Monthly Archives: May 2022

Australian Politics 2022-05-31 12:04:00


Australia: The Covid jab data which reveals one VERY surprising detail about pandemic deaths - and it’s certain to spark HUGE debate

Over two thirds of Victorians who died from Covid-19 this year had received at least one vaccination jab - but were still killed by the virus.

Statistics released by the Victorian government showed that 68 per cent of people who died with Covid in 2022 were vaccinated. But less than a third of those who died were unvaccinated.

However medics warn the figures are not quite as they seem.

Just four per cent of the Victorian population aged 16 and over is unvaccinated - which means the 32 per cent dying unvaxxed is eight times higher than it should be.

Between January 1 and May 25 this year, 2022 so far 1,742 Victorians have died from Covid, the Herald Sun reported.

Of those, 558 were unvaccinated (or had an unknown status), about 32 per cent of the total Covid deaths in 2022.

The doubled vaxxed accounted for 41 per cent of deaths (720 people), while 24 per cent has three shots. Three per cent (53 deaths) had just one jab.

A Department of Health spokesman argued that the numbers showed per capita vaccinations save lives because 5.1 million Victorians over 16 years of age were double-dosed, compared to several hundreds of thousands remaining unvaccinated.

Out of the 1,742 deaths, 349 were genomically sequenced to reveal the strain that killed the patients. Omicron was by far the deadliest strain, at least in raw numbers. The Omicron BA.1 sub-variant caused 201 deaths, while Omicron BA.2 strain was responsible for 110.

A third dose gave up to 97 per cent better protection against hospitalisation and death for people over 50 compared two or fewer doses, he claimed UK research showed.

Meanwhile, pathologists are sounding the alarm over the low uptake of coronavirus vaccine boosters as the national immunisation group suggests a fourth dose for some Australians.

The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia says third doses are particularly low in Queensland and NSW even as COVID-19 cases rise.

'With winter commencing, it is important for everyone that they are fully up to date with all relevant vaccinations,' RCPA fellow Professor William Rawlinson said.

'The RCPA recently highlighted that it is very likely that we will experience far more influenza cases in Australia this winter. This, combined with the current, rising trend of COVID-19 cases, is likely to put an extraordinary strain on the healthcare system.'

Western Australia has the highest uptake of third doses about 80 per cent, while Queensland is the lowest at 58 per cent. Nationally, about two-thirds of eligible Australians have received a booster.

On Wednesday, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation expanded eligibility for a second booster to people with health conditions or a disability.

Leading immunologist Peter Doherty, of the Doherty Institute said it was too early to say for sure how effective third and fourth doses were in protecting people against 'long Covid'.

But he said people could be 'confident' they would help prevent the severest forms of the illness.


SoCal doctor sentenced for trying to import hydroxychloroquine

A Southern California doctor was sentenced to prison on Friday for trying to smuggle hydroxychloroquine into the US and hawk it as a “miracle cure” COVID-19 treatment, officials said.

Physician Jennings Ryan Staley, 44, admitted to working with a Chinese supplier to illegally import a barrel he believed to contain 26 pounds of the anti-malarial drug mislabeled as “yam extract,” according to court documents.

Staley admitted he wanted to sell hydroxychloroquine powder in capsules as part of his phony business plan.

He peddled COVID-19 “treatment kits” in March and April 2020 as the pandemic began spreading in the US and months before vaccinations were available.

Hydroxychloroquine was once touted by former President Donald Trump as a potential coronavirus treatment.

Staley admitted to writing a prescription for the increasingly hard-to-find drug in his employee’s name and personal information. He answered the pharmacists’ questions to fill the script as if he was the employee without the employees’ consent, court docs show.

The COVID “treatment kits” were sold in and around San Diego at Staley’s Skinny Beach Med Spas locations.

Law enforcement was tipped off on the scam by several citizens concerned by the marketing campaign, federal prosecutors said.


Turkey, Israel Take Tentative Steps Toward Rapprochement

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Israel last week, becoming the first Turkish foreign minister to do so in 15 years. The trip is a sign of budding rapprochement between the two countries whose diplomatic relations have remained in limbo since 2018.

Experts attribute the move to Turkey’s desire to repair frayed relations with influential states in the region and position itself as an energy-transit hub.

“Cavusoglu’s visit to Israel also coincides with efforts to improve ties with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” Turkish political analyst Oytun Orhan told The Epoch Times. “Turkey also wants to secure a role for itself in future pipeline projects linking gas-fields in the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe.”

‘New Chapter’ in Relations

After a May 25 meeting in Jerusalem, Cavusoglu and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid appeared upbeat on the prospects for reconciliation. Cavusoglu said both countries wanted to “reenergize” ties, while Lapid hailed his Turkish counterpart’s visit as a “new chapter” in bilateral relations.

During the meeting, the pair reportedly discussed the resumption of full diplomatic relations, along with means of enhancing economic cooperation.

Ties between the two countries bottomed out in 2010, when Israeli forces staged a deadly attack on a Turkish aid flotilla off the coast of the Gaza Strip. Attempts to repair relations ended in 2018, when Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Israel—to which Israel responded in kind—amid outbreaks of Israeli-Palestinian violence along the Gaza Strip’s borders.

But in March of this year, a visit to Ankara by Israeli President Isaac Herzog, during which he met Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prompted speculation that rapprochement was imminent.

According to Orhan, who is an expert on the Levant region at Ankara’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the two countries are now “focusing on diplomatic and economic issues in hopes of resolving their longstanding political differences later.”

