Monthly Archives: October 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 31, 2021


 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 31, 2021

by Tony Wikrent

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-27-21]



‘Every Turn in This Case Has Been Another Brick Wall, and Behind It Is Chevron’ 

[FAIR, via Naked Capitalism 10-29-2021]

Strategic Political Economy


Patrick Armstrong, October 28, 2021 [via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-28-21]

I would say that the principal theme – but read it yourself, it’s an important speech (I’m almost tempted to say valedictory) – is that the West is going down. Russia, thanks to its historical experience, has lived the experience from start to finish – twice. As Putin pointed out there was plenty of “human engineering” in the early Soviet days; the USSR failed at imposing its system. Russians know that exceptionalism doesn’t work; not because they’re wiser but because they’ve lived the failure. “These examples from our history allow us to say that revolutions are not a way to settle a crisis but a way to aggravate it. No revolution was worth the damage it did to the human potential.” 

Russia’s ‘Greens’ Revolution

Gilbert Doctorow, October 28, 2021 [via Patrick Armstrong]

In the question and answer session that followed President Putin’s speech to the annual Valdai Discussion Club meeting in Sochi last week, Vladimir Vladimirovich said he was thankful to the European Union for imposing sanctions on Russia in 2014, because Russia’s counter-sanctions, banning food imports from the EU, resulted in an enormous boost to its agricultural industry. Russian farming coped magnificently with the challenge. Putin mentioned the $25 billion in agricultural exports that Russia booked in the last year and he went on to thank Russia’s workers in the sector who made this possible.

These remarks would suggest to both laymen and experts in the West the emergence of Russia as the world’s number one exporter of wheat and its leading position as global exporter of other grains. 

Why I see a war in the Donbass as (almost) inevitable

[The Vineyard of the Saker, via Mike Norman Economics 10-29-2021]

America’s Next Aristocracy
Mathis Bitton [Palladium, via Mike Norman Economics 10-30-2021]

As Peter Turchin observes, large-scale societies with dynamic hierarchies have outlasted and outcompeted more horizontal models since the beginning of the Holocene. Meanwhile, those who try to do away with hierarchy fail to produce anything but corruption and sclerosis. Lenin rightly argues that even revolutionary Marxists need a vanguard; for better or worse, the question of elite production is inescapable….

To fulfill both of these objectives at once, the American elite has built a stack of social technologies around the concept of meritocracy. On paper, every institution of elite production is accessible to all who deserve access. But the players who control the definition of merit and the metrics of achievement have evident incentives to limit the democratization of status. There lies the genius of meritocracy as we know it: the public mind does not grasp that a handful of institutions shape our perception of merit, that the selection processes change to protect dynastic privileges, and that meritocracy at-large consists of little more than a legitimating mechanism by and for elites. Dressed in the garb of equality, meritocracy allows hidden bastions of aristocracy to thrive in democratic societies….

On the other side of the Pacific, however, a group of philosophers adopts an altogether different approach to this question. Drawing on the Confucian tradition, thinkers such as Jiang Qing and Bai Tongdong operate within the frame of “virtue politics;” that is, they try to construct a harmonious social order in which the common good determines the virtues that elite institutions cultivate. Rejecting the Western emphasis upon moral desert, these theorists of Confucian political meritocracy seek to build political systems in which the virtuous rule well—whether the achievements are “theirs” or not.

In this sense, these intellectuals adopt a functionalist approach to elite production. Their first-order concern lies with the production of a virtuous elite that serves the common good, with little attention paid to the metaphysics of individual desert. Nonetheless, Confucian meritocrats do not necessarily envision a rigid or hereditary ruling class; they seek to make every step of the selection process widely accessible. Like the American framers, Confucians realize that functional elites integrate talent from non-elite circles, balancing functionality with continuity. Still, the frame of virtue politics departs from the liberal tradition in one central respect. Where liberal philosophers build systems to restrain the power of potentially vicious rulers with strict procedures, theorists of virtue politics elevate the selection of rulers over the restriction of their power.

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Rise of informal slums and the next global pandemic (PDF)

Journal of Infectious Diseases, via Naked Capitalism 10-29-2021]

From the Abstract: “Informal slums are growing exponentially in the developing world and these will serve as the breeding ground for a future global pandemic. Virtually every sustainable development goal is unmet in slums around the globe thus we must act now to divert a global humanitarian crisis.” I imagine the tent cities of the homeless in the United States could be considered “informal slums,” more than worthy of the “developing world.” It’s a miracle no new variants have emerged from them (assuming we would know if one had).

“An Assessment of the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act of 2021” (PDF)

[Moody’s Analytics, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-29-21]

“Homebuilding collapsed during the housing crash over a decade ago and has been slow to recover. Construction of high-end homes and apartments recovered first, and there is now an oversupply in some urban areas across the country. However, the construction of affordable housing—homes reasonably priced for lower-income households to rent or own—has only recently begun to increase and continues to lag demand. The worsening affordable housing shortage is clear in the low number of vacant housing units, which continues to decline. The percent of the housing stock for rent and sale that is unoccupied has fallen sharply since the housing crash and is now as low as it has been in more than 30 years (see Chart 1). The shortfall in affordable housing is close to an estimated 1.8 million homes, equal to more than a year of new construction at its current pace. And this housing shortage continues to get worse.” 

Lambert Strether: “I searched the report; the phrase “private equity” does not appear.”

Wall Street Is Pressing ER Docs To Fleece Patients

[The Daily Poster, October 27, 2021]

Private equity-owned ER staffing firms have been frequently sued by whistleblowers on their medical staff. Last year, the Washington state doctor Ming Lin sued Blackstone-owned Team Health for removing him from the schedule after he posted on Facebook criticizing the company’s unwillingness to appropriate sufficient funds for face masks and proper infectious disease protocols at the beginning of the pandemic.

And last month, Envision Healthcare, which is owned by the private equity firm KKR & Co and is widely viewed as the staffing company that invented surprise billing, was forced to pay a $26-million jury award to a physician it had terminated for claiming that the company’s understaffing of a busy Kansas ER violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), a 1986 bill that requires hospitals to keep physicians on hand to “stabilize” patients regardless of their ability to pay.

Restoring balance to the economy

5,000 Philly Transit Workers Authorize Strike – VCU Health Nurses Walkout – Florida School Bus Drivers Walkout 

[Mike Elk, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-21]

McDonald’s Workers Join ‘Striketober’ and Walk Out Over Sexual Harassment 

[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-21]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-28-21]



Revenge of the Billionaire’s Tax?

