Monthly Archives: December 2018

Australian Politics 2018-12-31 15:43:00

Uncategorized


Britain is now getting "boat people" too

Australia and Britain are both surronded by seas, which is a substantial barrier against illegal immigration.  The barriers concerned beat Mr Trump's wall by a mile.

But for years various mainly Muslim illegals streamed into Australia by boat and were generally referred to as "boat people".  Australia put up with that for a while but the Australian navy  now intercepts the boats and sends the would-be migrants back whence they came. 

So it is ironic that Britain too is now receiving illegal immigrants by boat.  The Royal Navy is a formidable force so with a bit of political will Britain's boat people could be stopped too



British interior minister Sajid Javid says the fast-growing number of would-be immigrants crossing the English Channel from France in dinghies is a "major incident".

Nearly 70 people have been intercepted in the past three days as they try to reach England by crossing one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Javid is also seeking an urgent call with his French counterpart over the weekend, his ministry said.

"He has insisted the Home Office treat the situation as a major incident and has ... asked for daily updates," it said in a statement on Friday.

It added that Javid wants to ensure everything possible is being done to deter migrants from attempting the dangerous crossing, "amid concern that it is only a matter of time before people lose their lives".

The Member of Parliament for Dover on England's southeast coast, Charlie Elphicke, has called for more government funding to deal with the arrivals and the Home Office said Javid has asked border officials to look at options for bringing in extra patrol ships.

SOURCE







Australia's latest export: Chinese wedding photos



Lina Xing and Wei Jiang have travelled more than 8,000 kilometres from their hometown in Nanjing in China’s north, to Sydney. They're not here for a sightseeing trip, but a 'pre-wedding' photo shoot.

On a warm summer’s day, the young couple smile as a photographer captures them posing in front of one of the world’s most iconic locations; the Sydney Opera House.

They're not yet married, but Lina is in her wedding dress and Wei, his suit.  "I’ve always wanted to travel to Australia," Ms Xing told SBS News. "It’s also a good opportunity to go on holidays."

Her fiancée agrees. "Firstly, Australia is a very beautiful country. I've always wanted to travel here. Also, I have a few friends who live in Australia so I can use this opportunity to visit them. And I can enjoy the beautiful scenery here."

They’re part of a growing number of Chinese couples flocking to Australia to use its picturesque landmarks as a backdrop for photo shoots conducted before their wedding day.

Unlike wedding photos in Western countries, they are taken in China before the special day to be displayed prominently at the wedding reception and posted on social media. It allows the couple to spend more time on their wedding day with guests, rather than sneaking away for photos.

In a country with a new rich generation, the images serve as a symbol of status, and couples spend big for the day-long photo shoots which involve several locations and outfit and hairstyle changes. 

A standard package costs $5,000 for the day; add on flights and accommodation and couples spend upwards of $8,000.

For Mr Jiang, it’s a price he’s willing to pay. “I think it’s worth it because actually, it doesn’t cost that much also because now China's economy is going really well."

Australian businesses are reaping the rewards of the high-value market.

Sydney-based wedding photographer Robert Wen has run Pepper Images for over 15 years. He says when he first started working in the industry he only had domestic clients but these days the majority of his bookings are from couples in Asia.

"In the last three years, we see demand increasing from overseas especially from China, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong," he said.  "Young couples are willing to travel to Australia get the pre-wedding shots. I personally think it's a side effect of the Chinese economy booming."

SOURCE 






Shorten risks causing the greatest havoc by sticking by his promises

What sort of a prime minister would Shorten be? What sort of a government would he lead? Would a switch to Shorten Labor “change the country”, as Paul Keating once unsuccessfully warned about changing governments?

The Canberra press gallery and media-political class tend to betray their green-left bent and messiah complex by anointing every Labor leader as the next big thing. Kim Beazley, Simon Crean, Mark Latham, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard were all going to shake up the nation for the better, apparently. None of them did.

Perhaps the most encouraging portent for Shorten is that the commentariat is less ebullient about him than they were for Latham, Rudd or Gillard. The gallery loves the “vision thing” and craves charisma, and Shorten is a little less woke, a more mundane saviour, in the vein of Beazley or Crean, who were both sensible but lacked cut-through.

Shorten has proved to be a disciplined campaigner and pragmatic leader who operates within the confines of ALP orthodoxies.

As a union man — a machine man — he is unlikely to run his own race in the way Rudd did, to the great detriment of his party, the nation and his own career.

Under Shorten it is hard to ­imagine we would see the perpetual personal indulgence of Rudd: the 2020 ideas summit; the bizarre essay decrying capitalism; the moral crusade over climate change; the grandiose and counter-productive diplomatic flourishes such as lecturing the Chinese, in China, in Mandarin; and, most damaging, the panicked, overblown and mismanaged stimulus response to the global fin­ancial crisis.

Rather, as prime minister, we might expect Shorten to subject his every decision for the approval of cabinet, caucus, the ALP nat­ional executive and his old comrades at the ACTU. The policy implications of this might not be reassuring but it should make him steadier — less mercurial — than Rudd.

This points to the core concern with Shorten — and it provides a complete contrast to the flaws we saw from his recent Labor and Liberal predecessors. Rudd, Gillard and Tony Abbott undercut their standing by breaking promises: Rudd promised to be an economic conservative but was the opposite; Gillard specifically ruled out a carbon tax, then snuck one in; Abbott promised to keep his promises, then broke his word, including by increasing personal income tax.

By contrast, Shorten could wreak the most havoc by keeping his promises. He deserves credit for being upfront and honest about his intentions to increase taxes, ­increase spending and enact ­energy policies that will put ­upward pressure on energy prices (even if he does not concede this point), but the prescription could be highly damaging.

While voters are crying out for governments and leaders who are as good as their word, as prime minister it would be best if the former union leader pulled back on his more worrying ambitions.

Just as the nation enters its first year of having the budget back in the black, Shorten’s spending plans would jeopardise the ­surplus. Just as the nation was set on a path of lower taxes for personal incomes and companies, Shorten Labor would increase taxes on housing investment, ­personal incomes and retirement income.

Just as the nation was realising the primacy of reliability and ­affordability in the electricity market, Shorten Labor would double down on the climate-driven, subsidised renewable energy crusade, creating more uncertainty and ­increasing price pressures but doing nothing for the planet as global emissions continue to rise.

An increase in labour market regulation, reversal of weekend penalty rate reductions and reintroduction of sector-wide ­industrial bargaining could hamper investment and dampen jobs growth.

A union movement veto on major economic decisions could entrench a retreat from three ­decades of economic reform, dating from the Hawke-Keating Labor years.

Overall, we might see a sclerosis across the economy, but more expansion of the size and reach of government. Perhaps this would not so much change the country as accelerate some of our most worrisome trends.

Away from the economy we might see a tsunami of political correctness and identity politics, from eradicating gender on birth certificates to shunning the study of Western civilisation at universities. Again, this would be nothing new, just an acceleration of regrettable trends.

Shorten’s record and background suggest he should be ­reliable on the US alliance and strategic and security issues, ­despite constant pressure from the ALP’s socialist left factions.

We can only hope that the retro­grade steps in economic management and progressive-minded tendencies in social policy are tempered by Shorten’s pragmatic and disciplined instincts for survival and success. Otherwise we will need to wait for a corrective from the Coalition side that it has failed to grasp in government.

Eventually the conservative side of politics will coalesce confidently ­around the values and imperatives that matter. But, just now, that seems too far away.

SOURCE 






No more stop/go: How we killed off Australia's inflation problem

Before we let 2018 go, do you realise it’s the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the Reserve Bank’s target to achieve an inflation rate of between 2 and 3 per cent? It’s a milestone worth celebrating.

Why? Because it’s worked so well. For the past quarter century, we’ve had inflation that has fallen within the target range “on average, over time” and hence been low and stable.

This week the Reserve Bank issued a volume of papers from its conference to discuss inflation targeting, and whether it needed to change. (Conclusion: it didn’t.)

In that 25 years we haven’t had a serious worry about inflation – which certainly can’t be said of the 20 years before the target was unveiled in 1993.

In those earlier years we were continuously worried about high inflation. It reached a peak of 17 per cent in the mid-1970s, averaged about 10 per cent for that decade and 8 per cent during the 1980s.

All the other advanced economies had high inflation rates at the time, but ours was higher and took longer to fix.

Our problem was usually linked with excessive growth in wages, and the “wage explosions” of the mid-1970s and early 1980s prompted the authorities to jam on the brakes, leading inevitably to severe recessions.

Even though inflation remained high, a third and more severe recession in the early 1990s was more the consequence of the authorities’ overdone attempt to end a boom in commercial property prices.

Steadier hands

It’s not by chance that this year we reached 27 years of continuous growth since that recession. Before it, we had recessions about every seven years, all of them caused by the authorities jamming on the brakes – and then, when we crashed into recession, stepping on the accelerator, a “stop/go policy”.

The first reason we haven’t needed to worry much about inflation since then is that, as part of the adoption of the inflation target, responsibility for setting interest rates was moved from the politicians to the econocrats running an independent central bank.

They’ve been a much steadier hand on the interest-rate lever, moving rates up or down according to the needs of the business cycle, not the political cycle.

Another reason we’ve stopped worrying about inflation is that this year is also the 35th anniversary of the floating of our dollar in 1983. A floating exchange rate – which, remarkably, has almost always floated in the direction needed to keep the economy on an even keel – has made it a lot easier for the Reserve to keep inflation low and stable.

A third reason is the extensive program of “micro-economic reform” begun by the Hawke-Keating government in the 1980s – including the deregulation of many industries and the decentralisation of wage-fixing – which has made our economy much less inflation-prone than it used to be.

Managing expectations

Yet another factor was the realisation at the time the inflation target was adopted – informally by the Reserve in 1993, and then formally by the incoming Howard government in 1996 – that the key to lower inflation was to get “inflation expectations” down to a reasonable level.

Why? Because there’s a strong tendency for the expected inflation rate in the minds of shopkeepers and union officials to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they expect prices to keep rising rapidly, they get in first with their own big price or wage rises.

We’ve spent the past 25 years demonstrating that if you can get everybody expecting inflation to stay low, you have a lot less trouble ensuring it actually does.

The hard part was how to get from the high expectations of the late-1980s to the low expectations we’ve had for most of the past 25 years.

The healthy recession

Bernie Fraser, Treasury secretary turned Reserve Bank governor, the man who introduced the target, knew what to do: define what was an acceptably low inflation rate – between 2 and 3 per cent, on average - and keep the economy comatose until you actually achieved the target, then keep it low until everyone had been convinced that “about 2.5 per cent” was what today we’d call “the new normal”.

How did Fraser achieve this? He did the opposite of what his predecessors did whenever they realised they’d hit the economy harder than they’d intended to. Despite knowing we were in for a bad recession, he let the interest-rate brakes off only slowly, and didn’t hit the accelerator.

In other words, he made the recession of the early ‘90s longer and harder than it could have been. I think he decided that, since we were in for a terrible belting anyway, he’d make sure we at least emerged from the carnage with something of value: a cure for our inflation problem that wasn’t just temporary, but lasting.

And that’s what he delivered. With low inflation expectations embedded, he was able to stimulate the economy to grow faster and get unemployment down. It went from 11 per cent after the recession to 5 per cent today.