Changing Regional Paradigm

Many experts believe Turkey’s tilt toward Jerusalem should be viewed within the wider context of ongoing efforts by Ankara to improve ties with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Relations with the three Arab states have been strained since 2011’s “Arab Spring,” when Turkey supported popular uprisings—including a full-fledged revolution in Egypt—across the Middle East and North Africa.

“Turkish normalization efforts don’t only apply to Israel; they actually began with the Gulf States,” Dr. Remzi Cetin, a Turkish academic specialized in Israeli affairs, told The Epoch Times. He believes that 2020’s Abraham Accords ushered in a “new regional paradigm,” one that Turkey “doesn’t want to be left out of.”

Brokered by the Trump administration, the landmark agreement served to normalize ties between Israel and the UAE. It was the first normalization of diplomatic relations between the Jewish state and an Arab country since a 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan.

In February, Erdogan visited the UAE for the first time in nearly a decade. Two months later, he made a similar trip to Saudi Arabia. “Turkey wants to improve its relations with the Gulf States in line with this new Middle Eastern equation,” Cetin said. “And reconciliation with Israel is part of this process.”

Another reason for Turkish rapprochement with Israel, according to experts, concerns the EastMed pipeline project. Still on the drawing board, the 1,900-kilometer pipeline would bring Israeli natural gas to Europe via southern Cyprus and Crete, thus circumventing Turkey altogether.

Ankara would like to see an alternative route that would allow the region’s vast gas reserves to be funneled to Europe through Turkish territory. “But if Turkey wants to displace the EastMed project, it first must normalize relations with Israel,” Orhan said.

According to the analyst, the EastMed project didn’t come up during Cavusoglu’s recent discussions with Israeli officials. “Their main focus now is on diplomatic relations,” he said. “Once they establish a positive atmosphere, they can tackle more difficult issues—like natural gas and the Palestine question.”

The Perennial Issue of Palestine

Immediately prior to his Jerusalem trip, Cavusoglu visited the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where he met with Palestinian officials. Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, he insisted that Turkey’s longstanding support for Palestinian national aspirations was “entirely independent” of Ankara’s relations with Israel.

Orhan echoed this sentiment, saying Turkey remained “firmly committed” to the Palestinian cause and an eventual two-state solution to the long-simmering conflict. “Positive Turkey-Israel relations could even benefit the Palestinians by allowing Ankara to mediate between the two sides,” he said.

US-sponsored peace talks between Israel and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority collapsed in 2014. In the same year, Israel launched a six-week assault on the Gaza Strip in which more than 2,000 Palestinians and scores of Israelis were killed.

One potential stumbling block to Turkey-Israel reconciliation is Ankara’s close relationship with Hamas, which has governed the Gaza Strip since 2006. Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organization, while Ankara views it as a legitimate liberation movement.

“Israel wanted Turkey to limit its relations with Hamas as a precondition to reconciliation, but Turkey hasn’t accepted any preconditions,” Orhan explained. “Until now, there has been no clear change in Ankara’s approach to Hamas.”

“Besides,” he added, “neither side appears to be dwelling on this issue right now.”

According to Orhan, the biggest threat to rapprochement at the current delicate juncture would be a major Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, which, he said, “would serve to derail the entire process.”




Australian Politics 2022-05-31 11:01:00


Scientists unravel history of climate change upheaval on the Great Barrier Reef

Natural fluctuations in reef health

FOR the first time ever, a group of Australian scientists have unravelled the history of climate change upheaval on the Great Barrier Reef over the past 8000 years.

A team led by University of Queensland graduate Dr Marcos Salas-Saavedra analysed rare earth elements in drilled reef cores, unveiling a deep history of wild weather.

“Eight thousand years ago, extreme run-off from an intense Indian-Australian summer monsoon affected water quality in the southern offshore Reef,” Dr Salas-Saavedra said.

“Water in the GBR was much dirtier, and poor water quality is known to be a major cause of reef decline around the world. “But 1,000 years later, monsoonal rains eased and the water quality greatly improved.

“We noticed water quality declined during times of dampened El Nino Southern Oscillation frequency, which may have led to more La Niña-dominated wet climates in Queensland at those times – just like the weather we have seen this year in Queensland.”

But as El Nino-dominated weather patterns became established, he said the southern Great Barrier Reef water quality improved to give us the beautiful Reef we know and love.

The new data allows researchers to understand for the first time what water quality was like on the Great Barrier Reef over an extended period.

UQ Professor Gregory Webb said the study provides a new and independent source of palaeoclimate data, not only for the Great Barrier Reef, but potentially for reefs around the globe.

“Knowing more about how the Great Barrier Reef responded to past environmental changes is essential to help inform us how reefs can be better managed in the future,” Professor Webb said.

“We have created a toolkit to understand subtle differences in water quality – even in offshore reefs – and it can be applied over much longer time frames where reef core material is available.

“Importantly, this type of analysis enables us to examine how ancient water quality may have impacted coral growth rates, overall reef growth rates, and any shifts in reef ecology at the same time.”

He said knowing more about how the Great Barrier Reef responded to past environmental changes was essential, helping to inform how it could be better managed in the future.

Reef cores were recovered from Heron and One Tree reefs by UQ’s Dorothy Hill Research Vessel, before Professor Jianxin Zhao dated and analysed the cores at UQ’s Radiogenic Isotope Facility.

The analysis focused on rare earth elements preserved in microbialites – rocks made by microbes – that have been growing throughout the Great Barrier Reef’s history.


Bushland wiped, homes at risk: Fears over land gift to Queensland Aborigines

The Leftist state government has been accused of steamrolling Redland City Council by using its superior planning powers to make permanent the allocation of 249ha of bushland on North Stradbroke Island to indigenous housing development.

