Monthly Archives: January 2022

Modeling the S&P 500 with the Fed’s New Monetary Policies

Since order has broken down for the S&P 500 (Index: SPX), the past week has proven to be challenging for projecting the future for the index.

Here's an example of what we mean. The following chart illustrates the dividend futures-based model's alternative projections keeping all the same basic assumptions we've been using since 16 June 2021.

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2022Q1 - Standard Model (m=-2.5 from 16 June 2021) - Snapshot on 28 Jan 2022

Going by this chart, the S&P 500's trajectory has fallen below the bottom end of the range we would expect if those assumptions still held.

But since this situation developed shortly before the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee's 25-26 January 2022 meetings, we have a unique opportunity to adjust the assumptions behind the model. That's because these meetings give us additional information we need to calibrate the model.

In this case, the additional information tells us exactly how far into the future investors are focusing their forward-looking attention. Thanks to the Fed's announced plan to accelerate the tapering of its purchases of treasuries that have been stimulating the U.S. economy and to start hiking short term interest rates, we confirm that investors are closely focused on the current quarter of 2022-Q1.

The announced change of monetary policies affects the dividend futures-based model by changing the value of m, the simple multiplier used in the model. The next chart shows the results we obtained when we matched the alternate future trajectory associated with investors focusing their attention on 2022-Q1 with the level of the S&P 500 on 26 January 2022 when the Fed officially announced its new monetary policy plans.

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2022Q1 - Standard Model (m=-5.0 from 26 January 2022) - Snapshot on 28 Jan 2022

With a sample size of just three trading days since that event, it's still too early to tell if that will be a sufficient adjustment. The initial results are promising but we'll need many more days of trading to properly assess the model's performance.

In any case, our next calibration opportunity will come with the FOMC's next meeting six weeks from now. In between now and then, we'll have the random onset of new information to tell us how the model's multiplier might need to be adjusted. Here are the headlines that caught our attention for their market-moving potential, where we see the outsize role of the Fed in setting investor expectations and forward-looking focus during the past week.

Monday, 24 January 2022
Tuesday, 25 January 2022
Wednesday, 26 January 2022
Thursday, 27 January 2022
Friday, 28 January 2022

As of the close of trading on 28 January 2022, the CME Group's FedWatch Tool projects quarter point rate hikes in March 2022 (2022-Q1), May 2022 (2022-Q2), June (2022-Q2), July (2022-Q3), and December (2022-Q4), making five rate hikes during 2022. The FedWatch tool also projects quarter point increases in March 2023 (2023-Q1) and July 2023 (2023-Q3).

Then again, the Atlanta Fed's GDPNow forecasting tool is projecting a near 0% real growth rate for GDP in the current quarter of 2022-Q1, which would bring the Fed's rate hiking plan and the expectations related to it into question.

Australian Politics 2022-01-31 08:34:00


Scandalous deceit of parliament and the public

Bettina Arndt

How can we have trust in our institutions if governments can be hoodwinked into passing draconian legislation as a result of false, misleading statistics? We’re talking about totally wrong figures which claimed five times more sexual assaults than were actually reported and underestimated ten-fold the proportion of such cases determined in court.

This week’s intriguing story reveals how grossly inaccurate data was promoted and correct statistics suppressed whilst the media and feminist MPs scared the public into believing there was good reason to push through dangerous affirmative consent laws in NSW.

In March last year I wrote about the shockingly low figure of 2% which was being claimed as the conviction rate for rape cases in NSW. I questioned how this was possible, since all the data I could find suggested a very different picture, with every effort being made to push sexual assault cases through to trial.

In stepped Greg Andresen, one of the smartest and most tenacious researchers working on men’s issues in this country. Greg spent the next nine months on the case, starting with writing to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) which collects most of the relevant data, seeking clarification. BOCSAR confirmed they had no idea where that 2 per cent figure had come from and Greg embarked on a mighty investigation seeking to work out what the real statistics are and how the parliament and the public came to be so thoroughly misled.

He’s put together a timeline of the resulting paper trail, as he pursued relevant authorities to find out what happened. At the heart of the problem was a 2020 NSW Law Reform Commission report on the proposed sexual consent legislation which actually recommended against the enthusiastic/affirmative consent laws being promoted by AG Mark Speakman and his feminist colleagues. The NSW Bar Association warned that these laws “would potentially criminalise many sexual relations” and were likely “to result in significant injustice.” The purpose of these laws, requiring checking for consent every step of the way throughout lovemaking, is to find more men guilty of rape.

But the Commission’s report served another purpose. It was used with great alacrity by the feminist lobby who seized upon a key statistic included in the publication which claimed that only 3% of people alleged to have committed sexual offences ended up with a finalised charge. NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller was quick to jump on board, being quoted in The Telegraph saying “last year we received more than 15,000 reports of sexual assault. But men continue to get away with it – less than 2 percent of reports lead to guilty verdicts in court.”

Note that he’s talking about guilty verdicts, which are naturally less than the finalised charges which include unsuccessful cases, but either way the tiny numbers are far off the mark. The Commission screwed up big time, misrepresenting the true number of reported sexual assault incidents by a factor of more than five, which meant the proportion of persons of interest who faced a finalised charge for sexual offences was ten times what they claimed.

It took Greg nine months to get the authorities to acknowledge they’d published misleading data. On December 6 the Law Reform Commission finally published an extensive correction on their website, admitting they’d totally stuffed it. (Note – their correction is immensely confusing. If you plan to study it closely first read this guide, otherwise it will do your head in.)

It turns out that our criminal justice system isn’t failing rape victims. The Commission wrongly claimed five times as many cases of sexual assault incidents as were actually reported (14,171 vs 2,549)

The proportion of reported sexual offence cases determined in court was ten times more than the Commission first claimed – a leap from 3 to 30%.

There were 323 sexual assault guilty verdicts: that is, 12.7% of reported incidents led to a guilty verdict, not the 2-3% originally claimed.

Sexual assault is being treated very seriously. BOCSAR figures show mean custodial sentences for sexual assault are among the highest of all offences – three times as long as other assault and greater even than child sex offences. 57% of those convicted receive custodial sentences - about 4 times the rate of other assault and 6 times the rate (9.5%) for all offences. From March 2013 to September 2021 the number in prison for sexual assault more than doubled.

All these statistics are readily publicly available, yet our media and politicians instead chose to spend six months spreading alarmist misinformation based on the Commission’s wildly inaccurate statistics. “Many people [are] screaming for action, screaming for law reform and screaming for cultural change,” claimed Mark Speakman in one of a series of media stories quoting the misleading 2-3% figures. That was used as evidence of the failure of our criminal justice system to deal with sexual assault – all part of the campaign to push through affirmative consent laws.

Check out this sequence of events. Thanks to Greg Andresen’s efforts, the relevant authorities were made aware that the Commission had misled the public in September last year. Despite initial claims from the Police Commissioner’s office that they had used a different data set, Greg used a freedom of information request to obtain evidence that the Commissioner’s misleading statistics came from the Law Reform Commission’s report.

By September 21 the Commission acknowledged that BOCSAR was preparing a response to Greg’s enquiry – a tacit admission that they knew they had got it wrong.

“We expect to have it finalised this week,” a BOCSAR analyst told Greg on October 18 when he asked when he could expect a response. They claimed they still had to “run a few programming requests to extract the correct data.”

Two days later the new sexual consent reform bill was introduced into parliament and politicians lined up to show their woke credentials, one after another quoting the 2-3% figure as gospel, or screaming blue murder about the outrage of 15,000 sexual assaults complaints leading to such a low response. Green’s MP Tamara Smith was quoted in Hansard asking what kind of message is sent by the poor outcomes for this huge number of incidents, “The very architecture and fissures of the law around sexual assault have silenced and re-victimised mostly cisgendered women for so many decades. Where do we start to analyse the layers of patriarchy and marginalisation of women's voices?”

On November 18, Greg contacted BOCSAR to check on progress. The analyst claimed there’d been “some complexity in resolving the differences between the figures” and apologised that it was taking longer than anticipated.

On November 23 the legislation sailed through parliament. Within two weeks, the detailed correction had suddenly appeared on the Commission’s website. Game over.

Not that Mr Persistent has given up. Greg has put in a freedom of information request seeking correspondence between BOCSAR and the Commission over the past few months. And he’s been out there bombarding the ABC, SBS and all the other media sources who used the incorrect statistics alerting them to the Commission’s admission that they got it wrong. Not that they will do anything about it.

