Monthly Archives: May 2021

Australian Politics 2021-05-31 07:52:00


Tread carefully on sexual consent - some of these ‘reforms’ are dangerous

By Stephen Odgers

The NSW government has stated it will change the law relating to consent to sexual activity, making it easier to obtain convictions for sexual offences. Those changes will be based on recommendations made in a report last year by the NSW Law Reform Commission, all of which the government says it “supports, or supports in principle”.

Under current law, consent means “free and voluntary agreement”. It may be withdrawn at any time and consent for one sexual activity is not consent for another. However, convictions are often difficult because trials are usually “word against word” – one party’s version of events against another’s – and guilt for any crime must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller with sexual assault campaigner Saxon Mullins and NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman, announcing the proposed changes to sexual consent laws.

As a barrister who has practised in the area of criminal law for three decades, I support some of the Law Reform Commission’s proposed changes, but I see great danger in others. I certainly support cultural change in this area, but not by criminalising behaviour that does not involve serious misconduct or deserve the imprisonment that flows from conviction.

One proposed change that is troubling is that “free and voluntary agreement to a sexual activity must exist at the time of the sexual activity”. The commission has acknowledged this means a person cannot give advance consent. So even if a person told their sexual partner that he or she wanted to be woken from sleep by some form of sexual touching, this could not be regarded as consent to that sexual activity. Does the NSW government really support that principle?

Another concerning proposal is that a person “does not” consent to a sexual activity if there are behaviours including, for example, “verbal aggression, begging and nagging, physical persistence, social pressuring, and emotional manipulation”. How many people would be at risk of prosecution after a bitter break-up on the basis that they had “begged” or “nagged” for sex? Whatever moral judgment might be made about such behaviour, does the government really support a change to the criminal law that would require it to be held that there was necessarily no consent in such circumstances?

The commission also proposes that a person “does not” consent to a sexual activity if “participation is dishonestly procured by a false representation or upon a false pretence, known by the maker to be false when it was made”. Assume that a person says to another, falsely, “I am not married” or “I will leave my current partner” and that induces the other person to participate in sexual activity.

Such dishonesty may be morally wrong. However, it is not usually a crime to tell fibs or even blatant lies. Does the government really support the principle that any lie told to procure sexual activity will constitute a serious criminal offence?

Yet another of the proposals is that “a person does not consent to a sexual activity if the person does not say or do anything to communicate consent”. This would mean, even if a jury is satisfied there was free and voluntary agreement to sexual activity in the mind of the complainant, it would be required to find there was no consent because it was not actually “communicated”. Does the government really support that principle? Should an accused be convicted even if the complainant admits that he or she consented?

It is also proposed that an accused person should be deemed to “know” that consent is absent if a belief in consent would not be “reasonable”. The necessary “fault element” for this serious crime would be satisfied by a test of negligence. Even accepting that it is appropriate to impose criminal liability on the basis of negligence, it is plainly desirable that this be done by a separate offence with a lower maximum penalty. The current maximum penalties for sexual assault offences range from 14 years to life imprisonment.

The government has gone one step further than what the Law Reform Commission proposes by stating that any belief in consent “will not be reasonable if the accused did not say or do anything to ascertain consent”. This will effectively require everyone engaging in sexual activity to ask – by words or some comparable form of communication – for consent for each and every sexual act. How reasonable is that expectation? Will a raised eyebrow be enough? A quizzical look? Even assuming that it is generally desirable that such steps be taken, should failure to comply with that requirement necessarily result in conviction for a very serious criminal offence?

Even if the complainant has given every appearance of consent, or has plainly consented to one form of sexual activity, a jury will be required to convict because the accused did not actually ask for consent for another form of sexual activity.

Does the government really appreciate the significance of this change to the law? A jury will be required to convict an accused person of a very serious crime even if the jury accepts that the accused honestly believed there was consent and accepts that – apart from the omission to “say or do anything to ascertain consent” – it was reasonable for the accused to have that belief.

The criminal law is a blunt and brutal tool of social education. A legitimate desire to bring about desirable cultural and societal change must not be at the expense of criminalising behaviour that does not involve serious misconduct or deserve severe punishment.


Rob was bashed, Aaron was raped and Martin ended up living in the roof at his work to escape his wife: Australian men terrorised by female partners share their harrowing stories

Martin never thought he'd end up living in the roof space of his workplace at 48 years of age.

The father from Port Macquarie on the NSW mid-north coast moved out of the house he shared with his partner after she tried to choke him.

He claims an AVO taken out on him by his now ex-partner was based on her false allegation of assault. Martin said he was trying to remove her from the house after she attacked him while their young son slept.

'I'd just been assaulted by her jumping on my back and trying to choke me, so I called the police,' Martin told Daily Mail Australia. 'But she said I pushed her first and the police walked in front of me and said, "if she’s got a mark on her, you’re going to jail".'

Martin is now locked in an ongoing custody battle for his son and despairs at not being able to live with him. 'I was the one who got up to him at night, took him for walks, totally did the dad thing,' Martin said.

