Monthly Archives: November 2020

The S&P 500 Closes Thanksgiving Week at New High

2020's Thanksgiving holiday-shortened trading week came and went, leaving the S&P 500 (Index: SPX) sitting atop a new record high for the index before disappearing into market history.

For those who checked out early for the holiday, we'll repeat how we closed the previous edition of the S&P 500 chaos series, since it helps explain this week's update to the alternative futures chart.

On a final note, sharp-eyed readers will note that over the projected future of next two weeks, the alternative futures chart is showing a relatively short duration "echo" of the volatility that struck the market about a month ago. This is an artifact from the model's use of historic stock prices in setting the base reference points from which it projects the future. For longer duration events, we will often add a redzone forecast range to account for the echo effect, but since this upcoming echo is comparatively short, we'll simply note that the trajectory of the S&P 500 will likely appear to "run hot" with respect to the model's projections over these weeks.

Here is this week's alternative futures chart, which shows what running hot looks like in the context of what we just described.

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2020Q4 - Standard Model (m=+1.5 from 22 September 2020) - Snapshot on 27 Nov 2020

Although we're not adding a redzone forecast to the chart, all that exercise involves is connecting the dots of the projected forecast for a given future quarter investors are focusing upon from a point before the echo effect skews the projection to a more distant point in the future after the echoes of past stock price volatility have dissipated. If we were to add one, we would start by assuming investors would remain focused on 2021-Q3 and connect points for this alternative trajectory on opposite sides of the echo. We would then indicate a range of plus-or-minus three percent of the value of the index to account for typical day-to-day trading volatility.

The current echo, which traces back to the volatility of a month earlier, will run out before the end of this week. But since you now know how that particular magic works, we'll leave it as an exercise for you to either amaze or dismay your friends by making your own redzone forecast with one of our spaghetti forecast charts!

Monday, 23 November 2020
Tuesday, 24 November 2020
Wednesday, 25 November 2020
Friday, 27 November 2020

A succinct summary of the positives and negatives Barry Ritholtz found in the holiday-shortened trading week's economics and markets news is available over at The Big Picture.

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 29, 2020


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 29, 2020

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

For What Are America’s Wealthy Thankful? A Worsening Culture War 

Matt Taibbi, TK News, via Naked Capitalism 11-26-20]

….From the “vast right-wing conspiracy” through the “basket of deplorables” to now, the Democratic message increasingly focuses on the illegitimacy of the ordinary conservative voter’s opinion: ignorant, conspiratorial, and racist, so terrible that the only hope is mass-reprogramming by educated betters.

On the other hand, Republicans from Goldwater to Trump have warned that coalitions of “marauders” from the inner cities and “bad hombres” from across the border are plotting to use socialist politics to seize the hard-earned treasure of the small-town voter, with the aid of elitist traitors in the Democratic Party.

Spool these ideas endlessly and you get culture war. Any thought that it might abate once Trump left the scene looks naive now….

This is what happens when the very wealthy stop having a stake in the outcome of a country’s future. Having long ago stopped investing in ameliorative programs to keep cities and small towns alive, they stop bothering with unifying national legends, too, letting long-simmering divisions rise….

...we’re now back to corporate-sponsored tales of half against half. What’s always forgotten is who’s paying for these messages. We have two donor-fattened parties that across decades of incompetence have each run out of convincing pitches for how to improve the lives of ordinary people. So they’ve settled into a new propaganda line that blames voters for their problems, with each party directing its base to demonize the other’s followers. Essentially, in the wake of Trump, the political class is accepting the inevitability of culture war, and urging it on, as something preferable to populist revolt.

Divided Societies In Decline Use Scapegoats To Re-Unify

Ian Welsh, November 24, 2020

America is moving towards a cold, and perhaps hot war with the rising superpower and the last superpower (China and Russia). At home, passions are hot and at some point some groups are going to be chosen as the “bad Americans. The traitors.” Some part of the elite (a small part) will be thrown to the dogs, and so will many of the powerless.

This doesn’t happen in all great powers in decline, to be sure. But it’s common play and it has powerful people other than Thiel pushing it. They see America’s decline and its disunity and they are looking for a way to turn the decline around or at least distract Americans from the actual authors of the decline (that would be people like Thiel) towards scapegoats.

Know Your Enemies

Ian Welsh, November 23, 2020

An enemy is someone who means you harm and has the means to inflict it…. You must know who wants to harm you and has the means. Let’s start here:

“If America’s distribution of income had remained the same as it was in the 3 decades following the second world war… A low-income American earning $35K this year would be earning $61K. A college-educated worker now earning $72K would be earning $120K.”

Everyone responsible for this is your enemy, unless you’re in somewhere between the top 4% to top 10%….

So the people who are responsible have robbed you of a million or more dollars, and a good, prosperous life. These people had names. It started with with intellectuals like Milton Friedman and the oligarchs who funded economics departments to overturn the economic orthodoxy the old order ran on. It moved onto politicians, executive and CEOs. Margaret Thatcher, and Reagan; then Blair and Clinton, who made their victory complete. Thatcher understood that it was Blair who made her victorious, until Labour accepted “There Is No Alternative” they could have simply undone almost everything she did. Clinton, cutting welfare and smashing blacks and poor people in the face with punitive jail sentences, was Reagan’s heir more than George Bush Sr. ever was.(Biden, of course, was there for all of it and supported almost every shitty piece of it. Enemy. If you can’t manage “enemy, but perhaps not as bad an enemy as Trump, you can’t think.”)

