Monthly Archives: February 2022

The S&P 500 in the Week Russia Invaded Ukraine

When it comes to the U.S. stock market, a geopolitical event like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine isn’t much more than an additional source of noise in the market.

Evidence supporting that assessment can be seen in the latest update to the alternative futures spaghetti forecast chart for the S&P 500 (Index: SPX) . Here, we find that after dipping outside the redzone forecast range we set up several weeks ago as investors initially responded to the Ukraine crisis, that reaction was short lived as the trajectory of the index has since jumped back up toward the middle of the forecast range. Where we would expect it to be in the absence of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2022Q1 - Standard Model (m=-2.5 from 16 June 2021) - Snapshot on 25 Feb 2022

Using the middle of that forecast range as a counterfactual for how investors would have set the value of the index in the absence of that geopolitical event, we estimate that at the peak of its impact on Wednesday, 23 February 2022, the invasion reduced the value of the index by 5.1% at the market's close.

In terms of its 31 December 2021 market cap, a 5.1% decline represents about $2.2 trillion, so that's a very noticeable amount of noise for a geopolitical event, but it's still noise. By Friday, 25 February 2022, much of that additional noise had dissipated, with the S&P 500 rising to be within 1.3% of its predicted no-invasion level.

Is that an unusual lack of impact for something that has dominated the news cycle since it happened? Not really. This latest example aligns with Barry Ritholtz found when he studied eighty years worth of geopolitical events for how they affected the U.S. stock market. Here's the key takeaway from his analysis:

Most of the time, markets are hardly affected by these sorts of terrible events.

How much noise Russia's invasion of Ukraine ultimately generates will depend on how its risk environment evolves, as events from this past weekend demonstrate. We would describe it as a highly fluid situation presenting a lot of risk, both potential and realized, for investors.

While Russia's invasion of Ukraine was the biggest news item of the trading week that was, other stuff happened too. Here's our summary of market moving headlines from the President Day holiday-shortened trading week. Spoiler alert: the most important news shaping future expectations for U.S. stock market investors during the week came on Thursday, 24 February 2022 and had to do with the Fed's plans for hiking short term interest rates:

Tuesday, 22 February 2022
Wednesday, 23 February 2022
Thursday, 24 February 2022
Friday, 25 February 2022

The onset of the Ukraine crisis had very little impact on investor expectations for future rate hikes. The CME Group's FedWatch Tool projects a total of six quarter point rate hikes in 2022, starting in March 2022 (2022-Q1), followed by additional hikes in May 2022 (2022-Q2), June 2022 (2022-Q2), July 2022 (2022-Q3), September 2022 (2022-Q3) and November (2022-Q4). That last rate hike represents the only change from the previous week, as investors had anticipated 2022's final rate hike would occur in December 2022.

Meanwhile, following the release of personal income and spending data, the Atlanta Fed's GDPNow tool reduced its projection of real GDP growth in 2022-Q1 down to 0.6%.

Australian Politics 2022-02-28 09:28:00


Constable Zachary Rolfe's murder trial told Kumanjayi Walker posed 'low threat' when second and third shots were fired

This is absurd and shows no awareness of the use of firearms in policing. The key point is that rapidly aimed fire from a handgun is not very likely to hit its target. Most shots will go wild. So the only way of being reasonably sure that the target is hit is to fire multiple rounds in close succession, which is exactly what Rolfe did.

It is easy to do armchair pontification about rights and wrongs after the event but the police are often confronted with a situation requiring split second decisions, which was the situation here. The root cause of the death was the deceased's hostility to the police, not the action of the police in response to it

It may be relevant that Const. Rolfe appears to be a little guy who would reasonably be particularly fearful of any physical confrontation

Biomechanical expert Andrew McIntosh on Friday gave evidence in the NT Supreme Court, where Constable Rolfe, 30, has pleaded not guilty to murder and two alternative charges over the fatal shooting in the remote community in November 2019.

Dr McIntosh was asked about the moments after Mr Walker began to struggle with Constable Rolfe and fellow officer Constable Adam Eberl, when the 19-year-old stabbed Constable Rolfe in the shoulder with a pair of medical scissors.

The first shot then fired by Constable Rolfe is not the subject of any charges, but prosecutors argue the second and third shots fired 2.6 and 0.5 seconds later were not legally justified because the threat posed by Mr Walker had been contained.

Dr McIntosh said the body-worn camera footage of the incident showed that after the first shot, Mr Walker and Constable Eberl fell onto a mattress on the floor.

As Mr Rolfe moved towards them with his gun drawn, Dr McIntosh said Constable Eberl could be seen putting his body weight on top of Mr Walker, who was lying on his right side.

Dr McIntosh said this meant Mr Walker's right arm, which was holding the scissors, would likely have been restricted in its movement range.

Under questioning from the prosecution, he agreed that when the second and third shots were fired, Mr Walker was not likely to be a "direct threat" to Constable Rolfe.

He agreed Mr Walker was likely to be a "low threat" to Constable Eberl, because his ability to deploy the scissors was impaired, as his arm was stuck beneath him.

"If you're using a weapon in your hand and your arm is pinned in that way, then it's very difficult to develop force with the weapon that you have because you can't accelerate your arm, reach any velocity, reach any momentum and exert a force onto someone else," Dr McIntosh said.

He said the degree of restriction depended on how much of Mr Walker's right arm was under his own body and that even if only the upper arm was pinned down, his movement would have been "greatly constrained".

Under cross-examination from the defence, Dr McIntosh agreed the body-worn camera footage never showed the extent of control Constable Eberl had on Mr Walker's right forearm, while he was lying on top of him.

Dr McIntosh also agreed that he had the "luxury of slowing down" the vision to make his analysis, which the officers were not able to do during the incident.

"Do you accept that the perception, or perspective, of both officers Eberl and Rolfe, may be quite different from your analysis?" defence barrister David Edwardson QC asked.

"Yes," Dr McIntosh replied.

Forensic pathologist Paull Botterill also took the stand on Friday and told the court the "overwhelming majority of stab and incised wounds" in the general community do not result in death.

But he said Mr Walker's scissors did have the potential to cause a life-threatening injury if they had struck a vulnerable part of the body at a sufficient force.

He added that if Mr Walker's arm movement was restricted, the likelihood of a lethal injury was slim.

"If the limb was not able to freely move, then the only way that an implement such as those scissors could have resulted in a serious life-threatening injury would be if there was movement of the other party, the police officer, up against that immobilised weapon," Dr Botterill said.