'Someone needs to hear our voice. I don’t condone what some of these blokes are doing (in domestic violence incidents) in any way, shape or form, but being on the other side, the way I’ve been treated, I see how they get to that state of mind.

'There's nothing else left.'

Rob left his partner while she was pregnant with their second child because she was repeatedly hitting him to the point where friends' couches were preferable to the family home.

'She was physically violent, she was emotionally violent,' the Brisbane man said.

'She made three significant attempts to finish me off, with knives and with a car.

'It was alcohol that unlocked the physical violence in her… she just used to hit me a lot. She used to punch and kick me in the nuts, it would carry on for hours.

'Her favourite party trick was when I'd go to sleep in the spare room, which was unlocked. She was an insomniac so she'd come in every 20 minutes and pull me out of the bed by my feet, and this would continue until 2am or 3am. Then she'd fall asleep and now, you're not sleeping.'

The focus on domestic violence in Australia is rightfully on women, with one murdered by a current or former male partner every week in Australia.

The Facebook page Counting Dead Women Australia reports that 13 women have died due to family and domestic violence in 2021. It was 56 in 2020.

Victims such as Hannah Clarke, Karina Lock and Fabiana Palhares are now recognisable names across Australia after their horrific deaths at the hands of their partners.

But women's violence towards male partners is not given prominence despite being a part of Australia's domestic violence problem.

One man a month died at the hands of a current or former partner from 2012-2014, and two men were hospitalised each day after being assaulted by their spouse or partner in 2014-15 (compared with eight women a day in the same period).

Daily Mail Australia spoke to men who described serious acts of violence and coercive control by female partners.

What emerges from their accounts is a shared sense of shame and humiliation when reporting the abuse, a common reaction of disbelief from police, lawyers and courts to their claims, and an almost total absence of support services.

These men allege physical injury, sexual violation, emotional torment, coercive control and falsehoods designed to make them look like the perpetrator.

Faith Tkalac started a #justice4jari campaign after her son Jari Wise was hit and killed by a car driven by his former partner Melissa Oates at Huonville, south of Hobart, in February 2020. Oates was arrested at the scene and charged with four breaches of a police family violence order.

In April 2021 she was convicted of dangerous driving and imprisoned for eight months.

Oates had been three times over the legal limit and wasn’t wearing her glasses, a condition of her licence. She left the scene and returned to a house where she and Wise had attended a party, where she pointed out the damage to her van to friends. She had returned to the scene of the fatality by the time police arrived.

Ms Tkalac has since become a fervent advocate for recognising that men can also be victims of domestic violence but once they complain, are diverted into 'perpetrator' treatment programs.

'Where does all the funding go?’ Faith said.

'If a man rings up for some help… just say my Jari had made a phone call, he probably would have been asked, "What caused you to carry on like this? What has caused your behaviour?"

'Then they'd refer you to a service that can help "correct" your behaviour.

'There are no services for men, there isn't anything.'

West Australian man Aaron said the final straw in his relationship was when his wife inserted an object into him while he was asleep.

'She raped me and I left the relationship a day later,' Aaron told Daily Mail Australia.

'Throughout our entire relationship she was sexually abusive.

'She tried to get me to have sex with her friends in front of her. For my 40th birthday she hired a prostitute, took me to a brothel and wanted me to have sex with the woman in front of her.

'She had a tracking app put on my phone, she had all the passwords for my social media, including my business social media, my computers for work…'

Aaron claims he has been prevented from seeing any of his children because of a restraining order taken out against him.

'There's now been eight attempts at trial and more than $400,000 spent to keep me away from my children,' he said.

'The only ones I can now fight for are my two youngest. They won’t even entertain me seeing any of my other kids.'

Craig Bennett recently described his experience as a victim of domestic violence in a submission to the NSW Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control.

Bennett described a 'journey of physical, verbal, spiritual, financial and emotional abuse' after he collapsed at work with viral encephalitis and was hospitalised for two months.

He told the committee he was constantly taunted by his wife because he was unable to work due to the illness.

'A real man wouldn't be begging his wife for money but would be out working instead of being a lazy x-y-z,' he reported her saying.

'I was denied a shower chair because "real men do not sit in the shower",' Bennett continued.

'I would have to sit on the shower floor and crawl out and hoist myself up on the toilet to stand up. The number of times she would verbally mock me for not being a "real man" as I was sitting there and say, "Why don't you do everyone a favour and kill yourself?"

'She would refer to me as "big bad daddy" to the kids because I was "too lazy to work". She would sharpen knives in the kitchen saying one day she would stab me if I did not go back to work.'

In other tragic cases, Brisbane fashion designer Katie Anne Castel, 38, killed her husband Jarred Castel, 35, when she threw a 20cm kitchen knife at him which hit him in the chest in 2017.

Mr Castel had arrived home later than expected, sparking an argument. Ms Castel was slashing her own arms and said she’d kill herself before she threw the knife at her husband. He died from blood loss as a result of the wound.