Stephanie Kelton [The Lens, via Mike Norman Economics 10-26-2021] 
Spending and taxation are separate fiscal operations,. Ideally, each should be directed at objectives in terms of the socio-economic system taking politics into account as an expression of the will of the people, spending for public purpose to promote the general welfare and common good, and taxation to make space for public spending as well as to control inflation. Taxation can also serve to regulate the system by providing positive and negative incentives, e.g., promoting investment in green and discouraging negative externality and imbalances such as excessive inequality that creates a drag on the system. Ad hoc measures and unnecessary linkage are unlikely to be effective and will likely involves unintended consequences that are not desirable…. 

Biden’s Nominee Omarova Has a Published Plan to Move All Bank Deposits to the Fed and Let the New York Fed Short Stocks 

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, October 26, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

This month, the Vanderbilt Law Review published a 69-page paper by Saule Omarova, President Biden’s nominee to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Federal regulator of the largest banks in the country that operate across state lines. The paper is titled “The People’s Ledger: How to Democratize Money and Finance the Economy.”

The paper, in all seriousness, proposes the following:

(1) Moving all commercial bank deposits from commercial banks to so-called FedAccounts at the Federal Reserve;

(2) Allowing the Fed, in “extreme and rare circumstances, when the Fed is unable to control inflation by raising interest rates,” to confiscate deposits from these FedAccounts in order to tighten monetary policy;

(3) Allowing the most Wall Street-conflicted regional Fed bank in the country, the New York Fed, when there are “rises in market value at rates suggestive of a bubble trend,” such as with technology stocks today, to “short these securities, thereby putting downward pressure on their prices”;

(4) Eliminate the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) that insures bank deposits;

(5) Consolidate all bank regulatory functions at the OCC – which Omarova has been nominated to head.

Disrupting mainstream economics

Capitalism’s Core Problem: The Case for Universal Property”

[Evonomics, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-26-21]

“Before we talk about universal property, we need to look at co-inherited wealth, for that is what universal property is based on. A full inventory of co-inherited wealth would fill pages. Consider, for starters, air, water, topsoil, sunlight, fire, photo­syn­thesis, seeds, elec­­tri­city, minerals, fuels, cultivable plants, domesticable animals, law, sports, religion, calendars, recipes, mathema­tics, jazz, libraries and the internet. Without these and many more, our lives would be incalculably poorer. Universal property does not involve all of all those wonderful things. Rather, it focuses on a subset: the large, complex natural and social systems that support market economies, yet are excluded from repre­sentation in them. This subset includes natural ecosystems like the Earth’s atmosphere and watersheds, and collective human constructs such as our legal, monetary and communications systems. All these systems are enormously valuable, in some cases priceless. Not only do our daily lives depend on them; they add prodigious value to mar­kets, en­ab­ling corporations and private for­tunes to grow to gargan­tu­an sizes. Yet the systems were not built by anyone living today; they are all gifts we inherit together. So it is fair to ask, who are their bene­­ficial owners? There are, essentially, three possibilities: no one, government, or all of us together equally. This book is about what happens if we choose the third option, and create property rights to apply it.”

Economics in the real world

“Chinese magnesium shortage: Global car industry to grind to a halt within weeks amid ‘catastrophic’ halt”

[New Zealand Herald, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-26-21]

“The world’s largest carmakers and other users of aluminium could be forced to halt production within weeks amid a ‘catastrophic’ shortage of magnesium across Europe. Magnesium is a key material used in the production of aluminium alloys, which are used in everything from car parts to building materials and food packaging. China has a near-monopoly on global magnesium manufacturing, accounting for 87 per cent of production, but the Chinese government’s efforts to reduce domestic power consumption amid rising energy prices have slowed output to a trickle since September 20. In Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces, the world’s main magnesium production hubs, 25 plants had to shut down and five further plants slashed production by 50 per cent as a result of the power cuts Europe is expected to run out of magnesium stockpiles by the end of November. On Friday, a group of European industry associations representing cars, metals, packaging and other sectors issued a joint statement warning of the ‘catastrophic impact’ of the production cuts, which they said had already resulted in an ‘international supply crisis of unprecedented magnitude’. The statement called for urgent action from the EU Commission and national governments to work with China to stave off the ‘imminent risk of Europe-wide production shutdowns.'”


Climate and environmental crises

City Eyes New Push to Buy Out Flood-Prone Houses as Climate Change Hits Home 

[The City, via Naked Capitalism 10-28-2021] 

Buyouts and acquisitions are forms of a climate change adaptation strategy known as managed retreat, in which people, buildings and other infrastructure are moved away from risks, such as coastal or inland flooding.

In both cases, governments purchase property from homeowners. In buyouts, the property is returned to nature, not to be developed. Acquisitions, on the other hand, can lead to future development that is, at least theoretically, more resilient.

Green New Deal - An opportunity too big to miss

Supply Chains Need $100 Trillion To Become Net-Zero By 2050
Tsvetana Paraskova [, via Mike Norman Economics 10-28-2021]

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

An Ultra-Precise Clock Shows How to Link the Quantum World With Gravity 

[Quanta, via Naked Capitalism 10-28-2021] 

Information Age Dystopia

Wall Street Journal Provides New Evidence of Facebook Politically-Driven Intervention in Content

[Naked Capitalism 10-25-2021]

“Five points for anger, one for a ‘like’: How Facebook’s formula fostered rage and misinformation”

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-27-21]

“Five years ago, Facebook gave its users five new ways to react to a post in their news feed beyond the iconic ‘like’ thumbs-up: ‘love,’ ‘haha,’ ‘wow,’ ‘sad’ and ‘angry.'” Nothing for empathy or compassion, one notes. “Behind the scenes, Facebook programmed the algorithm that decides what people see in their news feeds to use the reaction emoji as signals to push more emotional and provocative content — including content likely to make them angry. Starting in 2017, Facebook’s ranking algorithm treated emoji reactions as five times more valuable than ‘likes,’ internal documents reveal. The theory was simple: Posts that prompted lots of reaction emoji tended to keep users more engaged, and keeping users engaged was the key to Facebook’s business. Facebook’s own researchers were quick to suspect a critical flaw. Favoring ‘controversial’ posts — including those that make users angry — could open ‘the door to more spam/abuse/clickbait inadvertently,’ a staffer, whose name was redacted, wrote in one of the internal documents. A colleague responded, ‘It’s possible.’ The warning proved prescient. The company’s data scientists confirmed in 2019 that posts that sparked angry reaction emoji were disproportionately likely to include misinformation, toxicity and low-quality news.”