Luckily, there’s one politician prepared to stick his neck out. As always, Mark Latham from One Nation is on the case. He’s already posed a series of questions to the Police Commissioner and NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman, one of the key players in forcing the legislation through parliament. Latham plans to raise questions in parliament about the whole saga.

The question is whether the timing of all this was a coincidence or a conspiracy involving key government organisations determined to mislead the public and the parliament to ensure smooth passage of draconian new laws and set up the feminists for a very, very happy Xmas. Take your pick.

Either way, the Law Reform Commission failed in their duty to inform the parliament prior to debate of the sexual consent bill that the report they tabled in November 2020 contained major errors. The Commission was aware this grossly misleading data was being used to manipulate parliamentarians into believing the criminal justice system required drastic reform – and yet they did nothing.

This should be a major scandal and I need your help in ensuring it doesn’t pass unnoticed. Here’s a draft letter which I would like you to send to the NSW Premier and other members of parliament demanding a proper investigation of how this happened. With Victoria promising to introduce affirmative consent legislation this year and pressure for other states to follow suit, people living elsewhere should send the letter to their own parliamentarians and policy makers to warn about the duping of the public which has taken place in NSW.

On a light note, one of my correspondents has sent in this wonderful British television skit about pre-coital agreements from over a decade ago. It’s telling that these comedians assumed a signed and sealed pre-bonking deal would do the trick. Little did they know what the feminists had in store for us all, with the affirmative consent model requiring enthusiastic yelps right through the proceedings to avoid illegal behaviour. Wouldn’t they have fun with that absurd notion?

But sadly, this whole business is deadly serious, speaking to the capture of important government bodies by the feminist lobby which will stop at nothing in their quest to tilt the justice system even further to disadvantage men.


‘Treated like mugs’: Angry homeowners blast ‘farcical’ review

Furious homeowners have lashed out at the “farcical” situation that meant they were unable to post information vital to an investigation into the troubled building watchdog.

The Queensland Government’s review into the troubled building watchdog got off to a bad start when the official online chat room crashed soon after it was launched on Australia Day, January 26.

Homeowners complaining of inaction by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission labelled the review “hopeless sham”.

They’ve taken to social media to blast the “farcical” situation where they were unable to post information vital to the investigation.

“It’s bad enough that the Palaszczuk Government thinks so little of our plight that their review even includes what is basically a chat room,” said Mark Agius, who has spent more than $1 million on his four-year legal battle with the QBCC and the builder of his Townsville home.

“But it gets even worse because the government’s online-forum only runs till Tuesday, February 15 – so a matter of weeks – and then after you register your interest to take part, you can’t because the site can’t cope with the seemingly huge demand and crashed.

“While they eventually fixed the problem, it’s a farce and we’re being treated like mugs”.

Mr Agius, a telecommunications engineer, fears his Mount Louisa home will blow away in a cyclone after an independent expert pointed to 75 major defects, including structural defects.

He is furious with the state government building watchdog, the QBCC for dithering and then “agreeing to retrospectively downgrade wind speed cyclone safety standards without my knowledge”.

Mr Agius fears the speedy review will not have the time to process complex cases of botched building by hundreds of disgruntled homeowners.

The review into the QBCC is being headed by Jim Varghese, the newly-appointed Chancellor of Torrens University in SA who is also a member of Springfield City Group’s management team.

It was announced after serious allegations of ministerial intervention, conflicts of interest of board members and a lack of transparency.

Mr Agius says his home does not meet legal wind classifications, and insists a Royal Commission should be conducted into the QBCC.

“It is completely unreasonable that a consumer, a first homebuyer, has had to spend nearly $1.4 million to fight his case simply for choosing to build in a state that the regulator has lost touch,” he said.

“The public has lost confidence in the regulator. I have completely lost confidence in the regulator and its ability to perform its statutory obligations effectively.”

QBCC ‘fails’ to act over safety breaches and house collapse
“My home is entirely unsafe to occupy and is a significant safety risk not only to my family but to every member of the public living nearby,” he said.

“I believe the residential construction industry watchdog is failing Queenslanders, homeowners and tradies alike.”


Australia's health dictatorship and an Israeli critique

Australia seems to be sharing with the world novel ideas about how to persecute the unvaccinated. So far, it has been a raging success. France and Spain are now also considering banning unvaccinated tennis players from their tournaments and there are obstacles to competing at Wimbledon and the US Open.

Domestically, the decision of Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to revoke the visa of the world’s No. 1 tennis player has met with widespread approval. Australians have a tradition of cutting down tall poppies, hence the howls of outrage that Novak Djokovic had got special treatment in being allowed to enter the country unvaccinated. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are provisions for vaccine exemptions which Djokovic met — because he had had a recent Covid infection — as the Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke conceded on making his second attempt to deport the tennis champion.

In a wonderful display of Australia’s Catch 2022 Covid rules, tennis coach Darren Cahill said that an exemption for a recent Covid infection should exist only for people who want to be vaccinated, but in the end, it didn’t matter. Even though Djokovic had a valid medical exemption to compete in the Australian Open and had been granted a valid visa to enter the country, he was deported not because he was infected with a dangerous virus, but with a dangerous idea.

What idea? That he, Djokovic should be allowed ‘to choose what’s best’ for his body. Not in Australia. Echoing former prime minister John Howard, who said, when facing thousands of asylum seekers arriving on Australia’s shores, ‘We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come’, Prime Minister Morrison showed the world that he would decide what is injected into our bodies, and the circumstances in which it is injected. Sure, the federal government’s health website proclaims that ‘vaccination for COVID-19 is voluntary’ and people have the option to choose. But as thousands of doctors, teachers, paramedics and now Novak Djokovic have found out, choosing not to be vaccinated means choosing to lose your job.

Mr Morrison now finds himself in the tricky situation of having to explain why it is intolerable to have an unvaccinated tennis player in the country, when he has unvaccinated parliamentarians in his own party. Shadow Home Affairs Minister Kristina Keneally tweeted: ‘Mr Morrison cannot pretend that he is a wolf, tough on Novak Djokovic and his anti-vaxx stance, but a lamb in front of his own party room, unwilling to tell people like George Christensen, Senators Antic, Rennick and Canavan to pull their heads in.’

Since Mr Morrison relies on those parliamentarians to retain his own employment as prime minister, he finds them easy to ignore. After all, he only deported Djokovic to try to hang on to his job.

Australians, for their part, feel relieved that, even wearing their woke straitjackets, there is at least one minority that they have licence to loathe, to fire from their jobs, ban from social gatherings, and blame for everything that they hate about the pandemic.

Yet for all the self-righteous outrage about Djokovic, there is also a sense of discomfort.

‘If anyone is looking for a place to isolate, Melbourne Park looks like a great spot,’ tweeted one person. ‘No one is at the Australian Open.’

It must be galling for Australia’s political leaders and health advisers that, having bludgeoned and bullied almost every Australian into getting vaccinated, the country is second only to Israel, which this week broke the global record for daily Covid cases.

Morrison is desperate to point out that it’s not his fault. There has been no policy to let Covid ‘rip’. Regulations are still in place enforcing masks, distancing, density limits, isolation, testing and vaccination. What is painfully obvious is that they are not working.

NSW and Victoria have announced that booster shots can now be given every three months in a desperate attempt to stem the tide of infections. Good luck with that. A clinical trial in Israel has found that a fourth dose of the Pfizer vaccine doesn’t prevent infection by Omicron any more than did the third.

The avalanche of cases has prompted Professor Ehud Qimron of Tel Aviv University and a member of the Israeli government advisory committee on vaccines to deliver a devastating critique to the Israeli government in an open letter published in an Israeli newspaper. He slammed Israel’s Ministry of Health for pursuing ‘destructive policies’ such as lockdowns, restrictions and vaccine mandates out of a ‘lust for power, budgets, and control’, while ignoring epidemiological science, and refusing to adjust policies in the face of real-world data and ultimately to ‘admit failure’.

Professor Qimron criticised the refusal of the government to acknowledge that recovery from infection is more protective than a vaccine, that the vaccinated can catch and transmit Covid and that as a result Israel’s vaccine passport system made no more sense than branding people who chose not to get vaccinated as ‘enemies of the public and as spreaders of disease’.

He also deplored the fact that the government failed to adopt the ‘Great Barrington Declaration’ written by Sunetra Gupta, Jay Bhattacharya, and Martin Kulldorff of the universities of Oxford, Stanford and Harvard respectively which called for an end to ‘devastating’ lockdown policies. Instead, the Israeli government had chosen to ‘ridicule, slander, distort and discredit’ the academics and burn ‘hundreds of billions of shekels’ destroying the education of children, harming livelihoods, the economy, human rights, mental and physical health, slandering colleagues who did not surrender to the government narrative, turning people against each other, dividing society and polarising discourse.