Getting in before 'some dickhead minister'

At the time the inflation target was adopted, some people worried it meant the Reserve didn’t care about unemployment. As events have demonstrated, that was wrong. To Fraser, low inflation was just a means to the ultimate end of low unemployment.

I rate him the best top econocrat we’ve had in 50 years. He was wise and caring, with the best feel for how the economy worked. Peter Costello gets the credit for formally adopting Fraser’s inflation target, pursued by an independent Reserve Bank.

But another person also deserves credit – Dr John Hewson. It was Hewson who, as Coalition shadow treasurer, made the most noise about the need for an independent central bank with an inflation target.

Fraser decided he’d better get on with specifying his own target before “some dickhead minister” tried to imposed a crazy one on him.

SOURCE 

 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



Australian Politics 2018-12-31 15:43:00

Uncategorized


Britain is now getting "boat people" too

Australia and Britain are both surronded by seas, which is a substantial barrier against illegal immigration.  The barriers concerned beat Mr Trump's wall by a mile.

But for years various mainly Muslim illegals streamed into Australia by boat and were generally referred to as "boat people".  Australia put up with that for a while but the Australian navy  now intercepts the boats and sends the would-be migrants back whence they came. 

So it is ironic that Britain too is now receiving illegal immigrants by boat.  The Royal Navy is a formidable force so with a bit of political will Britain's boat people could be stopped too



British interior minister Sajid Javid says the fast-growing number of would-be immigrants crossing the English Channel from France in dinghies is a "major incident".

Nearly 70 people have been intercepted in the past three days as they try to reach England by crossing one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Javid is also seeking an urgent call with his French counterpart over the weekend, his ministry said.

"He has insisted the Home Office treat the situation as a major incident and has ... asked for daily updates," it said in a statement on Friday.

It added that Javid wants to ensure everything possible is being done to deter migrants from attempting the dangerous crossing, "amid concern that it is only a matter of time before people lose their lives".

The Member of Parliament for Dover on England's southeast coast, Charlie Elphicke, has called for more government funding to deal with the arrivals and the Home Office said Javid has asked border officials to look at options for bringing in extra patrol ships.

SOURCE







Australia's latest export: Chinese wedding photos



Lina Xing and Wei Jiang have travelled more than 8,000 kilometres from their hometown in Nanjing in China’s north, to Sydney. They're not here for a sightseeing trip, but a 'pre-wedding' photo shoot.

On a warm summer’s day, the young couple smile as a photographer captures them posing in front of one of the world’s most iconic locations; the Sydney Opera House.

They're not yet married, but Lina is in her wedding dress and Wei, his suit.  "I’ve always wanted to travel to Australia," Ms Xing told SBS News. "It’s also a good opportunity to go on holidays."

Her fiancée agrees. "Firstly, Australia is a very beautiful country. I've always wanted to travel here. Also, I have a few friends who live in Australia so I can use this opportunity to visit them. And I can enjoy the beautiful scenery here."

They’re part of a growing number of Chinese couples flocking to Australia to use its picturesque landmarks as a backdrop for photo shoots conducted before their wedding day.

Unlike wedding photos in Western countries, they are taken in China before the special day to be displayed prominently at the wedding reception and posted on social media. It allows the couple to spend more time on their wedding day with guests, rather than sneaking away for photos.

In a country with a new rich generation, the images serve as a symbol of status, and couples spend big for the day-long photo shoots which involve several locations and outfit and hairstyle changes. 

A standard package costs $5,000 for the day; add on flights and accommodation and couples spend upwards of $8,000.

For Mr Jiang, it’s a price he’s willing to pay. “I think it’s worth it because actually, it doesn’t cost that much also because now China's economy is going really well."

Australian businesses are reaping the rewards of the high-value market.

Sydney-based wedding photographer Robert Wen has run Pepper Images for over 15 years. He says when he first started working in the industry he only had domestic clients but these days the majority of his bookings are from couples in Asia.

"In the last three years, we see demand increasing from overseas especially from China, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong," he said.  "Young couples are willing to travel to Australia get the pre-wedding shots. I personally think it's a side effect of the Chinese economy booming."

SOURCE 






Shorten risks causing the greatest havoc by sticking by his promises

What sort of a prime minister would Shorten be? What sort of a government would he lead? Would a switch to Shorten Labor “change the country”, as Paul Keating once unsuccessfully warned about changing governments?

The Canberra press gallery and media-political class tend to betray their green-left bent and messiah complex by anointing every Labor leader as the next big thing. Kim Beazley, Simon Crean, Mark Latham, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard were all going to shake up the nation for the better, apparently. None of them did.

Perhaps the most encouraging portent for Shorten is that the commentariat is less ebullient about him than they were for Latham, Rudd or Gillard. The gallery loves the “vision thing” and craves charisma, and Shorten is a little less woke, a more mundane saviour, in the vein of Beazley or Crean, who were both sensible but lacked cut-through.

Shorten has proved to be a disciplined campaigner and pragmatic leader who operates within the confines of ALP orthodoxies.

As a union man — a machine man — he is unlikely to run his own race in the way Rudd did, to the great detriment of his party, the nation and his own career.

Under Shorten it is hard to ­imagine we would see the perpetual personal indulgence of Rudd: the 2020 ideas summit; the bizarre essay decrying capitalism; the moral crusade over climate change; the grandiose and counter-productive diplomatic flourishes such as lecturing the Chinese, in China, in Mandarin; and, most damaging, the panicked, overblown and mismanaged stimulus response to the global fin­ancial crisis.

Rather, as prime minister, we might expect Shorten to subject his every decision for the approval of cabinet, caucus, the ALP nat­ional executive and his old comrades at the ACTU. The policy implications of this might not be reassuring but it should make him steadier — less mercurial — than Rudd.

This points to the core concern with Shorten — and it provides a complete contrast to the flaws we saw from his recent Labor and Liberal predecessors. Rudd, Gillard and Tony Abbott undercut their standing by breaking promises: Rudd promised to be an economic conservative but was the opposite; Gillard specifically ruled out a carbon tax, then snuck one in; Abbott promised to keep his promises, then broke his word, including by increasing personal income tax.

By contrast, Shorten could wreak the most havoc by keeping his promises. He deserves credit for being upfront and honest about his intentions to increase taxes, ­increase spending and enact ­energy policies that will put ­upward pressure on energy prices (even if he does not concede this point), but the prescription could be highly damaging.

While voters are crying out for governments and leaders who are as good as their word, as prime minister it would be best if the former union leader pulled back on his more worrying ambitions.

Just as the nation enters its first year of having the budget back in the black, Shorten’s spending plans would jeopardise the ­surplus. Just as the nation was set on a path of lower taxes for personal incomes and companies, Shorten Labor would increase taxes on housing investment, ­personal incomes and retirement income.

Just as the nation was realising the primacy of reliability and ­affordability in the electricity market, Shorten Labor would double down on the climate-driven, subsidised renewable energy crusade, creating more uncertainty and ­increasing price pressures but doing nothing for the planet as global emissions continue to rise.

An increase in labour market regulation, reversal of weekend penalty rate reductions and reintroduction of sector-wide ­industrial bargaining could hamper investment and dampen jobs growth.

A union movement veto on major economic decisions could entrench a retreat from three ­decades of economic reform, dating from the Hawke-Keating Labor years.

Overall, we might see a sclerosis across the economy, but more expansion of the size and reach of government. Perhaps this would not so much change the country as accelerate some of our most worrisome trends.

Away from the economy we might see a tsunami of political correctness and identity politics, from eradicating gender on birth certificates to shunning the study of Western civilisation at universities. Again, this would be nothing new, just an acceleration of regrettable trends.

Shorten’s record and background suggest he should be ­reliable on the US alliance and strategic and security issues, ­despite constant pressure from the ALP’s socialist left factions.

We can only hope that the retro­grade steps in economic management and progressive-minded tendencies in social policy are tempered by Shorten’s pragmatic and disciplined instincts for survival and success. Otherwise we will need to wait for a corrective from the Coalition side that it has failed to grasp in government.

Eventually the conservative side of politics will coalesce confidently ­around the values and imperatives that matter. But, just now, that seems too far away.

SOURCE 






No more stop/go: How we killed off Australia's inflation problem

Before we let 2018 go, do you realise it’s the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the Reserve Bank’s target to achieve an inflation rate of between 2 and 3 per cent? It’s a milestone worth celebrating.

Why? Because it’s worked so well. For the past quarter century, we’ve had inflation that has fallen within the target range “on average, over time” and hence been low and stable.

This week the Reserve Bank issued a volume of papers from its conference to discuss inflation targeting, and whether it needed to change. (Conclusion: it didn’t.)

In that 25 years we haven’t had a serious worry about inflation – which certainly can’t be said of the 20 years before the target was unveiled in 1993.

In those earlier years we were continuously worried about high inflation. It reached a peak of 17 per cent in the mid-1970s, averaged about 10 per cent for that decade and 8 per cent during the 1980s.

All the other advanced economies had high inflation rates at the time, but ours was higher and took longer to fix.

Our problem was usually linked with excessive growth in wages, and the “wage explosions” of the mid-1970s and early 1980s prompted the authorities to jam on the brakes, leading inevitably to severe recessions.

Even though inflation remained high, a third and more severe recession in the early 1990s was more the consequence of the authorities’ overdone attempt to end a boom in commercial property prices.

Steadier hands

It’s not by chance that this year we reached 27 years of continuous growth since that recession. Before it, we had recessions about every seven years, all of them caused by the authorities jamming on the brakes – and then, when we crashed into recession, stepping on the accelerator, a “stop/go policy”.

The first reason we haven’t needed to worry much about inflation since then is that, as part of the adoption of the inflation target, responsibility for setting interest rates was moved from the politicians to the econocrats running an independent central bank.

They’ve been a much steadier hand on the interest-rate lever, moving rates up or down according to the needs of the business cycle, not the political cycle.

Another reason we’ve stopped worrying about inflation is that this year is also the 35th anniversary of the floating of our dollar in 1983. A floating exchange rate – which, remarkably, has almost always floated in the direction needed to keep the economy on an even keel – has made it a lot easier for the Reserve to keep inflation low and stable.

A third reason is the extensive program of “micro-economic reform” begun by the Hawke-Keating government in the 1980s – including the deregulation of many industries and the decentralisation of wage-fixing – which has made our economy much less inflation-prone than it used to be.

Managing expectations

Yet another factor was the realisation at the time the inflation target was adopted – informally by the Reserve in 1993, and then formally by the incoming Howard government in 1996 – that the key to lower inflation was to get “inflation expectations” down to a reasonable level.

Why? Because there’s a strong tendency for the expected inflation rate in the minds of shopkeepers and union officials to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they expect prices to keep rising rapidly, they get in first with their own big price or wage rises.

We’ve spent the past 25 years demonstrating that if you can get everybody expecting inflation to stay low, you have a lot less trouble ensuring it actually does.

The hard part was how to get from the high expectations of the late-1980s to the low expectations we’ve had for most of the past 25 years.

The healthy recession

Bernie Fraser, Treasury secretary turned Reserve Bank governor, the man who introduced the target, knew what to do: define what was an acceptably low inflation rate – between 2 and 3 per cent, on average - and keep the economy comatose until you actually achieved the target, then keep it low until everyone had been convinced that “about 2.5 per cent” was what today we’d call “the new normal”.