Now, here’s another fact: wage theft is almost equal to ALL other theft combined, except (get this) it isn’t considered a crime. That’s right, when your boss steals from you, it’s a civil/regulatory matter! Who’s the enemy?

The Epidemic

Over 900 Mayo staff have gotten COVID-19 in past two weeks 

[Post-Bulletin, via Naked Capitalism 11-23-20]

Does contact tracing work? Quasi-experimental evidence from an Excel error in England (PDF)

[CAGE Research Centre, via Naked Capitalism 11-25-20]

A natural experiment. From the Abstract: “Between September 25 and October 2, 2020, a total of 15,841 COVID-19 cases in England (around 15 to 20% of all cases) were not immediately referred to the contact tracing system due to a data processing error. Case information was truncated from an Excel spreadsheet after the row limit had been reached, which was discovered on October 3. There is substantial variation in the degree to which different parts of England areas were exposed – by chance – to delayed referrals of COVID-19 cases to to the contact tracing system. We show that more affected areas subsequently experienced a drastic rise in new COVID-19 infections and deaths alongside an increase in the positivity rate and the number of test performed, as well as a decline in the performance of the contact tracing system. Conservative estimates suggest that the failure of timely contact tracing due to the data glitch is associated with more than 125,000 additional infections and over 1,500 additional COVID-19- related deaths. Our findings provide strong quasi-experimental evidence for the effectiveness of contact tracing.”

Swedish Life Expectancy to Drop for First Time in Century Due to Covid-19 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 11-26-20] 

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Inheritance, not work, has become the main route to middle-class home ownership 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 11-23-20]

Pretty Soon There’ll Be Just One Big Book Publisher Left 

[The New Republic, via Naked Capitalism 11-26-20]

America’s biggest, most powerful book publisher is about to get even bigger and more powerful. On Wednesday, a number of outlets reported that Penguin Random House had reached an agreement with ViacomCBS to purchase Simon & Schuster, the nation’s third-largest publisher, for $2 billion. The resulting conglomerate would publish at least a third of all books sold in the United States, and transform Penguin Random House, already a superpower, into an industry-dominating behemoth, with potentially serious consequences for authors, publishing employees, and diversity of thought. That extraordinary level of concentration will dramatically lower competition in the publishing industry, likely leading to job cuts, lower advances for authors, and fewer non-blockbuster books being published by commercial publishers….

In a somewhat surprising twist, many in the industry were rooting for the other known bidder for Simon & Schuster—the Rupert Murdoch–owned HarperCollins—to acquire the publisher, in the hopes that it would create more competition for Penguin Random House. That Murdoch is seen as something of a savior says a great deal about the widespread fear of Penguin Random House. Not only will the acquisition expand the number of titles PRH puts out, it will expand its already extremely powerful distribution network.

Labor Law and Corporate Concentration 

[Labor Law Lite, via Naked Capitalism 11-23-20]

In the modern era of nearly limitless capital mobility, we must evaluate recent events to determine whether unions can more easily organize large or small employers. I don’t pretend that I possess the expertise to answer this question empirically, but I think we can get closer to the answer by observing the outcomes of the two most sweeping cases of litigation in the National Labor Relations Board’s history. The first case, the 1990s Caterpillar-UAW labor dispute, is an example of the breakdown of a “mature” collective bargaining relationship between two established parties, while the second case, the Teamsters’ nearly decade-long organizing campaign at Overnite Transportation, involved an all-out, national attempt to unionize an industry leader in trucking….

….When the dust had settled, it became clear to observers that when a company as big, sophisticated, and peerless as Caterpillar didn’t want to treat its unionized workers as equals, there was nothing anyone could do to stop them….

Like the UAW at Caterpillar, the Teamsters had run into a foe too big to beat. Even though they had won NLRB elections at 22 terminals, this covered only 14 percent of Overnite’s national workforce. Crucially, Overnite did not have one massive hub or headquarters that the Teamsters could swing the balance at. Overnite was a 166-shop operation whose corporate structure prevented any single location from being critical. It was thus predictable that Overnite refused to ever consider the Teamsters’ demand for a nation-wide contract and instead insisted—as it was within its right to do—that it bargain on a single-terminal basis, meaning 22 different contracts with 22 different termination dates….

This is the dilemma that unions face in trying to organize massive anti-union employers like Wal-Mart or McDonald’s; there is no fulcrum of production that unions can squeeze like the Flint Sit-Down Strikers did at GM. Modern supply-chain operations have long evolved past the point where such a job action could be so effective.

Those favoring centralization may argue that enterprise bargaining has outlived its usefulness, but under any system of voluntary unionism the Teamsters would need to individually organize a critical mass of the 166 terminals to force Overnite into a nation-wide contract. Corporations will naturally disperse their production without dispersing their power. The only proper response, then, is to prevent them from accruing so much power in the first place.