The skyrocketing Omicron cases were not an emergency he said, the only emergency was that the same people who created these destructive policies were still in charge and held huge budgets which they would spend on propaganda and psychological engineering instead of strengthening the health care system.

Every word of this searing critique applies equally to Australia and to most of the Western world. How long before government advisers elsewhere start telling the truth to their masters? Now there’s a dangerous idea that our political leaders must desperately hope isn’t contagious.


When a corruption watchdog is itself corrupt

Tony Fitzgerald will be one of the chairs of a royal commission-style inquiry into the structure of Queensland's anti-corruption body, the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC), Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced today.

The bipartisan Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee (PCCC), which oversees the anti-corruption watchdog, recommended such an inquiry late last year in a scathing report to parliament.

That report stemmed from an examination of the CCC's investigation and decision to charge eight Logan City councillors with fraud in 2019.

It found CCC chair Alan MacSporran did not ensure the watchdog acted independently and impartially at all times.

Mr MacSporran, resigned last week – saying his relationship with the PCCC had broken down irretrievably which saddened him deeply, and defending a decades-long career where his honesty and integrity had never been questioned.

An earlier report on corruption by Tony Fitzgerald led to the creation of the anti-corruption body.(1 News Express)
Mr Fitzgerald conducted the landmark Fitzgerald Inquiry in the 1980s, which revealed systemic corruption in Queensland and led to the creation of what is now the CCC.

Retired Supreme Court judge Alan Wilson QC will also chair the inquiry which is expected to take six months.

'Very serious allegations'
Its terms of reference include a review of the CCC's structure in regards to its investigatory and charging functions, and the role of seconded police officers at the CCC.

Ms Palaszczuk said cabinet considered the PCCC's report into the CCC "at length".

"The CCC has enormous power. The check on its power is the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee," she said.

Integrity issues simmering away in the background for the past year have come to the fore this week for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's third-term government.

"These are very serious allegations and the report was given very serious consideration by cabinet.

"Who better to oversee an inquiry into aspects of the CCC than the man who created it?

"We believe in the checks and balances that are put in place as part of our democracy."

There have been calls for a wider inquiry into integrity matters within Queensland supported by two top bureaucrats — outgoing Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov and former State Archivist Mike Summerell


Australia ready to fill gas gap in Europe if Russia-Ukraine tensions explode

Australian LNG exporters are preparing to fill energy shortages across Europe if Russia cuts off gas supplies, with the federal government pledging to support “friends and allies” caught up in the escalating stand-off over Ukraine.

As US officials scrambled to source alternative energy supplies for countries heavily reliant on Russian gas, Trade Minister Dan Tehan and Resources Minister Keith Pitt said Australia was ready to ship LNG exports to Europe.

European nations on ­average draw more than 40 per cent of their gas imports from Russia – Germany’s reliance is even ­greater – sparking growing concerns that Moscow could limit supply to the continent in ­response to the Ukraine tensions.

Amid reports US officials were holding talks with Australian and Qatari gas suppliers, Mr Tehan said the nation stood ready “to support our friends and allies in the current challenging and complex geostrategic environment”.

“The current geostrategic environment that Australia faces is the most complex since the Second World War,” Mr Tehan said. “This environment will continue to present both challenges and opportunities to Australian exporters now and into the future.

“As Australian LNG exports are expected to grow this financial year, Australian LNG exporters are ideally placed to meet any ­demand that may arise globally.”
READ MORE:Trappett: Putin’s move matters to us too|Jennings: There is still a slim chance to stop war with Russia|Boyes: Russia-Ukraine conflict may trigger global famine|Ukraine’s blacklist: Killers, lawyers, writers and spies

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday threatened to slap sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s financial accounts and interests if any ­attack on Ukraine were made, as Russia said it was conducting new drills with 6000 troops near Ukraine and in the Crimea.

Moscow, which already has 100,000 troops near Ukraine, has demanded in recent weeks that the country, a former Soviet republic, never be allowed to join NATO and a stop to Western drills near the Russian border. The Biden administration has rejected those demands.

With Canberra already threatening to impose economic sanctions and assist Ukrainian officials to repel cyber attacks, former ­Australian ambassador to Ukraine Doug Trappett warned Mr Putin was attempting to ­restore the Soviet Union’s “status and influence”.

“Certainly the effort and ­resources he has invested in ­rebuilding the Russian military and ­trying to make Russia a seemingly indispensable part of various ­conflicts – from the Middle East and northern Africa to northeast Asia – would seem to indicate it,” said Mr Trappett, writing in The Australian.

Mr Trappett, Australia’s first resident ambassador in Kiev between 2014 and 2016, compared Mr Putin’s tactics with those of China’s “ongoing grey zone activities and incursions with Taiwan”.

“As daunting as it is, only ­robust and united diplomacy from NATO leading to a clear Russian understanding of the penalties at stake for any aggression might circumvent the situation,” Mr Trappett said.

“Australia may not want this to occupy too much US focus, but nor should we underestimate what neglect by NATO might mean for the credibility of the ­global rules-based order.

“For these reasons, we should also not underplay Australia’s role. Our own vast security challenges and limited resources preclude the provision of significant military support. But we have more skin in the game than we might realise. We should be vocal and active.”

The Australian understands European and British authorities have been investigating alternative energy, gas and LNG sources in response to tensions with Russia over cyber attacks, militarisation and espionage activity not seen since the Cold War.

While local gas producers were unlikely to become long-term mass LNG suppliers to ­Europe, Australian exporters could help plug emergency shortages and attract premium prices.

Global demand for Australian gas is already at an all-time high, with LNG export earnings forecast to increase from $30bn to $63bn in 2021-22.

Mr Pitt said that as a world-leading, reliable gas exporter, Australia was “ready to assist with any request for further supplies” from European nations. “This shows how important Australian resources are to energy supplies around the world,” he said.

He warned that ongoing “lawfare” by activists threatened “not just Australian jobs, but energy security in countries that rely on our gas exports”.

The US government on ­Tuesday revealed it was in negotiations with “multiple” governments and energy companies around the world to prepare for a co-ordinated “surge” of output, in case Russia reneged on repeated promises not to cut off power to NATO members in Europe. ­“Disruption in physical energy supply transiting through Ukraine would acutely affect natural gas markets in Europe, ­including how they deploy ­existing energy stockpiles, which are at low levels,” a senior US ­official said.

The official said Australia and Qatar were party to these discussions but didn’t provide further details given the market sensitive nature of the talks




Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 30, 2022


 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 30, 2022

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Yuan overtakes yen in global transaction volume 

[Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism 1-26-2022]

China in the Middle East 

Chas W. Freeman, Jr. [Naked Capitalism 1-27-2022]

How Supply-Side Reaganomics is linked to the slave holding Confederacy

Heather Cox Richardson, January 27, 2022 [Letters from an American]

On January 21, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen explained to the World Economic Forum that the Biden administration rejected Republican supply-side economics, ushered in during the Reagan administration. That system relied on tax cuts and aggressive deregulation to spark private capital—the supply side—to drive the economy. Supply-side economics has not increased growth, Yellen said, while it has failed to address climate change and has shifted money upward as it moved the burden of taxes from capital and put it on workers.

Biden’s economic policy, Yellen explained, rejected this philosophy in favor of what she calls “modern supply-side economics.” This term appears to be intended to suggest a middle ground between the supply-side economics of the 1980s, which focused on putting money in the hands of the wealthy, and the post–World War II idea that the government should manage the economy by investing in infrastructure and a social safety net.

Biden’s plan, Yellen explained, has focused on “labor supply, human capital, public infrastructure, R&D, and investments in a sustainable environment.” Rather than focusing on putting money into the hands of the “demand side” of the economy—consumers—it focuses on developing a strong labor force in a strong democracy to create growth through hard work and innovation.

In its emphasis on education and access to resources, the Biden administration’s economic policy echoes the ideology Abraham Lincoln articulated in 1859. Wealthy southern enslavers insisted the government should simply defend the property rights of the wealthy, who would amass wealth that they would then put to its best use to develop the country. But Lincoln argued that the government should nurture the country’s laborers, who were the nation’s true innovators and hardest workers and who, if properly supported, would move the country forward much faster than a few wealthy men would.