How did Fraser achieve this? He did the opposite of what his predecessors did whenever they realised they’d hit the economy harder than they’d intended to. Despite knowing we were in for a bad recession, he let the interest-rate brakes off only slowly, and didn’t hit the accelerator.

In other words, he made the recession of the early ‘90s longer and harder than it could have been. I think he decided that, since we were in for a terrible belting anyway, he’d make sure we at least emerged from the carnage with something of value: a cure for our inflation problem that wasn’t just temporary, but lasting.

And that’s what he delivered. With low inflation expectations embedded, he was able to stimulate the economy to grow faster and get unemployment down. It went from 11 per cent after the recession to 5 per cent today.

Getting in before 'some dickhead minister'

At the time the inflation target was adopted, some people worried it meant the Reserve didn’t care about unemployment. As events have demonstrated, that was wrong. To Fraser, low inflation was just a means to the ultimate end of low unemployment.

I rate him the best top econocrat we’ve had in 50 years. He was wise and caring, with the best feel for how the economy worked. Peter Costello gets the credit for formally adopting Fraser’s inflation target, pursued by an independent Reserve Bank.

But another person also deserves credit – Dr John Hewson. It was Hewson who, as Coalition shadow treasurer, made the most noise about the need for an independent central bank with an inflation target.

Fraser decided he’d better get on with specifying his own target before “some dickhead minister” tried to imposed a crazy one on him.

SOURCE 

 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



Week-end Wrap – December 29, 2018

Uncategorized
Week-end Wrap - December 29, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

A Short Crash Course in American Political Economy
Tony Wikrent, November 25, 2016 [Real Economics]
...Economic equality is basic to a republic because, the idea was, no person can be fully independent and be a good citizen if their livelihood depends to some extent or other on another person’s largess, benevolence, or tolerance. This was the basis of the fight between the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians. Jefferson believed that only farmers who owned their own land were independent enough to honestly exercise the duties of citizenship. Jefferson wanted to delay the advent of industrialization and subservient factory labor as long as possible. This is why Jefferson acceded to the Louisiana Purchase, which he would otherwise have opposed on the grounds that the federal government has no express power to acquire so vast territory. [2] With the Louisiana Purchase, yeoman squeezed out of the established eastern seaboard would be able to cross the mountains, and buy, steal, or somehow take the land of the native Americans and set themselves up as independent farmers, thus extending in both space and time Jefferson’s ideal agrarian republic.\ 
Hamilton, by contrast, understood that the economy could not be frozen in time and remain entirely agrarian. Industrialization HAD to not only proceed, but be encouraged [3], for the USA to have any chance of resisting the intrigues and hostility of the European powers – which remained committed to eradicating the American experiment in self-government until the US Civil War. (France and Spain landed troops in Mexico and Caribbean at the beginning of the war; the Mexican republic was eliminated and Maximilian, younger brother of Austrian emperor Francis Joseph I, was installed as puppet emperor. The British government of Lord Palmerston was preparing to land troops in Canada in 1862, but was deterred by the pro-USA street fighting in London and elsewhere which was led by the British allies of Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi.) 
Hamilton’s great insight was that economic development depended entirely on improving the productive powers of labor. This meant the development of science and technology, and the spread of machinery to replace muscle power, both animal and human. The correct view of Hamilton must be precise: it was not that Hamilton sought to encourage and protect wealth, but to encourage and protect the CREATION of wealth. (Read Section II, Subsection 2, “As to an extension of the use of Machinery...” in Hamilton’s December 1791 Report to Congress on the Subject of Manufactures, if you want something to read today.) 
This is where Marxist analysis fails catastrophically. Yes, much of economic history is that of elites accumulating wealth through exploitation, fraud, and violence. BUT: how was that wealth which is stolen created in the first place? Thorstein Veblen, and his discussions of industrial organization versus business organization, are far more useful in understanding the COMPLETE economic story, not just the exploitation side of it....
Get Used to It, America: We’re No Longer No. 1
[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 12-23-18]
....the economies of China and the U.S. are now fairly evenly matched in size. But with four times the U.S. population, China has more room to grow. And China is already the world’s largest manufacturer and biggest exporter....
The biggest effect will be that China becomes the leading beneficiary of what economists call agglomeration effects. Agglomeration refers to the tendency of businesses to cluster together in the same region, because one company’s workers are another’s customers. As economists Paul Krugman, Masahisa Fujita and Anthony Venables showed two decades ago, agglomeration can bring big benefits to whatever region has the densest concentration of economic activity. 
Increasingly, that region is China rather than the U.S. China is where the biggest markets are, so that’s where multinational companies want to build their factories and offices. That in turn leads to whole supply chains migrating to China, as companies try to locate near their upstream suppliers and downstream customers.

Medicare Will Be Good for Everyone — Except CEOs
Interview of Robert Pollin [Jacobin], via Naked Capitalism 12-28-18]
"[The Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts] shows we could cover everyone in the United States with no copays and cut overall health spending by almost a fifth.” Pollin: “Officially we have about 9 percent uninsured at present. But if you look at the Commonwealth Fund, which does very good studies, their survey data shows we have about 26 percent of the population underinsured. By our definition of underinsured, these are people that did not get treatment because it was too expensive. It was going to create a hardship in terms of their budget, so they just didn’t get the treatment.” And: “Administration [9% of total costs], pharmaceutical pricing [6%], and Medicare rates for providers [3%] are the biggest [money-savers under #MedicareForAll]. That gets you to 19 percent total savings to operate Medicare for All compared to our existing system.”

As a grocery chain is dismantled, investors recover their money. Worker pensions are short millions.
[Washington Post, via Flipboard 12-29-18]

The 2018 Retail Apocalypse, in 6 Charts and a Map
[CityLab, via Flipboard 12-29-18]


Austerity results in ‘social murder’ according to new research 
[Phys.org, via Naked Capitalism 12-8-18] 
“The consequence of austerity in the social security system—severe cuts to benefits and the ‘ratcheting up’ of conditions attached to benefits—is ‘social murder’, according to new research by Lancaster University. Dr. Chris Grover, who heads the University’s Sociology Department, says austerity can be understood as a form of structural violence, violence that is built into society and is expressed in unequal power and unequal life chances, as it is deepens inequalities and injustices, and creates even more poverty.”

A drug smuggler built a predatory lending company while free on bail. Now the complaints are piling up.
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 12-23-18]

US Corporations Are Micromanaging Curricula to Miseducate Students
Eve Ottenberg, December 26, 2018 [Truthout, via Vicki Boyer]
Open inquiry scarcely figures in corporate-funded curricula, according to Gerald Coles’s recently published book, Miseducating for the Global Economy. Coles points to materials developed by the Bill of Rights Institute (an organization created by the billionaire Koch brothers) as an example of the ideological distortions present in corporate-funded educational materials. For example, the curriculum developed by the institute teaches students that “the Occupy movement violated the rights of others.” 
....This book also discusses the Khan Academy’s digital curriculum, observing that, “by 2012 Khan Academy videos had been viewed more than 200 million times by ‘6 million unique students each month.’” By 2017, Khan Academy had nearly 57 million users. Founded by former hedge fund analyst Salman Khan, the Khan Academy offers lessons that promote personal freedom and strong limits on government intervention, as opposed to “collectivist” programs like Social Security.... 
Miseducating for the Global Economy lists six imperatives that structure corporate-funded curricula:
1) the global economy must be presented as a natural phenomenon;
2) schools must be silent about the global economy’s hierarchical structure;
3) the global economy’s nature is not open to critical inquiry;
4) the curriculum must assume there are winners and losers, and the student’s job is to get an education to become a winner;
5) schooling assumes the legitimacy of businesses paying people as little as possible; and
6) schools must not teach about the global economy’s harm to the Earth and its ecology. 
Corporate curricula thus have an agenda – promoting capitalism at the expense of open inquiry – which also spills over into the corporate attack on public education. “Schools are scapegoated for the failures of the economic system,” Coles writes, arguing that corporations, responsible for a growing economic “precariat” (the population whose temporary or part-time work is precarious) in the US, palm off the blame onto schools with a dubious narrative about an abundance of high-skilled jobs, for which schools are not preparing Americans. This narrative is a lie. There is no such abundance, just capitalism’s aim to focus attention elsewhere while it fails to create high-paying jobs, leaving the service sector as the fastest-growing US employer. Coles exposes corporate hypocrisy on this point by detailing how U S corporations contrive to underfund education, primarily through tax evasion.... 
Overall, Coles argues that schools really do meet corporations’ need for exploitable service sector workers. In fact, “the worst nightmare for corporate leaders and the rich would be universal school success, in which vast numbers of graduates were fully able to do the purported extraordinary number of STEM jobs said to be awaiting them in the grand global economy.”
The Global Power Elite: A Transnational Class
[The Real News Network, December 26, 2018]
Peter Phillips, the author of the book, Giants: The Global Power Elite, examines the roles and networks of the world’s richest and most powerful. This class is no longer bound to national concerns, only to the expansion of its own power, says Phillips.

[Dandelion Salad, via Naked Capitalism 12-24-18]
Historically, the core definition of the left has been solidarity with the working class (everyone who depends on wages to live), which includes the majority of people of all races and genders. But a new definition has taken hold among American/Western/college-educated liberals and progressives, as well as socialists and marxists, who are perceived and think of themselves as on the “left”, and it has given rise to a new pattern of solidarity. These leftists have trained themselves to quickly embrace movements defined in terms of race and gender. Critical interrogation will come from within an assumed position of solidarity, and it will usually be in terms of those categories: Does your racial justice movement x have the right attitude and/or demographics in terms of gender?
Much less frequently and urgently, and virtually never as a condition of support, will a race or gender movement be interrogated regarding its position—its attitude and demographics—in terms of class.