I Used Facebook Without the Algorithm, and You Can Too 

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 10-25-2021]

The Facebook Papers: We’re Not Asking The Right Questions 

[Heisenberg Report, via Naked Capitalism 10-26-2021]

Facebook (the company) is on the brink of failing what might one day be viewed as the first real test of humans’ capacity to merge with AI. Ideally, we can seamlessly integrate algorithms we create with the algorithms that govern our own biochemical processes….

Facebook is arguably demonstrating that this integration process can go awry, with disastrous results. The algorithm is using what it learns about billions of people to help third parties manipulate human emotions and affect decision making. The company’s intent may very well be to maximize engagement and, ultimately, revenue. But the AI’s virtually unrestricted latitude in pursuing engagement is throwing off more than just dollars. It’s wreaking psychological havoc, disrupting democracies and undermining societal cohesion. The evidence is clear.

“Facebook was born, lives and thrives in scandal. It’s been lawless for years”

Matt Stoller [Guardian, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-26-21]

”Lawlessness pays. We’ve known that Facebook is lawless and reckless for years. And yet despite all the light and heat, Facebook is still a globe-straddling monopoly over our information commons. One man is still in charge of it, making all key policy decisions, and he is worth $100bn and considered an important leader and philanthropist. To put it differently, when a bank robber robs a bank, blame the bank robber. When a bank robber robs 20 banks, and announces where he’s going to steal from next, and does it in broad daylight, repeatedly, and no one stops him, we should be blaming the cops. And that’s where we are with Facebook…. If we set up a policy system that offers a reward for destroying our social fabric in the neighborhood of $100bn and unlimited power, then this is what we’ll get. The problem is not Facebook, it’s a policy regime that creates an incentive for monopolization, securities fraud and surveillance advertising…. [T]his brings us to the reason we haven’t done anything about Facebook. In order to actually address the problem of dominant market power and conflicts of interest, we the people would have to empower our government to govern.” • What is this “law” of which you speak?

“Your ISP Might Be Collecting Much More Data Than You Think”

[Interesting Engineering, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-26-21]

“The report identified several concerning data collection practices among several of the ISPs, including that ‘they combine data across product lines; combine personal, app usage, and web browsing data to target ads; place consumers into sensitive categories such as by race and sexual orientation; and share real-time location data with third-parties.’ The report further found that even though several of the ISPs promised not to sell consumers’ personal data, they allowed it to be used, transferred, and monetized by others. They also hid disclosures about such practices in the fine print of their privacy policies. Subscribers’ real-time location data shared was found to be shared with third-party customers such as ‘car salesmen, property managers, bail bondsmen, bounty hunters, and others.’”

The Billion Dollar Code’: A David vs Goliath Battle That Shows the Tech World’s Evil Side

[ The Wire, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-21]

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

Biden makes 2 key, boundary-breaking FCC nominations 

[NPR, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-21]

Institutionalists = Obstructionists

"Meltdown": How "Hope and Change" led to MAGA

Matt Taibbi, October 29, 2021

When Barack Obama was elected on November 4th, 2008, America’s political landscape appeared altered permanently. Obama’s “realigning” victory put his party in full control of the state, armed with a whopping 78-seat advantage in the House and a 59-41 edge in the Senate. Conventional wisdom held that the combination of massive youth and minority turnout and Obama’s re-conquest of so-called “Reagan Democrat” districts was a knockout blow to Republicans from which they’d never recover. The demographic picture was only going to get less white going forward, leaving Republicans, as the New York Times put it on Election Night, “contemplating where they now stand in American politics.” Pundits were convinced merely competent leadership by Obama would leave Democrats with a permanent supermajority.

What happened over the course of the next eight years, when the dream of forever-rule evaporated and the Democrats found themselves having to explain being vanquished by a foul-mouthed game show host, is the subject of Meltdown. To this day, the all-but-mandatory explanation for the Democrats’ 2016 disaster is a combination of racist reaction and Russian interference. Though race certainly played a significant role, the deeper explanation, still taboo, is the perception that the Obama administration’s handling of the 2008 crash was both corrupt and profoundly disillusioning. When the SS America struck an economic iceberg, the country watched Democrats fill the lifeboats with guilty bank CEOs, then waved from the horizon as everyone else went down with the ship.

Readers of mine are familiar with the gory details: reversed campaign promises, rigged bailout schemes, an absence of high-level prosecutions of financial criminals, failure of pittance-level foreclosure relief programs, toothless Dodd-Frank reform, formalization of such concepts as Too Big to Fail and Too Big to Jail, and so on, and so on.

Meltdown not only tells that story, it connects it to the Democrats’ political present and future. Sirota describes how the party’s misplaced faith in a Solomonesque business model — take money from Wall Street donors and deliver big for them on policy, while making gestures of sympathy toward the wider base of voters — opened the door for a canny political opportunism of Donald Trump. The psychology of the Democratic Party is to believe it’s always enough to be a little better, a little more sane, a little less craven than Republicans, but voters don’t see it that way. In a crisis, a leader in full control of the government has to act decisively, and be seen doing so, or risk being replaced by someone promising such action.

Trump hammered Obama on corruption and favoritism, painted Hillary Clinton as the sequel agent of Wall Street, and won making promises of sweeping action. This, Sirota says, is how “hope and change became MAGA and mayhem.” In an interview with Useful Idiots, he explained how the series was intended to be a wakeup call for Democrats, who continue to head off real examinations of their recent past, inviting, perhaps, repeats of the same self-inflicted disaster.

“Democrats’ Betrayals Are Jeopardizing American Democracy”

David Sirota & Alex Gibney [Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-27-21]

“Democrats’ equivalent of a new New Deal — a reconciliation spending bill to bolster the social safety net — started out at $6 trillion, moved down to $4 trillion, then to $3.5 trillion, then below $2 trillion. And now party leaders are reportedly bowing to their corporate donors, stripping out wildly popular provisions to reduce medicine pricesexpand Medicare benefits, and give workers paid family leave, after they already abandoned a promised $15 minimum wage. …. Meanwhile, Biden has refused to use his existing executive authority to lower drug pricescancel student debt, and more widely distribute vaccine recipes to combat the pandemic.”

