maria Puerto Rico is similarly dire. In general, suicide is projected to rise dramatically due to climate change; in addition to the psychological toll, our brains don’t respond well physically to excessive heat.

To think daily about climate change and any of its dire implications can be a crushing psychological burden. Each of us is just one mammal, with all our mammalian limitations—we get tired, sad, irritated, sick, overwhelmed—and the climate crisis wields the force of 8 billion humans with infrastructure, corporations, capital, politics, and imaginations heavily invested in burning fossil fuel.

“It’s important to remember that inaction is rarely about a lack of concern or care, but is so much more complex,” Lertzman said. “Namely, that we westerners are living in a society that is still deeply entrenched in the very practices we now know are damaging and destructive. This creates a very specific kind of situation—what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. Unless we know how to work with this dissonance, we will continue to come up against resistance, inaction, and reactivity.”

I’ve been working through my own climate dissonance since 2006, back when the atmospheric carbon concentration was just 380 parts per million. That year I reached a tipping point in my own awareness of what was happening and what it meant. It was challenging to carry that knowledge when no one close to me seemed to care. But, said Lertzman, “we need to be careful not to make assumptions about other people’s relationships with these issues. Even if people may not be showing it, research shows again and again that it’s still on their minds and a source of discomfort or distress.” If she’s right, maybe the sea change in public action we desperately need is closer than it seems. It would certainly be helpful if we could talk openly about how climate change is making us feel.

Things do feel somewhat different now, both because more people are calling for action than in 2006 and also because I’m now part of communities with people who are as concerned as I am (for example, my local chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby). There are more people in my life talking openly about climate change. And that helps.

Another way I cope is by simply burning less fossil fuel. This eliminates internal cognitive dissonance by aligning my actions with my knowledge. It also brings some great fringe benefits, such as more exercise from biking, healthier eating through vegetarianism, more connection to the land through gardening, and more connection to my community through activism and public outreach.

Finally, I actively work to be hope-oriented. In the film Melancholia, about a mysterious planet on a collision course with Earth, the protagonist passively accepts, even embraces, apocalypse. Nothing can stop it; ecological annihilation is inevitable.

Modern climate change is completely different: It’s 100 percent human-caused, so it’s 100 percent human-solvable. If humans pulled together as if our lives depended on it, we could leave fossil fuel in a matter of years. This would require radical change across global society, and I’m not suggesting it will happen. But it could, and this possibility leaves open a middle path, something between sweeping climate action and an unavoidable planetary collision—a rapid cultural shift, one that we all can contribute to through our conversations and our daily actions. And that’s a very hopeful thing. more

Week-end Wrap – August 18, 2018

Week-end Wrap - August 18, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

USA Conservatives Calling for New Constitutional Convention to Kill Off the "Welfare State"
by Jamiles Lartey, August 11, 2018 [The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 8-12-18]
This should be taken very seriously, despite the usual conservative idiocy of equating socialism with a lack of "free dumb." If conservatives, libertarians, and Republicans actually get a convention, they are sure to target the General Welfare mandate for elimination, though they dare not openly talk about it now. Randall G. Holcombe, who served on Governor Jeb Bush's Council of Economic Advisors. in the 2016 campaign, wrote a 1992 article arguing that the major improvement of the Confederate Civil War constitution was the elimination of the General Welfare mandate. They will also enshrine their doctrine of enumerated powers, which has been repeatedly rejected by the Supreme Court until now. They could then proceed at leisure to have the courts, packed with their Federalist Society ideologues, declare programs such as Social Security unconstitutional.
It’s been more than 230 years since America’s last constitutional convention, but there is growing confidence in some conservative circles that the next one is right around the corner – and could spell disaster for entitlement programs like medicare and social security, as well court decisions like Roe v Wade. 
“I think we’re three or four years away,” said the former Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn on Friday, speaking at the annual convention for American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) – a powerful rightwing organization that links corporate lobbyists with state lawmakers from across the country. 
Coburn, a veteran Republican lawmaker, now works as a senior adviser for the advocacy group Convention of States, which seeks to use a little known clause in article V of the US constitution to call a constitutional convention for new amendments to dramatically restrict the power of the federal government. 
“We’re in a battle for the future of our country,” Coburn told the assembly of mostly conservative state lawmakers meeting in New Orleans. “We’re either going to become a socialist, Marxist country like western Europe, or we’re going to be free. As far as me and my family and my guns, I’m going to be free."