Ms Castel was sentenced to nine years jail for her 'deliberate and very dangerous' act in 2019 but was given early parole eligibility in 2020 after appealing the length of her sentence.

'Domestic violence is growing, unfortunately, in our country,' Jarred's father Tony said after Ms Castel's sentencing.

'The statistics… the impression is that it is men beating up women, it goes the other way as well and it doesn't matter the gender, we've got to protect our people.'

His siblings testified in court that their brother’s wife had been 'psychologically abusing' him by alienating him from friends and family. This is a common refrain among male victims of female domestic abuse.

Sydney man Jeff Lindsell died from burns suffered when he was caught in a fire while he slept at Gymea in 2017. His former partner Amanda Zukowski was charged with his murder after being accused of lighting the fire.

Zukowski was found dead in non-suspicious circumstances in January 2020, three weeks before the trial was to begin.

Mr Lindsell's mother Kathy later told the local paper: 'We had no idea Jeff was in a DV relationship because he kept it secret. We should have realised when his personality changed and he withdrew from his family and friends.'

His sister Corinne added, 'It upsets me that domestic violence by women against men is viewed as less significant. I don't understand why a man's life is less important.'

For the first time, a Senate Inquiry into Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence has recommended any national plan should reflect the diversity of victim-survivors, including men.


New Zealand to side with Australia in Beijing barley tariff dispute

Queenstown: New Zealand has thrown its support behind Australia’s ongoing trade dispute with Beijing in a significant political signal that the trans-Tasman allies remain unified in dealing with China’s economic coercion and growing influence in the region.

The decision of the New Zealand government to be a partner in the World Trade Organisation dispute on significant tariffs on barley imports coincided with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s visit to Queenstown for critical bilateral meetings with his counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, on Monday. The talks will be dominated by China and its increased assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific.

The two leaders touched noses and foreheads in a Maori “hongi” — a traditional indigenous welcome which is a symbol of unity and “sharing the breath of life” for the first time since February last year prior to both nations slamming closed their borders.

Mr Morrison rejected assertions the alliance was splintering over differences on how to approach China after relations became strained in recent months after Australian officials said they were blindsided by Wellington’s reluctance to put pressure on Beijing on trade and human rights issues. He said on Sunday night both nations were committed to a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.

“We are Five-Eyes partners, I mean we are part of ANZUS. We are and have been alongside each other in favouring a world that favours freedom for a very long time,” Mr Morrison said.

He said the countries shared values and common interests and wanted a region where sovereign states could pursue their interests free from coercion. Mr Morrison also flagged extending the travel bubble to other Pacific nations including Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tonga.

Leaders gather for the annual Australia-New Zealand leaders’ meeting in Queenstown, New Zealand.
Leaders gather for the annual Australia-New Zealand leaders’ meeting in Queenstown, New Zealand. CREDIT:GETTY IMAGES

Hours before Mr Morrison arrived, the New Zealand government announced while it had not been asked to join the WTO action, it would participate because the dispute would be critical to the effective functioning of multilateral rules-based trading system.

Ms Ardern said on Sunday evening that as two sovereign nations New Zealand and Australia will not always see every issue in the same way and “often will see and do things differently.”

“(But) an increasingly complex geo-strategic environment family is incredibly important, and Australia, you are a family,” Ms Arden told a room full of trans-Tasman business leaders.

“And so I cannot imagine a more important time for us to just continue to build and strengthen those ties.”

Diplomatic relations between Canberra and Beijing are at their lowest in decades, with China imposing more than $20 billion of tariffs in response to a number of Australia’s moves including calling for a global inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 and banning Chinese telecom giant Huawei from its 5G rollout.

Beijing has imposed a range of tariffs and trade strikes on Australian products including 80 per cent duties on barley because it said Australia was dumping the product there below cost, hurting domestic producers. In December, Australia took the row to the WTO which on Friday agreed to establish a dispute settlement panel.

New Zealand Trade Minister Damien O’Connor said it was important to New Zealand and its exporters that trade rules were fairly applied and the country had joined over 60 such disputes over the years.

“New Zealand was not asked to join as a third party, however we have been a third party in over 60 WTO cases since 1995 and it’s not unusual for us to join actions disputes when we see challenges to international trade rules,” he said.

China has become a problematic topic in the trans-Tasman alliance over the question of how to handle the growing assertiveness of Beijing, with several recent public statements from New Zealand ministers frustrating the Morrison government.

In December, New Zealand’s foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta offered to mediate a truce between Australia and China and said both parties needed to “concede in some areas where they are currently not seeing eye to eye”. Months later, Mr O’Connor suggested Australia should speak with more “respect” and “diplomacy” towards China.

Ms Mahuta’s rhetoric has shifted in recent weeks and is now warning Kiwi exporters should look to diversify their trade.