The Outer Limits Of Corporate Politics

David Sirota and Andrew Perez [The Daily Poster, October 28, 2021]

The halving of Democrats’ agenda suggests the party is still primarily intent on fulfilling Biden’s promise to donors that “nothing would fundamentally change.”

An exhaustive compilation of what has been compromised away, with scores of links. 

The Pro–Trump Tax Cuts Caucus

David Dayen, October 28, 2021 [The American Prospect]

...The Trump tax cuts actually solved a significant problem Democrats created for themselves, through the principle that all new programs in Congress needed to be “pay-as-you-go.” Because the plan included a mix of $6 trillion in tax cuts and $4.5 trillion in tax increases, suddenly there were trillions of dollars available to be rolled back and put toward the social programs Democrats have coveted for years.

The 2020 presidential primaries were in part a race between candidates on how they would use the repeal of those tax cuts and what they would devote the money toward. The Biden Jobs and Families plans made use of those proposals. The PAYGO problem was solved, and the only result would be a return to the tax code in place at the end of the Obama administration….

What’s left—that scaled-back corporate minimum tax, and maybe some other odds and ends—is perhaps enough to offset spending on universal pre-kindergarten. The extremely popular premise of Democratic social policy circa 2020, to roll back the Trump tax cuts and use the money to fund broad-based benefits, is dead, because supporters of the Trump tax cuts killed it, on behalf of their billionaire friends and business interests. Democrats are standing up for the bold proposition that tax rates under Obama were too high, that corporations were paying too much, and that billionaires should be free to never pay a cent on the vast majority of their wealth really ever.

“Every sensible revenue option seems to be destroyed,” an irritated Senate Budget Committee chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) told reporters on Wednesday. 

“The Owners of the Democrats’ Big Data Firm Have a Side Gig: Working to Elect Far-Right Republicans”

David Corn [Mother Jones, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-27-21]

“one of the most important data outfits on the Democratic side—and, consequently, one of the more influential players in politics today—is a for-profit company that few Democratic voters, grassroots activists, or cable news junkies have ever head of: TargetSmart. It provides crucial services to the Democratic National Committee, state Democratic parties, and a wide assortment of progressive outfits and makes millions of dollars a year. On its website, the firm has posted a significant declaration: It “has always focused on the Democratic Party, Democratic candidates, and progressive organizations” and “does not work with Republican candidates.” But a Mother Jones investigation found that the owners and founders of TargetSmart also own a company that earns millions by helping to elect Republicans, including far-right GOP state legislators who have tried to overturn the 2020 election results, who were involved in the January 6 march on the US Capitol that turned into a seditious riot, and who have been part of the Republican crusade to skew election laws against the Democrats. That is, the parent company of this vital Democratic data firm is profiting by aiding conservative and authoritarian political forces that seek to defeat the Democrats and progressives supported by TargetSmart.”

The Dark Side

Altercation: Networks of Paranoia

Eric Alterman, October 29, 2021 [The American Prospect]

The interlocking directorates at the heart of the right’s descent into lunacy….

The first is a fine investigation by Robert O’Harrow Jr., published by The Washington Post Magazine, of the extremely secretive—and extremely influential—Council for National Policy (CNP), a registered charity whose members currently include Mike Pence, Ralph Reed, L. Brent Bozell III (of the misnamed Media Research Center), and Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The council was started back in the ’80s by a group that included Tim LaHaye, author of the far-right Judgment Day “Left Behind” series, which would eventually sell more than 65 million copies, and also the man who is credited with convincing Jerry Falwell to create the Moral Majority….

A second useful injection of historical perspective comes from Laura Field’s piece on the Claremont Institute in The New Republic. Back when people were looking for some—any—hint of intellectual coherence in the Trump critique, they landed on an article published in September 2016 on the institute’s website. The “Flight 93 Election” essay argued that a Hillary Clinton victory in that year’s presidential election would effectively spell the end of civilization. Its author, Michael Anton, would later join Trump’s National Security Council, and now works for Hillsdale College, whose president, Larry P. Arnn, chaired President Trump’s stupid 1776 Commission Report, which argued for the promotion of “patriotic education.” Back then, Anton wrote that “a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.” During the 2020 election, he and other Claremont denizens were promoting the beyond lunatic threat of a “Biden coup,” while John C. Eastman, the founding director of the Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, authored a six-point plan for Trump that spelled out how Pence could overturn the election on January 6….

A third piece that helps to shed some light on the current moment is an article by Elisabeth Zerofsky in The New York Times Magazine, which, while overly indulgent to a great many specious intellectual claims in this view, offers useful information on the current vogue among conservative intellectuals for Viktor Orban, the man who is destroying Hungarian democracy as he builds up his autocratic leadership….. 

Jan. 6 Protest Organizers Say They Participated in ‘Dozens’ of Planning Meetings With Members of Congress and White House Staff Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 10-25-2021]

Meet Ray Epps: The Fed-Protected Provocateur Who Appears To Have Led The Very First 1/6 Attack On The U.S. Capitol 

[Revolver (Heidi’s Walker), via Naked Capitalism  10-27-21]

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Thinking the unthinkable
by John Quiggin, October 27, 2021 [Crooked Timber]

If the last five years have taught us anything it’s this: the fact that something being unimaginable doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen. So, it’s worth considering the prospect that Donald Trump becomes President after the 2024 election whether by getting enough votes to win the Electoral College under the current rules, or by having a Democratic victory overturned. Trump has made it clear that, in such an event, he would wish to secure at least a third term in office and perhaps a life presidency.

Even if Trump chose not to attempt the necessary constitutional change, by 2028 he would be in a position to nominate a family member as the Republican candidate and to ensure that his candidate was declared President regardless of how Americans voted. After that, the Trumps would have effectively untrammeled power, with a compliant Congressional majority and a far-right Supreme Court. There’s no obvious reason why they couldn’t rule for decades as Putin and others have done.

What would life be like in the US and elsewhere in such a case? I’ve tried to think about the political options for resistance, both through electoral politics and through direct action, and concluded that there is no obvious prospect of success. So, I think of something like the US South before and during the Civil Rights struggle, with one-party government and resistance suppressed by extra-legal violence.

The big difference is that, unlike in the Civil Rights era, there will be no federal government to step in and change things. And emigration won’t be a serious option for most.