What you probably don’t know about Social Security
by Alessandra Malito, August 17, 2018 [MarketWatch, via Naked Capitalism]
Social Security works. In fact, in works really well. 
Nancy Altman: The truth about Social Security today is that it works extremely well. It is completely consistent with the founder’s vision and in fact, although some revisionist historians today say the founders wouldn’t recognize it, not only would FDR recognize it today but they’d be shocked that it wasn’t larger and didn’t include Medicare for All, or paid parental leave, or medical leave, because those are all aspects they envisioned. They were very pragmatic, so they wanted to start there. FDR said he didn’t want to start extravagantly because he wanted it to be a success but it was a cornerstone on which to build. 
MarketWatch: How does Social Security help Americans? How much would you say Americans rely on it? 
Altman: Social Security provides a foundation for economic support. We need insurance against loss and that’s what Social Security provides. It is extremely important to everyone. It is particularly important to women and people of color, who have been discriminated against, or people who have earned less in jobs that are more physically demanding 

Why US leadership stinks and drone assassinations are not winning
by Ian Welsh, August 13, 2018 [IanWelsh.com]
American leaders are obsessed with leadership because they lead organizations where no one believes in the organization’s goals. Or rather, they lead organizations where everyone knows the leadership doesn’t believe in its ostensible goals. Schools are lead by people who hate teachers and want to privatize schools to make profit. The US is lead by men who don’t believe in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Police are lead by men who think their job is to protect the few and beat down the many, not to protect and serve. Corporations make fancy mission statements and talk about valuing employees and customers, but they just want to make a buck and will fuck anyone, employee or customer, below the c-suite. They don’t have a “mission” (making money is not a mission, it’s a hunger if it’s all you want to do), they are parasites and they know it. 
Making organizations work if they’re filled with people who don’t believe in the organization, who believe that the “leadership” is only out for themselves and has no mission beyond helping themselves, not even enriching the employees or shareholders, is actually hard. People don’t get inspired by making the c-suite rich. Bureaucrats, knowing they are despised and distrusted by their political matters, and knowing that they aren’t allowed to do their ostensible job, as with the EPA generally not being allowed to protect the environment, the DOJ not being allowed to prosecute powerful monied crooks and the FDA being the slave of drug companies and the whims of politically connected appointees, are hard to move, hard to motivate, hard to get to do anything but the minimum. 
So American leaders, and indeed the leaders of most developed nations think they’re something special. Getting people to do anything, and convincing people to do the wrong thing, when they joined to actually teach, protect the environment, make citizens healthier or actually prosecute crooks is difficult. Being a leader in the West, even though it comes with virtually complete immunity for committing crimes against humanity, violating civil rights, or stealing billions from ordinary citizens, is in many respects a drag. 

Top CEOs’ compensation increased 17.6 percent in 2017; The ratio of CEO-to-worker compensation grew to 312-to-1 
August 17, 2018 [Economic Policy Institute, via Naked Capitalism]

Some Illuminating Reactions To Elizabeth Warren’s Worker Rights Plan
by Nathan J. Robinson, August 16, 2018 [Current Affairs, via Naked Capitalism].
“Warren’s plan is similar, though less radical, than the employee co-determination scheme that operates in Germany. It would leave the basic structure of American enterprise entirely untouched. But, in a sign of just how extreme U.S. “free market” thinking truly is, commentators on the right instantly denounced Warren’s as representing the total destruction of economic life as we know it.…. 
Either way, though, this is a dispute about the best policy. It is not about whether the government is being a “dictatorship” or not, because no matter what you think the legal purpose of a corporation ought to be, there is a legal purpose, a.k.a. a government requirement. In fact, there are already tons of requirements that the government imposes on corporations, because the corporation is a creation of government. If Kevin Williamson thinks Elizabeth Warren’s proposal is dictatorial, just wait until he sees the Delaware incorporation statute, the law that defines how a corporation works. It tells corporations how their officers are to be selected, who has liability for what, what powers the stockholders have. It even tells them how often they have to have meetings! Dictatorship! Slavery! The road to serfdom!” 
For actual conservative shriking hysteria, see Elizabeth Warren’s Batty Plan to Nationalize Everything in National Review, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-18.

There continues to be a wide ranging discussion of socialism. Note, however, there is never any mention of republicanism, nor the creation of USA as the Enlightenment's culminating rejection of feudalism, monarchy, and oligarchic authoritarianism, including ecclesiastical. 

Socialists Need To Fight For Economic Change — Not Just Another Version Of Capitalism
[Huffington Post, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-18]

“Socialism” vs. “capitalism”: what left and right get wrong about the debate
[Vox, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-18]

What Is Living and What Is Dead in Social Democracy?
by Tony Judt, New York Review of Books. From 2009. via Naked Capitalism 8-18-18]

Corporate power on the agenda at Jackson Hole
[Financial Times via Naked Capitalism 8-18-18.