Under the plan the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation would take administrative possession of 25 parcels of land, which would then be offered to traditional owners for housing, tourism and community uses.

Redland City Council is undergoing community consultation for the rezoning, which local experts say could see 800 dwellings housing almost 2000 people built in prime bushland on the island.

However, council officers have raised concerns some sites won’t be able to be built on due to overlay risks including the potential for erosion, bushfire and flooding.

They fear, because the land has been zoned urban residential, landowners would have an expectation their application to build a home would be approved by the council.

Any rejection of an application could lead to prolonged legal battles between landowners and the council at a significant cost to ratepayers.

A planning study undertaken by the state government in 2014 noted a number of the sites were “not suitable for development”.

Huge swathes of bushland at Point Lookout and Amity Point could be destroyed to make way for the 25 parcels of land, which are not serviced by trunk infrastructure such as town water or electricity.

Redland City Council Mayor Karen Williams said the council had been “directed” to undergo community consultation on the land rezoning and acknowledged local government had little power in controlling what could be built.

“In this instance we don’t really make the decisions,” she said. “We have no choice as council to do this. “It’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

While the state government has agreed to a partnership with the council for community consultation, it has not provided any funding.

Opposition MP Mark Robinson, whose electorate of Oodgeroo includes North Stradbroke Island, said the government’s plan had raised concerns among traditional owners.

“There are serious questions about the suitability of some parcels of land for what the draft plan proposes,” he said.

“In one case, some locals have described the situation of a conservation area and a duck pond being earmarked for residential development.

“The Quandamooka people deserve to be treated better than that.

“The draft plan could also dramatically increase the size of the island’s population without a plan for infrastructure and services, and who pays for that?”


Global ratings agency issues warning on Albanian $45bn spending spree

Labor risks putting the country’s triple-A credit status in danger if it races to implement nearly $45bn in “off-balance-sheet” election promises, one of the top rating agencies warns.

As Anthony Albanese flags the potential for additional cost-of-living support, Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings lead country analyst Anthony Walker told The Australian that further government spending risked stoking ­inflation and a more aggressive Reserve Bank response.

Mr Walker also said those risks would provide a further brake on the economic recovery, and place pressure on the commonwealth’s finances.

The Prime Minister has promised a $10bn fund to increase social and affordable housing and a $20bn “rewiring the nation” fund to modernise the electricity grid and build transmission infrastructure. In addition, the government has also pledged a $15bn “national reconstruction fund” to revitalise manufacturing.

While such spending commitments tend not to appear in the underlying cash balance, Mr Walker said the rating agency would include them in its assessment and that they could “pressure the AAA rating” if the spending was frontloaded.

A top credit rating provides a stamp of approval for how the country’s finances are managed and the ability to access cheaper funding from international ­lenders.


The Covid jab data which reveals one VERY surprising detail about pandemic deaths - and it’s certain to spark HUGE debate

Over two thirds of Victorians who died from Covid-19 this year had received at least one vaccination jab - but were still killed by the virus.

Statistics released by the Victorian government showed that 68 per cent of people who died with Covid in 2022 were vaccinated. But less than a third of those who died were unvaccinated.

However medics warn the figures are not quite as they seem.

Just four per cent of the Victorian population aged 16 and over is unvaccinated - which means the 32 per cent dying unvaxxed is eight times higher than it should be.

Between January 1 and May 25 this year, 2022 so far 1,742 Victorians have died from Covid, the Herald Sun reported.

Of those, 558 were unvaccinated (or had an unknown status), about 32 per cent of the total Covid deaths in 2022.

The doubled vaxxed accounted for 41 per cent of deaths (720 people), while 24 per cent has three shots. Three per cent (53 deaths) had just one jab.

A Department of Health spokesman argued that the numbers showed per capita vaccinations save lives because 5.1 million Victorians over 16 years of age were double-dosed, compared to several hundreds of thousands remaining unvaccinated.

Out of the 1,742 deaths, 349 were genomically sequenced to reveal the strain that killed the patients. Omicron was by far the deadliest strain, at least in raw numbers. The Omicron BA.1 sub-variant caused 201 deaths, while Omicron BA.2 strain was responsible for 110.

A third dose gave up to 97 per cent better protection against hospitalisation and death for people over 50 compared two or fewer doses, he claimed UK research showed.

Meanwhile, pathologists are sounding the alarm over the low uptake of coronavirus vaccine boosters as the national immunisation group suggests a fourth dose for some Australians.

The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia says third doses are particularly low in Queensland and NSW even as COVID-19 cases rise.

'With winter commencing, it is important for everyone that they are fully up to date with all relevant vaccinations,' RCPA fellow Professor William Rawlinson said.

'The RCPA recently highlighted that it is very likely that we will experience far more influenza cases in Australia this winter. This, combined with the current, rising trend of COVID-19 cases, is likely to put an extraordinary strain on the healthcare system.'

Western Australia has the highest uptake of third doses about 80 per cent, while Queensland is the lowest at 58 per cent. Nationally, about two-thirds of eligible Australians have received a booster.

On Wednesday, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation expanded eligibility for a second booster to people with health conditions or a disability.

Leading immunologist Peter Doherty, of the Doherty Institute said it was too early to say for sure how effective third and fourth doses were in protecting people against 'long Covid'.

But he said people could be 'confident' they would help prevent the severest forms of the illness.