Here: “there will be no federal government to step in and change things,” Quiggin hits on the big fact about the Civil War and the Civil Rights era: when individual states, such as Alabama and South Carolina, allowed democratic control to rest in the hands of certain oligarchic-minded elites, there was a republic at the national level that, however slowly, responded by enforcing the rule of law based on the principles of political equality — even to the extent of going top war against the states in the 1860s. A recurring topic in the letters of Union soldiers and officers was the necessity of  proving the oligarchs and monarchs of Europe wrong by fighting to vanquish the Confederate rebellion and preserve republican self government. Today, no republic remains to correct the drift into authoritarianism: the right is fully committed to a theocratic alliance with oligarchs, and the left has rejected the principles of the early republic as inherently racist capitalism, a grievously mistaken and shallow interpretation. 

Florida strips federal funding from schools as further punishment for masking 

[ars technica, via Naked Capitalism 10-30-2021]

“The Department of Justice Is Letting the Coup Plotters Get Away”

[The Nation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-28-21]

“The Department of Justice should be leading the criminal investigation into the attack on the Capitol. That is the entity that can not merely catalog but actually punish the insurrectionists. Congress’s role is oversight and lawmaking. It is therefore entirely appropriate for its members, through the Select Committee, to subpoena documents and testimony to try to understand what happened. That helps them serve their function of proposing and passing new laws so that it can’t happen again. But accountability for any crimes that happened that day is a different matter. So is any investigation into the larger criminal conspiracy that came to fruition that day. Both are supposed to come through Justice and its subordinate investigations division, the FBI. The problem is, Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray don’t seem to have the stomach for all that. Oh sure, they’ll go after the small people. They’ll prosecute the dude with the horns and charge the guy with the cattle prod. But when it comes time to prosecute the powerful—the congresspeople and the financiers who aided and abetted the insurrection—Garland and Wray have shown no desire to take on that challenge.”

“The Evangelical Church Is Breaking Apart”

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-28-21]

“Bob Fryling, a former publisher of InterVarsity Press and the vice president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an evangelical campus ministry, has been part of a weekly gathering of more than 150 individuals representing about 40 churches. He’s heard of conflicts ‘in almost every church’ and reports that pastors are exhausted. Earlier this year, the Christian polling firm Barna Group found that 29 percent of pastors said they had given ‘real, serious consideration to quitting being in full-time ministry within the last year.’ David Kinnaman, president of Barna, described the past year as a “crucible” for pastors as churches fragmented. The key issues in these conflicts are not doctrinal, Fryling told me, but political. They include the passions stirred up by the Trump presidency, the legitimacy of the 2020 election, and the January 6 insurrection; the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement, and critical race theory; and matters related to the pandemic, such as masking, vaccinations, and restrictions on in-person worship. I know of at least one large church in eastern Washington State, where I grew up, that has split over the refusal of some of its members to wear masks.”

Same thing happened to the three largest protestant denominations in USA leading up to the Civil War. 

NAACP urges pro athletes to avoid signing with Texas teams due to the state’s ‘dangerous attacks on freedoms

[The Week, via Naked Capitalism 10-30-2021]

Australian Politics 2021-10-31 05:09:00

Scott Morrison to resist global coal ban pressure at G20

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would resist pressure at the G20 summit to phase out fossil fuels like coal.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has landed in Rome ahead of the G20 summit, saying it is a “pivotal time” for the world’s largest economies to be focussing on the road ahead.

Decarbonising the world is a similar challenge to creating vaccines to end the Covid pandemic, Scott Morrison says, and he wants to prioritise working with other countries to develop new low emissions technologies to find solutions.

Speaking after touching down in Rome, the Prime Minister said Australia’s net zero plan was “crystal clear”, and that he would resist pressure at this weekend’s G20 talks and the Glasgow climate summit to phase out fossil fuels including coal. “Our policy is very clear - we’re not engaged in those sorts of mandates and bans,“ he said.

Mr Morrison also spoke about his call with French President Emmanuel Macron, saying his counterpart expressed “obvious disappointment which we respect and understand” about Australia’s cancellation of its $90bn submarine contract. “We’ve started the way back and I think that’s a positive thing,” he said.

Mr Morrison landed in Rome on Friday night ahead of the G20, during which he will also hold one-on-one talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to settle any concerns about Australia’s new plan to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

Key issues on the G20 agenda include locking in a new global minimum corporate tax rate, as well as emissions reduction ahead of next week’s Glasgow climate change summit.

The leaders will also discuss the economic and health recovery from Covid, with Mr Morrison pushing for enhanced disease surveillance and greater transparency to prevent a repeat of the Covid pandemic.

“When there are common accountabilities and obligations that run across multiple jurisdictions, we will see digital platform companies truly invest in making the online world safer,” Mr Morrison said.

The G20 talks, held amid tight security in the Italian capital, mark the first in-person meeting between the leaders since the pandemic began, although Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend.

Mr Morrison will continue to advocate for open trade and reforms to the World Trade Organisation, as Australia tackles China’s ongoing campaign of economic coercion.

US President Joe Biden also landed in Rome on Friday and was expected to hold his first face-to-face meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron since the AUKUS defence pact was unveiled and Australia ripped up its $90bn French submarines contract.

Mr Macron and Mr Morrison broke the ice on Thursday, with the French President saying Australia’s decision “broke the relationship of trust between our two countries”.

Italy wants a specific commitment to reduce methane emissions, but Mr Morrison has already rejected that to protect Australian farmers.


More Greenie obstructionism

They'll always find something to wail about. They get off on it

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has grilled South Australian government officials over a rocket-launching development "bang in the middle" of an environmentally sensitive site.

The senator, speaking at a Senate estimates hearing yesterday, said she was not in support of the controversial rocket launching development at Whalers Way, south of Port Lincoln, becoming a permanent fixture.

"I'm very concerned that this is right in the middle of a hotspot of some of our endangered little creatures in South Australia," she said. "It is an environmentally sensitive location.

"Why on earth would we have it right bang in the middle of what is already considered a heritage area under state protection?"

Southern Launch, which recently constructed a launchpad complex at the popular tourist site, has approval to test two launches by the end of the year and hopes to make the site a permanent launch complex early next year.

In September, the company made several attempts to test Taiwanese company TiSPACE's 10.2 metre Hapith-I rocket, which were unsuccessful as the rocket caught alight and disintegrated.

Senator Hanson-Young said she was concerned about the impact future rocket launches would have on vulnerable species.

"We've got the emu wren, that is already endangered, we have sea lions not far away on the coastal areas there that is threatened and endangered and, in fact, still waiting on a proper protection plan from the federal government," she said

A government official confirmed in the estimates hearing that 54 public comments had been received about the company's project, most of which focused on social and economic reasons against the development.