There’s a different default setting for working-class movements. They will almost always be looked upon with suspicion, until and unless they prove their attitudinal and demographic race and gender bona fides to the satisfaction of American/Western/college-educated “leftists.” That interrogation has effectively become a prior condition of solidarity for working-class movements. Leftists have adopted a kind of checklist of concerns, and class has moved way down. 
So that’s been affecting the slow uptake of left support and coverage of Yellow Vest movement, which is, centrally and unashamedly, a working-class movement. Though the spark was a hike in the diesel gas tax, the flame quickly engulfed a wide range of issues. Far from being an “anti-tax” revolt, as some on the right and the left rushed to characterize it, Yellow Vest has called for the re-imposition of the wealth tax that Macron had so kindly abolished for the French elite. Fundamentally, it’s an eruption of a lot of people who are rightly raging about economic inequality....
When we see a “Center for American Progress (CAP), progressive, feminist,” like Neera Tanden tweeting, from the checklist: “I don’t understand why any progressive is cheering French protesters who are amassing against a carbon tax,” and a correspondent for the “leftist” French publication Libération, calling Yellow Vest a “movement of hicks” or a “band of polluting oafs, addicted to their cars, who need to be dealt with by the police,” we are seeing the sorry, degraded, utterly clueless state of what passes for the left....
A crucial point about the EU and the key role of the Euro is perfectly summarized by Greg Palast (echoing Hudson): “currency union is class war by other means.”
Palast explains: “The euro is doing exactly what its progenitor – and the wealthy 1%-ers who adopted it – predicted and planned for it to do.” 
Palast’s “progenitor” is University of Chicago economist Robert Mundell, who “produced the blueprint for European monetary union and a common European currency.” Mundell hated the fact that, in his words: “It’s very hard to fire workers in Europe,” so he designed a tool that would make it easier. As Palast says, the Euro was designed specifically to “remov[e] a government’s control over currency.. [and be] a weapon that would blow away government rules and labor regulations.” And Mundell, its architect, said it himself: “It [the Euro] puts monetary policy out of the reach of politicians, [And] without fiscal policy, the only way nations can keep jobs is by the competitive reduction of rules on business.”
The Roots of Venezuela’s Economic Crisis
[The Real News Network, December 28, 2018]
As US sanctions against Venezuela take an ever-greater toll on the country and its people, it is important to understand how the sanctions work and the extent of the damage they have caused, say Steve Ellner and Greg Wilpert, in a joint analysis of the situation

[Washington Center for Equitable Growth, via Naked Capitalism 12-26-18]
Recent empirical investigations into U.S. labor markets no longer allow reasonable economists to bury their heads in the sand about market power and assume that workers’ wages are simply equal to the value of their marginal product or service. There’s now insurmountable evidence that monopsony power is prevalent throughout the U.S. economy, though the degree to which it may contribute to widening income inequality and underemployment remains an open question. These findings imply that employers can siphon off “rents”—economic parlance for excessive profits beyond the cost of production—from workers through the exercise of monopsony power. These findings are the complete opposite of the dynamic formulated in most current labor market models. 
In our new Washington Center for Equitable Growth working paper, “Monopsony and Collective Action in an Institutional Context,” we seek to better understand the theoretical implications of this new and growing empirical literature on monopsony power and the resulting lower wages for workers. We construct a monopsony-wage model that integrates the strategic interaction between workers and employers in the wage-setting process into an institutional context where we consider the support, or lack thereof, of institutions such as the government and the courts for workers, as opposed to firms....
One of the main findings of our work is that unions, and collective labor action in general, are rent-reducing and efficiency-enhancing when monopsony power is present. Essentially, collective action neutralizes, to some degree, the wage-setting power of firms by reducing the rent that firms siphon from workers via their wage-setting power. Increases in wages may reduce profits but will decrease rents. This is completely contradictory to how most economists conceive of workers’ collective action, which they see as costly and rent-seeking. But this misplaced view is contingent on the starting point of whether monopsony power exists....
Indeed, the largest employer in the United States today is Walmart Inc., which is famously opposed to any type of collective worker activities. Several studies demonstrate that a Walmart store moving into a community decreases wages.
Working-Class Journalism in the Age of Oligarchs 
Barbara Ehrenreich [In These Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-26-18]
At the beginning of my career, I could earn enough to support my family, at however minimal a level. But starting in the 1990s that began to change. Newspapers and other news outlets were taken over by large corporations that were concerned only about the bottom line. They cut their staffs, including journalists, and closed those magazines and newspapers that weren’t making enough money, at least by the standards of their new owners, with the result that, today, writers aren’t paid well when they’re paid at all. 
To make things worse, I often chose to write about poverty—about all the people who are left out of America’s fabulous wealth, who try to get by on about $10 and hour while raising children and paying exorbitant prices for rent and medical care. This seems so unfair to me, so easily fixable. Why not, for example, open up the empty sky-high apartments of the super-rich as squats for the homeless while their super-rich owners are off in London or the Caribbean? 
But this, of course, is not the kind of thing that the new super-rich owners of the media business want to hear. I found the demand for my kinds of stories diminishing. Editors urged me to write less about economic inequality and more about “feminine” topics like the first lady’s fashion choices and the secrets of success of female CEOs. I could no longer make a living in journalism, and had to find other ways to support myself.
Lori Wallach [The Nation, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18] 
“On the upside, NAFTA’s outrageous investor privileges and ISDS tribunals are dramatically reined in under NAFTA 2.0… For Mexico, ISDS is replaced by a new approach: Whereas ISDS allows investors to skirt domestic courts, the new process requires investors to use such courts to resolve disputes with a government until the highest available domestic court rules, or until two and a half years pass with no resolution. In the latter case, an investor can seek compensation—but only for limited claims…. The five other investor protections in NAFTA that have resulted in almost all payouts so far are eliminated in the new agreement….. However, unless the final deal includes strong labor and environmental standards that are subject to swift and certain enforcement—which is not the case with the NAFTA 2.0 text—US firms will continue to outsource jobs, pay Mexican workers poverty wages, and dump toxins in Mexico. Absent a remedy to this fundamental failing, NAFTA 2.0 will face broad opposition.”
Foxconn to begin assembling top-end Apple iPhones in India in 2019 – source 
[Street Insider, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18] 
“Apple Inc will begin assembling its top-end iPhones in India through the local unit of Foxconn as early as 2019, the first time the Taiwanese contract manufacturer will have made the product in the country, according to a source familiar with the matter. Importantly, Foxconn will be assembling the most expensive models, such as devices in the flagship iPhone X family, the source said, potentially taking Apple’s business in India to a new level. The work will take place at Foxconn’s plant in Sriperumbudur town in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, said the source, who is not authorized to speak to the media and so declined to be named.”
Hmm, so the new Apple phone will be made by Foxconn in India, not Scott Walker's Wisconsin...

Water is getting scarcer. Is foreign investment making the problem worse?
[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18]   
“Researchers have focused on how climate change accelerates the problems caused by water scarcity. My research points to an important additional factor: foreign investment…. Our statistical analyses show that more foreign investment into Indian states in a given year is associated with lower levels of potable water access in subsequent years, with the poorest areas hit the hardest. We find that investment in water-intensive manufacturing and highly polluting industries increases competition for a limited quantity of fresh water, while also affecting water quality. States with larger proportions of marginalized and poor populations see the greatest negative effects of foreign investment on water supplies.”

The Farm Bureau: Big Oil’s Unnoticed Ally Fighting Climate Science and Policy
[Inside Climate News, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18]  
“For more than three decades, the Farm Bureau has aligned agriculture closely with the fossil fuel agenda. Though little noticed next to the influence of the fossil fuel industry, the farm lobby pulled in tandem with the energy lobby in a mutually reinforcing campaign to thwart the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, legislation like the Waxman-Markey economywide cap-and-trade plan, and regulations that would limit fossil fuel emissions…. Linda Prokopy and colleagues at Purdue and Iowa State universities found in surveys in 2011 and 2012 that while 66 percent of corn producers said they believed climate change was occurring, only 8 percent said human activities were the main cause. A quarter thought natural variations were at work, and a full 31 percent said there wasn’t enough information to show that global warming was underway.”
10 Costliest Climate-Driven Extreme Weather Events of 2018 Caused at Least $84.8B in Damage: AnalysisJessica Corbett [Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 12-29-18]

EPA Proposes Rule Change That Would Let Power Plants Release More Toxic Pollution 
[NPR, via Naked Capitalism 12-29-18]

The Guy Who Taught Trump to Tweet Owes Us All a Goddamn Apology
[GQ, via The Big Picture 12-23-18]
Yes, the guy has actually been identified and interviewed. Meet Justin McConney, whose father was controller of Trump Organization.
As Trump grew more enchanted with social media's potential to boost his Q score, though, he began calling at all hours to dictate tweets about whatever was on his mind—Rosie O'Donnell, the latest Anthony Weiner scandal—to McConney, who sounds as if he was slowly realizing that he had taken the worst fucking job in the world.
Notes on the Latest Crusade 
[Paganarch, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18]
The assertion that one section of the poor which Capital exploits must be held to account (or as the person said to me in that cafe, “be shot in the face”) before other sections of the poor can find liberation is precisely why no leftist struggle in the United States has come even close to threatening the powerful. 
Such failures are directly linked to the refusal of social justice adherents to articulate any coherent criticism of capitalism. Instead, to their view it’s the fault of all white men (whether they be Donald Trump or a homeless guy) that a trans person of color can’t afford her rent or groceries, a ressentiment repeating the form (though not the content) of the conspiracy theorist.

This NBC News story accusing Bernie of waging a “war” on Beto was written by a former staffer for Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a former staffer at @NeeraTanden’s Center for American Progress. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/inside-bernie-world-s-war-beto-o-rourke-n951016 

With Beto O’Rourke as Lightning Rod, Corporate Democrats Aim to Stifle Criticism
[Albany Herald, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18]
Lambert Strether notes: "So much for Stacey Abrams, though in retrospect I suppose Council on Foreign Relations membership would have been a tell."

[Matt Taibbi [Rolling Stone via Naked Capitalism 12-28-18] 
“[T]he Sanders platform would massively disenfranchise the traditional financial backers of the modern Democratic Party: Wall Street, pharmaceutical and insurance companies, Silicon Valley, lobbyists and corporate law firms, etc. Whether it’s now or later, whoever takes on those interests is going to take a hell of a beating. That Sanders seems willing to be that person seems reason enough to embrace another run. Someone has to take up those fights eventually. It might be a while before anyone else volunteers for the job.”
Is America Really Up Against An Internal Fascist Threat?
[DownWithTyranny, 12-26-18]
....conservatives don't see a way forward for the Republican Party within the confines of democracy. The radical right-- and not just a morons like Trump-- is done playing by a set of rules that they feel are stacked against them. And that means anything goes.\ 
Conservatives freaked out when people without property were allowed to vote, when ex-slaves and their descendants were allowed to vote, when women were allowed to vote, when young people were allowed to vote. They flip out when their schemes to prevent voting by groups unlikely to embrace conservatism are prohibited and when their endeavors to water down the vote of those people are declared unconstitutional. Ever since the Patriots beat the British and their conservative American allies in the late 1770s, conservatives have felt they've never gotten a break. 
Trump's buffoon-like reflexive fascism was easier for conservatives to embrace than it would have been if they thought they could get anywhere without the populists, nationalists and, yes, fascists, who worship him. Over the weekend Jeremy Rosner from the quintessential Democratic establishment polling firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, wrote an OpEd for The Hill, The Democratic and Anti-democratic parties, explaining a realignment of America’s two major parties that will not be mostly defined by demographics but by ideas about democracy and the rule of law. "To put it simply, we are headed for an era in which America may well have a Democratic Party and an Anti-democratic Party."
Iowa county elects its first black woman, so GOP decides it should change the whole electoral system
[DailyKos 12-27-18]

On the road in the Karakoram
[Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-23-18]
The snowed-over Khunjerab Pass, at 4,934 meters... is ground zero of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the point where the revamped, upgraded Karakoram Highway – “the eighth wonder of the world” – snakes away from China’s Xinjiang all the way to Pakistan’s Northern Areas and further south to Islamabad and Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea.