House of Cards: How Joe Biden helped build a financial system that’s great for Delaware banks and terrible for the rest of us.

[Mother Jones, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-23-20]

….Biden did not create this system, but he used his influence to strengthen and protect it. He cast key votes that deregulated the banking industry, made it harder for individuals to escape their credit card debts and student loans, and protected his state’s status as a corporate bankruptcy hub.

Biden’s career in the Senate placed him on the wrong side of some of the biggest financial fights of his generation and brought him into conflict with some of the same rivals he faces today. If you want to understand how Biden became Biden, you have to understand how Delaware became Delaware….

“But the most controversial item on the banks’ agenda, and the one that would require the most legwork from Biden, was bankruptcy reform…. A 2008 study published in the American Bankruptcy Law Journal found that “credit card companies saved billions because of reduced loan loss rates,” but that none of those savings benefited consumers. Because interest rates and late fees continued to tick upward, ‘the cost to credit card customers increased 5% to 17%.’ And even before the recession hit, Credit Suisse found that the bankruptcy law had ‘a profound impact on subprime borrowers’ and made it more likely that borrowers would fail on their bankruptcy payment plans. ‘Before that law was passed you could file a chapter 7 bankruptcy for seven, eight, nine-hundred dollars, including attorney’s fees and filing fees, and that’s gone up to more like $2,000,’ Sommer said. “It’s made bankruptcy much more expensive, difficult, burdensome, and less effective.’ The number of personal bankruptcy filings has fallen by half in 15 years.”

How Joe Biden’s victory paves the way for a global corporate tax rate 

[South China Morning Post, via Naked Capitalism 11-26-20]

Countries are losing, on average, 9.2 per cent of their health budgets to tax havens every year. Biden’s plan to increase US corporate tax will put pressure on the European Union to set the bar high as well, helping establish a 25 per cent global corporate tax rate…. This is not an American peculiarity. Over the past few decades, governments all over the world, influenced by corporate giants and the super-rich, have programmed their tax systems to prioritise the requests of the wealthiest over the needs of the rest of the population….

A new report, “The State of Tax Justice 2020”, recently issued by Tax Justice Network, Public Services International and the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, estimates that the world is losing over US$427 billion in tax each year due to international tax abuse.

Growing Momentum for Increased Scrutiny of Hedge Funds as U.S. Prepares for the Biden Administration 

[Morning Consult, via Naked Capitalism 11-26-20]

Unfortunately, this new scrutiny is focused only on the technical issues of hedge fund leverage and if it causes disturbances in the financial markets. What we really need is a serious inquiry into the inequity of having an entirely separate financial system that is accessible only to the most wealthy, and which provides them much greater profits than working people can ever expect to get from the much smaller financial system they can access. And, the US Federal Reserve and the US Treasury, it is now abundantly clear, are willing to throw trillions of dollars of support at the financial system serving the most wealthy, while basically starving the financial system serving the vast majority of people. (See, for example, Citigroup Has Made a Sap of the Fed: It’s Borrowing at 0.35 % from the Fed While Charging Struggling Consumers 27.4 % on Credit Cards.)

The New Money Trust: How Large Money Managers Control Our Economy and What We Can Do About It 

[American Economic Liberties Project, via Naked Capitalism 11-25-20]

75% of the $454 Billion CARES Act Money Never Went to the Fed; It Was Invested by a Mnuchin Slush Fund Called the ESF
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, November 27, 2020 [Wall Street on Parade]

The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27. Congress earmarked $454 billion of that stimulus money to be distributed by the Treasury to the Federal Reserve to be used for emergency lending programs to save businesses and jobs during the pandemic and keep credit flowing to the U.S. economy. The catch was that the Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, would have to give his approval for each of the programs.

Since June, Wall Street On Parade has been reporting that $340 billion of the $454 billion that Mnuchin was instructed to turn over to the Fed was unaccounted for. We noted that 98,000 businesses had permanently closed in the U.S. while this money, intended for economic relief, went missing….

This morning, we located the missing funds on our own with no help from the Treasury’s press office that is paid by American taxpayers to keep the public informed. Tens of billions of dollars of CARES Act money has been put to very strange use by Mnuchin in a slush fund called the Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF) which states that it gives the U.S. Treasury Secretary “considerable discretion in the use of ESF resources.”

We located the financial statements for the Exchange Stabilization Fund and they confirmed that all the Treasury has given the Fed for its emergency lending facilities was the same $114 billion that the Fed has been reporting on its financial statements.

We compared the Exchange Stabilization Fund’s most recent financial statement for September 30, 2020 to its fiscal year-end financial statement for September 30, 2019. At the end of 2019, the ESF had assets of $93.3 billion. With the money from the CARES Act, that amount had grown to $682 billion by September 30, 2020.