The pandemic

The American sickness

[Indignity, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-27-2022]

“Across this large and otherwise fractious country, in its famous “blue states” and “red states” alike, the United States is converging on an ever-more-clearly articulated answer to the coronavirus pandemic: the pursuit, in defiance of most of the rest of the world, of a nationwide Unlimited Covid policy….. But the movement for Unlimited Covid has a uniquely American character. It represents an informal yet powerful collaboration between the country’s two mutually hostile political parties, across two different presidential administrations. The country’s pandemic response was initially defined by Trump, who chose to deny the risks of the virus, to suppress testing to keep official case counts low, and to delay any mobilization to produce tests or protective equipment. Facing a reelection campaign, and encouraged by a party line that the disease would be no worse than seasonal influenza, Trump and the Republican Party counted on allowing the virus to spread freely, generating natural herd immunity, after which they hoped it would subside on its own. Joe Biden and the Democratic Party took power at the beginning of 2021, claiming a mandate to change the way the country handled the pandemic. In line with the party’s technocratic spirit, and with the benefit of the newly available vaccines, Biden quickly launched a mass immunization program. That same technocratic outlook, however, led the administration to pursue what it hoped could be the most narrowly efficient strategy against the coronavirus—a domestic vaccination program only, rather than promoting international immunization, and without trying to catch up with the sort of testing, tracing, and targeted suppression that other countries had deployed. When the virus kept mutating and proved itself able to spread even among vaccinated people, the Biden administration had not stockpiled tests or masks with which to respond to new waves. Caught up in its promise of a return to normalcy, and unable to narrowly tailor closures to meet specific problems, the administration failed to bring the country to a pandemic-fighting footing and allowed economic relief measures to expire. In the end, the country settled on a contest between the original Republican program of counting on the unchecked virus to produce national herd immunity and a Democratic program of counting on a combination of vaccines and infections to produce national herd immunity. Although the details of it played out as partisan conflict—right-wing commenters went so far as to obfuscate their own vaccinations, to undermine Biden’s efforts—the result either way was Unlimited Covid. By redefining its failure to control the coronavirus as a success, the United States has rewritten its social contract and reshaped the expectations of its people.”

Lambert Strether adds: “The ruling class will have slaughtered a million Americans and gotten away clean. It’s a remarkable achievement. These impressive numbers are, well, let’s be polite and say “world historical.

Health Care Crisis

Shkreli’s infamous 4,000% price hike gets him a lifetime pharma ban 

[Ars Technica, via Naked Capitalism 1-23-2022]

A federal court on Friday banned convicted fraudster Martin Shkreli from ever working in the pharmaceutical industry again in any capacity and ordered him to pay back $64.6 million in profits from his infamous scheme that raised the price of the life-saving drug Daraprim more than 4,000 percent.

US District Judge Denise Cote issued the lifetime ban after finding that Shkreli engaged in anticompetitive practices to protect the monopoly profits of Daraprim.

According to a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission and seven states—New York, California, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—Shkreli, his former pharmaceutical company Vyera (formerly Turing), and former Vyera CEO Kevin Mulleady created a "web of anticompetitive restrictions to box out the competition" in 2015 after they bought the rights to Daraprim.

The Nursing Home Slumlord Manifesto

Maureen Tkacik, January 26, 2022 [The American Prospect]

In a surreal new lawsuit, New York nursing home owners say they make nearly a billion dollars a year understaffing homes and shortchanging patients.

Could California Actually Pass Single-Payer Health Care?

[Economy for Allvia LA Progressive 1-29-2022]

...Assembly Bill 1400… introduced by State Assemblyman Ash Kalra in early January and sponsored by the California Nurses Association, would establish a publicly funded system in California guaranteeing free-of-charge health care to all residents, including immigrants. The system, dubbed CalCare, would cover medical, dental, and vision care, as well as mental health care. There would be no monthly premiums, co-pays or deductibles. Health care providers would simply bill the state government rather than insurance companies or patients….

In spite of the barrage of anti-single-payer propaganda that we are steeped in, support for a bill like AB 1400 remains strong. A May 2021 poll found 60 percent public support in California. Imagine how much bigger that number would be if Californians weren’t constantly exposed to the sort of misleading analysis that corporate media outlets like the Los Angeles Times print.

On January 20, the Assembly Appropriations Committee passed AB 1400, clearing the way for a floor vote on the bill by the end of the month. In spite of the California Democratic Party’s stated support of single-payer health care on its platform, not all Democratic Assembly members support AB 1400 (predictably California Republicans strongly oppose it). Most worryingly, California’s Democratic governor Gavin Newsom, who campaigned on single-payer health care, is wavering. Grassroots supporters like the California Nurses Association and Public Citizen are campaigning to push state lawmakers and Newsom to do the right thing.

Newsom’s Big Choice: Single Payer Or His Insurance Donors?

[The Daily Poster, January 28, 2022]

California’s governor is caught between his campaign pledge and the health care companies that bankroll him.

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

The Billionaire Side Hustle That Neoliberalism Created 

[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 1-24-2022]

….billionaire hedge fund manager Daniel Ochs just made a cool $100 million in the following manner: In 2019, he bought a sprawling Central Park South penthouse apartment for $93 million, and then he let a couple of years go by (presumably enjoying his nice apartment from time to time), and now he has sold that same apartment for $190 million.

What does this enraging little class war story tell us about America in 2022? It tells us that we have created an economic environment in which the ultra-rich can essentially print themselves money simply by buying rare luxury assets coveted by other ultra-rich people, and flipping them. This applies not just to penthouse apartments, but to art, and to rare jewelry, and to anything else with both an extremely high entry price, limited quantity, and high demand. Daniel Ochs is not even in the real estate business, but he just made more money than your family will make in three generations by doing nothing except sitting on his ass for a remarkably short period of time and watching the price of his rare asset inflate.

How Inequality Leads to Industrial Feudalism

[Originally published at The Institute for New Economic Thinking website, via Naked Capitalism 1-25-2022]

The paring down of welfare provision since the 1980s has coincided with asset price inflation. In the United States, Great Britain, and numerous other countries where residential real estate markets emerged, the housing market came to be relied upon for emergency credit, and cash flow to pay school fees and for private medical care. This has alienated the property-owning middle class from a welfare state for which that class pays but does not need because it can generate cash flow from property.

Rising asset prices generate a more unequal distribution of wealth by increasing the value of wealth that must be acquired to secure a position in the next wealth class. At the same time, the growing credit possibilities of rising asset values reinforce the floor preventing demotion into a lower social class. In light of asset price fluctuations, diversity and stability of the wealth portfolio, and the credit practices associated with such portfolios, thus have a defining role in both upward and downward movements across classes.

The Texas Electric Grid Failure Was a Warm-up 

[Texas Monthly, via The Big Picture 1-23-2022]

One year after the deadly blackout, officials have done little to prevent the next one—which could be far worse.

US 5G roll out ignores concerns for Air Transport safety

[Leeham News, January 18, 2022, via Naked Capitalism 1-23-2022]

In 2020 the RTCA (Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics) did tests that established the risk of 5G Base stations affecting the critical Radio Altimeters needed for bad weather landings as real. After FAA issues a 2021 December 23 AD (Airworthiness Directive) about the danger, airlines must now decide what flights must be canceled during bad weather spells on affected airports….

Since the FCC decision, FAA and the FCC have argued the issue, with FCC and the wireless industry arguing there have been no problems in other countries. For Europe, this is because the frequency separation is three times the US at 600MHz (5G stops at 3.6GHz). FAA and the airline industry argue air safety is not about “it hasn’t been a problem elsewhere “, only extensive verification and tests can decide if it’s safe or not.

Predatory finance

A Government Study Shows that Wall Street Megabanks Have Dramatically Shifted their Derivative Exposure to Corporations

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: January 27, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

The last thing a volatile stock market needs right now is more surprises from the dark corners of Wall Street. Unfortunately, we can guarantee you that more surprises are coming in the way of uncleared derivatives blowing up on the balance sheets of publicly-traded corporations….

A Bug in Early Creative Commons Licenses Has Enabled a New Breed of Superpredator 

Cory Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism 1-25-2022]

“The Trouble with Bitcoin”

[Folding Ideas, YouTube, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-24-2022]

TW: This is over two hours long, but one of the best summaries of the financial and economic derangements resulting from Obama’s catastrophic refusal to allow Great Financial Crash of 2008 to destroy its rich instigators. There is a Chapter 0, which focuses on the GFC. Lambert Strether added in his introduction, “every interaction I’ve ever had online with crypto and NFT enthusiasts fully matches what is described here; the nature of the web3 “community” is important to understand. Well worth a listen, as scam after scam after scam is unraveled.” So, the best way to understand the cryptocurrency craze is as a financial mental disorder resulting entirely from the policy failure of not addressing the causes of the GFC.