Electrical/Electronics Industry Now Even With Auto Makers in Purchasing Manufacturing Robots
International Federation of Robotics
The adoption of industrial robots continues to accelerate, with 30% annual growth in sales in 2017. Over 381,000 robots were sold to production industries in 2017, over twice the number sold in 2013. Over 2 million robots are now at work in industry. That number will almost double by the end of 2021, according to the IFR’s new ‘World Robotics 2018, Industrial Robots’ report. 
For many years the automotive sector has been the driver of robot sales to manufacturing. This is changing rapidly. The electrical /electronics (E&E) industry will soon become the dominant sector for robot sales. In 2012, twice the number of robots were sold to automotive manufacturers than to the E&E sector. In 2017, the share of supply to the automotive sector was only 1 percentage point more than the share of sales to E&E firms. By 2021, there will be more robots installed in electronics /electrical firms than in automotive manufacturers (based on 2017 growth rates). It could be sooner, given that technology developments in the automotive industry - such as connected and autonomous vehicles, and electric cars – are driven by electronics. The installed base of robots used to produce electrical/ electronic parts for cars has grown at an average annual rate of 45% since 2012. 
Growth in robot sales to the E&E industry is in part linked to the growth of the industry itself. The E&E market was worth €4 trillion in 2016 and is forecast to grow at over 4% per year to 20191. Asia accounted for over 85% of robot sales to the E&E sector in 2017 – not surprising, given the region produces around three quarters of the world’s electronics2. Vietnam – now the second-biggest exporter of smartphones in the world - rose to become the seventh largest robot market globally, spurred by a five-fold increase in robot sales in 2017. An expanding E&E sector is also behind the 52% annual increase in robot sales in Malaysia in 2017.
Why Japan leads industrial robot production
International Federation of Robotics
Japan is the world’s leading supplier of industrial robots. Japanese industrial robot manufacturers delivered just over half (almost 55%) of industrial robots supplied in 2017 – 39% more than in 2016.
Japan is not only a leading manufacturer and exporter of robots, it is also a leading robot adopter. With 297,200 industrial robots at work in Japan in 2017, Japan had the second highest installed base of industrial robots in 2017 (after China with 473,400 units)....

Manga comics and animations have had a much stronger cultural influence on interest in robotics. Robots are often depicted as children’s’ friends in mangas, and the post 1950s generation, who grew up with these mangas, learned about friendship, courage, justice and charity through stories that included robots.... 
Labour shortages continue to be a driver for robot adoption in Japan, not just in the automotive sector. Japan’s working age population has declined by 13 percent from the peak in 1995 to 75.96 million last year, and a further shortfall is forecast. The introduction of robots is regarded as one of the solutions to this problem, which affects many sectors in Japan. Among these are some sectors where demand for robots is especially high – logistics, nursing and elderly care, agriculture, inspecting and maintaining aging public infrastructure, and ‘behind-the-scenes’ work in service and non-manufacturing sectors.
Report: Wind speeds are declining in Northern Hemisphere
[Greentech Media, via American Wind Energy Association 12-26-18]
Wind speeds have been declining in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere over the past 40 years due to urban growth and other factors, according to researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Purdue University. "It should be of particular concern to operational wind farms whose financials are based on resource estimates which don't factor in lower future wind speeds," says GCube senior analyst Geoffrey Taunton-Collins.
How has electrical generation changed in the US since 2001?
[The New York Times (12/24), via American Wind Energy Association 12-25-18]
The US energy mix has changed a lot since 2001, with natural gas surpassing coal as the nation's leading energy source and renewables like wind and solar seeing rapid growth, according to a New York Times analysis of Energy Information Administration data. Iowa, for example, sourced 1% of its total electricity needs from wind in 2001, compared with nearly 40% in 2017.

With CRRC in Springfield ready to deliver 1st MBTA Orange Line cars, China trade war worries loom
[MassLive, via Naked Capitalism Comments 12-24-18]




For NJ Transit, another rolling stock innovation
[Railway Age, 12-13-18]
After an initial order announced Wednesday, by 2026 New Jersey Transit will have replaced its entire fleet of aging single-level cars with nearly 650 new Bombardier multilevels, many of which will be powered electric vehicles, the first of their type in North America.



Amtrak orders 75 Siemens Chargers
[Railway Age, 12-26-18]
Amtrak will acquire 75 new Siemens Charger diesel locomotives for $850 million to replace aging Genesis power in its National Network locomotive fleet, a sign that, amid withering criticism, it is still investing in the long distance passenger rail market.
Regulators warn on Siemens-Alstom merger
[Railway Age, 12-26-18]
Officials from Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands and Spain have written to European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, warning that the Siemens-Alstom merger could have detrimental impacts on the rail equipment market.
Israel announces three-line Tel Aviv metro network
[Railway Age, 12-20-18]
A metro network consisting of three lines will be built in Tel Aviv, Israel’s minister of transport and intelligence, Mr Yisrael Katz, announced on December 12. The metro network will be built in addition to the three light rail lines currently under construction. The Tel Aviv metro network is estimated to cost between 100–150B shekels ($26.5–39.7B) with more than 130km of underground lines and more than 100 stations. Ridership is estimated at 1.5 million passengers a day and 450 million a year.
Rio Tinto hits $1.3b driverless Pilbara trains target 
[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18]

Sustainable ‘plastics’ are on the horizon 
[PhysOrg, via Naked Capitalism 12-25-18]

[New Atlas, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18]

Now We Can 3D Print Homes for Next to Nothing, Using Mud 
[Futurism, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18]

Looking Back at 2018: Spaceflight
[Aviation Week & Space Technology 12-27-18]
It was a year of progress and contrasts in space, from the edge of space to Mars to a probe grazing the Sun to a sample-return rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid.
Looking Back at 2018: Propulsion Technology
Graham Warwick, December 28, 2018 [Aviation Week & Space Technology]
New turboprops, big turbofans and the electrification of aircraft propulsion led the news in 2018 as developments in powerplant technology continued to set the pace for advances in aerospace.




Week-end Wrap – December 29, 2018

Uncategorized
Week-end Wrap - December 29, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

A Short Crash Course in American Political Economy
Tony Wikrent, November 25, 2016 [Real Economics]
...Economic equality is basic to a republic because, the idea was, no person can be fully independent and be a good citizen if their livelihood depends to some extent or other on another person’s largess, benevolence, or tolerance. This was the basis of the fight between the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians. Jefferson believed that only farmers who owned their own land were independent enough to honestly exercise the duties of citizenship. Jefferson wanted to delay the advent of industrialization and subservient factory labor as long as possible. This is why Jefferson acceded to the Louisiana Purchase, which he would otherwise have opposed on the grounds that the federal government has no express power to acquire so vast territory. [2] With the Louisiana Purchase, yeoman squeezed out of the established eastern seaboard would be able to cross the mountains, and buy, steal, or somehow take the land of the native Americans and set themselves up as independent farmers, thus extending in both space and time Jefferson’s ideal agrarian republic.\ 
Hamilton, by contrast, understood that the economy could not be frozen in time and remain entirely agrarian. Industrialization HAD to not only proceed, but be encouraged [3], for the USA to have any chance of resisting the intrigues and hostility of the European powers – which remained committed to eradicating the American experiment in self-government until the US Civil War. (France and Spain landed troops in Mexico and Caribbean at the beginning of the war; the Mexican republic was eliminated and Maximilian, younger brother of Austrian emperor Francis Joseph I, was installed as puppet emperor. The British government of Lord Palmerston was preparing to land troops in Canada in 1862, but was deterred by the pro-USA street fighting in London and elsewhere which was led by the British allies of Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi.) 
Hamilton’s great insight was that economic development depended entirely on improving the productive powers of labor. This meant the development of science and technology, and the spread of machinery to replace muscle power, both animal and human. The correct view of Hamilton must be precise: it was not that Hamilton sought to encourage and protect wealth, but to encourage and protect the CREATION of wealth. (Read Section II, Subsection 2, “As to an extension of the use of Machinery...” in Hamilton’s December 1791 Report to Congress on the Subject of Manufactures, if you want something to read today.) 
This is where Marxist analysis fails catastrophically. Yes, much of economic history is that of elites accumulating wealth through exploitation, fraud, and violence. BUT: how was that wealth which is stolen created in the first place? Thorstein Veblen, and his discussions of industrial organization versus business organization, are far more useful in understanding the COMPLETE economic story, not just the exploitation side of it....
Get Used to It, America: We’re No Longer No. 1
[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 12-23-18]
....the economies of China and the U.S. are now fairly evenly matched in size. But with four times the U.S. population, China has more room to grow. And China is already the world’s largest manufacturer and biggest exporter....
The biggest effect will be that China becomes the leading beneficiary of what economists call agglomeration effects. Agglomeration refers to the tendency of businesses to cluster together in the same region, because one company’s workers are another’s customers. As economists Paul Krugman, Masahisa Fujita and Anthony Venables showed two decades ago, agglomeration can bring big benefits to whatever region has the densest concentration of economic activity. 
Increasingly, that region is China rather than the U.S. China is where the biggest markets are, so that’s where multinational companies want to build their factories and offices. That in turn leads to whole supply chains migrating to China, as companies try to locate near their upstream suppliers and downstream customers.

Medicare Will Be Good for Everyone — Except CEOs
Interview of Robert Pollin [Jacobin], via Naked Capitalism 12-28-18]
"[The Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts] shows we could cover everyone in the United States with no copays and cut overall health spending by almost a fifth.” Pollin: “Officially we have about 9 percent uninsured at present. But if you look at the Commonwealth Fund, which does very good studies, their survey data shows we have about 26 percent of the population underinsured. By our definition of underinsured, these are people that did not get treatment because it was too expensive. It was going to create a hardship in terms of their budget, so they just didn’t get the treatment.” And: “Administration [9% of total costs], pharmaceutical pricing [6%], and Medicare rates for providers [3%] are the biggest [money-savers under #MedicareForAll]. That gets you to 19 percent total savings to operate Medicare for All compared to our existing system.”

As a grocery chain is dismantled, investors recover their money. Worker pensions are short millions.
[Washington Post, via Flipboard 12-29-18]

The 2018 Retail Apocalypse, in 6 Charts and a Map
[CityLab, via Flipboard 12-29-18]


Austerity results in ‘social murder’ according to new research 
[Phys.org, via Naked Capitalism 12-8-18] 
“The consequence of austerity in the social security system—severe cuts to benefits and the ‘ratcheting up’ of conditions attached to benefits—is ‘social murder’, according to new research by Lancaster University. Dr. Chris Grover, who heads the University’s Sociology Department, says austerity can be understood as a form of structural violence, violence that is built into society and is expressed in unequal power and unequal life chances, as it is deepens inequalities and injustices, and creates even more poverty.”