AP Exclusive: Google tracks your movements, like it or not
Lambert Strether, 8-13-18 [AP, via Naked Capitalism] 
AP excerpt followed by Lambert's commentary:
“An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so. Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP’s request…. Google offers a more accurate description of how Location j account webpage . There the company notes that ‘some locatio may be saved as part of your activity on other Google services, like Search and Maps.’ • So, Google engineers are getting free lunch and backrubs at their desks to create “dark patterns” that screw their users over. I’ve helpfully underlined the dark pattern in the quote: It’s called “Privacy Zuckering,” where “You are tricked into publicly sharing more information about yourself than you really intended to.” We’ve got the patterns documented, and we understand the engineering. Why not outlaw the practices as consumer fraud? With criminal penalties?
August 13, 2018 [247 Wall Street, via Naked Capitalism]
August 15, 2018 [BBC, via Naked Capitalism]
Yves Smith comments: "I’ve assumed this to be the case, that if your device has GPS location, the only way to disable that is to put it in a Faraday bag or remove the chip."

Meet Dark Money’s Secret $68 Million Donor
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens, August 14, 2018 [Wall Street on Parade]
A nice, short profile of the recent doings of the Koch's Donors Capital Fund. 

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens, August 9, 2018 [Wall Street on Parade]

By Diana Gitig, August 16, 2018 [Ars Technica, via Naked Capitalism]
Wheat is the most widely cultivated crop on the planet, accounting for about a fifth of all calories consumed by humans and more protein than any other food source. Although we have relied on bread wheat so heavily and for so long (14,000 years-ish), an understanding of its genetics has been a challenge. Its genome has been hard to solve because it is ridiculously complex. The genome is huge, about five times larger than ours. It's hexaploid, meaning it has six copies of each of its chromosomes. More than 85 percent of the genetic sequences among these three sets of chromosome pairs are repetitive DNA, and they are quite similar to each other, making it difficult to tease out which sequences reside where. 
The genomes of rice and corn—two other staple grain crops—were solved in 2002 and 2009, respectively. In 2005, the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium determined to get a reference genome of the bread wheat cultivar Chinese Spring. Thirteen years later, the consortium has finally succeeded.

Report: Renewables will be as good as free by 2030
(8/13) [Financial Times (subscription required), via American Wind Energy Association]
The cost of renewables will be so low by 2030 that the energy source will basically be free, according to a UBS Investment Bank report.

Opinion: The US needs a national clean-energy standard
(8/14) [The New York Times, via American Wind Energy Association]
The US should adopt a national clean-energy standard as a means to curb greenhouse gas emissions and give states flexibility to encourage the use of low-emitting energy sources, write Justin Gillis and Jameson McBride. If Congress can't pass such a standard, they argue, then advocates must turn to states for support as they have more control over the electrical grid anyway
Liquid Battery Promises Safe Energy-Dense Power For Electric Aircraft
by Graham Warwick, August 17, 2018 [Aviation Week & Space Technology]
NASA is researching rechargeable flow-battery technology that uses active electrochemical particles suspended in water-based liquid.

Sydney metro high-speed testing underway
August 15, 2018 [Railway Age]
High-speed testing of Alstom Metropolis trains has begun on the first phase of the Sydney metro network, with trains regularly reaching speeds of 100km/h during daylight test runs. One test train reached 110km/h on the elevated section in the suburbs. Full Article
VIDEO: New Age plans for GE’s Brazil locomotive factory
August 15, 2018 [Railway Age]
One of the oldest producers of locomotives is introducing a new approach to manufacturing as it expands its global reach. GE Transportation announced that its plant in Contagem, Brazil, will employ a mixed-model moving assembly line. Full Article

North Carolina Senator Richard Burr finally talks about his investigation of Russian meddling in USA elections
August 17, 2018 [Associated Press, via Naked Capitalism]]
“For much of the last two years, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr has been the Russia investigator who is seen but rarely heard on Capitol Hill… Burr said there is ‘no factual evidence today that we’ve received’ on collusion or conspiracy between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign. But he said he’s still open on the issue….

For now, Burr says, the committee is preparing to put out two reports by the end of September: one on the Obama administration’s response to Russia’s election interference, and a second on Russia’s election meddling on social media…. ‘I don’t think any of us when we started understood just how coordinated the disinformation and societal chaos campaign was. I think what probably will be shocking is how early it started.... 