Neoliberal economics requires injustice and a police state

Chevron’s Prosecution of Steven Donziger 

The Nation, via Naked Capitalism 1-28-2022]

Exxon is using an unusual law to intimidate critics over its climate denial 

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 1-26-2022]

America’s largest oil firm claims its history of publicly denying the climate crisis is protected by the first amendment.  

Stephen Breyer’s Legacy of Destruction 

Matt Stoller [via Naked Capitalism 1-27-2022]

“President Clinton has been misled into making a grave mistake in nominating to the Supreme Court Judge Stephen Breyer,” wrote former FTC official Charles Mueller, the then-editor of the Antitrust Law and Economics Review in 1994, on the eve of Breyer’s confirmation. “On the basis of his antitrust record, he is an unjust man. He is also one who is intellectually and politically committed to a set of ‘economic’ theories that are demonstrably false and that will callously reduce the standard of living of the average American family in the decades to come.”


There were a host of unanimous decisions following Trinko that gutted antitrust law. There was Weyerhaeuser Co. v. Ross-Simmons Hardwood Lumber, which privileged big businesses who wanted to drive their competitors out of a market by overpaying for supplies in high fixed capital industries (which is one reason there are shortages today!). There was Pacific Bell Telephone Co. v. linkLine Communications, Inc, in which monopolists were allowed to use a tactic called a ‘price squeeze’ in which they exploited control over a vital resource to destroy competition. It got so bad that Breyer served as the Democratic leader in what the New York Times came to call Supreme Court Inc, for its favoratism to big business. (If you want a full rundown of some of Breyer’s decisions on corporate power, this blog post is good.)

Even Breyer’s ‘good’ decisions are a mess, because his faith in complex theoretical economics is overwhelming. Law professors joke about Breyer’s arbitrary ‘five part tests’ and weird attempts to clarify the law, which almost always makes things more complicated. In Actavis, for instance, Breyer wrote an opinion on whether pharmaceutical companies are allowed to pay competitors to stay off the market so they can keep their drug prices high, what is known as ‘pay for delay.’ Rather than just writing “No that’s a bribe and it’s a violation of antitrust law,’ Breyer said that every case had to be judged individually using an economic analysis of whether that particular arrangement might have some sort of efficiency benefit. It’s ridiculous, bribing someone to stay off the market should be the definition of an antitrust violation. Instead, Breyer’s sloppiness and unwillingness to state the obvious led to a decade of messy litigation, billions of extra costs in higher drug prices, and bitter unresolved Congressional debates.

A Brief History of Stephen Breyer Enabling Corporate Power 

[Balls and Strikes, via Naked Capitalism 1-27-2022]

“From October; still germane.”

Another Supreme Court Corporatist Would Be A Disaster

David Sirota [The Daily Poster, January 26, 2022]

Sixteen years ago, the Chamber [of Commerce] launched its campaign to own the Supreme Court with a bang: It got its own former lawyer, John Roberts, a seat on the panel during confirmation hearings that predictably focused on social issues and largely ignored the nominee’s record as “the go-to lawyer for the business community.”

Since then, the Chamber and conservative dark money groups have placed several Roberts clones on the court, and the putatively liberal minority has routinely acquiesced to the Chamber’s demands. Save for an occasional anomaly, the Roberts Court has typically delivered rulings that favor capital over labor, retirees, the environment and any other priority seen as an obstacle to private profit.

Data from the Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC) tell the story of a seismic transformation in American jurisprudence: Whereas Chief Justice Warren Burger’s court sided with Chamber amicus briefs just 43 percent of the time, the Roberts Court has sided with the Chamber 70 percent of the time — including 83 percent of the time in the most recent session….

...Roberts knows how to play the game: He occasionally offers the occasional non-lunatic decision on a high-profile social issue that gets tons of headlines, all while his extremist economic rulings are either depicted as “moderate” or aren’t part of the media discourse at all.

Union Membership Numbers Reflect Broken Labor Laws

[AFL-CIO, January 20, 2022, via NC State AFL-CIO 1-20-2022]

Today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) annual report on union membership makes it clear that American labor laws are unquestionably broken. While the report indicates a 0.5% drop in union membership from 2020–2021, the data is not representative of the greater union trends taking place across the country. These statistics highlight the urgent need for the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act….

The BLS report also shows promising data for communities of color. Black workers continued to have the highest unionization rate in 2021, with 12.9% membership. According to an EPI study, Black union workers are paid 13.7% more than their nonunionized peers.

According to a 2021 Gallup poll, union approval is at its highest level in over 50 years, with 68% of Americans supporting organized labor, including 77% of young people. An MIT study found that 60 million Americans would join a labor union if they could, underscoring the need for changes to labor laws.

Latest data release on unionization is a wake-up call to lawmakers

[Economic Policy Institute, January 20, 2022]

...The share of workers who do not but would like to have a union at their workplace is far higher than the share who had union representation in 2021 (11.6%). While more recent data are unavailable, an analysis of 2017 survey data showed almost half of nonunion workers polled (48%) said they would vote to create a union in their workplace tomorrow if they could. That figure is up substantially from about one-third (32–33%) of nonunion, nonmanagerial workers asked similar questions in 1977 and 1995 (Kochan et al. 2018; EPI 2021)….

...A key contributor to the decline of unions is fierce corporate opposition to union organizing. It is now standard, when workers seek to organize, for employers to hire union avoidance consultants to coordinate intense anti-union campaigns. A recent EPI analysis concluded that private-sector employers spend nearly $340 million per year hiring union avoidance advisers to help them prevent employees from organizing (McNicholas et al. 2019). And though the National Labor Relations Act makes it illegal for private-sector employers to intimidate, coerce, or fire workers in retaliation for participating in union-organizing campaigns, the penalties are grossly insufficient to provide a meaningful disincentive for such behavior (Oliver 2021). The persistence of illegal retaliation is evident in a review of federal records: Employers are charged with violating federal law in 41.5% of all union election campaigns and one out of five union election campaigns involve a charge that a worker was illegally fired for union activity (McNicholas et al. 2019). And these data do not include the veiled threats and other legal ways that employers can thwart unionizing efforts, thanks to weak labor laws (Lafer and Loustaunau 2020).

Kroger Goes To Washington: The grocery behemoth taps Washington’s tipsheet industry to spin away the headlines about striking workers and poverty wages.

Andrew Perez [The Daily Poster, January 27, 2022]

Revealed: the Flint water poisoning charges that never came to light 

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 1-23-2022]

The former criminal prosecution team investigating the Flint water crisis was building a racketeering case against state officials. Then the team was dismantled (The Guardian, via The Big Picture 1-23-2022]


The Folly of Pandemic Censorship: As the latest anti-Substack campaign shows, more and more people are forgetting why free speech works 

Matt Taibbi, January 27, 2022 [via Naked Capitalism 1-29-2022]

People know authorities lie, which is why the more they clamp down, the bigger their trust problem usually becomes. Unfortunately, censors by nature can’t help themselves. Our official liars are always trying to learn from their errors. For instance, film of wounded, suffering, or dead American boys, as well as of the atrocities we committed, not only resulted in pressure to end the Vietnam War, but probably prevented future invasions of countries like Nicaragua, as voters recalled the sickening “quagmire.”

Military officials saw this, and when they finally got to go to war again, they banned the filming of coffins and instituted an embed system that closed off the bulk of adversarial reporting. Of course, that was not enough, because organizations like Wikileaks found ways to sneak out forbidden pictures. So, the powers that be imposed much tougher penalties on whistleblowers going forward. Instead of letting the Daniel Ellsbergs of the world write books and give lectures, the new reality for people like Julian Assange or Edward Snowden is permanent exile or imprisonment. The jailers seem quite proud of this, but the unofficial pseudo-ban on Assange coverage has only added to the impression of a not-free, certainly not trustworthy system of media.

Instead of seeing the root causes of this atmosphere of rapidly declining trust, officials keep pushing for even more sweeping campaigns of control, most recently seeking to make platforms like Google and Twitter arbiters of speech.

Green New Deal - An opportunity too big to miss

Idaho Is Sitting on One of the Most Important Elements on Earth

[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 1-26-2022]

The clean-energy revolution is unleashing a rush on cobalt, reviving old mines—and old questions—in a remote forest. 

What Does a Gas Country Do Without Gas? The Dutch Can Answer

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 1-26-2022]

The Netherlands is retrofitting pipelines to transport hydrogen — a risky strategy given the fuel isn’t expected to be cost-competitive before 2030

In a First, an ‘Atomic Fountain’ Has Measured the Curvature of Spacetime 

[Scientific American, via The Big Picture 1-25-2022]

The atom interferometry technique uses the effects of time dilation to reveal subtle changes in gravity’s strength

Information age dystopia

Is it already too late to say goodbye?”