Election 2022: Change agents at teal heart not all ex-Liberals

Of the dozens of suburbs that turned teal last Saturday, turfing six Liberal moderates out of parliament and contributing to the downfall of the Morrison government, beachside Avalon on Sydney’s northern beaches was the tealest of them all.

But electoral analysis by The Weekend Australian has disproved the widespread belief that all of the new ­Climate 200-backed independents picked up the ­majority of their votes from dis­affected Liberal ­voters.

In the Melbourne seat of Kooyong, the swing against Josh Frydenberg was smaller than the swings against each of the Labor and Greens candidates, while in another three teal victory seats, the swing against the sitting Liberal was smaller than the combined swing against Labor, the Greens and all other candidates.

Nationwide, voters at 12 booths in three different seats were so ­attracted to the teal option, the majority gave the independent their first ­preference.

In the quiet enclave of the sunburnt and the wealthy that is Sydney’s northern peninsula, four polling booths in Jason Falinski’s seat of Mackellar reported more than 50 per cent first preference votes for Sophie Scamps.

Avalon South recorded 56.3 per cent, the highest teal independent primary vote of any large booth in the country, followed by Avalon Beach (55.4 per cent), Bilgola Plateau (53.1 per cent) and Avalon (52.4 per cent).

Former state independent upper house member for Pittwater Alex McTaggart said Avalon was a wealthy, well-educated community that prioritised climate as a key issue. “Avalon’s right on the coast and the average young person here is involved in the surf or the surf club,” Mr McTaggart said.

“They see the effects of climate on the coast.”

Mr McTaggart said a federal anti-corruption commission and health – the nearest hospital is 22km away – were other issues on which Dr Scamps successfully campaigned.

Most of the teal independents picked up many of their votes from Labor or Greens voters. In Kooyong, the former Liberal treasurer’s primary vote fell by 6.3 per cent while Labor lost 11.1 per cent and the Greens 15 per cent.

In nearby Goldstein, where ­former ABC journalist Zoe Daniel overcame Tim Wilson, the swing against Labor almost hit 18 per cent, compared with the ousted Liberal MP’s 11.7 per cent.

The vote pattern was different in North Sydney, where Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman suffered a primary vote fall of 13.7 per cent, much larger than Labor’s 3.6 per cent and the Greens’ 5.7 per cent. And in Wentworth, teal victor Allegra Spender’s 38.8 per cent primary vote drew largely on the vote former independent Kerryn Phelps won in 2019 and Liberal MP Dave Sharma’s support. Labor and Greens votes held steady.

Redbridge executive director Kos Samaras, whose polling company undertook research for the Climate 200 candidates, said the location of polling booths influenced how the primary vote split. A high proportion of younger voters and renters translated into a stronger turnout for teals.

Four of the top five teal booths in Kooyong weres in Hawthorn, a suburb that mixes wealthy families in $20m mansions and students in rental apartments, while top of the list in North Sydney was Greenwich, another suburb with a high proportion of apartments. And Wentworth’s top booths were in renter-heavy Bondi, Paddington and Bronte

Dr Scamps had a campaign budget of $1.4m, half of which was raised from the community and the other half coming from millionaire climate activist Simon Holmes a Court’s fundraising war chest Climate 200.

Semi-retired teacher John Lettoof, 65, has lived in Avalon for 30 years and said he voted Greens one and Dr Scamps second due to concerns over climate change.

“You can just see it (climate change),” said Mr Lettoof, a keen surfer and fisherman.

“You know I could point behind me right now to the shellfish that are missing off the rocks – the pool is denuded, it‘s not full of life as it normally is.”

Dr Scamps’ campaign was also more youth-friendly, including a free concert on May 1 – called Election Beats – in Avalon’s Dunbar Park headlined by local artists Angus and Julia Stone, Lime Cordiale and comedian Dan Ilic. The event attracted about 1500 people. At the same time, Mr Falinski treated about 250 supporters to sausage rolls and beers at Cromer Golf Club.

The first-world problems of ­Avalon residents were satirised in 2015 in the film Avalon Now, which later became a web series, depicting a couple torn between pairing pinot gris or pinot grigio with barramundi for dinner.




Expected Sixth Lévy Flight of 2022 Arrives for the S&P 500

The final week of May 2022 saw the S&P 500 (Index: SPX) deliver the index' sixth Lévy flight event of the year. In doing that, the index rose 6.6% from where it ended the previous week. The week-over-week increase breaks what had been the worst start for the S&P 500 for any year since 1939.

The move came as investors shifted their forward looking attention away from 2022-Q2 toward 2022-Q3. This shift has been expected since investors drew in their focus on 2022-Q2 back on 5 May 2022. Here's what the shift in the time horizon of investors looks like on the latest update to the dividend futures-based model's alternative futures chart:

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2022Q2 - Standard Model (m=-2.5 from 16 June 2021) - Snapshot on 27 May 2022

The news that prompted the shift were the 23 May 2022 comments by Atlanta Fed President suggesting the Federal Reserve would pause its planned rate hikes after September 2022 (2022-Q3). Such a pause would be needed should the economy slow faster than the Fed desires as it tries to slow inflation, so Bostic's comments effectively closed the door on the possibility of the Fed announcing a three-quarter point rate hike in 2022-Q2. His comments then combined with other news during the remainder of the week to redirect investors to reset their forward-looking attention onto 2022-Q3 as the period of interest to focus upon next.

All that was left was a short squeeze to provide the mechanism by which the large upward move in stock prices would take place. Here, a number of unlucky hedge fund managers were happy to fuel what became the S&P 500's sixth Lévy flight event of 2022.