The Untold Story of Mnuchin’s Demand for the Fed to Shut Down Emergency Lending Programs
Pam Martens and Russ Martens: November 23, 2020 [Wall Street on Parade]

The four programs directed at helping Wall Street were the only programs that Mnuchin instructed the Fed to keep alive past December 31, 2020. Those programs are the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, which sluiced tens of billions of dollars to the trading houses on Wall Street that are owned by the big Wall Street banks; the Commercial Paper Funding Facility; the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility; and the Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility, which reimburses certain banks for loans they had provided under the Small Business Administration’s PPP program. Citigroup, the recipient of the largest bailout in history during the 2007 to 2010 financial crisis, has inexplicably received over $3 billion from that Fed program this year. (See Citigroup Has Made a Sap of the Fed: It’s Borrowing at 0.35 % from the Fed While Charging Struggling Consumers 27.4 % on Credit Cards.)

U.S. Billionaires Grow Wealth By Over $1 Trillion Since Pandemic Began: Report 

[Huffington Post, via Naked Capitalism 11-26-20]

Economic Armageddon: The COVID Collapsed Economy

“America’s Zombie Companies Have Racked Up $1.4 Trillion of Debt”

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-23-20]

“From Boeing Co., Carnival Corp. and Delta Air Lines Inc. to Exxon Mobil Corp. and Macy’s Inc., many of the nation’s most iconic companies aren’t earning enough to cover their interest expenses (a key criterion, as most market experts define it, for zombie status). Almost 200 corporations have joined the ranks of so-called zombie firms since the onset of the pandemic, according to a Bloomberg analysis of financial data from 3,000 of the country’s largest publicly-traded companies. In fact, zombies now account for nearly 20% of those firms. Even more stark, they’ve added almost $1 trillion of debt to their balance sheets in the span, bringing total obligations to $1.36 trillion. That’s more than double the roughly $500 billion zombie companies owed at the peak of the financial crisis.”

Climate and environmental crises

Rule Forces Banks To Boost Fossil Fuel Development

[The Daily Poster, November 24, 2020]

But after Alaska’s Republican congressional delegation complained that banks were pulling back from Arctic oil and gas development, a Trump-appointed financial regulator just announced a new rule designed to force banks to continue financing fossil fuel projects.

The rule follows a separate move by the Trump Labor Department to try to block investors from pulling their money out of oil and gas companies.

The latest rule from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) requires large banks with more than $100 million in assets to adhere to a “nondiscrimination” policy that bars them from attempting to disadvantage clients in specific industries.

In justifying the rule, Acting Comptroller Brian Brooks cited “family planning organizations,” “privately owned correctional facilities,” and “makers of shotguns and hunting rifles” as examples of organizations that would be protected under the new rule. However, the rule appears to be designed to put pressure on five major banks who stopped lending to Arctic energy projects.

In California, 1 million people lack access to clean water 

[High Country News, via Naked Capitalism 11-22-20]

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Spacecraft with precious asteroid cargo is almost home after 3 billion-mile trek

[LiveScience, via Naked Capitalism 11-23-20]

On Dec. 6, 2020, after six years in space, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hayabusa2 spacecraft will finally return to Earth. It carries with it a cargo unbelievably rare, precious, and hard-won - at least 100 milligrams of material collected from the surface of asteroid Ryugu. It will drop the capsule containing the sample to Earth, the spacecraft itself continuing on to visit more asteroid targets.

Hayabusa2's return will mark a milestone in a remarkable feat of space science, a total journey of around 5.24 billion kilometers (almost 3.3 billion miles). Asteroid Ryugu - formerly known as 1999 JU3 - is on an elliptical orbit that carries it just inside Earth's orbital path around the Sun, and out almost as far as Mars' orbit.

For the first time, scientists detect the ghostly signal that reveals the engine of the universe 

[NBC News, via Naked Capitalism 11-27-20]

In research published Wednesday in the journal Nature, scientists reported that they’ve made the first detection of almost-ethereal particles called neutrinos that can be traced to carbon-nitrogen-oxygen fusion, known as the CNO cycle, inside the sun. It’s a landmark finding that confirms theoretical predictions from the 1930s, and it’s being hailed as one of the greatest discoveries in physics of the new millenium.

Get ready for the ‘Great Conjunction’ of Jupiter and Saturn 

[Space, via Naked Capitalism 11-27-20]

Information Age Dystopia

The Code That Controls Your Money 

[Wealthsimple, via Naked Capitalism 11-23-20]

Cobol, Cobol. Cobol.

Comcast To Enforce 1.2TB Data Cap In Entire 39-State Territory In Early 2021 

[ars technica, via Naked Capitalism 11-24-20]

Secret Amazon Reports Expose the Company’s Surveillance of Labor and Environmental Groups 

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 11-24-20]

Disrupting mainstream politics

“Obama the pretender”

Ryan Cooper, The Week, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-24-20]

“What went wrong? Obama attempts to grapple with the massive failures of his presidency in A Promised Land, his new memoir describing his rise to power and early presidency, but ultimately the book is slippery and unconvincing. America is circling the political toilet in part because Obama had the chance to fix many longstanding problems and did not rise to the occasion, a fact the former president is still stubbornly unwilling or unable to see.”

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-24-20]



There's only one way to make the Democratic Party better

Ryan Cooper, November 18, 2020 [The Week]

I am certainly sympathetic to the idea that the party is irredeemable. But on close study AOC and company are correct. There is probably no getting rid of the Democratic Party — it is basically a part of the American government — but it is more of a disorganized mess than a ruthless tyranny. It can be changed and is being changed across the country….