[Jonathan Cook Blog, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-24-2022]

“My blog posts once attracted tens of thousands of shares. Then, as the algorithms tightened, it became thousands. Now, as they throttle me further, shares can often be counted in the hundreds. “Going viral” is a distant memory. No, I won’t be banned. I will fade incrementally, like a small star in the night sky – one among millions – gradually eclipsed as its neighbouring suns grow ever bigger and brighter…. But this isn’t really about one small light being snuffed out. This isn’t just about our relationship coming to an end. Something bigger, and more disturbing, is taking place. Journalists like me are part of an experiment – in a new, more democratised media landscape. We have developed new reader-funded models so that we can break free of the media corporations, which until now ensured billionaires and the state controlled the flow of information in one direction only: to speak down to us. The corporate media need corporate advertising – or their owners’ deep pockets – to survive. They don’t need you, except as a captive audience. You’re both their prisoner and their product. But the lifeblood of a reader-funded journalist, as the name suggests, are readers. The more of you we attract, the better chance there is that we can generate donations and income and make the model sustainable. Our Achilles’ heel is our dependence on social media to find you, to keep reaching you, to offer you an alternative from the corporate media. If Facebook (sorry, the Meta universe) and Twitter stop independent writers from growing their readerships by manipulating the algorithms, by ghosting and shadow-banning them, and by all the other trickery we do not yet understand, then new voices cannot grow their funding base and break free of corporate control. And equally, for those like me who are already established and have significant numbers of readers, these tech giants can whittle them away one by one. Ostensibly, I have many tens of thousands of followers, but for several years now I have been reaching fewer and fewer of you. I am starved of connection. The danger, already only too obvious, is that my readership, and funding model, will slowly start to shrivel and die. Joe Rogan, Russell Brand and a handful of titans of the new media age are so big they can 

Democrats’ political suicide

How Biden's Wasted Year & GOP Obstruction Will Hurt for the Foreseeable Future Nomiki Konst interview of David Dayen, January 25, 2022 [YouTube]


The case for a better way to poll 

(Grid, via The Big Picture 1-24-2022]

“In recent years, progressives have invested heavily in crafting a narrative which holds that all or almost all of their main policy ideas are overwhelmingly popular with the public…. But is it really true? After all, if Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of liberal policies, how are Republicans winning elections roughly half the time?… American public opinion is a conflicted jumble of progressive and conservative impulses with limited knowledge of the details of the issues, mixed feelings about the parties, and a preference for divided government and compromise. What’s interesting about polling on party trust is it reveals the enduring significance of this old conventional wisdom even in an era of polarization, presidential tweets, media fragmentation and whatever else has changed about the political system. It’s common for Democrats to deliberately seek out coverage of their proposals as ‘sweeping’ or ‘transformational’ as if the mass public’s biggest concern about the party is that it’s not left-wing enough. But there’s no evidence that it’s true of the public at large.”.

“Joe Manchin sank Biden’s agenda. Democrats are lucky to have him.” 

James Carville [Vox, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-28-2022]

“Just look at how Democrats organize and spend money. For Christ’s sake, [South Carolina Democrat] Jaime Harrison raised over $100 million only to lose his Senate race to Lindsey Graham by 10 points. Amy McGrath runs for Senate in Kentucky and raises over $90 million only to get crushed by Mitch McConnell. They were always going to lose those races, but Democrats keep doing this stupid shit. They’re too damn emotional. Democrats obsess over high-profile races they can’t win because that’s where all the attention is. We’re addicted to hopeless causes. What about the secretary of state in Wisconsin? Or the attorney general race in Michigan? How much money are Democrats and progressives around the country sending to those candidates? I’m telling you, if Democrats are worried about voting rights and election integrity, then these are the sorts of races they should support and volunteer for, because this is where the action is and this is where things will be decided. You know who is paying attention to these races? The Republican Party. Last I checked, Republicans raised $33 million for secretary of state races around the country. The Democrats had until recently raised $1 million. I think it’s now up to $4 million. That’s the story, right there. That’s the difference, right there. Bitching about a Democratic senator in West Virginia is missing the damn plot.” • James Carville is… a liberal Democrat. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t know his nuts and bolts. (What he doesn’t mention is that Charles Booker almost beat Amy McGrath in the primary, and for whatever reason, liberal Democrat donors weren’t all “not a dry seat in the house” mode about him. One can only wonder why.)

The dark side

Revealed: The Billionaires Funding the Coup’s Brain Trust 

[Rolling Stone, via The Big Picture 1-23-2022]

Conservative mega-donors including the DeVoses and Bradleys are pumping big money into the Claremont Institute think tank that fueled Trump’s election-fraud fantasies.

Gingrich threatens jail for Congressmen investigating January 6 insurrection

Heather Cox Richardson, January 25, 2022 [Letters from an American]

Also on Sunday, on the Fox News Channel, former Republican representative from Georgia Newt Gingrich attacked the January 6 committee as a lawbreaking lynch mob and said that when the Republicans retake the house and the Senate in fall 2022, the committee’s members will face “a real risk of jail.”

It’s Long Past Time to Prosecute Phony GOP Electors 

[The Bulwark, via The Big Picture 1-23-2022]

The individuals who signed and transmitted fraudulent Electoral College ballots claiming their states voted for Donald Trump must be held to account.

Poll: Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans say they will not vote for any candidate who admits Biden won 'fair and square'

[Yahoo News, via Heather Cox Richardson, January 28, 2022 [Letters from an American]

A recent poll shows that 57% of Republicans say they will not vote for any candidate who admits Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election, a result which explains why presidential hopefuls continue to talk about election crimes.

TW: This is not the result of Trump’s influence; it is the result of half a century of [anti]Republican politicians “throwing red meat to their base” and stoking hatred, fear, and suspicion of Democratic politicians and voters. 

Pennsylvania court strikes down state’s mail-in voting law 

Reuters L 1-29

“Jailed Oath Keeper’s Estranged Wife Shares Snaps of ‘Escape Tunnels’ Dug Into Backyard”

[Daliy Beast, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-27-2022]

“When a federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed pending his trial for conspiracy charges on Wednesday, they cited testimony by Rhodes’s estranged wife, who alleged that he installed “elaborate escape tunnels” in his backyard. On Wednesday, she posted the receipts. Tasha Adams shared several snaps on Twitter appearing to show Rhodes snugly tucked into a muddy hole and wrote in a separate tweet: “Folks if you ever feel tempted to rent a backhoe and dig escape tunnels in the backyard of your rental house, keep in mind it may back to haunt you if you later attempt to overthrow the U.S. government.” Rhodes is arguably the highest-profile person charged for his involvement int he Capitol riot.” • I’m trying to think of a successful revolutionary who dug tunnels in his backyard, but I’m coming up empty.

National Butterfly Center in Mission, TX closed due to right-wing terror threats

xaxnar, January 28, 2022 [Daily Kos]

The email from the Center makes it clear that the grounds themselves are in direct danger from conference attendees who intend to form a “rolling car protest,” described as a ’Trump Train’-style “caravan to the border” that will likely make a stop at the National Butterfly Center. The Center’s location just minutes away from the Rio Grande has made it a hotbed of conspiracy theories and rumors, which claim it’s a hub of drug smuggling and human trafficking. Many of these rumors are pushed by Brian Kolfage, the leader of an eight-figure fundraising effort to privately build Trump’s border wall.

Kolfage, who has called the Center’s employees “butterfly freaks” running a “sham” sanctuary devoted to profiting off human misery, has pushed the theories hard, including sharing doctored photos of rafts at a dock outside the Butterfly Center. He’s also spammed Wright with violent threats over Twitter, eventually resulting in his account being suspended. Kolfage himself is not speaking at the event, presumably because he’s currently under indictment for wire fraud and tax evasion due to allegedly stealing from the We Build The Wall nonprofit he founded….

“...By late 2019, conspiracy theorists were circulating memes falsely accusing the National Butterfly Center of being a front for sex traffickers. Wright and colleagues faced in-person threats from members of militia groups like the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, as well as threatening phone calls and emails from a man who was revealed to be a Texas police officer.”

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

“Warnings of ‘Civil War’ Risk Harming Efforts Against Political Violence”

[War on the Rocks, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-25-2022]. 