"And it's very unlikely to result in a potentially fatal injury."

At the end of Friday's proceedings Crown prosecutor Philip Strickland SC said he would call two more witnesses on Monday and expected to wrap up the prosecution's case on Tuesday morning.


High school principal sparks outrage for claiming 'better breeding' is needed to improve student grades

I think he was just saying that there is a limit to what schools can do. The real work needed has to be done in the home

A former high school principal has been slammed for suggesting 'better breeding' is required in order to improve students' grades at a NSW public school.

The acting principal at Lithgow High School had been in a meeting with the director of educational leadership in September 2020 when they made the accusation.

They were asked by the director: 'What will it take to move students from Band 4 to Band 5 in each HSC course?' to which they replied 'better breeding'.

Their contentious response, which was recorded in the minutes of the meeting, has been unearthed by One Nation MP Mark Latham, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Mr Latham condemned the 'slur' as 'nasty, elitist and condescending' to the people of Lithgow as well as the students enrolled at the school.

The MP stumbled upon the comment when reviewing documents about a School Excellence Policy, following a parliamentary call for papers.

Mr Latham said the 'nasty' slur was the last thing the Lithgow community needed as it entered an economic transition following a loss of jobs in the mining sector.

'Is this really how schools in Lithgow are being run? With elitist, condescending, nasty reflections on the breeding of this working class community? he said.

'These are leaders who are supposed to have effective ways of improving school results – yet instead they are sneering at the school community by saying there's something wrong with their breeding.'

The Department of Education has responded to concerns by launching a formal investigation into the comments.

Underneath the initial response of 'better breeding' the relieving principal goes on to suggest grades could be improved by choosing the correct maths course.

'We have the small numbers to allow students to push themselves to achieve mathematically in a higher course,' they wrote.

'This means we achieve bands 3 and 4 in Advanced courses rather than bands 5 in the Standard course. This gives our students more scope to access university courses.'

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said she was 'shocked' that such a statement had come from a staff member.

While it is unclear who made the 'elitist' remark the department of education has stated it came from a former relieving principal at the school.

'The Department unreservedly apologises for the comment, which was inappropriate and doesn't reflect the standards we expect of our principals,' a spokesperson said.

'The comment was made by the then relieving principal, who is no longer in the role or teaching at any school.

'The matter was immediately addressed by the local director. It has been referred to the department's Professional and Ethical Standards Unit.'

Lithgow High School is located in the NSW Central Tablelands, about a three hour drive west from Sydney, and has close to 900 students enrolled.


Reporters swallow spin on coal power closures

Australian business journalists apparently missed some of the world’s biggest stories of the past year when they reported on last week’s $5bn bid by local billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and Canadian “alternative asset manager” Brookfield.

They did not link the bid and statements about bringing forward the end of AGL’s coal power generation to four months of European power shortages and soaring prices driven by a lack of wind power, nor to brownouts in California and Texas or even to Russian gas price extortion.

The body representing the transmission industry here, Energy Networks Australia, warned last Thursday week: “Increases in energy supply charges across the UK are cause for concern as almost 22 million households will see an average increase in their energy bill of 54 per cent from April.”

Yet only days later many at the Nine newspapers were starry-eyed about their local tech hero bidding for an old-fashioned power company so he could close down its coal-fired power generators earlier than AGL had already planned. They seemed to accept Cannon-Brookes and Brookfield were putting the planet before their pockets.

Reporters showed no sign they had heard about last week’s pact between Russia and China to shore up 100 million tonnes of coal a year for their mutual benefit, a deal announced the Friday before Monday morning’s AGL bid.

This paper’s environment editor Graham Lloyd summed it up perfectly, telling this column: “Mike says renewables freeloading off coal are cheaper so ipso facto, building five times as much renewables will be cheaper still.”

READ MORE:Is nature really at the centre of the ‘green dream’?|Reporters find it hard to tell truth about renewables
Kerry Schott, head of the Energy Security Board, could see no reason for the government to block the bid, writing in The Australian Financial Review online last Tuesday. Schott did not mention early coal closures would depend on storage technologies to firm the power grid when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine.

Yet she told PV magazine on May 4 last year: “I know a lot of people hate this but (it’s being proposed to) leave open some management of (coal station) exits so that we can actually keep the system going.

“As coal leaves the system it will be replaced by a mixture of pumped hydro and gas. In due course we will have hydrogen to complement the gas.”

Schott said in PV that big batteries were helpful for stabilising the grid but “as it stands they just aren’t a reliable capacity replacement”. Big batteries were about network frequency harmonisation, and their storage lasted a maximum of four hours.

Not much has been said about storage in the reporting of Mike’s excellent power adventure. Indeed, the bid scarcely mentions storage, although the word does appear in a response to AGL’s rejection of the $7.50 a share offer.

Mark Carney, vice-chair of Brookfield Asset Management, did however point to the reason this kind of deal is flourishing globally: “Energy transition will be one of the biggest investment opportunities of our lifetimes. It is estimated $US150 trillion will need to be invested globally through 2050 to drive the decarbonisation of energy markets.”

This column argued on October 18: “Investors are short-selling the fossil fuels industry because they can make more money on taxpayer-guaranteed renewables.” The transition is giving dictators in Moscow and Beijing a lever over the West that they could not have dreamt of. US President Joe Biden is playing into their hands right now, making it harder for gas pipeline companies to operate in the US.

In the UK it is possible only 10 companies of the 70 that supplied the electricity market a year ago will survive. Many in the UK want Britain to resume fracking and expand its North Sea oil drilling program.

Part of the problem around the world wherever the energy transition is advanced is the zealotry of environmentalists and their business and media acolytes who won’t admit renewables just don’t work well when demand for them is highest: at breakfast time, especially in winter while the sun is low and the wind calm, or at dinner time when the sun has gone.

They also hate admitting gas plants that can be turned on and off quickly are one of the most efficient ways of dealing with the intermittency problem.

Schott’s AFR piece argues the government has no need to worry about the AGL bid driving up prices. But speaking to this column on Thursday she did say AGL, and all other large suppliers, would be forced to rely more on gas when intermittent energy flows were low and that all the large suppliers would need pumped hydro.

“Particularly in Victoria, the state will need to build more gas and hydro dispatchable power,” Schott said.

Many in business and the media suggest storage batteries at the home, charged by rooftop solar during the day, may be the solution to firming the network. But just like state government subsidies for electric cars, this will involve the poor effectively paying more for power to subsidise those who can afford home battery storage.