“We cannot ignore, obviously, what’s happening in Australia with their relationship with China. And if they are close to an eye of the storm or in the eye of the storm, we’ve got to legitimately ask ourselves – it may only be a matter of time before the storm gets closer to us,” she told The Guardian last week.

New Zealand’s move to support Australia follows comments by the European Union’s top diplomat in Canberra which urged China to have a “proper discussion” with Australia over its multibillion-dollar trade disputes.

Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan flagged a second WTO dispute with China – this time over punitive wine import tariffs introduced last year.

“That is something we’ve got under active consideration,” Mr Tehan told ABC TV’s Insiders on Sunday.

“We’ve had detailed discussions with the wine industry on this, and from the outset, we’ve always said that we would take a very principled approach when dealing with these trade disputes, and if we think our industry has been harmed or injured, we will take all necessary steps and measures to try to address that.”




Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 30, 2021


 eek-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 30, 2021

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Long Slide Looms for World Population, With Sweeping Ramifications 

[NYT, via Naked Capitalism 5-23-2021]

“1 big thing: The state of the world, according to me”

Dion Rabouin [Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-27-21]

I find this very interesting because Rabouin implies that he is conveying the elite consensus he has gathered from his contacts and sources over the past years. The elites are well aware of the socio-economic problems afflicting average people: “Because consumers don't have cash to spend, many companies struggle to generate real profits.” Then the bottom line: “But it doesn't seem like there's much interest in finding an actual solution, just printing more money, adding more debt and putting more Band-Aids on the problem.” 

As Ian Welsh explains in CDC Decides To Just Not Count All Covid Cases

The people making decisions not only don’t care if you die, if you dying will make them richer or more powerful, they’ll go with the decision path that leads to you or mum or your best friend dying or winding up homeless. You aren’t nothing to them, you’re meat. A prey animal.

Welcome to late capitalism.


This being my last Axios Markets newsletter, I figured I'd break from tradition and tell you what I really think. I'm not anyone important, but I read a lot of reports and I talk to a lot of smart people, so I've learned a thing or two.

I believe our country is in trouble. And it’s not about a loss of morality or religion or liberals or conservatives or the current president or the last president. It’s about a fundamental problem we have as a nation — a reckless imbalance of wealth. The people at the top have too much and the people at the bottom don't have enough.

This is not a philosophical matter of doing what’s “right.” It’s a practical matter of doing what’s necessary to uphold and maintain a consumption-based economy…. We’re living in a world now where the wealthy have so much money they literally don’t know what to do with it…. Those who aren’t asset holders haven’t even benefited from the risk-asset inflation that’s accompanied housing, medical and education price inflation for the past decade because wage inflation hasn’t even come close…. 

This problem isn't new. We've been lurching toward this imbalance for years as corporations busted unions, moved jobs offshore and muscled out independent small businesses, aided by politicians who rewarded them with tax breaks and no-bid contracts for doing it….

  • Retailers can't raise prices, so it is almost entirely a race to the bottom — nearly half of all new retail store openings announced so far this year are from Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar.
  • The obvious exception being luxury brands, which are selling products to the wealthy who have more money than they know what to do with.

New companies today almost universally either lose money, free-ride by offering a service that makes some other service cheaper, or sell something to large corporations or the government.

#BigFacts: Because consumers don't have cash to spend, many companies struggle to generate real profits.

  • However, because interest rates are so low, if a company is big enough it can just keep issuing bonds to keep itself afloat.
  • That's why nearly a quarter of the largest public U.S. companies today are zombies — firms that don't even make enough money to pay the interest on their debt.

….But it doesn't seem like there's much interest in finding an actual solution, just printing more money, adding more debt and putting more Band-Aids on the problem.

U.S. aluminum tariffs have led to investment, jobs -think tank study”

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-25-21]

“U.S. tariffs on aluminum imports imposed by former president Donald Trump and continued by President Joe Biden have led to increased output, employment and capital investment by domestic producers, a new study from a left-leaning think tank showed on Tuesday. The Economic Policy Institute said the 10% aluminum tariffs, imposed in March 2018 under the “Section 232″ national security section of a Cold War-era trade law, have led to $6 billion in 57 downstream aluminum product manufacturing projects that will employ over 4,500 additional workers.” 

Of course, the “free trade” ideologues are promoting the Reason Foundation paper that argues only eight percent of the “extra” cost of tariffs are being paid by the Chinese exporters, and the remaining 92 percent are being imposed on American consumers. Any simple review of actual economic history [pdf] shows that tariffs and preferences for domestic manufacturing have been the only means for a country to industrialize. Which is why mainstream neoliberal economists are not taught actual economic history. 

Austerity’s Hidden Purpose 

Yanis Varoufakis [Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 5-26-2021]

But if austerity is such a bad idea, sapping our economies of energy, why is it so popular among the powerful? …. But suppose for a moment, and for argument’s sake, that everyone agreed that printing another trillion dollars to finance a basic income for the poor would boost neither inflation nor interest rates. The rich and powerful would still oppose it, owing to the debilitating fear that they would end up like Peel in Australia: monied but bereft of the power to compel the less monied…. their most important interest is not to conserve economic potential. It is to preserve the power of the few to compel the many.