“The emerging cottage industry of speculation and alarm specifically about a civil war in the United States worries us. The shape and content of this debate — covered in venues as mainstream as NPR — risks mis-framing an urgent problem for non-specialist audiences. Rather than asking whether the United States will have a new civil war, commentators ought to be asking: What kinds of risks for political violence does the United States face? What forms might that political violence take? Who might perpetrate this violence, and which communities will be most affected by it? Retraining our focus on political violence allows us to consider the real risks ahead for the country, to work alongside the many groups already actively trying to push back illiberal violence, and to protect its most likely victims. Scholars of civil war typically understand the concept as one specific manifestation of violence among many. Although researchers may disagree on the particulars, they agree broadly that civil wars are conflicts within a country between the ruling government of that country and named, politically motivated armed groups that commit violence against one another above some threshold of battlefield casualties. For expert audiences, civil war violence is not one-sided violence — where an armed group targets civilians or the government with no organized retaliation — nor is it simply one-directional state repression. It is not indiscriminate terrorism aimed at the population, or even systematic, targeted campaigns of violence against minorities or specific groups. Rather, to be categorized as a “civil war,” violence must be part of a meaningful contest over the central government of the country, or a meaningful effort at secession. Civil war scholar Barbara Walter, who has been a prominent voice in this debate, has been careful to note she wants to avoid “an exercise in fear-mongering.” When she warns of a civil war, she points not to something akin to the U.S. Civil War — still the most destructive war in the country’s history — but rather to something with the intensity of Northern Ireland’s Troubles or Italy’s Years of Lead. ‘The next war is going to be more decentralized, fought by small groups and individuals using terrorism and guerrilla warfare to destabilize the country,’ Walter told Vox’s Zack Beauchamp, adding that ‘We are closer to that type of civil war than most people realize.’ In our own work, we have researched political violence that can occur in the absence of civil wars, or alongside them. Our concern with the frame Walter and others offer — and with the attached ‘civil war or not‘ headlines — is that it misses the wide array of other kinds of political violence the United States has not only historically experienced, but is currently experiencing. Crisp scholarly definitions belie the lived experience of political violence, which can be pervasive without ever rising to the level of civil war.

America’s Asymmetric Civil War

Michael Lind [The Tablet, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-27-2022]

“There are no red states or blue states. Instead, there are blue urban cores floating in a sea of red. Even the exurbs and rural areas in blue states like California and New York tend to be overwhelmingly red and Republican…. The big divide is within metro areas, between the blue downtowns and their inner-ring suburbs that are home to the American oligarchy and its children and retainers, and the red exurbs; outer-ring suburbs tend to be battlegrounds between the Democratic and Republican coalitions. This geographic concentration hurts the Democrats in the Senate and the Electoral College…. The Democratic coalition is an hourglass, top-heavy and bottom-heavy with a narrow middle. In addition to hoovering up the votes of college-educated Americans, the Democrats are the party of the Big Rich—tech billionaires and CEOs, investment banking houses, and the managerial class that spans large corporate enterprises and aligned prestige federal agencies like the Justice Department and the national security agencies. This mostly white and Asian American group cannot win elections without the overwhelming support of Black Americans, and smaller majorities of Hispanic and Asian American voters, clustered in the downtowns and inner suburbs. The high cost of living in Democratic hub cities forces out the multiracial middle; the exceptions tend to be civil servants like police and first responders and teachers who can (sometimes) afford to live in or near their downtown jobs. The social base of the Democrats is neither a few liberal billionaires nor the more numerous cohorts of high-school educated minority voters; it is the disproportionately white college-educated professionals and managers. These affluent but not rich overclass households dominate the Democratic Party and largely determine its messaging, not by virtue of campaign contributions or voting numbers, but because they very nearly monopolize the staffing of the institutions that support the party—K-12 schools and universities, city and state and federal bureaucracies, public sector unions, foundations, foundation-funded nonprofit organizations, and the mass media. By osmosis, professional and managerial values and material interests and fads and fashions permeate the Democratic Party and shape its agenda. While the liberal Big Rich cluster in silver apartments and offices in trophy skyscrapers in the inner core of blue cities, the elites of the outer suburbs and exurbs tend to be made up of the Lesser Rich—millionaire car dealership owners, real estate agents, oil and gas drilling equipment company owners, and hair salon chain owners. This group of proprietors—the petty bourgeoisie, to use Marxist terminology, compared to the Democratic haute bourgeoisie and its professional allies—forms the social base of the Republican Party, despite efforts by Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri, Marco Rubio of Florida, and others to rebrand the GOP as a working-class party.”

When an Australian government ignored the order of a court


The Djokovic affair is now dead as far as most people are concerned but I don't think it should be. It showed how even a democratic government with conservative credentials can sink into Stalin-like disrespect for justice and the rule of law.

The episode greatly undermines any faith in the adminstration of immigration law in Australia and inspires doubt about the rule of law in Australia generally. Are any of us safe from government high-handedness? We clearly are not.

Djokovic was arrested and extensively grilled when he entered Australia by the border bureaucracy, terminating in his arrest and imprisonment. But he appealed to the court to get himself released. The court found for him but the government deported him anyhow, on the flimsiest of grounds. What the judge in the case said is revealing. It clearly shows that Djokovic did no wrong. The wrong was done to him by the Australian government, probably for political reasons. Stalin had political reasons for his actions too

"The judge presiding in the Novak Djokovic court case has said the world No.1 appeared to have provided all the evidence he was asked for on his arrival at the Australian border.

Judge Anthony Kelly made the comments after the court spent time going through Djokovic’s travel declaration before he arrived in Australia.

Djokovic’s counsel Nicholas Wood SC notes that in the request for declaration of vaccination, the tennis player claimed he could not be vaccinated on medical grounds.

The court heard when prompted to provide proof of this Djokovic uploaded the medical exemption document from the CMO at Tennis Australia.

Judge Kelly said he was somewhat “agitated” about the situation and asked why the Tennis Australia document was not accepted by the delegate making the decision on Djokovic’s visa.

“Here, a professor and an eminently qualified physician have produced and provided to the applicant a medical exemption,” Judge Kelly said.

“Further to that, that medical exemption and the basis on which it was given was separately given by a further independent expert specialist panel established by the Victorian state government and that document was in the hands of the delegate.

"The point I am agitated about is what more could this man have done?"

Judge Kelly added that the transcript of Djokovic’s early Thursday morning interview with border officials also showed Djokovic tried to provide officers with everything they needed.

Judge Kelly noted the Djokovic transcript said: “If you will let me talk to people even though you have taken my phone from me, I will try and get you what you want.""


Feminism’s embarrassing fall from ‘Grace’

If the past couple of years has taught us anything, it is that the current wave of feminism has become downright damaging to women.

The embarrassing decline of feminism could not have been any clearer than in Grace Tame’s confected performance with the Prime Minister. Unfortunately, what the commentary both in support and condemnation of her seems to have missed is that her timing and demeanour were carefully designed to achieve one thing and one thing only: to keep the spotlight firmly on herself – even when her year of special treatment was over (and, sadly, at the expense of her successor).

Supporters will say that Ms Tame did a wonderful thing by drawing attention to her cause. How being disrespectful to a Prime Minister advances the cause of child victims of predatory grooming and sexual abuse is not entirely clear, so perhaps they would care to list the changes Ms Tame has brought about for abused children? If they cannot, it is because there are none to speak of, but this does not seem to bother the luvvies.

I cannot blame anybody for wanting to avoid the issue of child sexual abuse, because small children being molested is a uniquely distressing matter to confront. In contrast, the nebulous and ever-expanding bandwagons of ‘ending gender-based violence’ and ‘calling out the patriarchy’ are much more palatable.

They are also a gateway into the huge, self-perpetuating and well-funded industries of advocacy and consultancy that offer an endless gravy trail of ‘jobs for the girls’, which has become the whole point of modern feminism. As a movement, feminism has become self-indulgent, elitist, and completely obsessed with insisting that the fatuous is extraordinary and that the shallow has hidden depth.

This is bad enough on its own, however the most terrifying betrayal of women comes when you take a critical look at who the so-called feminist movement most lauds, not just in Australia, but around the world. The women feminism cheers the loudest are not the scientists, the successful entrepreneurs, the outstanding athletes, or the multitude of others who have achieved remarkable things – often, against exceptional odds.

No, the women held up as beacons of hope and change for the future of womankind are, almost without exception, those whose only real achievement in life – aside from being suspiciously photogenic – is determinedly wearing the badge of gender-based victimhood at all costs. In instances where they have not experienced actual violence or abuse, they simply create it – hence why ‘unwanted looking’ has become a violation.