Another preferred firming solution of the Energy Security Board is investing billions of dollars in extending transmission lines to help to offset geographical differences in wind and solar output on given days.

Schott told this column: “The way you deal with intermittency is first of all by having a lot of transmission to add renewable capacity and to use different regional weather patterns across the network. Typically if it’s not windy in northwest Victoria and South Australia, which have a similar wind system, it’s then very windy in New England. If you have more transmission lines when you have wind drought down south you can use more wind from Queensland and New England.”

So while the ESB has a plan to make the transition to renewables smooth and reliable it is not unreasonable for governments and large users such as the Tomago aluminium smelter in the NSW Hunter Valley to be concerned. When people such as Cannon-Brookes simply announce renewables are cheaper than coal, they are forgetting the tens of billions of dollars that will need to be spent on storage and new transmission lines, all of which will have to be paid for by consumers.

It is only the market design mechanism created in response to political decisions that has made coal uneconomical. Coal stations that run 24 hours a day cannot compete at five-minute bidding intervals with renewables, gas and hydro. Gas and hydro can be turned off when not used but large coal plants cannot.

Back to the real story about the AGL bid and coal closures. As Matthew Warren pointed out in Thursday’s AFR, AGL’s NSW and Victorian power stations, Bayswater and Loy Yang, are its most modern. Whatever Cannon-Brookes says and whoever owns AGL, these will be its last ones standing. AGL will need them for insurance so it can meet its contracts – lest it follow the UK suppliers down the tube.


Anti-mining green frauds not welcome in Central Qld

Robert Schwarten of the ALP

If the Greens think they can repeat Bob Brown’s stunt of bringing an anti-mining convoy to Central Queensland, they’ve got another thing coming, says Robert Schwarten.

Greens leader Adam Brandt says he will repeat green fraud Bob Brown’s stunt in Capricornia in bringing up a paid gaggle of misfits and no-hopers to protest mining in Central Queensland.

He is in for a rude shock if he expects the same reception. Here’s why.

In 2019, Labor candidates in CQ were instructed to ignore Brown and his convoy of paid parasites on the way to promote a public meeting hosted by the LNP in Clermont.

I actually paid for a large sign to put on my ute and parked at the northern entrance to the city. I authorised the wording, “Welcome Brown and your convoy of coal-fired hypocrites.”

Russell Robertson, the ALP candidate for Capricornia, received a call from someone in the campaign office telling him to get rid of the signage.

As Robertson did not have any involvement he did not comply. Some campaign flunky rang me and I impolitely told him where to go.

This time Labor’s message is clear. Coalminers are not criminals, coal is here for as long as the market says, our coal workers will not be put at risk by overseas miners undercutting their jobs and product quality.

I note that has displeased some of the keyboard job snobs who tut-tut about Labor endorsing coalminers as candidates.

Our party was formed on miners, shearers and other manual workers. It is still their party, the one that still stands up for workers’ rights, and the Tories are still those that oppose them. Rump parties are still the opportunistic oddballs they always were.

Anthony Albanese has had to campaign directly against the inner-city Greens to preserve his ­political hide. He is not going to ­sanction any meekness towards a Greens invasion into Labor votes here.

His message could not have been clearer last time he was in Rocky: “Capricornia needs a coalmine ­worker in Canberra.”

He pointed to the number of times current LNP member Michelle Landry had voted down legislation aimed at improving the lot of workers. Casualisation, penalty rates, mine safety and wage parity were just a few points he raised.

Given that Australians are generally waking up to these impostors it is likely the vote will come down further.

The truth is, Labor has a proud record of achievement on environmental ­reforms. Brown big-noted himself on saving the Franklin River in ­Tasmania, but that was the Hawke Labor government.

Brown was merely the protester. The protectors were the Labor MPs who voted to save it.

The Greens voted (with the LNP and One Nation) to sink the Labor Carbon Trading scheme a decade ago. Every bit of carbon thrown into the air since then is theirs.

The Greens have never saved anything. They have never had to put up a Budget, much less a serious policy.

The billboards are awash up here with desperate statements from the LNP of a green alliance with Labor.

Reality is with polling pointing to a Labor lead the numbers mean it will be the LNP, which may well be trying to cobble together One Nation, the Katters and every other ratbag rump if they want to keep their hands in the public till.

Mining is not the conversation piece it was last time. Skills shortages, house prices, the lack of rental ­accommodation, nursing home workers’ pay are just to pick a few.

The sports rort issue is hotting up too as impoverished clubs want to know where their money is.

Petrol prices and interest rates are hot topics – the cost of meat in the beef capital is at an all-time high. That wages are not keeping pace is also being felt and talked about.

Adam Brandt and his other ­impostors take note. Whichever way you come into CQ, you will be met with a Labor-led protest.




Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – February 27, 2022


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – February 27, 2022

by Tony Wikrent

Ukraine — Russia

“Shipping braces for impact as Russia-Ukraine crisis intensifies”

[Freight Waves, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-24-2022]

“Military action could curtail ship movements in the Black Sea, a key transit point for dry bulk exports. In fact, Russian military exercises have already done so. VesselsValue analyzed ship-movement data and found that Russian naval maneuvers ‘visibly impacted traffic.; Russian and Ukrainian waters of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov were designated ‘listed areas’ by the insurance industry’s War Risk Council on Feb. 15, meaning higher war risk insurance premiums. According to BRS [brokerage], the Black Sea area was the world’s second-largest grain-exporting region in 2021, with 111.2 million tons of cargo; Russia and Ukraine accounted for 30% of global wheat exports, and Ukraine accounted for 16% of global corn exports. Ukrainian corn could be first in the line of fire. BRS noted that by the end of January, Ukraine had already exported 71% of wheat predicted for the current marketing period but just 32% of its predicted corn exports. Agribulk exports face risks on land as well, not just at sea. ‘An attack or land grab by Russia could sharply reduce grain production as farmers flee the conflict, agricultural infrastructure and equipment are damaged, and the region’s economy is paralyzed,’ said BRS. “A substantial part of Ukraine’s most productive agricultural land is in the east and therefore vulnerable to any potential Russian attack.’ According to Braemar ACM Shipbroking, this landside risk could affect the coming wheat marketing season. ‘The main grain-producing regions are notably located along the Russian border,’ said Braemar, which pointed out that the military threat coincides with the beginning of the spring wheat planting period.”