As Luke Elliot-Negri demonstrates in a smart piece at Jacobin, while it definitely is true that the Democratic elite will move heaven and earth to defeat the left in primary elections or other contests — doing so is practically the only time they display any energy or coordination whatsoever — it does not constitute the entire party….

It's important to realize that the rotten state of party structures is not an accident. A general decline in civic participation over the last several decades played a part, but moribund party structures are also very useful to the aforementioned elites, who gain a lot more personal power as a result. An organized mass party base tends to develop life and opinions of its own, and can discipline its leaders much more readily. Democratic elites want to give bloated consulting contracts to their incompetent insider friends, who are usually fresh off their last dismal failure (hello 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook!), and make vast sums going through the revolving door, not listen to annoying demands like "could you please get the police to stop shooting us?"

How do we avoid future authoritarians? Winning back the working class is key 

Senator Bernie Sanders [The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 11-25-20]

Enough With the ‘Please Be Centrist, Joe’ Op-Eds
Harold Meyerson, November 19, 2020 [The American Prospect]

...where are the pieces calling on congressional Republicans to meet him halfway, or quarter-way, or even tenth-way? The all-too-tacit assumption of many who counsel prudential centrism to Biden is that Republicans will then welcome such a chastened perspective with open arms.

“This Political Theorist Predicted the Rise of Trumpism. His Name Was Hunter S. Thompson.”

[The Nation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-24-20]

“What’s truly shocking about reading the book today is how well Thompson foresaw the retaliatory, right-wing politics that now goes by the name of Trumpism. After following the motorcycle guys around for months, Thompson concluded that the most striking thing about them was not their hedonism but their ‘ethic of total retaliation’ against a technologically advanced and economically changing America in which they felt they’d been counted out and left behind. Thompson saw the appeal of that retaliatory ethic. He claimed that a small part of every human being longs to burn it all down, especially when faced with great and impersonal powers that seem hostile to your very existence. In the United States, a place of ever greater and more impersonal powers, the ethic of total retaliation was likely to catch on. What made that outcome almost certain, Thompson thought, was the obliviousness of Berkeley, California, types who, from the safety of their cocktail parties, imagined that they understood and represented the downtrodden. The Berkeley types, Thompson thought, were not going to realize how presumptuous they had been until the downtrodden broke into one of those cocktail parties and embarked on a campaign of rape, pillage, and slaughter. For Thompson, the Angels weren’t important because they heralded a new movement of cultural hedonism, but because they were the advance guard for a new kind of right-wing politics.”

Economics Not Culture Wars Drove Most Trump Voters – Thomas Ferguson 

[The Analysis, via Naked Capitalism 11-27-20] 

What I’m doing right now with my colleagues Jie Chen and Paul Jorgensen is we’re looking at the county election data. That’s beset by problems, too, including the fact that it isn’t all in. People keep coming in with more votes — not in the fraud sense; it just takes them a long time to count. I mean, anybody who deals with election data seriously knows that many states don’t report their vote totals, at least in the old days, through up to January, actually, when they have to be certified.

Anyway, there’s enough data in there. I think you can see that it’s pretty obvious that what The Washington Post and others are telling you is just close enough to the truth to be seriously misleading. That is to say, they are saying, well, you know, the really well-off areas voted for Biden and the slower-growing ones mostly went for Trump. What we’re finding basically is this: in the counties that grew very slowly or not at all — and I’m using here population growth as an index for that — in other words, if you were having a lot of people because you’re growing, you were very likely to have a heavier anti-Trump vote. But the Trump vote is strongly boosted in counties where they’re not growing much or hardly at all. In other words, they’ve been losing. They’ve been in decline for a long time, is my simple take on that.

The other thing you notice — and here, you got all kinds of people missing the point — if you take a look at what Trump’s economic policies did just in terms of actual income coming to people between basically 2017 and 2019, what you find is that in those areas where unemployment rates went way down, they were much more likely to vote for Trump. 

The Dark Side

All the votes Trump and his allies are challenging 

[WaPo, via Naked Capitalism 11-23-20]

The Inside Story of Michigan’s Fake Voter Fraud Scandal 

[Politico, via The Big Picture 11-27-20]

In the end, it wasn’t a senator or a judge or a general who stood up to the leader of the free world. There was no dramatic, made-for-Hollywood collision of cosmic egos. Rather, the death knell of Trump’s presidency was sounded by a baby-faced lawyer, looking over his glasses on a grainy Zoom feed on a gloomy Monday afternoon, reading from a statement that reflected a courage and moral clarity that has gone AWOL from his party, pleading with the tens of thousands of people watching online to understand that some lines can never be uncrossed. 

Democracy’s Afterlife: Trump, the GOP, and the rise of zombie politics.