We don't often call our shots, so let's recap the key part of last week's edition of our S&P 500 chaos series, where we did just that:

... the clock is ticking down for how long investors can continue to fix their focus on 2022-Q2, which points to a potential investing opportunity that will exist until their forward-looking attention does shift to another point of time in the future in what will be the stock market's next Lévy flight event.

The lowest risk part of that specific investing opportunity is now gone, but there's still some upside remaining. Provided of course that investor expectations for dividends in future quarters don't erode, which would coincide with the U.S. economy becoming so pinched by inflation and the Fed's attempts to rein it in that it falls into recession.

We did mention that investors were influenced by other news during the week. Here's our summary of the market moving headlines that made up the random onset of news that investors continuously absorb:

Monday, 23 May 2022
Tuesday, 24 May 2022
Wednesday, 25 May 2022
Thursday, 26 May 2022
Friday, 27 May 2022

The CME Group's FedWatch Tool is now projecting half point increases in the Federal Funds Rate after the Fed meets in June (2022-Q2) and July (2022-Q3), followed by quarter point increases at six week intervals through February 2023, topping out at 2.75%-3.00%.

The Atlanta Fed's GDPNow tool projects real GDP growth of 1.9% in 2022-Q2, down from last week's projection of 2.4%.

Australian Politics 2022-05-30 07:39:00


The least conservative Liberal (and National) government in Australia’s history lost last weekend

There was no enthusiastic move to Labor. In fact, both major parties scored woefully low first preference counts. In any country with a first-past-the-post voting system both big parties would be reeling. There’s a reason why only Australia and one small South Pacific nation uses preferential voting; it’s because it works as a protection racket for the two big parties.

The only way to show your displeasure with your own side of politics – because you can’t even stay home when there’s also compulsory voting – is to preference the other side. I did that this past Saturday, practising what I preached.

Clearly, more than a few others did too.

Now, you will not see this on the ABC or hear it from any of the Liberal ‘moderates’, but it was a very good thing having all those Teals take out the inner core of the lefty-Lib gang – Zimmerman ‘I forgot about freedom once I was elected’ Wilson, Sharma, Falinski, and yes, even Josh Frydenberg (who I’m guessing was the driving force behind pushing Scott Morrison to sign up to Net Zero and to pay the ABC all that money just before the election).

These seats were always going to leave the column for any remotely conservative party. Many may not like that fact, but it’s already happened in Canada, Britain, and America. Our voting system merely slowed it down here. The truth is that the well-off rich (and I generalise of course) now vote solidly Left – maybe because they can afford to and like to virtue-signal? They vote more like Canberra public servants than anything else.

So in a losing election, it was good to lose these seats. Frankly, I don’t see them coming back for a long time.

Here’s an irony. If Morrison had refused to sign up to Net Zero and made rising energy prices and inflation an election issue, together with mining jobs, I think he would have won the election – this being the formula of Liberal wins since Tony Abbott took over as Opposition Leader. Instead, the Liberal Prime Minister, who seemingly had no core convictions and no strong commitment to freedom or to the presumption of innocence, let himself be pushed by the party wets into reneging on a promise made to Coalition voters at the last election in 2019.

By signing up to Net Zero, Morrison was snookered.

What happens when you purport to believe that there is an earth-endangering climate crisis (and former Obama Energy Department Undersecretary, Professor Steven Koonin, takes this apart in his new book Unsettled) and that Australia’s emissions make any difference at all, when the truth is that we could go back to the Stone Age tomorrow and China would pump out our emissions in a little over a fortnight? If you go down that road it’s not surprising that voters will vote for the real thing (in the shape of the Greens and Teals) rather than a half-hearted bunch of Liberal ‘moderates’. So the irony is that even for the so-called ‘moderates’, they would have had a better chance to win if the Liberals had stood up against the ABC worldview and not signed up to Net Zero. The appeasement strategy was never going to work, especially for them.

That said, I’m glad the Matt Kean-type faction of the Liberal Party has been decimated. Their one redeeming feature was supposed to be their commitment to freedom concerns (as the self-professed inheritors of the John Stuart Mill tradition), but the pandemic showed that to be a hollow lie. These moderates were at least as pro-lockdown and ‘we defer to the public health caste’ as the Liberal Party room’s conservatives. Make that more pro-despotism. And more big spending, big taxing, ‘let’s succumb to Modern Monetary Theory idiocies’. So good riddance to them all.

Yet the renewal of the Liberal Party was always a two-stage game.

First off, all of us conservatives were forced into needing our side to lose because it had accomplished basically nothing since Tony Abbott stopped the boats – nothing other than drifting ever further left every year. But there is a second stage. We now need to see the Liberal Party rediscover at least some of its conservative roots.

This is no sure thing.

If you look at the state level the Liberal Party is a mess. In Western Australia, in Victoria, in Queensland, even in New South Wales it has opted to become the ‘we’ll be Labor but just a bit slower’ party, even to the point of embracing woke orthodoxies. Victoria’s incarnation is particularly risible. If you can’t beat the heavy-handed, despotic Dan Andrews – or barely manage even to criticise him on any freedom-related grounds – you are pathetic. And the Victorian Liberals are.

So this ‘let’s move left to try to win’ option is clearly one that is possible and that the ABC/Fairfax/‘moderate wing’ will be pushing. But it would be an awful mistake.

What we need now is for the Liberals to move a good ways to the right and to do so openly. Recant on the Climate Change genuflecting, admitting it was a mistake while pointing out the huge energy cost rises coming. Go back to arguing for sane budgets with surpluses (which will mean disavowing the Frydenberg uber-Keynesian, defer-to-Treasury approach). Openly commit to some sort of belief in freedom, one that will involve walking-the-walk not just talking-the-talk until you get elected into Parliament. And be tough against Woke shibboleths a la Mark Latham.