Putin Looks to Win Both the War & the Peace

Ian Welsh, February 25, 2022

The sanctions which are about to hit Russia are serious, but if they don’t include wheat, aluminum, energy, or maritime shipping or hit oligarchs by kicking them out of London and other European capitals, they aren’t really going to matter.

Putin has made fools of the Western elite class again. Yes, the intelligence was right, but it didn’t matter. He’s figured exactly out what the West will and won’t do. He calculated right, they calculated wrong….

Let’s be clear, China will never let the West choke out Russia because China knows that the US (and increasingly the EU) considers China the real enemy — once Russia is taken out, China’s next. If Russia goes down, China no longer has a secure back, or a secure source of oil, minerals, or food. With Russia, China has a good chance of winning the oncoming Cold War. Without it, China loses that war.

War in Ukraine: How we got here — and what may come next 

[Grid, via The Big Picture 2-25]

Grid is Matthew Yglesias’​​​​​​​ new platform.

The History of Economic Sanctions as a Tool of War 

[Yale University Press Blog , via Naked Capitalism 2-25-2022]

Biden’s Ukraine Plans Face Wall Street Roadblock

David Sirota and Julia Rock [The Daily Poster, February 24, 2022]

...Biden faces a significant obstacle: corporate lobbyists’ success in shrouding the American finance industry in secrecy, which makes it far easier for Russian oligarchs and their business empires to evade economic sanctions.

The situation spotlights how America’s money-drenched political process can create national security challenges. In effect, Wall Street’s overwhelming power to shape U.S. regulatory policy — fueled by massive campaign contributions and an army of lobbyists — may defang some of the White House’s most potent economic weapons against an international adversary.

More than two decades ago, federal investigators warned Congress of potentially illicit streams of cash flowing from Russia into the opaque American financial system — and leaks of the so-called Panama Papers and Pandora Papers over the past few years suggest those flows have only increased, as have oligarchs’ attempts to evade sanctions.

Strategic Political Economy

The Mystery of the Declining U.S. Birth Rate 

[EconoFact, via The Big Picture 2-21-2022]

The U.S. birth rate has fallen by 20% since 2007. This decline cannot be explained by demographic, economic, or policy changes.

Chris Hedge - What Fuels Right-Wing EXTREMISM?



….in Weimar the liberals the Social Democrats and [president Friedrich] Ebert are in charge. The nazis are polling in the single digits. [Then] you have the 1929 crash, and Ebert and the Social Democrats, instead of responding to the distress of the German people, seek to placate the international banking system [by] impos[ing] draconian forms of austerity including abolishing unemployment insurance… after the Reichstag fire the Social Democrats are terrified that the Nazis are going to lock them up and they all flee to Switzerland…. In Leipzig 100,000 people were in the streets protesting martial law….

I think we underestimate the legitimate rage on the part of a working class that was deeply betrayed, in particular by Bill Clinton, and that the rage is worse towards the Democrats because they pretended that they were watching out
for their interests.

“How Canada’s Freedom Convoy could be a wake-up call for the Teamsters”

[The Week, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-23-2022]

“The trucker convoy protests have little to do with traditional labor issues, and lots of Teamsters view them with disdain; many of those participating in the protests are nonunion owner-operators. The Ottawa convoy’s target is not the boss, but an elected federal government with an incentive to project strength by rejecting demands of a group that are damaging the economy. The disruption caused by the trucker protests was not sufficient to force the Canadian government into serious concessions, and they’re even less likely to do so in D.C. The Teamsters facing off against UPS, on the other hand, have better odds. The union is unlikely to officially support blockades due to potential liability, but legal mass pickets and community campaigns are likely, and it is possible to imagine some truckers (indeed, possibly some of the same truckers — there are, Sasha notes, labor unionists of all races, genders, and political orientations) taking matters into their own hands and shutting down access to major shipping corridors. With the union withdrawing its labor, militant disruptions, and public sympathy, the company could be forced into major concessions. Anyone hoping that the trucker convoys will turn into a durable expression of working-class power is deluding themselves, whether they be naive leftists who see a revolution around every corner, or conservative populists offering ludicrous pronouncements about the Republican Party being a “workers’ party.” But history sometimes takes strange courses, and it is possible to imagine that this display of economic disruption by anti-mandate truckers in Canada and the United States could be remembered as a wake-up call for labor.” 

I think what Lambert Strether adds is more important: “In one of life’s little ironies, it’s the owner-operators who are leveraging control over the means of production for political ends. And if the Teamster leadership — and Big Labor generally — had an ounce of solidarity in their veins, they would have used their muscle on behalf of, say, PPE and paid time off for nurses (also unionized). In the face of a debacle like that, the upcoming UPS contract negotiations seem rather beside the point.”

How the Left Should Think About Inflation 

James Galbraith [The Nation, via Naked Capitalism 2-21-2022]

In stating recently that “inflation is the Fed’s job,” President Biden gave compact expression to three radically false and politically suicidal propositions: 1. The past year’s price increases are part of a process that must be suppressed. 2. Anti-inflation policies are the preserve of the central bank. 3. The Federal Reserve can suppress inflation without also wrecking the economy, the president’s own program, his party, and his political prospects.

Let me offer three counter-propositions: 1. There is no compelling reason to raise interest rates, now or later. 2. Nevertheless, future price pressures are inevitable.  3. A progressive anti-inflation strategy is possible and necessary—one that supports jobs and living standards and doesn’t involve the Federal Reserve.

Why have prices risen this year? First of all, because world oil prices jumped in the spring of 2021, while supply chain troubles hit new car production and drove up used-car prices. Those were the big items. 

The CIA and the New Dialect of Power 

[American Affairs, via The Big Picture 2-26-2022]

Previous generations of CIA officers spoke an older dialect of power—the genteel, patrician, transatlantic accent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jackie Onassis, Gore Vidal, and Katherine Hepburn. Like the new dialect of power, the transatlantic accent was used to distinguish the speaker from the masses. It was taught in boarding schools modeled on the British system, as the accent itself was modeled after the English. Many of the CIA’s initial recruits were brought up in such boarding schools, where, as Vicent Bevins points out, they inherited the upper-class imperial values of the British. [Emphasis by TW]

The British Seeds of American Decline
Michael Lind, July 31, 2012 [The Globalist]

And, a piece I wrote in March 2019:

Economics as Cultural Warfare: The Case of Adam Smith

Adam Smith’s ideas placed no value on industry, and it is therefore no real surprise that in those countries where Smith’s ideas came to dominate—such as USA and United Kingdom in the 1980s—entire national economies were deindustrialized, the working class destroyed, and the financial systems allowed to be reshaped and dominated by waves of dirty money, transforming them into  crimonegnic environments.