Australian Politics 2018-08-19 15:50:00


Absurd oil supply treaty

A cutback in oil imports would almost certainly stem from shipping difficulties of some sort so we need the oil to be already in Australia, not half a world way in Nederland

Australia is facing new questions about whether it is taking the issue of oil security seriously, as the Federal Government moves to bolster lagging reserves by making a treaty with the Netherlands.

It has been six years since Australia last met its global obligations to maintain sufficient oil reserves to last 90 days, a benchmark set by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in 1974.

Oil stocks currently sit at between 51 and 52 days, and a wave of oil refinery closures in recent years has been blamed for the decline.

One option being considered is new treaties with countries as far afield as the Netherlands, so Australia can draw from other oil stocks in the event of an emergency.

Shane Gaddes from the Department of Environment and Energy told a parliamentary hearing on Monday that 3 million barrels could be quarantined in the Netherlands through the use of a ticketing system.

"Australia has been non-compliant since March 2012, and Australia's non-compliance has been driven by falling domestic crude oil production, along with rising product demands and imports," Mr Gaddes told the inquiry.

"The Australian Government intends to purchase up to 400 metric kilotons of oil stock tickets in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 financial years."

But upon questioning, Mr Gaddes told the hearing such a deal would only add an extra 3.8 days of oil reserves.

Former Air Force deputy chief John Blackburn said he was not convinced the Government had taken the oil security issue seriously.

"It's taken us six years to do something, and this treaty gives us three-and-a-half days of oil supply — how long's it going to take you to fix the rest of the shortfall?" Mr Blackburn said.

"It's part of our obligations to start to address the shortfall in our membership requirements, but the domestic security of fuel in this country is a separate issue that has not been analysed properly."

RMIT research fellow Dr Anthony Richardson said a "she'll be right attitude" has left Australia in a precarious situation.

He said it was unlikely a treaty with the Netherlands would help in the event of a crisis.

"Most of our oil passes through Indonesia," he said. "That's not anyway a criticism of Indonesia but if things happen, that oil is in the Netherlands, we'll need it in Australia.

"That's almost a fake supply, it's lovely to have that but if we're not having tankers turn up, the oil in the Netherlands is not going to help us — it's a long way from Australia."

He said Australia should dramatically ramp up its storage capacity. "We've got the land capacity, if you're going to pay for storage in another country, why not pay for that storage here in Australia by the oil companies?" Mr Hughes said.


Company tax has had its day

It kills jobs

The company income tax rate is to be cut to 25% in 2022. You read that correctly — but it’s not happening in Australia. It is happening (of all places) in France — one of the most heavily taxed nations on earth and one whose politics we have come to think of as always being several degrees to the left of ours.

So if France can cut its company tax to 25% and Australia can’t, it makes one wonder what is going on here.

In fact, it’s not only France. There is a worldwide trend towards lower corporate income tax. The shift was in place even before the US federal rate was cut to 21% earlier this year, but that change has given the trend a new and massive push.

As the tax on internationally mobile capital goes down, Australia as a destination for global capital — far from being unable to afford a cut in its company tax rate — cannot afford not to.

The fact we have a dividend imputation system does not change that reality. Nor does the nauseating repetition of slogans pitting funding for schools and hospitals against tax cuts for banks.

The question is whether we wake up to the need for lower company tax now, based on conjecture, or wait for the consequences of not cutting company tax to become ever more apparent.

The consequence would be a continuation of the weakness in business investment we are already seeing. Investment is the lifeblood of growth in productivity, the economy, employment and real wages.  Growth can continue for a while without it — but not forever.

Company tax has become a political football; with the focus no longer on the economic case for a cut, but on the game of scoring points for the next federal election.

Right now the most likely outcome is that we are stuck indefinitely with a cumbersome, inefficient two-tier company tax rate; premised on the mistaken belief that the economic benefits of a lower rate depend on the size of the company.

Sooner or later — whether it happens under the current government or a future one — an across-the-board cut will be seen as an economic necessity.


Is it too late to save our universities?

WHEN university teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd showed her students a clip of a TV debate about the use of gender-neutral pronouns, she was accused of “epistemic violence”.

An LGBT centre official claimed her activities led to a surge in assaults on transgender people. When asked to prove the allegations, he said he didn’t have to “perform his trauma”.

A professor in Ms Shepherd’s own department wrote an opinion piece for the local paper saying the campus “had become unsafe”.  “Is freedom of speech more important than the safety and wellbeing of our society?” he asked.

Ms Shepherd, a graduate student at Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University, made international headlines late last year after she released an audio recording of her interrogation by university officials over the tutorial lesson.