Signs of economic immiseration

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 5-27-2021]



Investigating Oversight: Why congressional hearings are bad, and how they can be made great again

David Sirota [Daily Poster, May 27, 2021]

Very long and detailed, but no one else is addressing this problem. And, Dayen obviously has a number of sources inside Congress who have been dealing with and pondering this problem for years. And, again, the negative role of anti-government ideologues is a large part of the problem. 

IN DISCUSSING OVERSIGHT with over 20 members of Congress, current and former staffers, and congressional experts, many pointed to the rise of Newt Gingrich as House Speaker as a turning point. Committee chairs previously had much more autonomy to direct their own committees, but after Gingrich, they had to ask permission to hold a hearing. Budgets for committees and staffs were slashed, as were external organizations that assisted Congress with investigations and reports, like the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service. The Office of Technology Assessment, which provided scientific and technical analysis to Congress, was abolished entirely.

“The Congress disarmed themselves,” as Nader put it. Gingrich shrank the House’s presence in Washington, stuffing most work between Tuesdays and Thursdays. That cannibalized 40 percent of a committee’s workweek that might otherwise be put toward oversight. A conservative movement that questioned the utility of government set about to destroy government from within, so they could point to that destruction as proof of their claims.

Daniel Schuman of Demand Progress, one of the closest watchers of the legislative branch, supplied me the numbers. House committees receive $100 million less in funding than they did ten years ago, and Senate committees are down $60 to $70 million. Personal member offices have had the same allotment of 18 staff members since 1978. “The population of the districts have doubled, and those are the people who have to do constituency work,” Schuman said. “Policy work gets squeezed, and given to junior people because we don’t pay them well.”

The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time

“So Much For “Transformational” Joe Biden”

Matt Taibbi [TK News, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-28-21]

Just a few weeks ago, we were being told in headline after headline that Biden was a ‘transformational’ president who’d heroically abandoned fruitless efforts at bipartisanship and moreover had conquered the fear of deficit spending that kept Barack Obama from fulfilling his own ‘transformative‘ destiny. Insiders regaled us with tales about how this administration exiled the Clintonian tricksters like Larry Summers who robbed Obama of his legacy by whispering false worries about inflation….. Then a few weeks ago, on Meet The Press, Yellen reverted to form and said that Joe Biden ‘has made clear that permanent increases in spending should be paid for, and I agree,’ adding that ‘over the long run, deficits need to be contained.’ After that came the Post story and word that the administration had backed off a host of plans, including a proposal to lower prescription drug costs, while also engaging with seeming seriousness in ‘bipartisan’ negotiations on an infrastructure/jobs bill…. Translation: Biden is worried about deficits, and having Republicans on whom they can pin lower budgetary outlays is once again politically useful. Therefore, bipartisanship is back, fiscal restraint is back, maybe even austerity is back. Good times! Whatever one’s feeling about the appropriateness of any of these policies, it’s clear the messaging surrounding them has undergone a near-complete turnaround almost overnight, which would normally prompt at least a raised eyebrow or two in media. But all that’s happened is that the moment the Biden administration stopped talking about being ‘transformative,’ the White House press quietly did the same, in silent recognition that they’ll all be selling a different product for while. Joe Biden’s journey to ‘transformational’ status and back has been an expert political PR campaign. It took a year, and Biden’s camp never had to break a sweat.”

The Dangers of Ducking the Health Care Fight 

David Dayen, May 20, 2021 [American Prospect]

Shying away from a fight with the health industry today will just lead to a more impossible fight tomorrow. And yet, that pretty well articulates what the Biden administration’s political theory is right now. For the past 50 years, incoming Democratic administrations and the party base have made health care a top policy priority; the Biden administration has not. The American Rescue Plan did nothing on health care other than increasing federal subsidies for the purchase of health insurance, and only for a limited time period tied to the pandemic. The White House had to be dragged kicking and screaming just to extend those subsidies in its current American Families Plan proposal. Other Biden campaign promises, like a public option or a plan to deal with prescription drug costs, have thus far been left on the cutting-room floor.

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Is There Really A Truck Driver Shortage? 

[NPR, via The Big Picture 5-27-2021] 

The real problem is not a shortage but retention. According to ATA’s statistics, the average annual turnover rate for long-haul truckers at big trucking companies has been greater than 90% for decades. If a company has 10 truckers, nine will be gone within a year because so many new drivers leave within a few months. 

How McKinsey Destroyed the Middle Class 

[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 5-23-2021] 

Technocratic management, no matter how brilliant, cannot unwind structural inequalities. Things changed in the 1960s, with McKinsey leading the way….

Mid-century labor unions (which represented a third of the private-sector workforce), organized the lower rungs of a company’s hierarchy into an additional control center—as part of what the United States Supreme Court, writing in 1960, called “industrial self-government”—and in this way also contributed to the management function. Even production workers became, on account of lifetime employment and workplace training, functionally the lowest-level managers. They were charged with planning and coordinating the development of their own skills to serve the long-run interests of their employers.