Is this what we want our daughters, our sisters, ourselves to aspire to? Do we really want young women to believe that the best way for a woman to get ahead in life is to take on a victim role and see the entire world from that blinkered view? Do we honestly want the next generation to dumb itself down and sell itself short like this? Are we alright with teaching girls that victimhood is a credential – and, it seems – a better one to have than the ability to think deeply and critically?

The perpetually outraged will insist that using victimhood for ‘positive change’ is inspirational and will bang on about how ‘brave’ such women are. If we take a step back from the breathless fawning, the rah-rah cheer-leading, and the spectacularly out of touch sphere that is Twitter, then we are forced to admit a simple truth: it does not take ‘courage’ or ‘bravery’ to ‘speak out’ when you have a ready-made cause wanting to adopt you, an incredibly sympathetic media backing you to the hilt, and legions of politicians waiting to be on your side if they think there might be some advantage in it.

This also raises the question of what, exactly, is the ‘positive change’ that is happening? Realistic and effective responses to addressing violence against women do not seem to be part of the equation, because the preferred feminist approaches of ‘awareness raising’ and ‘cultural change’ have been going on for years with – shock horror! – no apparent impacts on the statistics. It is hard to point to anything more tangible than promotion of the view that the ‘ideal woman’ is one whose value lies in talking about her victimhood and the inferred victimhood of all women.

When we buy into the cult of victimhood, we are also buying into the unspoken notion that women are, deep down, helpless little creatures who need somebody to protect them. Today, that somebody is invariably ‘the state’, but is that really any different to the days when women were seen as needing constant protection by a father, brother, or husband? As a society, we need to get past our fixation with this damaging, insulting role for women and completely change the message.

Our message to the girls and women of the future must be this: one woman can change the course of the world – but that woman, no matter what she has been through, will never need to play the victim-card to do it.


Another winner for Australia: Zinc

The price of zinc is rising and it will push up the price of everything from renewable energy to mobile phones.

Industry experts say it's likely the price will continue to rise amid a supply crisis in Europe

But it is good news for miners — Australia is the world's second-biggest producer. The price of zinc on the London Metal Exchange hit a 14-year high in October and is holding near that price.

It is one of many metals that are going up in price and that is pushing up the cost of renewable energy systems in particular.

Since the beginning of 2020 the price of the PV-grade polysilicon used in solar panels has more than quadrupled, steel has increased by 50 per cent, copper by 60 per cent and aluminium by 80 per cent.

The rising prices could also push up the cost of mobile phones, which require many of the same resources.

Pete Lau from phone manufacturer OnePlus told Business Insider last year that "prices across the supply chain, from raw materials to 5G chips, are all rising".

Variscan Mines managing director Stewart Dickson said the zinc price could climb yet.

The surging cost of energy in Europe has forced some smelters to shut down, tightening up supplies. Belgium cut its production in half midway through last year.

"Supply is projected to fall by 3 per cent a year, but demand will double by 2030," Mr Dickson said. "So the price is set to rise."

His company is involved in two zinc projects in Spain and other projects in Chile and Australia.

Zinc is used as a protective coating on steel, combines with copper to make brass and is in chemical compounds in rubber and paints.

It is used in electroplating, metal spraying and automotive parts as well as in electronic goods like fuses, anodes and cell batteries. You can find it on roof gutters, engravers' plates, cable wrappings and sunblock.

But the biggest impact of rising zinc prices may be in the renewables sector. "Batteries need zinc, solar panels need zinc to improve energy flow and wind turbines need zinc," Mr Dickson said.


Older people say school curriculum is ‘too woke’, Australian values must be protected

Generations are split over whether schools should protect Australia’s “inherently Western and Christian” values, as academics slam the curriculum.

Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg says people would be supportive of keeping Australia Day but also establishing a second day to celebrate the country’s Indigenous heritage. “More Indigenous leaders are talking about the value of keeping the day on 26 January because it is a day of truth telling,” Mr Bragg told Sky News…

Seven in 10 Baby Boomers think more needs to be done to nurture and protect Australian values.

Overall, more than half of Aussies want to see our values protected, according to an exclusive YouGov poll commissioned by News Corp between December 27 and January 10.

But there are big differences in opinions between the generations, with 15 per cent of Gen Z – those born after 1997 – going as far as saying there should be less emphasis placed on Australian values.

The survey of 2297 people also found that one in four Australians have concerns that the school curriculum is too ‘woke’.

Fiona Mueller, an adjunct scholar from the Centre for Independent Studies, said while teachers tried to instil respect, compassion and fairness in schools, the current curriculum made it almost impossible for students to develop a deep appreciation of our “inherently Western and Christian” based Australian values.

“There is no overarching intellectual and academic framework that places Australian values at the heart of learning,” she said.

“It is ironic that the dominance of themes such as climate change, racism, globalism and all the other -isms makes it hard to maintain a clear emphasis on longstanding Australian values.”

Temaeva Legeay-Hill, 21, who is studying accounting and finance at university in Melbourne, said the combination of compassion and giving people a fair go was her interpretation of Australian values and ones that the government promoted on its Home Affairs website.

She said Gen Z was becoming increasingly disconnected with these values because they were not seeing them in society.

“Based on the data, our First Nations peoples are not being given a fair go,” Ms Legeay-Hill said.

“Academically they have lower levels of numeracy and literacy and poorer health outcomes.”

She said Gen Z would only want to nurture Australian values if they were authentic.

Meanwhile, the poll also showed that 56 per cent of people believe the curriculum should continue to include lessons on Australia’s links with Asia, Indigenous Australians and the environment.

While a quarter felt the curriculum had become too “woke”, Gen Z does not agree with that sentiment.

Ms Legeay-Hill said including “humanity into academia” was not a bad thing and helped to strengthen cultural bonds.

Glenn Fahey, a research fellow in education policy, said today’s curriculum was contributing to children having a “negative, pessimistic view of Australia – and life in general for that matter – that will feel foreign to past generations and to parents”.

He said there was nothing woke about learning of Australia’s role in Asia, the lives and histories of Indigenous Australians, or the environment, but it depended how the subjects are taught.

He said a “woke” example of Australian history is to paint it “as a racist, genocidal country rather than recognising that we live in the most harmonious and successful multicultural country in the world”.

“The problem is that students may only get a one-sided, politicised view that fails to provide the full context,” he said.




The Invention of Imaginary Numbers

Why would anyone invent imaginary numbers?

The answer is to solve real world problems you otherwise cannot without them. In the following 24-minute video, Veritaseum's Derek Muller works through the intuitions that led to solving quadratic equations, then to cubic equations, then to the invention of imaginary numbers as a powerful problem-solving tool for maths, with very real world applications in physics:

Put bluntly, imaginary numbers may be essential for describing reality:

A type of experiment known as a Bell test resolved a different quantum quandary, proving that quantum mechanics really requires strange quantum linkages between particles called entanglement. “We started thinking about whether an experiment of this sort could also refute real quantum mechanics,” says theoretical physicist Miguel Navascués of the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information Vienna. He and colleagues laid out a plan for an experiment in a paper posted online at in January 2021 and published December 15 in Nature.

In this plan, researchers would send pairs of entangled particles from two different sources to three different people, named according to conventional physics lingo as Alice, Bob and Charlie. Alice receives one particle, and can measure it using various settings that she chooses. Charlie does the same. Bob receives two particles and performs a special type of measurement to entangle the particles that Alice and Charlie receive. A real quantum theory, with no imaginary numbers, would predict different results than standard quantum physics, allowing the experiment to distinguish which one is correct.

Fan and colleagues performed such an experiment using photons, or particles of light, they report in a paper to be published in Physical Review Letters. By studying how Alice, Charlie and Bob’s results compare across many measurements, Fan, Navascués and colleagues show that the data could be described only by a quantum theory with complex numbers.

Another team of physicists conducted an experiment based on the same concept using a quantum computer made with superconductors, materials which conduct electricity without resistance. Those researchers, too, found that quantum physics requires complex numbers, they report in another paper to be published in Physical Review Letters. “We are curious about why complex numbers are necessary and play a fundamental role in quantum mechanics,” says quantum physicist Chao-Yang Lu of the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, a coauthor of the study.

When we wrapped up the biggest stories in math for 2021, the publication of the paper by Marc-Olivier Renou, David Trillo, Mirjam Weilenmann, Thinh P. Le, Armin Tavakoli, Nicolas Gisin, Antonio Acín, and Miguel Navascués demonstrating quantum theory based only on real numbers can be falsified in Nature just barely missed our cutoff date for inclusion. As such, we consider Renou's advance to be a leading contender for the biggest math story of 2022. And we have nearly 11 more months left to go!