A drug smuggler built a predatory lending company while free on bail. Now the complaints are piling up.
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 12-23-18]

US Corporations Are Micromanaging Curricula to Miseducate Students
Eve Ottenberg, December 26, 2018 [Truthout, via Vicki Boyer]
Open inquiry scarcely figures in corporate-funded curricula, according to Gerald Coles’s recently published book, Miseducating for the Global Economy. Coles points to materials developed by the Bill of Rights Institute (an organization created by the billionaire Koch brothers) as an example of the ideological distortions present in corporate-funded educational materials. For example, the curriculum developed by the institute teaches students that “the Occupy movement violated the rights of others.” 
....This book also discusses the Khan Academy’s digital curriculum, observing that, “by 2012 Khan Academy videos had been viewed more than 200 million times by ‘6 million unique students each month.’” By 2017, Khan Academy had nearly 57 million users. Founded by former hedge fund analyst Salman Khan, the Khan Academy offers lessons that promote personal freedom and strong limits on government intervention, as opposed to “collectivist” programs like Social Security.... 
Miseducating for the Global Economy lists six imperatives that structure corporate-funded curricula:
1) the global economy must be presented as a natural phenomenon;
2) schools must be silent about the global economy’s hierarchical structure;
3) the global economy’s nature is not open to critical inquiry;
4) the curriculum must assume there are winners and losers, and the student’s job is to get an education to become a winner;
5) schooling assumes the legitimacy of businesses paying people as little as possible; and
6) schools must not teach about the global economy’s harm to the Earth and its ecology. 
Corporate curricula thus have an agenda – promoting capitalism at the expense of open inquiry – which also spills over into the corporate attack on public education. “Schools are scapegoated for the failures of the economic system,” Coles writes, arguing that corporations, responsible for a growing economic “precariat” (the population whose temporary or part-time work is precarious) in the US, palm off the blame onto schools with a dubious narrative about an abundance of high-skilled jobs, for which schools are not preparing Americans. This narrative is a lie. There is no such abundance, just capitalism’s aim to focus attention elsewhere while it fails to create high-paying jobs, leaving the service sector as the fastest-growing US employer. Coles exposes corporate hypocrisy on this point by detailing how U S corporations contrive to underfund education, primarily through tax evasion.... 
Overall, Coles argues that schools really do meet corporations’ need for exploitable service sector workers. In fact, “the worst nightmare for corporate leaders and the rich would be universal school success, in which vast numbers of graduates were fully able to do the purported extraordinary number of STEM jobs said to be awaiting them in the grand global economy.”
The Global Power Elite: A Transnational Class
[The Real News Network, December 26, 2018]
Peter Phillips, the author of the book, Giants: The Global Power Elite, examines the roles and networks of the world’s richest and most powerful. This class is no longer bound to national concerns, only to the expansion of its own power, says Phillips.

[Dandelion Salad, via Naked Capitalism 12-24-18]
Historically, the core definition of the left has been solidarity with the working class (everyone who depends on wages to live), which includes the majority of people of all races and genders. But a new definition has taken hold among American/Western/college-educated liberals and progressives, as well as socialists and marxists, who are perceived and think of themselves as on the “left”, and it has given rise to a new pattern of solidarity. These leftists have trained themselves to quickly embrace movements defined in terms of race and gender. Critical interrogation will come from within an assumed position of solidarity, and it will usually be in terms of those categories: Does your racial justice movement x have the right attitude and/or demographics in terms of gender?
Much less frequently and urgently, and virtually never as a condition of support, will a race or gender movement be interrogated regarding its position—its attitude and demographics—in terms of class.

There’s a different default setting for working-class movements. They will almost always be looked upon with suspicion, until and unless they prove their attitudinal and demographic race and gender bona fides to the satisfaction of American/Western/college-educated “leftists.” That interrogation has effectively become a prior condition of solidarity for working-class movements. Leftists have adopted a kind of checklist of concerns, and class has moved way down. 
So that’s been affecting the slow uptake of left support and coverage of Yellow Vest movement, which is, centrally and unashamedly, a working-class movement. Though the spark was a hike in the diesel gas tax, the flame quickly engulfed a wide range of issues. Far from being an “anti-tax” revolt, as some on the right and the left rushed to characterize it, Yellow Vest has called for the re-imposition of the wealth tax that Macron had so kindly abolished for the French elite. Fundamentally, it’s an eruption of a lot of people who are rightly raging about economic inequality....
When we see a “Center for American Progress (CAP), progressive, feminist,” like Neera Tanden tweeting, from the checklist: “I don’t understand why any progressive is cheering French protesters who are amassing against a carbon tax,” and a correspondent for the “leftist” French publication Libération, calling Yellow Vest a “movement of hicks” or a “band of polluting oafs, addicted to their cars, who need to be dealt with by the police,” we are seeing the sorry, degraded, utterly clueless state of what passes for the left....
A crucial point about the EU and the key role of the Euro is perfectly summarized by Greg Palast (echoing Hudson): “currency union is class war by other means.”
Palast explains: “The euro is doing exactly what its progenitor – and the wealthy 1%-ers who adopted it – predicted and planned for it to do.” 
Palast’s “progenitor” is University of Chicago economist Robert Mundell, who “produced the blueprint for European monetary union and a common European currency.” Mundell hated the fact that, in his words: “It’s very hard to fire workers in Europe,” so he designed a tool that would make it easier. As Palast says, the Euro was designed specifically to “remov[e] a government’s control over currency.. [and be] a weapon that would blow away government rules and labor regulations.” And Mundell, its architect, said it himself: “It [the Euro] puts monetary policy out of the reach of politicians, [And] without fiscal policy, the only way nations can keep jobs is by the competitive reduction of rules on business.”
The Roots of Venezuela’s Economic Crisis
[The Real News Network, December 28, 2018]
As US sanctions against Venezuela take an ever-greater toll on the country and its people, it is important to understand how the sanctions work and the extent of the damage they have caused, say Steve Ellner and Greg Wilpert, in a joint analysis of the situation

[Washington Center for Equitable Growth, via Naked Capitalism 12-26-18]
Recent empirical investigations into U.S. labor markets no longer allow reasonable economists to bury their heads in the sand about market power and assume that workers’ wages are simply equal to the value of their marginal product or service. There’s now insurmountable evidence that monopsony power is prevalent throughout the U.S. economy, though the degree to which it may contribute to widening income inequality and underemployment remains an open question. These findings imply that employers can siphon off “rents”—economic parlance for excessive profits beyond the cost of production—from workers through the exercise of monopsony power. These findings are the complete opposite of the dynamic formulated in most current labor market models. 
In our new Washington Center for Equitable Growth working paper, “Monopsony and Collective Action in an Institutional Context,” we seek to better understand the theoretical implications of this new and growing empirical literature on monopsony power and the resulting lower wages for workers. We construct a monopsony-wage model that integrates the strategic interaction between workers and employers in the wage-setting process into an institutional context where we consider the support, or lack thereof, of institutions such as the government and the courts for workers, as opposed to firms....
One of the main findings of our work is that unions, and collective labor action in general, are rent-reducing and efficiency-enhancing when monopsony power is present. Essentially, collective action neutralizes, to some degree, the wage-setting power of firms by reducing the rent that firms siphon from workers via their wage-setting power. Increases in wages may reduce profits but will decrease rents. This is completely contradictory to how most economists conceive of workers’ collective action, which they see as costly and rent-seeking. But this misplaced view is contingent on the starting point of whether monopsony power exists....
Indeed, the largest employer in the United States today is Walmart Inc., which is famously opposed to any type of collective worker activities. Several studies demonstrate that a Walmart store moving into a community decreases wages.
Working-Class Journalism in the Age of Oligarchs 
Barbara Ehrenreich [In These Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-26-18]
At the beginning of my career, I could earn enough to support my family, at however minimal a level. But starting in the 1990s that began to change. Newspapers and other news outlets were taken over by large corporations that were concerned only about the bottom line. They cut their staffs, including journalists, and closed those magazines and newspapers that weren’t making enough money, at least by the standards of their new owners, with the result that, today, writers aren’t paid well when they’re paid at all. 
To make things worse, I often chose to write about poverty—about all the people who are left out of America’s fabulous wealth, who try to get by on about $10 and hour while raising children and paying exorbitant prices for rent and medical care. This seems so unfair to me, so easily fixable. Why not, for example, open up the empty sky-high apartments of the super-rich as squats for the homeless while their super-rich owners are off in London or the Caribbean? 
But this, of course, is not the kind of thing that the new super-rich owners of the media business want to hear. I found the demand for my kinds of stories diminishing. Editors urged me to write less about economic inequality and more about “feminine” topics like the first lady’s fashion choices and the secrets of success of female CEOs. I could no longer make a living in journalism, and had to find other ways to support myself.
Lori Wallach [The Nation, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18] 
“On the upside, NAFTA’s outrageous investor privileges and ISDS tribunals are dramatically reined in under NAFTA 2.0… For Mexico, ISDS is replaced by a new approach: Whereas ISDS allows investors to skirt domestic courts, the new process requires investors to use such courts to resolve disputes with a government until the highest available domestic court rules, or until two and a half years pass with no resolution. In the latter case, an investor can seek compensation—but only for limited claims…. The five other investor protections in NAFTA that have resulted in almost all payouts so far are eliminated in the new agreement….. However, unless the final deal includes strong labor and environmental standards that are subject to swift and certain enforcement—which is not the case with the NAFTA 2.0 text—US firms will continue to outsource jobs, pay Mexican workers poverty wages, and dump toxins in Mexico. Absent a remedy to this fundamental failing, NAFTA 2.0 will face broad opposition.”
Foxconn to begin assembling top-end Apple iPhones in India in 2019 – source 
[Street Insider, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18] 
“Apple Inc will begin assembling its top-end iPhones in India through the local unit of Foxconn as early as 2019, the first time the Taiwanese contract manufacturer will have made the product in the country, according to a source familiar with the matter. Importantly, Foxconn will be assembling the most expensive models, such as devices in the flagship iPhone X family, the source said, potentially taking Apple’s business in India to a new level. The work will take place at Foxconn’s plant in Sriperumbudur town in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, said the source, who is not authorized to speak to the media and so declined to be named.”
Hmm, so the new Apple phone will be made by Foxconn in India, not Scott Walker's Wisconsin...

Water is getting scarcer. Is foreign investment making the problem worse?
[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18]   
“Researchers have focused on how climate change accelerates the problems caused by water scarcity. My research points to an important additional factor: foreign investment…. Our statistical analyses show that more foreign investment into Indian states in a given year is associated with lower levels of potable water access in subsequent years, with the poorest areas hit the hardest. We find that investment in water-intensive manufacturing and highly polluting industries increases competition for a limited quantity of fresh water, while also affecting water quality. States with larger proportions of marginalized and poor populations see the greatest negative effects of foreign investment on water supplies.”

The Farm Bureau: Big Oil’s Unnoticed Ally Fighting Climate Science and Policy
[Inside Climate News, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18]  
“For more than three decades, the Farm Bureau has aligned agriculture closely with the fossil fuel agenda. Though little noticed next to the influence of the fossil fuel industry, the farm lobby pulled in tandem with the energy lobby in a mutually reinforcing campaign to thwart the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, legislation like the Waxman-Markey economywide cap-and-trade plan, and regulations that would limit fossil fuel emissions…. Linda Prokopy and colleagues at Purdue and Iowa State universities found in surveys in 2011 and 2012 that while 66 percent of corn producers said they believed climate change was occurring, only 8 percent said human activities were the main cause. A quarter thought natural variations were at work, and a full 31 percent said there wasn’t enough information to show that global warming was underway.”
10 Costliest Climate-Driven Extreme Weather Events of 2018 Caused at Least $84.8B in Damage: AnalysisJessica Corbett [Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 12-29-18]

EPA Proposes Rule Change That Would Let Power Plants Release More Toxic Pollution 
[NPR, via Naked Capitalism 12-29-18]

The Guy Who Taught Trump to Tweet Owes Us All a Goddamn Apology
[GQ, via The Big Picture 12-23-18]
Yes, the guy has actually been identified and interviewed. Meet Justin McConney, whose father was controller of Trump Organization.
As Trump grew more enchanted with social media's potential to boost his Q score, though, he began calling at all hours to dictate tweets about whatever was on his mind—Rosie O'Donnell, the latest Anthony Weiner scandal—to McConney, who sounds as if he was slowly realizing that he had taken the worst fucking job in the world.
Notes on the Latest Crusade 
[Paganarch, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18]
The assertion that one section of the poor which Capital exploits must be held to account (or as the person said to me in that cafe, “be shot in the face”) before other sections of the poor can find liberation is precisely why no leftist struggle in the United States has come even close to threatening the powerful. 
Such failures are directly linked to the refusal of social justice adherents to articulate any coherent criticism of capitalism. Instead, to their view it’s the fault of all white men (whether they be Donald Trump or a homeless guy) that a trans person of color can’t afford her rent or groceries, a ressentiment repeating the form (though not the content) of the conspiracy theorist.