And that’s what management consultants destroyed. Also note the role of corporate raiders [who were financially dependent on money from organized crime]. Today, we call them “private equity.” 

Management consultants thus implemented and rationalized a transformation in the American corporation. Companies that had long affirmed express “no layoff” policies now took aim at what the corporate raider Carl Icahn, writing in the The New York Times in the late 1980s, called “corporate bureaucracies” run by “incompetent” and “inbred” middle managers. They downsized in response not to particular business problems but rather to a new managerial ethos and methods; they downsized when profitable as well as when struggling, and during booms as well as busts. The downsizing peaked during the extraordinary economic boom of the 1990s. The culls, moreover, were dramatic. AT&T, for example, once aimed to cut the ratio of managers to nonmanagers in one of its units from 1:5 to 1:30. Overall, middle managers were downsized at nearly twice the rate of nonmanagerial workers. Downsizing was indeed wrenching. When IBM abandoned lifetime employment in the 1990s, local officials asked gun-shop owners around its headquarters to close their stores while employees absorbed the shock.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-27-21]


Lambert Strether askes: “But [is] Chu’s theory true? Are the VCs really pulling out? And would they do so without completing, through Uber, the projects that benefit their class as a whole? That is, (a) destroying public transportation and (b) creating a new relation between workers and capital where workers have been less rights than before? (E.g., Proposition 22.)”

Are children ‘dying like dogs’ in effort to build better batteries? 

[Desert News, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2021]

Obama Labor Secretary [and former DNC Chair] Joins Anti-Union Law Firm 

[The Daily Poster, May 27, 2021]

Former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez announced on Thursday that he’s joining the law firm Venable LLP, whose website boasts that its lawyers “regularly counsel and train clients on union avoidance.”

Perez, who was the Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair until January, joins a growing number of Obama officials who cashed in their government experience with jobs at union-busting companies. That list includes press secretaries Jay Carney, who became the top flack at Amazon, and Robert Gibbs, who spent several years as a top flack for McDonald’s. Obama senior advisor David Plouffe served as policy chief at Uber, while former senior adviser Valerie Jarrett has a board seat at Lyft.

Rather than avoid issues he oversaw as Labor Secretary, Perez said in a press release he will be working specifically on those issues.

“Venable’s attorneys are at the forefront of helping clients navigate dynamic regulatory, policy, and labor and employment issues,” Perez said in Venable’s press release announcing his hiring. “I look forward to joining them in this important work.”

….One Venable partner’s firm bio brags that he “defeated a labor union bid for recognition as the collective bargaining representative after advising and coordinating the employer's five-month anti-union campaign.”

Another Venable lawyer’s bio gloats that she secured a “favorable result for [a] corporation undergoing a Department of Labor investigation regarding violations of the Federal Labor Standards Act.”

Neoliberalism requires a police state

“5 Ways Officials Have Cracked Down on Protests Since the Floyd Uprisings”

[Teen Vogue, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-25-21]

“[A] sample of the repressive measures officials have taken in the year since the Floyd uprisings: Enacting curfews that make protesting an arrestable offense; Deploying the National Guard; Using surveillance tools to monitor protesters; Increasing police budgets; Pushing harsh state laws and pretrial detention.” • Lots of linky goodness, and more excellent work from Teen Vogue. Tiger Beat this is not.

“A knee on our necks”

[Dodge County Independent, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-25-20]

“I ask, what has local law enforcement done to support the people of Dodge County? Fighting back against installation of the 11th and 12th swine factory farms in a three-mile radius, my family has faced repeated harassment and intimidation following initiation of legal action against Dodge County officials and area swine contract growers. Manure-stained blue farm booties purposely blemish the township road leading from a nearby swine factory farm to our family farm—another reminder that industry giants are large and in charge. Bullet holes shot in the stop sign a few hours after my brother and I pulled weeds from the fi eld a few feet away, constant garbage dumped in our roadside ditches and driveway, a large piece of metal hidden in the tall grass that damaged our mower, pure Roundup sprayed on the corn field and caused thousands of dollars of damage, false telephone calls by industry folks to the sheriff ’s department (not to report some illegal activity but to put the heat on my family and get us to shut up), harassing late night phone calls to my elderly father, including such comments as ‘Have you changed yet?’ and other harassing tactics. The tactics employed against my family are consistent with the tactics employed against other frontline families across the Midwest fighting installation of a factory farm next door. Serving as a watchdog for powerful industry giants, local law enforcement immediately responds to calls from area swine operators for assistance, including requests to identify a black SUV near our farm and report back to the industry. The culprit—a KSTP news truck.”