Senator Hanson-Young said she shared concerns with some locals who contacted her office about potential bushfire risks. "Our climate is drying, bushfire risk is getting more and more intense," she said.

"This poses a bushfire risk — a rocket launch in this area — for that reason the minister should rule that this is inappropriate."

Southern Launch CEO LLoyd Damp said the company had dedicated the past three years to developing a comprehensive 3,200-page environmental impact statement in consultation with a range of industry experts.

"Southern Launch has very comprehensive environmental and emergency plans — we try and cover off any and every eventuality," he said.

Mr Damp said during the last attempt a small shrub was singed, as was some nearby grass.

He said that the company was planning to set up its own first-responder team to cover any fire, medical or other emergencies in the event that the site was approved for permanent use.


'World's greenest residential building' reduced to 20 storeys after Brisbane City Council questions size

image from

A planned 32-storey apartment tower touted as the "world's greenest residential building" has been significantly scaled back after Brisbane City Council expressed concerns about its size.

Lodged in July last year, Aria Property Group's Urban Forest development originally proposed a 32-storey, 382-unit apartment tower on Glenelg Street in South Brisbane.

Designed by Koichi Takada Architects, the application received international attention for its promise to be a tower covered in greenery including trees and shrubs, hiding much of the building structure under plants.

The tower was designed to have nearly 300 per cent green coverage and aims to secure a 5-star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia on the back of its subtropical design.

The original assessment report lodged with the council for the tower last year said the design's "unprecedented level of landscaping" would create a striking building on the city skyline.

However, the plan generated concern from locals who feared the tower was oversized and would permanently change the inner-city suburb's character.

Concerns about its impact on a neighbouring heritage-listed church, a local school, and the number of apartments were also raised in submissions.

More than a year later, the application is still being assessed by Brisbane City Council.

Earlier this year, at the council's request, Aria reduced the size of the tower to 24 storeys, but the council was not satisfied.

In August a council planner requested further reduction of its size to fit the neighbourhood plan.

"The overall proposed building height and number of storeys is required to be reduced in response to ... the South Brisbane riverside neighbourhood plan code," the officer wrote.

The planning code covering that area of South Brisbane has a height limit of 12 storeys, which many residents in submissions on the development insist should be heeded.


Police officer Mark Follington jailed over assault of trannie in Liverpool pub

Bigotry against trannies highly likely to have been involved. Cops do it hard in jail so big efforts will be made to get him off

A NSW police officer who violently assaulted a woman and then falsified evidence related to the event will spend at least 18 months behind bars.

Senior Constable Mark Follington unlawfully arrested Anya Bradford at a pub in Liverpool in Sydney's west in May 2019 while he and another officer were checking IDs as part of an anti-drug crackdown.

Ms Bradford, who was sitting in the gaming room, declined to show her identification and attempted to leave the premises.

CCTV footage played in court showed Follington grabbing Ms Bradford's arm and slamming her head into an ATM, before following her into the lobby of a parole office and continuing to attack her.

Another officer, Constable Mark Brown, used a pepper spray and taser on her.

Later that day, Follington lied in a police report, claiming that Ms Bradford had assaulted him. The CCTV footage contradicted his story.

He pleaded not guilty to two charges of common assault, one count of tampering with evidence with intent to mislead a judicial tribunal, acting with intent to pervert the course of justice and modifying restricted data, but was found guilty in May this year.

At the sentencing hearing at Sydney's Downing Centre on Wednesday, Magistrate Michael Crompton sentenced Follington to 30 months behind bars with a non-parole period of 18 months.

He said the crime of falsifying information "struck at the very heart of the criminal justice system" and warranted a sentence that would significantly deter others.

He described the assaults as "quite violent" and "in the mid-to-high range of objective seriousness for assault of that kind".

He said the crime was aggravated by Follington abusing his position of trust and authority and noted his not guilty pleas. "On the evidence before me there is no evidence of remorse," he said.

Ms Bradford was not present in court but In a victim impact statement said the assaults had left her mentally and emotionally scarred. "I spent a night in pain in a jail cell," the statement said, adding that she regularly experienced traumatic flashbacks and no longer trusted police.

His lawyer argued that Follington, who had been suspended from his role without pay, was likely to have a more arduous time behind bars than an ordinary citizen.

"Once a police officer goes into the four walls of any institution… history has shown that police officers, because of their position, are the subject of assaults, serious assaults", he said.

Follington's legal team confirmed he will appeal against the verdict




Australian Politics 2021-10-29 10:22:00


University professor avoids jail after admitting sending threatening letters and underwear to HERSELF

Fake hate speech. It happens in America too

A former university dean has been spared jail time over her 'bizarre' fake letter campaign and will serve her custodial sentence within the community.

Judge Ian Bourke sentenced Diane Jolley on Friday in the District Court to serve an intensive corrections order of two years and six months for committing her 'somewhat bizarre offences,' he said.

The judge said he was unable to arrive at a clear conclusion as to why the academic had gone 'to such extreme measures' as cutting up her own clothes and sending herself her own underwear.

He could not find she had shown genuine remorse given she proclaimed to have only sent herself one of the fake letters, despite a recorded phone call of her admitting to being 'naughty twice'.

'At first blush' her scam seemingly arose from some sort of psychological impairment, however her maintenance of a very senior position at the university meant it was implausible for her to be so affected by a mental impairment, the judge said.

It was submitted that Jolley had suffered significant extra curial punishment by way of 'literally hundreds' of online media articles, damaging her reputation and preventing future employment opportunities.

'I am satisfied that it was the offender's own actions that brought these adverse consequences upon her,' Judge Bourke said.

However, the judge ultimately found she did not pose a genuine risk to the community and her rehabilitation would be better served outside of a custodial setting.

The former University of Technology Sydney professor was found guilty in July of 10 charges of conveying information likely to make a person fear for their safety, knowing that it was misleading.

The 51-year-old academic was also found guilty on one charge of causing financial disadvantage by deception to her work after UTS spent more than $127,000 in security measures protecting her.

For months Jolley pretended to find alarming notes, one reading: 'Goodbye, cya and good luck,' with her photograph and a red line drawn through her face. Another read: 'Chop our future we chop yours'.

The elaborate ploy between May and November 2019 included shredding nearly $2000 worth of her own clothing, and sending herself underwear.

Her employer racked up an expensive bill providing CCTV cameras installed in her home and office, monitoring alarms, private security chaperoning her around the university, and hire cars driving between home and work.