Adam Smith was the voice of the British establishment and the newly minted British commercial oligarchy which vehemently opposed the idea that the United States should attempt to be anything other than producers and suppliers of basic agricultural commodities. According to Smith and his fellow apologists for British imperialism, any attempt to foster the growth of manufacturing industries and thus establish America’s economic independence from the powers and princes of Europe, was “unnatural”: a violation of the established order of Nature—and therefore a sinful exercise in economic inefficiency and waste of resources. 

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Corporate pricing is boosting inflation — but we’re still buying 

Vox, via The Big Picture 2-21-2022]

Corporations pass more than increased costs on to consumers. 

“The Dirty Secret of Inflation: Corporations Are Jacking Up Prices and Profits”

John Nichols [The Nation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-22-2022]

“History makes it clear that midterm elections are tough for the party that controls the White House and Congress. Voters take out their frustrations on those who are in positions of power. And that is doubly true in moments of economic turbulence, as Jimmy Carter and the Democrats learned in 1978, as Ronald Reagan and the Republicans learned in 1986, as Barack Obama and the Democrats learned in 2010. There have been only a few instances of a president’s seeing his party’s position in Congress improve in a midterm election. Yet, remarkably, one such moment did occur during the Great Depression. In the midterm election year of 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt put the blame for hard times on self-serving speculators, greedy bankers, and profiteering CEOs. Said FDR, “The fault lies with Wall Street.” Instead of letting corporate spin form the narrative of the Great Depression and the New Deal response to it, Roosevelt used his 1934 State of the Union address to speak “of those individuals who have evaded the spirit and purpose of our tax laws, of those high officials of banks or corporations who have grown rich at the expense of their stockholders or the public, of those reckless speculators with their own or other people’s money whose operations have injured the values of the farmers’ crops and the savings of the poor.” Throughout 1934, FDR never let up when it came to calling out speculators, monopolists, and price gougers. He promised that New Deal Democrats with increased congressional majorities would hold the bad actors to account. Voters approved. In November, they gave Democrats nine more seats in the House and nine more in the Senate, where the party achieved a rare supermajority.

To Fix the Supply Chain Mess, Take on Wall Street 

[Washington Monthly, via The Big Picture 2-26-2022]

Financiers bent on short-term profits are largely responsible for America’s shortage of semiconductors and other key materials. Before we offer them more subsidies, how about demanding some accountability?

How big technology systems are slowing innovation 

[MIT Technology Review, via Naked Capitalism 2-20-2022]

Nuance began in 1994 as a spinoff from SRI, a Stanford laboratory that had developed speech-­recognition technology for the US government. ScanSoft was a Xerox spinoff. Before the two merged in 2005, speech recognition was constrained by computer processing power. Systems recognized only limited vocabularies, though they nevertheless proved useful in narrow commercial applications such as telephone customer support centers and transcription of medical records.

By the late 2000s, things had changed. As computers became more powerful, Nuance was able to develop a major innovation: “large vocabulary continuous speech recognition.” Now you could say anything about any topic, and the technology could accurately transcribe it in real time. Nuance used this technology in an app called Dragon Dictation, which Apple featured when it introduced the iPhone 3GS at its 2009 Worldwide Developers Conference. Once Apple validated the product, Samsung and all the other phone manufacturers wanted it. 

More than money: The cost of monopolies in America 

[WBUR, via Naked Capitalism 2-20-2022]

"More than money" is a week-long exploration of the hidden power of monopolies in the U.S., and the evolution of antitrust law over the past 200 years. The On Point series considers whether the country's view on monopolies — and its influence on democracy — is poised for a major change.

Wall Street Is Buying Starter Homes to Quietly Become America’s Landlord 

[BusinessWeek, via The Big Picture 2-21-2022]

Private equity money is pouring into the Phoenix real estate market, turning first-time homebuyers into renters.

Investors bought a record share of homes in 2021. See where.

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 2-21-2022]

An analysis of 40 major metro areas revealed unequal levels of investor activity, with southern cities and Black neighborhoods disproportionately affected.

Is There a Way Out of America’s Impossible Housing Mess? 

[Slate, via The Big Picture 2-23-2022]

We have such a complicated system on both the housing finance side and the insurance side that up ’til now, nobody has really absorbed all of the losses. So if a house gets destroyed by a hurricane, the homeowner bears some of the losses, but the mortgage lender probably doesn’t even hold the mortgage on the books. So it’s the investor in the mortgage-backed security who will bear the loss. And for them, that’s a tiny part of their overall portfolio. They’re backed by the federal government- sponsored enterprises, and then you’ve got public insurance and private insurance. So as long as nobody bears most of the financial risk from climate, nobody really has an incentive to make better decisions.

Health Care Crisis

The Government Just Admitted An Inconvenient Truth

David Sirota and Aditi Ramswami [The Daily Poster, February 7, 2022]

Every now and then, federal officials admit some truths that are inconvenient to the corporations that own the government — and this latest admission is pretty explicit: Scrapping corporate health care and creating a government-sponsored medical system would boost the economy, help workers, and increase longevity.

Those are just some of the findings from the Republican-led Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in a new report that implicitly tells lawmakers just how the existing corporate-run health care system is immiserating millions of Americans — and how a Medicare for All-style system could quickly fix the catastrophe.

They're not capitalists - they're a criminal predatory class

Revealed: Credit Suisse leak unmasks criminals, fraudsters and corrupt politicians

[Guardian, via The Big Picture 2-26-2022]

Massive leak reveals secret owners of £80bn held in Swiss bank Whistleblower leaked bank’s data to expose ‘immoral’ secrecy laws Clients included human trafficker and billionaire who ordered girlfriend’s murder Vatican-owned account used to spend €350m in allegedly fraudulent investment Scandal-hit Credit Suisse rejects allegations it may be ‘rogue bank’ 

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 2-22-2022]



The Statement of the Source 

[Süddeutsche Zeitung, via Naked Capitalism 2-21-2022]

The Suisse Secrets data were leaked anonymously to Süddeutsche Zeitung through a secure digital mailbox more than a year ago….

After reviewing the information, Süddeutsche Zeitung decided to share and collaboratively analyze the data with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and dozens of media houses around the world - including the UK's The GuardianThe New York Times and Le Monde in France. Süddeutsche Zeitung documents an excerpt the source's statement, which included the headline "why I did it":

"I believe that Swiss banking secrecy laws are immoral. The pretext of protecting financial privacy is merely a fig leaf covering the shameful role of Swiss banks as collaborators of tax evaders….”


[Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, via Naked Capitalism 2-21-2022]

What is the Suisse secrets leak and why are we publishing it? 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 2-21-2022]

Restoring balance to the economy

How Starbucks Workers Turned the Tables On Union Busters 

[Truthout, via Naked Capitalism 2-21-2022]

“How We Turned the Tables On Starbucks Union-Busters”

[Labor Notes, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-21-2022]

“Starbucks is spending millions upon millions of dollars to hire a huge law firm to train its managers to become experts in union-busting. You’d think they’d be better at it. Every store that files goes through the same basic steps of union-busting. The upside of this is that Starbucks workers can see what’s coming, and get creative. Our store prepared for the meeting not only by communicating with each other, but also by holding a Zoom meeting with baristas from other cities who’d already gone through the same experience. They walked us through what to expect and what kinds of things had worked best for them in throwing the union-busters off their game. So when we sat down for our meetings with our Store Manager, District Manager, and Regional Manager, we did so in solidarity. Our manager started off the meeting. This woman had spent a good part of the last election cycle talking about her left-leaning politics. She leads the Starbucks ‘Womens’ Alliance Network,’ a group designed to empower female Starbucks employees. She started our meeting by looking us all in the eyes and saying, ‘I don’t think you need a union.’ Over the next few hours they tried various tactics to try to sow doubt among us. They tried one of the arguments they’ve used frequently, which is that with a union we won’t be able to have baristas from other stores cover shifts at our store. In response, two people pointed to a New Jersey law that specifies that non-union workers can work in union settings. Our Regional Manager kindly thought of those workers and wondered, ‘How would that affect their experience? How would they feel working in an environment where their salary is different?’ One worker responded, ‘Well, I’d think that would just spark interest in them unionizing their store too.’ Clearly these managers were operating from a basic script; when we veered away from it, they unskillfully tried to return to it.” • Script-jamming. Driven by Zoom meetings. I hate to use the word “innovation”….

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-24-2022]



The Defeat of Progressive Movements in the Global South Made US Hegemony Possible 

[Jacobin, via Mike Norman Economics 2-21-2022]

...for a time, the “lessons” of Vietnam appeared to provide opportunities for progressive forces to dismantle, or at least trim down, the US national security state and undermine the assumptions of American exceptionalism that undergirded it. Even more significantly, it seemed to many in the Global South that America’s sins in Indochina might allow even more far-reaching reforms, fundamentally readjusting a global economic system structured to keep much of the “Third World” in poverty.

Given that no such era of accounting has truly followed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this earlier period, running roughly from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, looks even more remarkable now. Understanding why it came to an end, and in what way, is critical to understanding the present.

Climate and environmental crises

Climate change is warping our fresh water cycle – and much faster than we thought 

[The Conversation, via Naked Capitalism 2-24-2022]

What It’ll Take to Get Electric Planes off the Ground 

[Wired, via The Big Picture 2-24-2022]

The lithium-ion battery is good for moving cars short distances, but aviation requires longer-lasting power. Maybe we need to try other elements.

How the IBM 7094 Gave NASA and the Air Force Computing Superiority in the 1960s 

[FedTech, via The Big Picture 2-22-2022]

The early mainframe model, powerful in its day, helped NASA control spacecraft for the Gemini and Apollo programs, and the Air Force used it for its Ballistic Missile Early Warning System.

Tesla Now Runs the Most Productive Auto Factory in America 

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 2-21-2022]

Elon Musk’s California plant cranked out more cars than 70 competing facilities in North America. His next factories are even bigger….

Last year Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, produced an average of 8,550 cars a week. That’s more than Toyota Motor Corp.’s juggernaut in Georgetown, Kentucky (8,427 cars a week), BMW AG’s Spartanburg hub in South Carolina (8,343) or Ford Motor Co.’s iconic truck plant in Dearborn, Michigan (5,564), according to a Bloomberg analysis of production data from more than 70 manufacturing facilities.

Not supposed to have world leading industry in socialist California, according to conservative / libertarian doctrinaires. I hope and expect Musk will come to regret his decision to build his massive new Tesla assembly plant in increasingly reactionary Texas. 

The Money Printing Press That Is Chipmaker TSMC 

[Next Platform, via The Big Picture 2-22-2022]

TSMC is itself a money making machine. If you double its capital expenses over three years it doubles its revenues and profits over five years.

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Erik Prince and an Army of Spies Keep Meddling in US Politics 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 2-20-2022]

One Dead, Five Injured From Shooting at Black Lives Matter March 

[Portland Mercury, via Naked Capitalism 2-21-2022]

In 1871, Congress Crafted a Law to Break the Klan. Today, It’s Targeting Trump.

Pema Levy [Mother Jones 2-25-2022]

...The Klan Act was Congress’ response to extreme political violence in the South, where former Confederates were bent on destroying the Republican Party and maintaining the antebellum racial hierarchy that Reconstruction sought to dismantle….

The law also granted the president the authority—which expired after one year—to temporarily declare martial law and suspend habeas corpus. In October 1871, Grant used this provision to send troops into South Carolina where, as Army Major Lewis Merrill had reported, Klan rule had created a “carnival of crime not paralleled in the history of any civilized community.” Meanwhile, Grant’s attorney general, Amos Akerman, used the new law to prosecute the Klan across the South. “By 1872, the federal government’s evident willingness to bring its legal and coercive authority to bear had broken the Klan’s back and produced a dramatic decline in violence,” Foner wrote. “So ended the Reconstruction career of the Ku Klux Klan.”….

The Klan Act seems to outlaw kinds of political violence pushed by Trump and carried out by his supporters, from intimidating voters and those campaigning for office to attacking federal officers performing their duties—including during the Capitol riot. Primus, who co-authored a law review article before the attack arguing that the act could play a role targeting modern-day election interference, now says that “the law they wrote covers the January 6 cases pretty well.”

“The January 6 cases are about trying to get legal relief against a set of people who used force to interfere with the orderly processes of federal governance—which is what the Klan Act is all about,” he says.