Down that path – and it will be labelled as Right-Wing Populism or as ‘the Trump Party’ by lefty journalists – lies victory.

We know this from seeing Boris Johnson’s voting coalition in 2019 and from seeing the 2016 and 2020 US Presidential elections. (And check out who won the married women’s votes in all three of those elections so you are armed against the bogus cry that ‘women won’t vote for this’.) Sure, the ABC will be brutal to the Peter Dutton-led Liberal Opposition. So will Fairfax. Who cares? We know you can win elections with virtually all the press against you. (See above re Boris and The Don.) You just have to believe in something and articulate it to the voters. The rich end of town now votes Left remember, as does the journalistic caste. (Hilary Clinton won the 100 wealthiest counties by-the-by, and Boris gets pummelled in upmarket London boroughs.) Ignore them.

The Libs are going to have to stay committed for a year or so as the Jacinda Ardern type honeymoon kicks in. But it won’t last long. Massive inflation and hard Left populist policies will see to that. It’s not going to be pretty. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a renewed conservative Liberal party win in 2025. That’s assuming, of course, that they opt to go down the conservative renewal path and not the ‘let’s be Labor and the Greens but just a bit slower’ one. Losing all those lefty moderates last Saturday makes my hope a lot more likely. ?


Lawless corruption watchdog

In Perrottet-land “upholding integrity” must mean protecting a rogue agency that engaged in conduct that had no basis in law and inflicted damage on innocent people without lawful cause. That is what this government has decided to do in relation to its Independent Commission Against Corruption.

In the real world integrity does not mean protecting powerful wrongdoers from the law. It means nobody is above the law — a principle that is particularly important for agencies that are supposed to fight wrongdoing.

The parliamentary committee that oversees the commission unanimously recommended in November that its corruption declarations against four men should be assessed in court without the benefit of retrospective legislation that was rushed through parliament in 2015 to “validate” actions by the commission that would otherwise have been unlawful.

Just before that legislation was enacted, ICAC had agreed in the Court of Appeal that it had no basis in law for declaring those four men corrupt. A draft declaration confirming ICAC’s defeat had been prepared and circulated by Margaret Beazley, who was then president of the Court of ­Appeal.

But before the court could officially strike down ICAC’s unlawful findings, the government, then led by Mike Baird, was lobbied by ICAC, which was then led by Megan Latham. What followed is a one of the worst examples of the misuse of the legislative process.

The first problem is that parliament was never told that its Validation Act would have the effect of changing the outcome of legal proceedings in which ICAC had already admitted liability to the four men. Parliament, acting in ignorance, interfered with the judicial process.

The second problem is just as serious. The Validation Act retrospectively stripped those four men of legal rights. It retrospectively imposed a detriment.

The injustice of this affair was not lost on all members of the parliamentary committee that oversees ICAC – including three cabinet ministers and three parliamentary secretaries.

These members of the government – the principled six – have expressed a view that is now at odds with government policy. They have strongly backed the need to provide a remedy — not for everyone affected by the Validation Act, just the four who had extracted admissions in court from ICAC.

They should take heart. They are on the right side of history.

With the honourable exception of the principled six, Perrottet’s government seems intent on alienating those who expect it to be the guardian of the rule of law, not its enemy.

Its official response to wrongdoing by ICAC amounts to this: cover it up, change the law, pretend it never happened. But reality has a way of making its presence felt.

The men who were denied their legal rights know that ICAC conceded in 2015 that they had been wrongly declared to be corrupt because the commission had exceeded its jurisdiction. They also know that those findings would have been struck down by the Court of Appeal but for the Validation Act.

ICAC fell into error by misreading the limits on its jurisdiction. Its mistake was pointed out by the NSW Court of Appeal and the High Court.

This injustice has been dragging on for so long that one of the four, mining entrepreneur Travers Duncan, died recently while waiting for this government to restore his legal rights. The remaining three deserve a remedy and the oversight committee agrees. Some would argue that the entire Validation Act should be repealed. But the oversight committee does not go that far.

It simply wants an amendment that would allow the remaining three to hold ICAC to account under the normal law – without the distortion of any retrospective validation of ICAC’s unlawful conduct.

In the seven years since the Validation Act came into force, the real justice system has had plenty of time to examine their conduct. The result: they have been convicted of nothing.

One of them, businessman John McGuigan, says the government’s decision ignores what is right and can only be explained by political expediency.

“For the Attorney-General to state that the ability of NSW citizens to rely on the law, as determined by the High Court, constitutes reliance on a ‘loophole’ is both disgraceful and legally incorrect.

“The NSW government’s ‘do what it takes’ attitude to expropriate both assets and rights and thereby preclude its citizens from an ability to rely on their legal rights is contrary to the fundamental principles of the rule of law.

“Essentially it constitutes a parallel system of justice devoid of legal principle based simply on achieving political objectives,” McGuigan says.

All wrongdoers need to be held to account. But this is particularly important when the wrongdoing takes place in an agency that is supposed to be the enemy of misconduct.


Bec Judd says she feels ‘unsafe’ in mansion in spray over crime in Melbourne

Bec Judd has revealed she feels “unsafe” in her own home after a spate of “rapes, bashings and home invasions” in the Bayside area of Melbourne.

The businesswoman and mum of four took to social media to accuse the Victorian state government of not caring about residents.

“So sick of the rapes, bashings and home invasions at the hands of gangs in Bayside,’’ she wrote in an Instagram story on Thursday.