She was told her decision to air the clip featuring University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson debating Bill C-16 — a law making it illegal to refuse to refer to transgender people by their preferred pronouns — had created a “toxic climate” and an “unsafe learning environment”.

She was accused of violating the university’s gendered and sexual violence policy for transphobia, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and even Bill C-16 itself simply by presenting criticism of the bill.

“Most shockingly, I was told that by playing that clip neutrally and not denouncing Peterson’s views, this was akin to neutrally playing a speech by Hitler. So it was my neutrality that was the problem,” the 23-year-old told a gathering at the [Australian] Centre for Independent Studies on Thursday night.

Ms Shepherd, who has since launched a $3.6 million lawsuit against the university over the “inquisition”, was speaking alongside Quillette magazine founder Claire Lehmann and sociologist Dr Tiffany Jenkins at an event titled “The Snowflake Epidemic”.

Conservatives have held up her case as a emblematic of a radical left-wing takeover of universities, where safe spaces, “micro-aggressions”, trigger warnings and censorship of ideological opponents are now commonplace.

For many, the universities are a lost cause after decades of postmodernism — which holds that there is no objective truth — eating away at the intellectual foundations of most disciplines.

Melbourne University now teaches a course in “whiteness studies”, pushing concepts like “white privilege”, “white fragility” and “toxic whiteness”.

In 2013, two whiteness studies “scholars of colour” published a peer-reviewed paper exploring their lack of empathy for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and the Sandy Hook massacre — because the victims were white.

“Why does this matter? Students who get inculcated into this ideology graduate and enter the professions, enter the media and enter corporations,” said Ms Lehmann, whose online magazine bills itself as a “platform for free thought”.

Quillette founder Claire Lehmann, an Australian psychologist.

The panel warned that it only took a small number of aggressive activists to force the majority to acquiesce. “The radicals are definitely a minority,” Ms Shepherd said.

“The thing is, the vast majority of students on campus are totally disengaged. They don’t do their readings, they barely come to class, they don’t care about anything, they just want to pass with the lowest grade they can get, so they don’t care what happens. That’s why the minority is so powerful.”

Ms Lehmann said the noisy minority had power. “You can see the impact in Australia through the corporate world with all of this virtue signalling on diversity and inclusion and implicit bias training,” she said.

“Implicit bias training doesn’t have any solid scientific evidence backing it up. These ideas have impact. They waste money. They waste people’s time.”

Ms Shepherd said the only way to fight the activists was to get a “critical mass of people who will speak out, but when you look at my situation it’s not very inspiring for other students”.

“Other students were publishing op-eds saying I put hate speech in my classroom, I’m a transphobe, I committed gendered violence,” she said.

Dr Jenkins said the “bottom up” censorship that came as a result of identity politics already “seeped into our everyday lives”. “The interesting thing about it is it doesn’t announce itself in the way censorship used to,” she said.

“How we deal with each other, second guessing, seeing each other through the prism of difference. It encourages people to see each other as harmful.”

She said educators had a responsibility to the younger generation and she “would not necessarily encourage people to go to university anymore”.

“They’re not going to learn, they’re not going to be challenged,” she said. “I genuinely think we need to set up different universities and encourage people to take the ideals of the old academy out.”

Ms Lehmann agreed that the universities were lost. “A lot of us are trying to build intellectual spaces online,” she said.

“We try to have serious, thoughtful, complex discussions on difficult topics. There is quite a robust community of us who are scattered all over the world but we come together to talk about things you would have ordinarily talked about in a university tutorial setting but we can’t anymore so we talk about it online.

“We have to carry on the spirit of learning and the values of western civilisation, and the love of learning and books. That’s all we can really do is keep that flame burning. Universities are an institution, but institutions die.”



National Party supports coal power

The Nationals have urged the federal government to support new coal-fired power plants and lift the ban on nuclear energy.

The party's federal council in Canberra on Saturday passed a motion calling on the government to back building high-energy, low-emissions power stations to provide reliable and affordable power.

A separate proposal from the Young Nationals urging federal and state governments to abolish rules stopping nuclear power plants being built and uranium mining also succeeded.

The call for new coal-fired power station comes as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull fights internal divisions over energy policy.

Resources Minister Matt Canavan reinforced the case for coal, as conservative backbenchers agitate for its use to drive down power bills.

"I don't want to live in a nation where we just export our energy to the rest of the world to help their development, jobs and pensioners," he told the Nationals council.

"We need to use some of that here and we don't think it's a sin to do so."


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here