She gave evidence she had deliberately been caught writing the final letter so that UTS would dismiss her, saving her a three-month notice period if she resigned.

But she denied sending all the other threats, telling the court at one point she had been left 'horrified and then I was concerned for my (family's) safety'.

The crown case was she orchestrated the scheme to garner sympathy from the science faculty as she tried to close down the university's traditional Chinese medicine course.

The prosecutor said she was pushing for a performance-based reward of $40,000, on top of her $320,000 yearly salary, by having one of the most financially unviable courses in the faculty shut down.

However the judge did not agree this was the case given there was no evidence the bonus would be linked to the shutting down of the TCM course, nor did she have a history of being overly motivated by financial gain.


Must not approve of conservative policies on the ABC

ABC TV political reporter Jane Norman is once again in the firing line of social media critics for 'gushing' coverage of Scott Morrison's net zero climate plan.

On Tuesday, Ms Norman said the plan was 'practically achievable' while covering the announcement of Mr Morrison's plan to net zero emissions by 2050.

'There are a few heroic assumptions or statements made in this new plan,' she told the audience.

'The fact that Scott Morrison got a deal on climate, the fact he's still the prime minister, is a significant achievement given Australia's long and tortuous history with climate policy.'

Social media critics were quick to jump on Ms Norman's characterisation of the plan, focusing on use of the word 'heroic'.

'For the ABC to use the term "heroic" re the nonplan, it must have been in the [Prime Minister's Offce] media instructions,' one commenter on Twitter wrote.

'Jane Norman's relentless cheerleading for Scott Morrison is just embarrassing,' wrote another.

Twitter account @medianalystoz said Ms Norman had 'gushed' about the plan. 'LNP spin from the ABC,' it concluded.

Others noted, however, that an 'heroic' assumption in the sense in which Ms Norman used it generally means there is doubt about the accuracy of that assumption.

Contacted by Daily Mail Australia, Ms Norman said she had no comment to make on the backlash but that trolling of her on social media was 'nothing new'.


Big reaction in Australia to defiant South African cricketer

Waleed Aly has jumped to the defence of one of the world's best cricketers who refused to take a knee for the Black Lives Matter movement.

South African wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock made headlines around the world on Tuesday when he refused to take a knee at the T20 World Cup.

His refusal to participate in the anti-racism gesture sparked an explosive reaction in Australia, where indigenous ABC Breakfast presenter Tony Armstrong 'saw red' and blasted the South African's actions as 'racist' live on air.

De Kock, who comes from a mixed race family, issued an apology and explained his actions by saying he felt his rights were 'taken away' after players were instructed just hours before the game to take a knee.

The Project co-host, who is of Egyptian background and is Muslim, leapt to de Kock's defence and said he understood the cricketer's reluctance.

'Especially when it came out that he was just told on the way to the ground and all of that sort of stuff,' Aly told the program on Thursday night.

'I think that there's a thing that sport has to think about here, which is, it's one thing for sport to take a stand...

'It's another thing when you compel every player to take the same stand, especially when you compel them a couple of hours before a game.'

Aly said it was unfair of Cricket South Africa to spring the directive on players and that though he himself would have complied by taking the knee, he understands why de Koch took a defiant stand.

Indigenous ABC Breakfast presenter Tony Armstrong 'saw red' and blasted the South African's actions as 'racist' live on air

He has backed down from his fiery rant and described de Koch's apology as 'incredible'.

'Full credit it to him for coming out with such a strong statement, really explaining what it was all about,' he said.

Earlier in the segment, Armstrong, a former AFL star, explained why he 'saw red' and reacted so strongly to the controversy a day earlier.

'I felt so visceral about the fact that this player was not going to take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement,' he said,

Armstrong accepted de Kock's explanation and admitted he made a mistake by assuming the cricketer was racist for not taking a knee.

'I'm so glad that he's come out and said what he said. Because I think what he might not have realised in the moment was - just what it means to so many people,' he said.

All players and staff were directed to take a knee before the T20 World Cup match between South Africa and the West Indies on Tuesday night.

De Kock refused and instead pulled out of the match altogether for 'personal reasons'.

He has since apologised to his teammates and fans, saying it was never meant to be a 'Quinton' thing.

'I felt like my rights were taken away when I was told what we had to do in the way that we were told,' he said, adding he thinks other players were also uncomfortable with the order,' he said.

'I did not, in any way, mean to disrespect anyone by not playing against West Indies, especially the West Indian team themselves.

De Kock´s refusal to play because of the Black Lives Matter gesture sparked fierce reaction at home in South Africa, where issues of race and racism are constantly in the headlines because of the country´s history of forced segregation under the apartheid regime, which ended in 1994.

At the toss, South African captain Temba Bavuma said de Kock had withdrawn for 'personal reasons', but, after his side defeated the West Indies, Bavuma said he had been 'surprised and taken aback' by the development.

He said it had been 'one of my toughest days to deal with as a captain', but added: 'Quinton is an adult. You have to respect his decision, whether you agree with it or not. I can't force others to see things the way I do, and neither can they force me.'


Sequestration is a win for farmers

As COP26 in Glasgow fast approaches we see an increased media focus on achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and what can be achieved by 2030.

While net-zero by 2050 might be a legitimate goal much of the debate has tended to use it as a slogan in what is really a political campaign.

The debate is also focused on only one side of the net-zero equation, reducing emissions. Yet in Australia we have a huge opportunity to drive outcomes on the other side of the equation, capturing carbon which is why the Govt’s recent decision to include soil carbon sequestration as a key element in its net zero 2050 plan is a very positive move.

The solution is right under our feet – soil and soil carbon sequestration – Australia has an abundance of soil and soil that has been depleted of carbon over the past two centuries. At the Mulloon Institute we have a strategy to not only address this issue but in doing so help deliver potentially substantial financial returns for Australian agriculture and Australian farmers.

Since 2018 significant parts of Australia have experienced what Dorothea Mackellar described in her poem “My Country” as a land of “droughts and flooding rains” and “flood and fire and famine”.

When “My Country” was first published in 1908 Mackellar wasn’t focused on CO2 emissions and its ramifications on climate. She was simply recording what she experienced. We now have similar experiences albeit arguably more intensive. But Mackellar also wrote “green tangle of the brushes, where lithe lianas coil, and orchids deck the treetops and ferns the warm dark soil”.