The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

Amy Coney Barrett’s Long Game 

[New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 2-20-2022]

Australian Politics 2022-02-27 05:55:00


Wivenhoe dam is safe this time

This time the flood comparment has not been compromised for water storage. The previous Labor government of the clueless Anna Bligh tried to use the flood compartment as a substiute for building a new dam -- meaning that there was no flood control capacity when the big rains came. The present labor government has left the dam alone, mercifully

Releases from Wivenhoe a decade ago were blamed for contributing greatly to the flooding that inundated Brisbane and other parts of the South East in 2011. This is what is different this time around.

The dam’s storage can take millions more megalitres of water before any repeat of the catastrophe of the floods still fresh in the minds of South East Queensland residents.

Releases from Wivenhoe a decade ago were blamed for contributing greatly to the flooding that inundated Brisbane and other parts of the South East in 2011.

However, Graham Fraine, director-general of the department of water, said the current storage capacity of Wivenhoe meant there was no immediate threat of a repeat of that disaster, despite the grid’s main dam jumping from about 60 per cent to 100 per cent of capacity in a matter of days.

“For those interested in how that compares to the 2011 event, there is a lot more, in fact about two million megalitres more of supply that this dam can take at this point in time,” he said.

“There were some releases from Wivenhoe during the course of last evening and they were done at the time to do some strategic releases in order to manage water flow levels between the various parts of the SEQ network.

“Future releases will be looked at through the lens of the flood manuals that SEQ water operates by and through the lens of when rain and water levels subside.”

SEQ Water Chief Operating Officer Stuart Cassie said modelling showed Wivenhoe should be able to cope with the extra floodwaters without posing a risk to communities downstream.

“The current modelling that we’re using in conjunction with the BOM is not predicting that that capacity will be filled up,” he said.

“We’re playing a balancing act in terms of making sure that we’re not increasing the flows downstream unnecessarily so we will wait for the rains to subside and the flows in the rivers to subside and that’s the point that we will release water in accordance with the flood manuals.”


Former deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth has taken aim at Daniel Andrews for making it compulsory for school students to wear face masks

Chairman Dan is an obnoxious tyrant

Dr Coatsworth took to Twitter on Saturday to retweet a scathing post made by Crikey columnist Adam Schwab.

Schwab condemned the requirement that school students above Year 3 must continue to wear the extra layer of protection in classrooms across Victoria.

The mandate comes despite the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the peak national health agency in the US, relaxing its face mask recommendation.

The CDC announced face masks were no longer necessary in most classrooms.

'Meanwhile, in Victoria, with only 38 people (0.0006%) in ICU with Covid, Dan Andrews and Brett Sutton still demanding small children where masks for 7 hours a day.'

The CDC announced on Friday it does not recommend students to wear face masks if their school is located in suburbs with 'low' or 'medium' Covid-19 cases.

Victoria recorded 5,874 cases on Saturday - one of its lowest figures since February 21.

Hospitalisations have dropped to 281 - down from 301 - while ICU rates have slightly risen to 43 - up from 38.

The US continues to record tens of thousands of new cases a day with its seven day case average at 75,208.

Dr Coatsworth retweeted the post made by Schwab to his 21,400 followers on Twitter in an apparent swipe against the premier.

The online dig is the latest attack made by the top doctor after he accused Mr Andrews of scaremongering and using the mask mandate to boost vaccine rates in children.

'I haven't been a big fan of masks in primary school age children and that's because the disease is mild in that age group and we know the disease spreads far more readily in adults,' Dr Coatsworth told the Today Show on Wednesday.

'In my view, it doesn't make a lot of sense. It does trouble me that this is a sort mandate in a way to create the impetus for people to go and get their kids vaccinated when, really, it should be a choice.'

About 54 per cent of children aged five to 11 are vaccinated against Covid in Victoria, compared with 93.9 per cent aged 12 and over.

Other experts argue requiring some students to wear masks while their older siblings are exempt from the rule is impractical and unfounded.

Mr Andrews pointed to lower vaccination rates as a driver behind the decision and the risk of the virus spreading from children to the elderly or immunocompromised.


The stampede of green lemmings

No country on Earth relies entirely on wind and solar energy, but Australian politicians aim to achieve this miracle.

They are leaders in the ‘Stampede of the Green Lemmings’.

Solar energy has a huge problem. Even on sunny days almost nothing is generated to meet the demand peaks around breakfast time and dinner time – the solar energy union only works a six-hour day, goes on strike with little warning, and takes quite a few sickies.

So, for at least 18 hours of every day, electricity must come from somewhere else. Then at around noon millions of solar panels pour out far more electricity than is needed, causing electrical and financial chaos in the electrical grid.

Naturally, our green ‘engineers’ see wind power as filling the solar energy gaps. But wind power has a union too and they take lots of sickies when there is no wind over large areas of the continent. And they down tools in storms, gales, or cyclones in case their whirling toys are damaged.

So the green planners claim that batteries can solve these intermittent problems of the green energy twins.

They will need to be humungous batteries.

Batteries are just a crutch for a crippled generation system. And with fierce lithium battery fires reported regularly, who wants a humungous fire-prone battery over the back fence or in the basement?

A battery is not a generator of electricity – every battery (including Snowy 2.0) is a net consumer of electricity. Batteries are very expensive, most lose capacity as they age, and every conversion between DC storage and AC transmission triggers energy losses. To collect, back up, and re-distribute green electricity will require a continent-spanning spider-web of transmission lines with all the costs and energy losses that network entails.

Still nights and calm cloudy days are what really expose the problems of wind-solar-plus-batteries.

Suppose electricity consumers require 100 units of electricity every day. A well-designed coal, nuclear, or gas power station can do that, 24/7, day after day, whatever the weather.

But to insure a wind or solar system against, say, 7 days of calm or cloudy weather would require a battery capable of storing 700 units of electricity. To re-charge this huge battery while still supplying consumers will require much larger wind or solar generating capacity. However, if several weeks of windy or sunny weather then occur, this big battery will sit idle, connected to a bloated expensive generation system that is capable of delivering far more power than is needed.

Sunny or windy weather brings a deluge of green energy, causing power prices to plunge at irregular intervals, and forcing reliable generators to stop producing and lose money. Eventually they will close. Once all coal-gas generators are all gone, every (inevitable) green energy drought will awaken the spectre of extensive blackouts.

On top of all these practical problems of green energy, we have the massive carbon credits scam, where speculators sell green fairy stories to greedy bankers, and real producers are forced to buy these fictitious ‘products’, passing the costs onto real industry and consumers.

Australia is following the green energy lemmings of Europe.