“The state government don’t seem to care. We feel unsafe.

“I personally know 2 women who have experienced home invasions in Brighton in the last few weeks while they were at home.”

In response to a 7News story about the escalating situation, Judd also commented on the Instagram page of Liberal state MP James Newbury.

“Have these teens been charged yet or just another slap on the wrist?” she wrote.

Judd and her AFL star husband Chris Judd bought their mansion in Brighton for $7.3m four years ago and documented its Spanish-style renovation on social media, the Herald Sun reports.

Mr Newbury said residents and particularly women were increasingly scared and some are even starting to take matters into their own hands.

“I can tell you absolutely (Judd’s) sentiment is the same sentiment that I am getting from women across the electorate today,’’ he said.

“I am getting inundated with people who are living in streets where these crimes have occurred. “They’re coming across these gangs and being forced to barricade themselves in their bedrooms.

“I am now aware of a number of people who are hiring private security.

“I also know of people now leaving keys next to the front door so that if they are home invaded they’re not fought.”

Mr Newbury said closing the Brighton police station several years ago had also instilled fear. “We’ve got basically a front desk in Sandringham and if there’s a crime they have to come from Moorabbin,’’ he said.

“I went to a street where a recently widowed woman who just lost her husband had been home invaded. “Can you imagine how that would feel and how scarred people are?

“The scary thing is Labor is only ever doing something when it’s on TV. “It’s never proper fixes.”


The huge headwinds set to stop Labor’s honeymoon

There are mighty headwinds, economic and political, heading the world’s way and Australia cannot expect to go untouched. A global food shortage driven by a terrible confluence of events: the collapse of supply routes arising in the pandemic, crop failures driven by extreme weather events and conflict in Ukraine upsetting one of the world’s largest food bowls is upon us.

The crisis is exacerbated by a chronic scarcity of nitrogenous and phosphorus fertilisers. The source of much of the world’s supply lies in Russia and Ukraine.

The global wheat price has surged to record levels due to crop failures in 2021 in Russia and Ukraine prior to the invasion, the number one and four global exporters respectively.

This week Ukraine reported that 80 per cent of its agricultural land was under cultivation, a remarkable achievement given the state of Russian aggression within its borders but a clear sign of diminished output. Crop yields can expect to be at all time lows.

There is already talk of Russia weaponising its food exports. For now, we can merely conclude that Putin’s Russia has stopped exports of wheat driven by strong demand and reduced output.

Rice futures were trading above the $USD17-per-hundredweight mark, a level not seen since the world was plunged into the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic in mid-2020. The shortage of chemical fertilisers has already reduced rice yields by as much as ten per cent throughout south Asia.

If there is one thing that keeps Xi Jinping and the leadership of the CCP awake at night, it is the prospect of famine.

With a heightened sense of foreboding, Egypt, no stranger to bread riots, now seeks to control the country’s supply of wheat. It is now a criminal offence in Egypt to buy or sell wheat without the permission of the government. In Iran, a country driven to the brink by economic sanctions, the Raisi government cut subsidies on the price of wheat leading to civil unrest which will only get worse.

If we needed a portent of what is coming it lies in Sri Lanka where riots are reported as everyday affairs, the genesis of which lies largely unreported by Australian media. Sri Lanka’s problems are directly attributable to political ineptitude and a ban on the import of chemical fertilisers, reducing the country’s ability to feed itself within the space of six months. Sri Lanka has less than a million dollars in foreign cash reserves. Two tankers lie in the harbour of Columbo, full of fuel but the government can’t pay for it. The island nation is bankrupt and every day more of its 22 million people lurch into poverty. The cause of the riots isn’t political partisanship. Hungry people are angry people.

In the developing world, governments will fall, people will become displaced. Refugees will surge into relative safe havens like Australia.

In the western world, the immediate impact will be on the price of staples. In Australia, we are already battling the forces of extreme weather events. In Queensland’s Lockyer Valley, one of the nation’s food bowls especially in fresh vegetables, farmers planted one crop and saw it destroyed by flood. They planted again only to have that one smashed by the second deluge.

In the coming months it is not so much a matter of how much a head of lettuce or a bunch of broccoli will cost. They will simply be unavailable. The price of staples like bread, pasta and rice already high and with supply constrained by the effects of the receding pandemic, will skyrocket.

People in poverty in Australia will feel the pinch hardest, as they always do. The Albanese government must find a way to keep these two million or more heads above water.

Inflation will surge and with it the prospect of global stagflation – a counterintuitive economic condition where growth slows, demand falters and unemployment rises while inflation continues ever skyward. The world experienced it in the late 1970s and early 1980s and the effects of it accounted for more than a fair share of elected governments being consigned to the dustbin.

This is just one foreseeable crisis facing the newly elected Albanese government but the scale of it is almost unfathomable. It will test Labor’s untried management abilities amid a commonwealth budget deficit that is burgeoning out of control, leaving it with a diminished fiscal response.

Welcome to the big league, Albo. The party’s over.


A high school has come under fire for showing students a video that discussed pornography in such graphic detail that some students walked out

Wadalba Community School on the Central Coast in NSW was conducting the monthly year 10 assembly on Monday when without warning, students were shown a TEDx Talk on video by sexual health expert Ran Gavrieli entitled 'Why I stopped watching porn'.

The video sees Gavrieli discuss different types of online pornography online to try and understand the question, 'What would porn deem as sexual?'

In the talk Mr Gavrieli claimed it was 'whatever men find arousing'.