Fintan O’Toole [New York Review, December 3, 2020 issue]

“The Revenge of the Yankees”

[Michael Lind, Tablet, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-23-20]

“The New Deal revolution of the 1930s is badly misunderstood, both politically and culturally, when it is treated as a left-wing rebellion against right-wing capitalism. Fundamentally it represented the partial overthrow of Yankee Protestant hegemony in American society by a coalition of outsiders, chiefly provincial Southern and Western whites and European-American immigrants in the North, many of them Catholic…. To break this neocolonial pattern of Northeastern economic domination, New Deal Democrats used federal state capitalism to industrialize and modernize the Southern and Western periphery, by means of rural electrification cooperatives, the Tennessee Valley Authority and other hydropower projects, defense production plants assigned to the South and West during World War II, and the interstate highway system (a favorite project of FDR which was only enacted under Eisenhower). In short, Southern and Western politicians and their Northern white ethnic allies who dominated the federal government in the New Deal era deployed federal state capitalism to do an end run around unsympathetic Yankee capitalists, not to advance toward socialism or social democracy.” • This is a fun read, and if you believe history is made by elites, you may even find it persuasive.

A Long-Forgotten CIA Document From WikiLeaks Sheds Critical Light on Today’s U.S. Politics and Wars 

Glenn Greenwald [via Naked Capitalism 11-25-20]

How the US Used Disinformation and the ‘Jakarta Method’ to Change the World 

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 11-25-20]


What Did the Democrats Win? Michael Tomasky, NYRB, via Naked Capitalism 11-25-20]

“The Silenced Majority” [Harpers]. 

Australian Politics 2020-11-29 15:23:00


Politicians and military brass have failed to 'honour the presumption of innocence'

Sky News host Alan Jones says politicians and military brass have failed to understand they must “honour the presumption of innocence," adding the contemplation of placing the Brereton report on display in the War Memorial is a great “indignity”.

His comment comes regarding news the Australian War Memorial could make changes to its existing Afghanistan displays following the Brereton report.

“Well, why not add the Ruby Princess inquiry report to the Australian Museum?” Mr Jones said.

“The War Memorial is the veritable soul of the nation, the resting place of the Unknown Soldier. And here we are, in 2020, unproven allegations and politics directing what the military legacy will be.

Mr Jones says after the release of the Brereton report, which spoke of alleged crimes committed against Afghanis but did not name the alleged guilty, every Australian soldier “has been maligned, guilty around the world”.

“The Special Air Service Regiment's Second Squadron is to be dismantled. This non-leader, Campbell, is apparently going to recommend that the Meritorious Unit Citation, to the Special Operations Task group, be revoked,” he said.

“How much longer will the prime minister remain silent in the face of this assault on the integrity and contribution of these selfless men.

“Prime Minister, speak up and defend them and correct your original grubby comment that the report contains "brutal truths."

“Is the War Memorial now to be an institution to honour allegations?

“Rarely has the real truth been laid so bare through this shameful episode. The simple truth is we have lost our way; we are leader less.”

A psychologist correspondent comments

In course of my work I interview and assess many war veterans.

Because I connect, inquire, and do not keep records, many have described to me the awful dilemmas they face in war. Dilemmas and pressures which most civilians cannot imagine without having them explained and being asked, "What would you do then?"

I cannot even repeat their stories to my lefty/feminist colleagues because they get shocked, reject the reality of the stories and take offence, especially when I put that question to them.

Lefties cannot bear reality and individual responsibility, in other words, truth and freedom. That is why they are obsessed with changing reality/society into some fanciful version where everyone is equal and no individual responsibility exists.

Leftism is immaturity. It is basically a tantrum against reality.

Electricity supplies under pressure due to heatwave, energy market operator warns

This is a complete nonsense. I live in central Brisbane in SEQ and when I looked at my thermometer at mid-afternoon, it showed only 32 degrees, where a normal summer temperature at that time is 34 degrees. So any blackouts are clearly NOT blamable on a "heatwave". Greenie pressures on traditional generators are the real problem

In parts of northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland, the Bureau of Meteorology says it is looking like a five or six-day heatwave for millions of people.

Overnight, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said there might not be enough reserve capacity (Lack of Reserve Level 1) in New South Wales this afternoon between 3.30pm and 5.30pm.

Earlier in the week, it also said Queensland would likely be affected on Wednesday.

The Queensland prediction was serious enough to prompt it to issue an official Lack of Reserve level 2 (LOR2) forecast, meaning the possible shortfall could be enough to require the AEMO to ask big energy users to use less power.

"LOR2 means we are one contingency away from load shedding," said Ben Skinner, the general manager of policy at the Australian Energy Council.

But by Thursday, the AEMO had downgraded the forecast risk to LOR1.

"That is mild in terms of reserves, and they're largely being met at the moment, but we'll watch that very carefully to manage that over the coming days," said Michael Gatt, the AMEO's chief operations officer.

Australia's Covid vaccines: everything you need to know

Around the world about 200 Covid-19 candidate vaccines are being developed, with more than 40 in human clinical trial stage. The Australian government has agreements to secure four of the most promising vaccines, and will roll them out if they prove to be safe and effective.

All four vaccines require two doses, spaced a few weeks apart. As the pharmaceutical companies behind some vaccine candidates begin releasing results, many questions remain about the next steps towards controlling Covid. Here is what we know.

What are the four vaccines Australia is getting?

Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine: This is a viral vector vaccine, containing a weak or inactivated virus that cannot cause disease. This virus has genetic material from the Covid-19 virus inserted in it. Once the viral vector is inside human cells, the cells make a protein unique to the Covid-19 virus. This triggers the body to begin to build an immune response. If infected with Covid-19, the body will remember how to activate this response and fight the real virus.

Australia has secured 33.8m units of this vaccine. The phase three interim clinical trial results have only been communicated in a press release, so it is hard fully to interpret the results in subgroups, for example in elderly people.

In clinical trials, phase three represents the final stage before the drug is rolled out to the general population, and involves tens of thousands of participants.

Novavax vaccine: This is a classical protein vaccine, and includes harmless pieces of Covid-19. Once vaccinated, the immune system recognises that the proteins don’t belong in the body and begins building antibodies.

If the vaccine proves safe and effective, 40m units will be available in Australia as early as the first half of 2021. Phase one and two clinical trials are being conducted in Australia and the United States. Phase three clinical trials are under way in the UK.

University of Queensland/CSL vaccine: This is also a protein vaccine, and Australia has secured 51m units, which it hopes will be available by mid-2021. Phase one clinical trials in humans began in July in Brisbane, with phase two and three clinical trials to be under way in December.

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine: This is an mRNA-based vaccine that gives human cells instructions for how to make a a protein unique to Covid-19. The protein is harmless, but the body recognises it should not be there and begins to build an immune response. If infected with the real virus, the body will know how to attack.

The Australian government said 10m units of the vaccine would be available from March. Phase three clinical trial results found 95% of people given the vaccine were protected against the virus, and while the full results have not been made public, they are being provided to regulators.

Why mRNA, instead of the proven path of an inactivated virus?

The study protocol for the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine states there are benefits to this type of vaccine. “Unlike live attenuated vaccines, RNA vaccines do not carry the risks associated with infection and may be given to people who cannot be administered live virus (eg pregnant women and immunocompromised persons),” it says. However, the vaccine still needs to be tested in these groups.

It would be the first mRNA vaccine to be rolled out to the general public, but there have been clinical trials of mRNA vaccines to treat other diseases since the 1990s. They have the benefit of being easier to mass produce and cheaper. But the instability of mRNA vaccines has meant their study has been limited.

With the arrival of Covid-19 it made sense for different pharmaceutical companies to explore different technologies, in case one type did not work. Vaccine technologies have improved rapidly, allowing scientists to address some of the previous problems with mRNA vaccines, such as degradation during delivery into cells.

The Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA Covid-19 vaccine does need to be stored at minus 70C, but sophisticated eskies with dry ice and remote sensing have been produced to keep it stable in transit.

Does it matter that there will be different types of vaccine?

No, this is not uncommon. Each year there is a variety of types of flu vaccine. High-dose flu vaccines are offered to the elderly, but not routinely to healthy adults.

A taskforce of medical experts will look at the Covid-19 vaccines and decide which should go to which locations or groups of people. Like other common vaccines such as for tetanus and hepatitis A, the four Covid-19 vaccines are delivered with an intramuscular injection.

How will the vaccine be distributed?

The first doses will be rolled out from March.

The program will depend on the nature and test results of the vaccines approved for use, the federal health department has said, and will take into account any current outbreaks. If there was a large outbreak in a particular state, it would make sense to send the vaccine there first.

The physical rollout will be complex due to different storage, transport, security and administration requirements for the vaccine types. The federal government will be responsible for safely transporting vaccine doses to storage and administration sites within each state and territory.

Once vaccine doses are delivered, the states and territories will take responsibility for the safety and storage. Vaccines may be administered in GP clinics, dedicated vaccination clinics and workplaces, and vaccination teams will visit aged care homes and other centres with vulnerable populations.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health sector will help identify rollout locations. Pharmacies are likely to play a role once enough doses are in stock and vulnerable and target populations have been vaccinated. If vaccines are licensed for children, they may be administered in schools.

The federal government said “to achieve wide population coverage it is likely that all or most” of these locations will need to be used over several months.

Who gets it first? Can rich people buy the vaccines?

According to a federal department of health spokeswoman, potential sales are up to the vaccine companies. “The Australian government is committed to providing Covid-19 vaccines at no cost to consumers,” she said. “Decisions to make any vaccine available privately are for the sponsoring company, noting all vaccines need to be registered by the TGA before they can be supplied in Australia.”

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is advising the federal government about which groups should be prioritised for the first free doses. In line with World Health Organization recommendations, ATAGI said the first groups to be vaccinated should be:

Those who have an increased risk of developing severe disease [such as the elderly].

Those at risk of exposure, being infected with and transmitting the virus.

Those working in services critical to society functioning [such as health work and aged care].

Once enough doses are in stock, all Australians who want the vaccine will be given access on a voluntary basis during 2021.

The real reason China is imposing duties on Australian wine

Despite entering into a free trade agreement

China's decision to impose temporary anti-dumping duties on Australian wine from Saturday is more about "other factors", Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says.

Australian wine going into the Chinese market will face tariffs of up to 212 per cent, having benefited from zero tariffs under the China-Australia free trade agreement.