With those words she was experiencing soils rich in carbon and that is certainly something we now have much less of. Scientists estimate we have lost between 40 per cent and 60 per cent of our soil carbon over the past 200 years. Herein lies the opportunity with a net-zero goal. Unfortunately, much of our farming sector has been spooked into thinking that working toward net-zero will be detrimental to their livelihood. The opposite is the case.

With so much soil carbon lost over the past couple of hundred years, the opportunity is now there to transfer it from the atmosphere and put it back where it belongs, in the soil. Carbon sequestration means healthier soils and more nutrient dense food. Increasing soil carbon is one of the substantial strategies required to reach net zero. Globally, soils contain more carbon than plants and the atmosphere combined. By regenerating our soils, we can sequester more carbon underground and slow climate warming. And our farmers can earn income by doing that through the selling of carbon credits.

Key to carbon sequestration is water. A hydrated landscape will speed up carbon sequestration. The recent IPCC Report particularly highlighted a future with less rain overall but more intensive events risking flooding and erosion. Therefore, the better utilisation of what rain does is crucial. Currently in Australia 50% of all rain that falls is lost through rapid run-off or evaporation due to poor ground coverage. Rectifying this can be straightforward and not necessarily expensive.

The Mulloon Institute (TMI) is demonstrating the potential in this approach in the Mulloon Creek catchment comprising 23,000ha with the support of more than 20 landholders. It is also one of just five global projects selected by the UN to assist in the development of guidelines for sustainable, profitable and productive farming.

TMI’s work has expanded to catchments in many parts of NSW, in North Queensland, WA, NT and soon Victoria. Demonstrating this work on the ground in partnership with communities helps farmers to understand the opportunity that landscape rehydration in conjunction with regenerative farming practices provides. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) soils, if managed sustainably, can sequester up to 0.56 petagrams of carbon (or 2.05 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent) per year, having the potential to offset yearly as much as 34% of agricultural global greenhouse gas emissions.

In Australia agriculture comprises 13% of our total emissions, so with our landmass, our farmers can contribute significantly to its reduction and at the current price of carbon of around $20 per tonne, but rising very quickly, that is not just a goal or a slogan, it is a great opportunity for our agricultural sector to get on board for net-zero.


Exclusive boys’ school dodges mask rule

A prestigious Sydney boys’ school has avoided health guidelines requiring high school students to wear masks indoors.

The NSW Education and NSW guidelines apply to both public and Catholic schools and also “strongly recommend” primary school students wear face masks as well.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the majority of independent schools have also decided to follow the guidelines, but King’s School in Parramatta has chosen not to mandate masks for its students.

A letter from headmaster Tony George said the NSW public health orders don’t require students to wear face coverings, and that the school would give students the choice of whether or not they wear masks indoors.

“It is important to note that the NSW Education Department guidelines are primarily intended for NSW public schools,” the letter read, according to the publication.

“The King’s School seriously considers all the advice and guidelines provided by all relevant authorities … it is the Public Health Orders that provide the express direction to independent schools.”

NSW Education’s guidelines also say singing is not permitted in schools, but King’s has said ti will allow singing if it is consistent with their educational programs.




Spooky Maths

Are you afraid of trolls? Vampires? Matrices?

For your Halloween pleasure, Matt Parker takes on all three fearsome concepts in the following 12 minute video:

If you're looking for more math to be scared by, since it was referenced in the video, here's Numberphile's five-and-a-half minute video on Vampire Numbers.

It's amazing how dated all the featured vampires other than Count von Count look in the videos....

Previously on Political Calculations

What’s Behind Rising Gasoline Prices in the Biden Era?

The Biden administration has taken a strange view that the rising prices many American households have faced throughout 2021 are a good thing because more people are buying goods.

Watch the following exchange between CNN's Jake Tapper and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in this short video clip from 15 October 2021:

If prices are rising because more people are buying goods, the economic law of supply says we should also be seeing the supply of those goods increase. That's because rising prices, all things being equal, gives producers an incentive to sell more of the things they produce. More importantly, rising prices give marginal producers who can dial up their production a very strong incentive to produce more. Otherwise, they're losing out on easy profits.

For much of 2021, you can see the Law of Supply at work, with some very noticeable exceptions, in the following diagram charting the weekly price and quantities of crude oil being processed at U.S. refineries throughout 2021.

U.S. Crude Oil Price vs Quantity, 1 January 2021 through 22 October 2021

Those very noticeable exceptions include:

In the case of the February 2021 Cold Weather Event, oil production in the U.S. fully recovered, with rising prices coinciding with rising supplies. The recovery from Hurricane Ida looks similar, up to a point. We see that something went very awry after 1 October 2021. Instead of the supply of crude oil rising with rising prices as it did earlier in the year, the supply of crude oil going into U.S. refineries has fallen, while prices have continued to escalate. Not only that, refineries never recovered to the levels they were producing before Hurricane Ida disrupted production.

Since 1 October 2021, something very different is at work in the U.S. economy. To confirm that's the case, here's our tool for determining whether supply or demand is behind changes in price. We've set the default entries to apply to the situation with oil being processed at U.S. refineries since 1 October 2021.

Price and Available Quantity Data
Input Data Values
How has the price of the item changed over a given period of time?
How has the available quantity of the item changed over that same time period?

What's Behind the Change in Price?

We confirm that oil prices are rising now because the supply of crude oil being processed at U.S. refineries has fallen. That is something that's now showing up across the U.S. in the form of rising gasoline prices.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration is claiming that demand is rising faster than supply, but their own data says otherwise. We also looked at the weekly number of barrels of crude oil from U.S. field production and being imported into the U.S., and find they have recovered to pre-Hurricane Ida levels.

Weekly U.S. Imports and Field Production of Crude Oil, 1 January 2021 through 22 October 2021

The only explanation we've found that correlates with the price and quantity data points to refineries temporarily shutting down to change over to approved winter blends of petroleum products. If that's indeed all it is, that environmental regulation-driven change has a negative economic effect similar to a sustained, small-scale supply disruption caused by a natural disaster.


U.S. Energy Information Administration. Petroleum & Other Liquids: Weekly Crude Oil Spot Prices (West Texas Intermediate). [Online Database]. 27 October 2021.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. Petroleum & Other Liquids: Weekly U.S. Refiner Net Input of Crude Oil. [Online Database]. 27 October 2021.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. Petroleum & Other Liquids: Weekly U.S. Field Production of Crude Oil. [Online Database]. 27 October 2021.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. Petroleum & Other Liquids: Weekly U.S. Imports of Crude Oil. [Online Database]. 27 October 2021.