This NBC News story accusing Bernie of waging a “war” on Beto was written by a former staffer for Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a former staffer at @NeeraTanden’s Center for American Progress. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/inside-bernie-world-s-war-beto-o-rourke-n951016 

With Beto O’Rourke as Lightning Rod, Corporate Democrats Aim to Stifle Criticism
[Albany Herald, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18]
Lambert Strether notes: "So much for Stacey Abrams, though in retrospect I suppose Council on Foreign Relations membership would have been a tell."

[Matt Taibbi [Rolling Stone via Naked Capitalism 12-28-18] 
“[T]he Sanders platform would massively disenfranchise the traditional financial backers of the modern Democratic Party: Wall Street, pharmaceutical and insurance companies, Silicon Valley, lobbyists and corporate law firms, etc. Whether it’s now or later, whoever takes on those interests is going to take a hell of a beating. That Sanders seems willing to be that person seems reason enough to embrace another run. Someone has to take up those fights eventually. It might be a while before anyone else volunteers for the job.”
Is America Really Up Against An Internal Fascist Threat?
[DownWithTyranny, 12-26-18]
....conservatives don't see a way forward for the Republican Party within the confines of democracy. The radical right-- and not just a morons like Trump-- is done playing by a set of rules that they feel are stacked against them. And that means anything goes.\ 
Conservatives freaked out when people without property were allowed to vote, when ex-slaves and their descendants were allowed to vote, when women were allowed to vote, when young people were allowed to vote. They flip out when their schemes to prevent voting by groups unlikely to embrace conservatism are prohibited and when their endeavors to water down the vote of those people are declared unconstitutional. Ever since the Patriots beat the British and their conservative American allies in the late 1770s, conservatives have felt they've never gotten a break. 
Trump's buffoon-like reflexive fascism was easier for conservatives to embrace than it would have been if they thought they could get anywhere without the populists, nationalists and, yes, fascists, who worship him. Over the weekend Jeremy Rosner from the quintessential Democratic establishment polling firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, wrote an OpEd for The Hill, The Democratic and Anti-democratic parties, explaining a realignment of America’s two major parties that will not be mostly defined by demographics but by ideas about democracy and the rule of law. "To put it simply, we are headed for an era in which America may well have a Democratic Party and an Anti-democratic Party."
Iowa county elects its first black woman, so GOP decides it should change the whole electoral system
[DailyKos 12-27-18]

On the road in the Karakoram
[Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-23-18]
The snowed-over Khunjerab Pass, at 4,934 meters... is ground zero of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the point where the revamped, upgraded Karakoram Highway – “the eighth wonder of the world” – snakes away from China’s Xinjiang all the way to Pakistan’s Northern Areas and further south to Islamabad and Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea.


Electrical/Electronics Industry Now Even With Auto Makers in Purchasing Manufacturing Robots
International Federation of Robotics
The adoption of industrial robots continues to accelerate, with 30% annual growth in sales in 2017. Over 381,000 robots were sold to production industries in 2017, over twice the number sold in 2013. Over 2 million robots are now at work in industry. That number will almost double by the end of 2021, according to the IFR’s new ‘World Robotics 2018, Industrial Robots’ report. 
For many years the automotive sector has been the driver of robot sales to manufacturing. This is changing rapidly. The electrical /electronics (E&E) industry will soon become the dominant sector for robot sales. In 2012, twice the number of robots were sold to automotive manufacturers than to the E&E sector. In 2017, the share of supply to the automotive sector was only 1 percentage point more than the share of sales to E&E firms. By 2021, there will be more robots installed in electronics /electrical firms than in automotive manufacturers (based on 2017 growth rates). It could be sooner, given that technology developments in the automotive industry - such as connected and autonomous vehicles, and electric cars – are driven by electronics. The installed base of robots used to produce electrical/ electronic parts for cars has grown at an average annual rate of 45% since 2012. 
Growth in robot sales to the E&E industry is in part linked to the growth of the industry itself. The E&E market was worth €4 trillion in 2016 and is forecast to grow at over 4% per year to 20191. Asia accounted for over 85% of robot sales to the E&E sector in 2017 – not surprising, given the region produces around three quarters of the world’s electronics2. Vietnam – now the second-biggest exporter of smartphones in the world - rose to become the seventh largest robot market globally, spurred by a five-fold increase in robot sales in 2017. An expanding E&E sector is also behind the 52% annual increase in robot sales in Malaysia in 2017.
Why Japan leads industrial robot production
International Federation of Robotics
Japan is the world’s leading supplier of industrial robots. Japanese industrial robot manufacturers delivered just over half (almost 55%) of industrial robots supplied in 2017 – 39% more than in 2016.
Japan is not only a leading manufacturer and exporter of robots, it is also a leading robot adopter. With 297,200 industrial robots at work in Japan in 2017, Japan had the second highest installed base of industrial robots in 2017 (after China with 473,400 units)....

Manga comics and animations have had a much stronger cultural influence on interest in robotics. Robots are often depicted as children’s’ friends in mangas, and the post 1950s generation, who grew up with these mangas, learned about friendship, courage, justice and charity through stories that included robots.... 
Labour shortages continue to be a driver for robot adoption in Japan, not just in the automotive sector. Japan’s working age population has declined by 13 percent from the peak in 1995 to 75.96 million last year, and a further shortfall is forecast. The introduction of robots is regarded as one of the solutions to this problem, which affects many sectors in Japan. Among these are some sectors where demand for robots is especially high – logistics, nursing and elderly care, agriculture, inspecting and maintaining aging public infrastructure, and ‘behind-the-scenes’ work in service and non-manufacturing sectors.
Report: Wind speeds are declining in Northern Hemisphere
[Greentech Media, via American Wind Energy Association 12-26-18]
Wind speeds have been declining in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere over the past 40 years due to urban growth and other factors, according to researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Purdue University. "It should be of particular concern to operational wind farms whose financials are based on resource estimates which don't factor in lower future wind speeds," says GCube senior analyst Geoffrey Taunton-Collins.
How has electrical generation changed in the US since 2001?
[The New York Times (12/24), via American Wind Energy Association 12-25-18]
The US energy mix has changed a lot since 2001, with natural gas surpassing coal as the nation's leading energy source and renewables like wind and solar seeing rapid growth, according to a New York Times analysis of Energy Information Administration data. Iowa, for example, sourced 1% of its total electricity needs from wind in 2001, compared with nearly 40% in 2017.

With CRRC in Springfield ready to deliver 1st MBTA Orange Line cars, China trade war worries loom
[MassLive, via Naked Capitalism Comments 12-24-18]




For NJ Transit, another rolling stock innovation
[Railway Age, 12-13-18]
After an initial order announced Wednesday, by 2026 New Jersey Transit will have replaced its entire fleet of aging single-level cars with nearly 650 new Bombardier multilevels, many of which will be powered electric vehicles, the first of their type in North America.



Amtrak orders 75 Siemens Chargers
[Railway Age, 12-26-18]
Amtrak will acquire 75 new Siemens Charger diesel locomotives for $850 million to replace aging Genesis power in its National Network locomotive fleet, a sign that, amid withering criticism, it is still investing in the long distance passenger rail market.
Regulators warn on Siemens-Alstom merger
[Railway Age, 12-26-18]
Officials from Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands and Spain have written to European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, warning that the Siemens-Alstom merger could have detrimental impacts on the rail equipment market.
Israel announces three-line Tel Aviv metro network
[Railway Age, 12-20-18]
A metro network consisting of three lines will be built in Tel Aviv, Israel’s minister of transport and intelligence, Mr Yisrael Katz, announced on December 12. The metro network will be built in addition to the three light rail lines currently under construction. The Tel Aviv metro network is estimated to cost between 100–150B shekels ($26.5–39.7B) with more than 130km of underground lines and more than 100 stations. Ridership is estimated at 1.5 million passengers a day and 450 million a year.
Rio Tinto hits $1.3b driverless Pilbara trains target 
[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18]

Sustainable ‘plastics’ are on the horizon 
[PhysOrg, via Naked Capitalism 12-25-18]

[New Atlas, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18]

Now We Can 3D Print Homes for Next to Nothing, Using Mud 
[Futurism, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-18]

Looking Back at 2018: Spaceflight
[Aviation Week & Space Technology 12-27-18]
It was a year of progress and contrasts in space, from the edge of space to Mars to a probe grazing the Sun to a sample-return rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid.
Looking Back at 2018: Propulsion Technology
Graham Warwick, December 28, 2018 [Aviation Week & Space Technology]
New turboprops, big turbofans and the electrification of aircraft propulsion led the news in 2018 as developments in powerplant technology continued to set the pace for advances in aerospace.




Australian Politics 2018-12-30 15:46:00

Uncategorized


Another top cop goes to  jail -- betrayed by his dick

Queensland put their top cop -- Terry Lewis -- in jail in 1989.  He was betrayed by money

Realistic Australians would always have the lowest possible expections of their police.  My contact with them has been small  but was completely disappointing.  They failed even the basics.  Can you believe them destroying crucial evidence?  They did.  I protested but to no avail


Former Northern Territory police commissioner John McRoberts has been sentenced to three years in jail, to be suspended after 12 months, for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Last month a jury took nine hours to find McRoberts guilty of the offence, which carries a maximum prison term of 15 years.

The jury found McRoberts tried to "frustrate" or "deflect" a travel agent fraud investigation known as Operation Subutai between May and November 2014.

McRoberts had been in a sexual relationship with the investigation's priority target, former travel agent and NT Crime Stoppers chairwoman Xana Kamitsis, who was sentenced to almost four years' imprisonment on fraud and corruption charges in 2015.

Acting Justice Dean Mildren took less than an hour to summarise the evidence and deliver his sentence at Darwin's Supreme Court on Tuesday morning.

"As commissioner, the public has the right to expect that you can be trusted absolutely," he said. "There is a huge fall from grace."

Between May and November 2014, McRoberts failed to disclose he was in a sexual relationship with Kamitsis.

At the time, McRoberts knew Kamitsis had become a test case for the investigation, which was looking into 27 travel agents suspected of defrauding the NT Health Department's pensioner travel concession scheme.

Acting Justice Mildren said McRoberts had effectively lied by omission. "You failed to disclose to your staff that Kamitsis was an intimate friend and indeed a sexual partner," he said. "The relationship between you was a secret one.

"From the moment that you became aware that Kamitsis was a suspect in Operation Subutai, you knew that full disclosure was required in some form and you also knew you should have no further involvement."

McRoberts' lawyer has filed an appeal of his conviction and an application for bail in relation to the matter is expected to be heard by a Supreme Court judge on Wednesday morning.