Germany once produced abundant reliable electricity from coal and nuclear power – the backbone for German industry. Then green ants started nibbling at this backbone, replacing it with wind-solar toys. Now, Germany has expensive electricity – a grid in danger of collapse and must rely on imported gas from Russia, nuclear power from France or hydro-power from Scandinavia.

UK is also following similar foolish energy policies, even banning exploration of their own oil and gas resources.

Australia is almost alone in the Southern oceans, with no near neighbours to buy, beg or borrow electricity from. We cannot afford to follow the green energy lemmings or their billionaire pied pipers.


Want to ‘think bigger’? Switch off the ABC

Earlier this month, ABC Managing Director David Anderson delivered the startling news to a Senate Committee that, ‘Now, more than ever, the ABC belongs to all Australians, wherever they live.’

Anderson’s platitudinous refrain is as useful and potentially misleading as so much else that is said by the ABC about itself on all its platforms – but most importantly, its television platforms.

Does Anderson want us to ‘relate’ to the ABC much as we might relate to the Australian flag, the national anthem, or perhaps even to ANZAC Day itself?

Taxpayers know full well they pay for the national broadcaster – even the legions of people across this country who never engage with the broadcaster know it. Taxpayers also know the ABC stands alongside the Australian Tax Office, the Weather Bureau, and ASIO as ‘belonging’ to them. If not belonging to us – then who? The Managing Director of the public broadcaster it seems, was attempting to say the ABC means something more to taxpayers. What precisely, he never actually articulated.

Anderson went on at the hearing of the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee on February 15: ‘The ABC entered 2022 with the value of its services widely recognised and appreciated across the Australian community. Against the backdrop of a challenging year, the ABC achieved its highest reach in a decade in 2021.’

Lofty claims indeed.

Media organisations like nothing more than spruiking ‘dramatic’ and positive figures about audience reach and impact. Along with the claims about audience segmentation and market share from non-public broadcasters – audience members are right to be sceptical. Ask the right question and you’ll get the answer you’re looking for. Several people are employed at the ABC generating and collating audience data which, hardly surprisingly, is sliced and diced to be favourable to the ABC.

While the ABC’s commitment to higher staffing levels in rural and regional Australia is commendable – as is shifting some of the high-paid presenters out of their Sydney bunkers at Ultimo to Parramatta – it is on content the ABC should rightly be judged. In this – ABC television news and current affairs is consistently and comprehensively failing those who pay for it. The omission by Anderson to specifically mention ABC television current affairs in his opening remarks is itself telling.

Anderson, at no point during the hearing, revealed that ABC news rates third in Australia on a nightly basis with Channel 7 easily achieving in excess of one million viewers each night and Channel 9 not too far behind. The ABC, it has to be said, does sit ahead of Channel 10 – which astoundingly is watched by fewer people than live in the City of Geelong. (This data, which is not easy to obtain, was made available via sources that measure audience participation across Australia.)

The ABC makes much of trust. The broadcaster takes every opportunity to remind viewers and listeners how ‘trusted’ it is. Precisely how it measures this is not revealed and we are left to either ‘take it’ or ‘leave it’. Over the years 2019-21 – the ABC did increase its market share marginally, but then fell back again to 2019 numbers. Anderson failed to tell the Senate committee what the numbers are showing in 2022. In fairness, perhaps it’s too soon.

Interestingly, Anderson made much of truth and its relationship with democracy. It seems – according to Anderson’s logic – by committing oneself to the waves of verbiage from the ABC you can be sure of getting the truth, and this, in turn, builds and buttresses a flourishing democracy. Needless to say, reporters, presenters, producers, and so-called ABC ‘fact checkers’ love this notion as they can feel entirely virtuous for their role in building a stronger democracy. The ABC, so we asked to believe, is the bulwark against a sea of dangerous, unreliable junk (my words) from commercial TV land.

Audience members are repeatedly bombarded with exhortations to ‘think bigger’ by tuning in to ABC networks. Without a shred of humility, the ABC wants all of us to believe that by accessing the array of ABC platforms our minds will be expanded, our thinking deepened and presumably our knowledge more elevated. Implied also is that by tuning to non-ABC networks our thinking will not ‘get bigger.’

Some of what makes it to air on ABC current affairs television is of very high quality, but quite a deal isn’t. Foreign Correspondent is outstanding – showcasing the talent and experience of offshore ABC correspondents.

When a previously highly respected program such as Four Corners becomes embroiled in litigation and defamation action as it has over recent years, viewers rightly begin to ask if they are seeing the beginning of the end of a once world class production. It has been especially galling that taxpayers have picked up the costs in the majority of these matters.

More immediate current affairs offerings such as 7.30, The Drum, and Q&A have become formulaic, predictable, and each of them attract criticism for leaning to one side of politics over the other.

Not infrequently, such criticism would seem to be justified particularly in regard to 7.30’s coverage of national politics which has become strident, bitter, and decidedly lop-sided. That the ABC repeatedly tells its audience that these shows are ‘world class’ and ‘outstanding’ does not make them so. Viewers make these assessments, not the broadcaster.

The television current affairs model is clearly under pressure and all broadcasters – public and private – are having to rapidly adapt to survive contemporary and likely future upheavals.

Australians should both expect and demand so much more from the publicly funded broadcaster than it is currently getting. The parallel universe in which the ABC sees virtue in all that it does – minus the bloopers, barnacles, and blemishes – is no longer credible.

Something else that might exercise the minds of ABC executives and programmers is that young people are no longer accessing their news or current affairs from television.

They find the regimentation of television constraining and time consuming. In other words – the ABC’s so-called ‘flagship’ news and current affairs shows may well find themselves on a media scrap heap within a relatively short time. By the time news goes to air these days the vast majority of viewers already know it.

The rapidly changing tastes and habits of Australians, young and older, make the ABC’s vision to become the ‘most trusted digital content provider within five years’ all the more urgent and commendable.

Without a doubt, public broadcasting and digital news and current affairs provision are vitally important and Australians should be encouraged to demand of their ABC the very best that is reasonably affordable and deliverable.




The Oddness of Odd Numbers

Have you ever really thought about odd numbers? Or what it is that makes them odd?

Vsauce's Michael Stevens has, sharing his thoughts in the following 22 minute video, which goes in directions you might not expect to explain why odd numbers mysteriously show up when gravitational acceleration is involved:

We're still on the fence as to whether the rules should prevent dogs from playing high school basketball, but the universe is an odd and mysterious place. Which is to say it's more entertaining when they can, once. We believe any potential sequels or reboots however should be strictly prohibited and are happy to cite the Beethoven franchise as proof.