Relations between Australia and China have soured in recent years, with China's grievance list spanning foreign investment rules, banning Huawei from the 5G network and the push for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus.

China has launched a series of trade strikes against Australia encompassing barley, cotton, red meat, seafood, sugar, timber and coal exports, as the diplomatic row deepens.

"The cumulative impact of China's trade sanctions against a number of Australian industries during the course of this year does give rise to the perception these actions are being undertaken as a result or in response to some other factors," Senator Birmingham said.

"(It) is completely incompatible with the commitments that China has given through the China-Australia free trade agreement and through the WTO."

Australian officials will seek to overturn the move over the next 10 days, after which the dispute could be taken to the World Trade Organisation.

Chinese officials said an investigation had found "substantive" evidence of the dumping of Australian wine and "material damage" to the Chinese wine market.

The tariffs cover a range between 107.1 per cent and 212.1 per cent.

The rate required of Australia's Treasury Wine is 169.3 per cent, which saw its shares fall more than 13 per cent before being put on a trading halt pending an announcement.

China began an anti-dumping probe into imports of Australian wine in August at the request of the Chinese Alcoholic Drinks Association.

Senator Birmingham said the investigation's finding was "erroneous in fact and in substance" and Australia would provide Chinese authorities with detailed evidence of how the wine industry works.

Australian wine exports to China were worth $1.1 billion in the year to June 30.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the government was extremely disappointed in the move by Australia's top wine market.

"The fact is Australia produces amongst the least subsidised product in the world and provides the second-lowest level of farm subsidies in the OECD," he said.

"The Australian government categorically rejects any allegation that our wine producers are dumping product into China, and we continue to believe there is no basis or any evidence for these claims."




Грузоперевозки заказ качественных услуг у проверенных перевозчиков

Перевозка грузов – это достаточно сложный процесс, успех которого зависит от правильной организации, и именно поэтому грузоперевозки лучше доверять профессионалам. Чтобы все прошло безупречно, чтобы сохранить целостность груза и не нарушить сроки, важно обеспечить правильную подготовку, подобрать подходящий вид транспорта, организовать погрузочно-разгрузочные работы, продумать маршрут. Есть много тонкостей, но самое приятное – есть немало специалистов, готовых их предусмотреть. Онлайн-сервис поможет быстро найти исполнителей на любой тип перевозок: от доставки личных вещей в Россию до простой перевозки комбайна.

Особенности грузоперевозок

Самая распространенная перевозка грузов в столице – это транспортировка вещей при домашнем или офисном переезде. Ее относят к категории стандартной. Она же является и наиболее простой: для осуществления процесса обычно хватает буса (до 6 м куб.) или ГАЗели (до 16 м куб.), маршрут при этом прорабатывать не надо. Нет необходимости согласовать перевозку в госорганах или обеспечивать экспедиторское сопровождение. Чтобы осуществить транспортировку, обычно достаточно автомобиля с водителем и двух грузчиков. Но, кроме этой, есть и другие виды грузоперевозок:

  1. Негабаритные. Речь идет о транспортировке объектов, которые по одному или нескольким параметрам превышают разрешенные нормативы. Такие перевозки разрешено осуществлять только в дневное время, только на специальных автомобилях (грузовики высокой тоннажности или тягачи с платформами). Процесс нужно согласовать (подготовить документацию, разработать маршрут). Огромное значение имеют профессионализм водителя, правильная погрузка и фиксация. Может потребоваться полицейское сопровождение перевозки.
  2. Опасные. Такие грузоперевозки можно осуществлять исключительно после оформления специального разрешения на условии подбора водителя, знающего особенности транспортировки опасного содержимого. Важно грамотно подобрать транспортное средство и удостовериться в его идеальном состоянии.
  3. Автомобили и спецтехника. Перевозить транспорт разрешено на специальных платформах при условии грамотной фиксации. Значение имеет квалификация водителя и грамотное осуществление погрузочно-разгрузочных работ. Важно проработать маршрут, который обеспечит бережную доставку ценного груза.
  4. Сельскохозяйственных животных. Главной особенностью процесса является подбор подходящего транспорта, способного обеспечить комфорт и безопасность скота. В Украине есть частные специалисты и компании, у которых имеются специально оборудованные автомобили. Перевозка комбайна заказать.
  5. Сборная. Такие типы грузоперевозок обретают все большую популярность в Украине, так как они позволяют обслуживать потребности мелкого и среднего бизнеса. В транспортировке участвую несколько заказчиков, платящих только за свою долю груза. Этот способ особенно часто применяют при организации международной доставки или перевозки на дальние расстояния между областями Украины. Организатором может выступать крупный поставщик или производитель.

Учитывая перечисленные выше типы, доставка грузов в каждом случае требует отдельного набора услуг. В частности, для транспортировки опасных и негабаритных грузов лучше заказать помощь посредников, готовых взять на себя оформление и согласование документации, разработку маршрута. Перевозить дорогие грузы лучше, заказав экспедиционное сопровождение или даже охрану. Эти услуги нужно заказывать дополнительно к стандартным услугам водителя и грузчиков.