During the trial, the prosecution argued McRoberts involved himself in the investigation, knowing he was "hopelessly conflicted", because he wanted stop his relationship with Kamitsis being exposed through a search warrant.

It was alleged McRoberts' criminal course of conduct began in May 2014, when he raised the idea of an alternative civil approach to Operation Subutai, which was then further developed.

McRoberts was also accused of frustrating the execution of a search warrant against Kamitsis in June 2014, by saying to his senior officers: "This is not ready to go to an overt investigation".

During the sentencing hearing, prosecutor Mary Chalmers told the court McRoberts abused his position of power and his sentence should reflect this. "[The crime] is one that strikes at the very core of the integrity of the administration of justice," she said.  "He abused his position to achieve his ends."

Defence lawyer Anthony Elliot argued his client's conduct was less serious than other cases of attempting to pervert the course of justice. "We accept that he made a bad decision … that he will continue to pay for, for the rest of his life," he said.

"We accept that he should not have had anything to do with the Kamitsis inquiry. "But we submit that he was placed in the difficult position of it being intertwined with all the others."

Ms Chalmers told the judge McRoberts engaged in "sustained criminal conduct", which amounted to much more than a single "bad decision".

During the trial, more than 5,000 text messages between McRoberts and Kamitsis were submitted as evidence of their relationship.

In his sentencing, Acting Justice Mildren said McRoberts deliberately set out to lead police investigators away from his lover. "Your purpose from at least sometime in about May 2014 was to frustrate and deflect an imminent prosecution of Kamitsis, your motive was to protect Kamitsis as well as yourself from the scandal that access to her mobile phone would inevitably give rise to," he said.

He said the offence struck at the heart of the administration of justice. "It involved a gross misuse of power for primarily personal reasons," he said. "You were, as commissioner of police, expected to uphold the law, not actively to seek to breach it."

Acting Justice Mildren accepted that McRoberts was unlikely to reoffend, and said there was no need to consider special deterrence.

Regarding character references that spoke highly of McRoberts as a police officer and as a person, he said: "You did your best to make a worthwhile contribution to the community that you served", however, he found that McRoberts lacked remorse.

"You have not shown at any stage any recognition of your wrongdoing or any remorse from your actions," Acting Justice Mildren said.

He said the offending was too serious to allow McRoberts to serve his sentence in home detention, and acknowledged his time in prison would be difficult as he has no family in the NT.

"I accept that it will be harder for you … as you will need to be isolated from other prisoners to some degree," he said.

SOURCE 





New land unlocked to provide homes for 55,000 people

Victoria does something right.  If we are to reduce the high cost of housing, this should be happening in every state

Victorians hoping to build their dream home can look to the Melbourne’s northwest fringe with the opening up of land near Sunbury.

Two new communities of Sunbury South and Lancefield Road will provide 19,000 homes and 6000 jobs for as many as 55,000 people.

Treasurer Tim Pallas said the new suburbs’ announcement fulfilled the state government’s commitment for a 15-year land supply by providing 100,000 lots.

“This increase in supply is also a boost to the construction industry, creating jobs in the growth corridors, as well as in established suburbs,” Mr Pallas said.

The government last year said 17 new suburbs in growth areas would be created to tackle the housing affordability problem.

Other suburbs will emerge near Pakenham East, Wollert, Kororoit and Donnybrook, the establishment of which will be managed by the Victorian Planning Authority.

The two new latest communities will be created on 2800 hectares of land around Sunbury over the next 20 years.

The developments will create a regional park, a conservation network on the Jacksons Creek corridor and a reserve at Redstone Hill.

Four town centres, health and emergency services, six primary schools, two secondary schools, and a prep-to-12 school are part of the plans, as well as land for two future train stations.

Developers will contribute to the creation of roads, parks and community facilities.

Mr Pallas said the land release would ensure new housing was coming on to the market to stay ahead of population growth and to make new homes “as affordable as possible”.

Earlier this month, Planning Minister Richard Wynne announced that Jacksons Hill in Sunbury would be returned for community use after the purchase of the 33-hectare site from Victoria University.

SOURCE 






There's no such thing as a happy Greenie. The plastic bag ban is only the beginning

Six months ago it didn’t seem possible that Australians would ever give up the convenience of single-use plastic shopping bags.

But watching shoppers pack up their groceries at a nearby Woolworths Metro, it’s clear that the bag ban has worked.

During the busy lunchtime rush this month, there are definitely some people still buying the thicker 15c bags available at the checkout but most people either had their own bags or were choosing to carry their groceries without a bag.

One woman who was juggling a tub of yoghurt, carton of mini-cucumbers and a salad, told news.com.au that she would definitely have taken one of the old grey bags before but didn’t want to pay for one to transport her lunch back to work.

Even though she said she often forgot to bring her own bags, at least a third of her fellow shoppers had remembered to bring one. Only a handful of the approximately 50 shoppers bought the 15c bags. Other shoppers also improvised and were seen tucking lemons into handbags and microwave meals into backpacks.

While the major retailers won’t reveal how many of the thicker 15c bags they were now selling, this month Coles and Woolworths revealed their bag ban had stopped 1.5 billion thinner plastic bags being dumped into the environment.

A news.com.au Facebook poll also indicated most people were remembering to bring their own reusable bags.

Tim Silverwood, co-founder of Take 3, told news.com.au that anecdotal evidence suggested there were less of the thinner bags making their way to Australia’s waterways.

“During our clean-up activities in NSW and Queensland there’s definitely less thin grey shopping bags, according to our volunteers,” Mr Silverwood said. “I think we are all starting to realise now that it doesn’t take that much change to make a big difference.”

He said the success of the bag ban was a great opportunity to take the war against plastic to the next level. This includes passing legislation in NSW to ban bags as well, reduce the use of the thicker bags and to follow the example of the European Union, which has plans to phase out or reduce 10 types of single-use plastic items.

The National Waste Report 2018 released in November showed that just 12 per cent of plastic in Australia was recycled. About 87 per cent was sent to landfill.

Each state and territory approaches waste and recycling differently. There are container deposit schemes in all states except Tasmania and Victoria but only ACT, South Australia and Victoria have a landfill ban.

NSW is the only state or territory not planning to introduce a plastic bag ban. In NSW, Woolworths and Coles have voluntarily phased out the bags but Jeff Angel of the Boomerang Alliance said a ban was still needed because a lot of smaller stores like chemists and food outlets continued to give out the lightweight bags.

Mr Angel wants the supermarket giants to reveal how many of the thicker 15c bags were being used as there was anecdotal evidence they were also ending up in the litter stream and landfill.

The thicker bags are 55 microns thick instead of 35 microns so there is more plastic in them.

Western Australia’s environment minister Stephen Dawson recently revealed his intent to target the use of thicker bags — the type that Myer uses for example — as the next step. “I think it would be a gradual phase-out, just as we’ve done with say microbeads,” Mr Dawson said.

There are also many other forms of plastic that could be tackled and Australia is already behind in this area.

The European Commission has moved to ban or reduce 10 types of single-use plastics by 2030.

If approved, littering by these items will be reduced by more than half, avoiding environmental damage which would otherwise cost €22 billion ($A34 billion). It will also avoid the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030.

These products are the top 10 most found single-use items on European beaches and make up 43 per cent of total marine litter.

The items that will be targeted include food containers, cups for beverages, cotton buds, cutlery/plates/stirrers/straws, sticks for balloons/balloons, packets and wrappers, beverage bottles, tobacco product filters and sanitary towels/wet wipes among European Union countries.

Items like cotton buds made with plastic would be replaced by sustainable alternatives while there will be an attempt to reduce the consumption of things like food containers.

The commission will also tackle fishing gear, which makes up an extra 27 per cent of marine litter.

European Union countries have recognised the damaging impact plastics can have and the costs of cleaning litter up as well as the losses for tourism, fisheries and shipping.

Due to its slow decomposition, plastic accumulates in seas, oceans and on beaches. Plastic residues have been found in sea turtles, seals, whales and birds, but also in fish and shellfish, meaning humans could also be consuming them. There are estimates that mussel-loving Europeans could be consuming up to 11,000 microplastics in a year.

Mr Silverwood said the 10 items being banned in Europe were also regularly found during clean-up activities in Australia, although the container deposit scheme was helping to reduce the number of beverage containers.

He said Australia should introduce measures similar to the European Union, to tackle other types of single-use plastics.

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Agenda activism takes over university Australian history classes

Agenda-driven activism has subverte­d the teaching of Aust­ralian history at the nation’s universit­ies, with gender, race and class politics dominating two-thirds of subjects on offer.

Australian history is no longer taught as a study of past events, according to a report by the Institute of Public Affairs to be released today. It argues that students are more likely to be ­exposed to disconnected themes, or “microhistories”, presented through the lens of identity ­politics, than key concepts explain­ing Australia’s development as a modern nation.

An audit of the 147 Australian history subjects offered across 35 universities this year showed 102 were preoccupied with identity politics. Of those, 13 subjects were solely focused on gender and sexuality, race or class.

ANU’s Sexuality in Australian History examined “how an understanding of sexual diversity in the past can illuminate current debates in Australian ­society”.

Monash University’s History of Sexuality 1800-the Present had topics that included “the construction of masculinity and femininity, courtship and marriag­e … heterosexuality and homosexuality”.

In comparison, four subjects featured democracy as a major theme, three covered industrialisation, and capitalism was the focus of just one subject.

Prime ministers appear to be largely overlooked, but Queensland senator Pauline Hanson is mentioned in the descriptions for three subjects.

The report’s author, Bella d’Abrera, said the audit highlighted that students were not being taught basic concepts explaining the origins of Australian society, including its successes as a ­modern nation.

She said historians had instead “recast themselves as political ­activists” and students were being “politicised in the classroom” as a result of the courses that were available to them.

“Historians occupy a special position because they have a unique ability to shape our society and to shape the future … but they should not attempt to rewrite the past,” Dr d’Abrera said.

“By reframing Australia’s past using the lens of identity politics, they are warping history to fit their own agenda.”

The report highlights how ­indigenous history has been framed around common themes of resistance, colonisation and the frontier wars. Twenty-nine of the 57 indigenous history subjects ­offered ­focused on indigenous-settler relations “in terms of violence and conflict rather than co-existence and co-operation”.

Dr d’Abrera said many Australian history subjects were better suited to the disciplines of politics, sociology or anthropology.

She said there was a dearth of subjects that discussed Australia’s economic and political development since 1788 and only one subject looked into the cultural conditions in Britain that led to the development of our liberal democracy.

No subject mentioned “the fact the Australian nation had ­benefited enormously from the Western legacy”, Dr d’Abrera said.

She said this shed new light on the opposition that the ­Ramsay Centre has come up against in its bid to establish ­degrees in Western civilisation at several Australian universities.

After rejection by ANU and a push-back from academics at the University of Sydney, the ­Ramsay Centre recently signed up the University of Wollongong as a partner for a course and scholarship program planned to launch in 2020.

Bachelor of Arts student Oscar Green took the University of Queensland’s The Australian Experience during his first year of study expecting to be introduced to issues around Australian history and culture.

Instead, the 19-year-old, who is involved in the IPA’s Generation Liberty program for students, was disappointed by a “disproportionate focus” on race and gender and “revisionist approach” to studying the past.

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 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