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 5-29-2021]

Replying to
Most damning in newly unsealed evidence (1) Google’s employees admitting there's almost no way NOT to provide your location to Google (2) Google designs its ecosystem for location data collection.
“This doesn’t sound like something we would want on the front page of the NYT.” /4

Predatory Capitalism in the Time of COVID19

For 94% of those who died from Covid, staying at home wasn’t an option 

[Mexico News Daily, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2021]

Global equitable access to vaccines, medicines and diagnostics for COVID-19: The role of patents as private governance 

[British Medical Journal, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2021]

The TRIPS Intellectual Property Waiver Proposal: Creating the Right Incentives in Patent Law and Politics to end the COVID-19 Pandemic (PDF)

[LSE Legal Studies Working Paper (2021, Forthcoming), via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2021]

From the Introduction:

“The crisis further demonstrates the failure of high income countries (HICs) to realise the promise they made at the time of the TRIPS negotiations in 1994, that by agreeing to the terms of TRIPS, lower and middle-income countries (LMICs) would benefit from technology transfer and the building of productive capacity. As such, the current crisis is revealing not only of inadequacies of how to deal with global emergencies, but also of deficiencies within the international ‘patent bargain’ itself.”

This past week, both the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee heard testimony from top financial executives. The articles on the hearings by Wall Street on Parade included excellent background material.

House Hearing: Only Jamie Dimon’s Microphone Mysteriously Malfunctions During Pivotal Questioning, Pam Martens and Russ Martens, May 28, 2021 

Justice Department Opens Probe into Potential Bank Cartel that Financed Archegos, Pam Martens and Russ Martens, May 27, 2021

Senator Sherrod Brown Sends a Message to Wall Street Banks: You No Longer Own the Senate Banking Committee, Pam Martens and Russ Martens, May 27, 2021

This Is What Jamie Dimon Will Tell the U.S. Senate Today (With Annotated Text)e, Pam Martens and Russ Martens, May 26, 2021

Three Wall Street Mega Banks Have Admitted to a Combined Eight Felony Counts; But Don’t Expect the Word “Felony” to Come Up in Wednesday’s Senate Banking Hearing with their CEOs, Pam Martens and Russ Martens, May 25, 2021

Collapse of Independent News Media

How New York City Is Saving Its Local News Outlets

[New York Times, via The Daily Poster 5-23-2021]

“At a time when newsrooms nationwide are laying off reporters and some are closing down, a program begun by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has been helping to sustain small, independent media outlets in every corner of the city. In May 2019 he signed an executive order requiring city agencies to direct at least half their budgets for digital and print advertising to community newspapers and websites. These media outlets are often their communities’ most trusted sources of information. They publish in more than 30 languages throughout the five boroughs, serving immigrants, ethnic and religious groups and communities of color. It has been a resounding success.”

Bezos Weaponizes The Washington Post Homepage

[DailyPoster, May 26, 2021]

Why Journalism Isn’t Really Covering the Threat of Fascism: Objectivity has no bias in favor of the truth.

Eric Alterman, May 28, 2021 [The American Prospect]

“Our democracy is being destroyed and the groundwork for fascism is being laid by our political system’s tolerance—nay, embrace—of the Republican Party’s unending avalanche of lies.” You are never going to see or hear those words from a mainstream news source…. 

Economics, though, is hardly the only problem. I hate using the word “obviously,” but obviously, the rise of right-wing media is also a fundamental problem that the rest of the media do not know how to handle. The big mistake occurred back in 1996 when journalists and politicians decided to treat Fox News as a legitimate news source. Everybody knew that the clowns on talk radio weren’t doing journalism. They were rabble-rousers and carnival barkers who riled up the yahoos to complain to journalists (and politicians)—but no intelligent, well-informed person took them seriously. Then Roger Ailes dressed these clowns up in nice clothes and Rupert Murdoch handed out checks, and suddenly their lies, racism, and ethnocentrism were setting the agenda for our politics. (For details, see Brian Rosenwald’s Talk Radio’s America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party That Took Over the United States.)

The right had been “working the refs” for decades, but once Fox was launched, the danger came from inside the room. Ailes smartly hired a few real journalists for window dressing, just so the rest of the profession could not write Fox off entirely. Plus, the company made billions of dollars, and so the moguls who ran its competitors lusted after its viewers and did what they could to attract them, farming out part of their broadcast time to faux Foxes. (This explains why literally every cable company and even PBS has felt it necessary to employ Tucker Carlson at some time or another.)

Climate and environmental crises

Controversial forestry experiment will be largest-ever in United States 

[Nature, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2021]

“Shell Loses Climate Case That May Set Precedent for Big Oil”

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-26-21]

“Royal Dutch Shell Plc was ordered by a Dutch court to slash its emissions harder and faster than planned, a ruling that could have far-reaching consequences for the rest of the global fossil fuel industry. Shell, which said it expects to appeal the ruling, has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% within a decade, and to net-zero before 2050. That’s not enough, a court in The Hague ruled Wednesday, ordering the oil producer to slash emissions 45% by 2030 compared to 2019 levels. The court said the ruling applies to the entire Shell group, which is headquartered in the Dutch city and incorporated in the U.K. That raises the prospect of the company having to radically speed up its current climate and divestment policies in order to hit the new target. The ruling will be scrutinized globally amid a new era of litigation related to climate change.”

‘Black Wednesday’ for big oil as courtrooms and boardrooms turn on industry 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 5-29-2021]

In a stunning series of defeats for the oil industry, over the course of less than 24 hours, courtrooms and boardrooms turned on the executives at Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron. Shell was ordered by a court in The Hague to go far further to reduce its climate emissions, while shareholder rebellions in the US imposed emissions targets at Chevron and a boardroom overhaul at Exxon….

“It was honestly a really emotional moment,” says Jasper Teulings, the former general counsel for Greenpeace International. The ruling by the Dutch court ordering Shell to cut its emissions by 45% within the next 10 years “shifts the debate” and could influence courtrooms across the globe, he told the Guardian.

“It makes clear that the onus is on the industry to act, and that it can be held accountable to take very specific steps. It’s very relevant in legal terms because the ruling was very pure in its demand: it’s not about money, it’s about conduct. It was astutely reasonable,” he says.

The basis of the case, brought by Dutch climate campaigners at Milieudefensie, was rooted in norms derived from elements of human rights law and the UN’s Guiding Principles, which have “near-universal application” and could be used in cases against other major polluters.

“Biden administration unveils offshore wind plan for California”

[Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-26-21]

“Under the plan, the administration would allow wind power projects to be built in federal waters off the coast of Central California northwest of Morro Bay, as well as at a second location west of Humboldt Bay. Officials estimate that the two areas combined could generate 4,600 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 1.6 million homes. The government’s plans represent a ‘breakthrough,’ said Gina McCarthy, President Biden’s senior climate change advisor. ‘It’s an announcement that will set the stage for the long-term development of clean energy and the growth of a brand-new made-in-America industry.’ Gov. Gavin Newsom praised the plans, noting that California had spent years trying to advance offshore wind power under the Trump administration, with no success. The state, he said, will accelerate its own environmental review process in order to speed up the projects, which he estimated would be built at least 20 miles offshore with enough space for roughly 380 wind turbines.”

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Corporations Kept Bankrolling The Campaign Against Voting Rights

[The Daily Poster, May 26, 2021]

“Trump is starting to put together his own Contract with America. And he’s teaming up with Newt.”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-27-21]

“With an eye toward winning back the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, former President Donald Trump has begun crafting a policy agenda outlining a MAGA doctrine for the party. His template is the 1994 ‘Contract with America,’ a legislative agenda released ahead of the midterm elections in the middle of President Bill Clinton’s first term. And, as a cherry on top, he’s teaming up with its main architect — Gingrich — to do it. In recent weeks, Trump sat down with the former House speaker as well as his former chief of staff Mark Meadows and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) at his private Mar-a-Lago club to begin crafting the document, according to a source familiar with the meeting. The group is still just beginning to hammer out the details of what a Trumpified Contract might look like. But it is likely to take an ‘America-First’ policy approach on everything from trade to immigration. The source described it as “a policy priority for 2022 and beyond.”

Joanne B. Freeman, The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War, October 5, 2018 [YouTube]

From the 1830s to the Civil War, Congressmen sorted into two factions: “fighting men,” and “non-combatants.” Representatives from the Southern slave holding states comprised almost all the “fighting men,” and their repeated threats of personal violence against the “non-combatants” of the North, in and out of the halls of Congress, allowed Southern slaver-holders to dominate the national legislature. This began to change in the 1850s, as citizens in the North, increasingly aware and angry at this dynamic of threatened violence by Southerners, began to send their own “fighting men” to Congress to replace “non-combatants.” The parallels with today are obvious.  



Senate meltdown reveals deepening partisan divide 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 5-29-2021]

NRA Wins Permitless Carry for Handguns in Texas 

[Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 5-29-2021]


Average New Home Sale Prices in U.S. Reach New Record High

Average new home sale prices are continuing to set new record highs. Initial estimates for April 2021 indicate they have reached $435,400, which is up nearly 5% from February 2021's initial estimate of $416,000.

Median new home sale prices in April 2021 nearly reached a new high as well, with an initial estimate of $372,400, falling just $800 short of January 2021's $373,200.

Median and Average Monthly U.S. New Home Sale Prices, January 2000 through April 2021

The price escalation of new homes in the United States continues to be unprecedented, which is driven home when we show the relationship for median new home prices with respect to median household income.

U.S. Median New Home Sale Price vs Median Household Income, Annual: 1999 - 2019 | Monthly: December 2000 - April 2021

Over the past year, since April 2020, the trailing twelve month average of median new home sale prices has risen by nearly $25,000 (7.8%), while median household income has fallen within a $300-wide range between $65,800 and $66,100.

The next chart shows all the available historial data for these figures going back to 1967.

The past year from April 2020 through April 2021 really is unprecedented.


U.S. Census Bureau. Median and Average Sales Prices of New Homes Sold in the United States. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Accessed 25 May 2021.