'If men find it arousing to choke a woman, to have brutal sex without one touch, hug, kiss, tender caress? Well, then it is sexual,' Mr Gavrieli said in the video.

'It arouses men to see a woman or a child cry? It is sexual. It arouses men to rape a woman? Well, then it is sexual.'

In attempting to explain the aim of cameras in pornography, Mr Gavrieli added 'porn cameras have no interest in capturing any normal sensual activities such as petting, caressing, making out, touching, hugging, kissing – no, what porn cameras are into is the penetration.'

This video - reportedly shown without warning or context - caught a number of students aged between 14 and 15 off guard and even left some students in tears as a result, reported the Daily Telegraph.

One 14-year-old student claimed that she had been a victim of rape at a party earlier this year and that the graphic detailed descriptions of porn, in particular rape, had been were 'triggering'.

'I went to the bathroom straight after because I was throwing up,' she said. 'They could have at least separated the girls and boys or given a trigger warning especially while talking about rape.'

Another eight girls are understood to have walked out.

The school's principal Melinda Brown has subsequently written to parents to 'unreservedly apologise' for the incident and admitted the lesson breached Department of Education guidelines.

'I apologise unreservedly for this lesson going ahead without first informing you and providing you with the option to remove your child from this lesson,' Ms Brown wrote.

'I want to assure you the incident does not reflect the high standards and care of students that Wadalba Community School upholds at all other times.

A spokesperson for the department stated that 'the school did not follow Department policy and the incident does not reflect the high standards required by the Department.'

'The matter has been referred to the Department's Professional and Ethical Standards Directorate for investigation.'

'The Department apologises unreservedly for any distress caused and counselling is being offered to the students involved.'




Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 29, 2022


 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 29, 2022

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Science or the academy?

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-24-2022]





They’re Worried About The Spread Of Information, Not Disinformation 

Caitlin Johnstone, via Naked Capitalism 5-24-2022]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2022]



Liberalism, conservatism and the lack of discussion of civic republicanism

Quote of the week: Ha-Joon Chang on liberalism, ‘the most confusing term in the world’

[The Political Economy of Development, via Mike Norman Economics 5-26-2022]

“Few words have generated more confusion than the word ‘liberal’. Although the term was not explicitly used until the nineteenth century, the ideas behind liberalism can be traced back to at least the seventeenth century, starting with thinkers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. The classical meaning of the term describes a position that gives priority to freedom of the individual. In economic terms, this means protecting the right of the individual to use his property as he pleases, especially to make money. In this view, the ideal government is the one that provides only the minimum conditions that are conducive to the exercise of such a right, such as law and order. Such a government (state) is known as the minimal state. The famous slogan among the liberals of the time was ‘laissez faire’ (let things be), so liberalism is also known as the laissez-faire doctrine.

Today, liberalism is usually equated with the advocacy of democracy, given its emphasis on individual political rights, including the freedom of speech. However, until the mid-twentieth century, most liberals were not democrats. They did reject the conservative view that tradition and social hierarchy should have priority over individual rights. But they also believed that not everyone was worthy of such rights. They thought women lacked full mental faculties and thus did not deserve the right to vote. They also insisted that poor people should not be given the right to vote, since they believed the poor would vote in politicians who would confiscate private properties. Adam Smith openly admitted that the government ‘is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all’

— Ha-Joon Chang (2014), Economics: The User’s Guide, Pelican Books, p.69-70.

Make Progressive Politics Constitutional Again

Joseph Fishkin and William E. Forbath, May 23, 2022 [Boston Review]

Mounting an effective challenge to our conservative juristocracy requires understanding how we got here. It is not just that the right out-organized the left. On the contrary, liberals have contributed to conservatives’ success by imagining constitutional law as an autonomous domain, separate from politics. Liberals have likewise imagined that most questions about how to regulate the economy are separate from politics, best left to technocrats. These two ideas have different backstories, but both were at the center of a mainstream liberal consensus that emerged after World War II. For postwar liberals, constitutional law was best left to the lawyers, economic questions to the economists. These two key moves sought to depoliticize vast domains that had previously been central to progressive politics. Together they tend to limit the role of the people and the representatives they elect.

Conservatives never accepted either of these moves. They have a substantive vision of a political and economic order they believe the Constitution requires, and that vision translates easily into arguments in court—arguments against redistribution, regulation, and democratic power. Inspired by their forebears a century ago in the Lochner era, when conservative courts routinely struck down progressive reforms for violating protections for property and contract, today’s conservatives have methodically installed movement judges who reliably advance those goals. And they are succeeding. Witness the litigation over the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Although the law narrowly survived, conservatives outside and inside the courts embraced novel arguments that Congress had transgressed constitutional limits on its powers. Liberals disagreed, offering arguments that the ACA was permissible. But they never made the argument their progressive forbears might have made: that something like the ACA is required to meet our constitutional obligations.

[TW: See Erwin Chemerinsky’s 2018 book, We the People: A Progressive Reading of the Constitution for the Twenty-First Century: ““If the Constitution will every truly provide for the general welfare, every child should be guaranteed a quality education and every person should have the food, shelter, and clothing needed for survival.” (P. 222).]

….Bringing the Court back in line will be a challenge. Fortunately we have precedents to draw from. For the first two-thirds of U.S. history, generations of reformers—from Jacksonian Democrats to Reconstruction Republicans to New Deal Democrats—made arguments in what we call the democracy-of-opportunity tradition. These reformers argued that the Constitution not only permitted but compelled legislatures to protect U.S. democracy in the face of oligarchy and (later) racial exclusion. The Constitution, in this tradition, not only permits, but compels, the elected branches to ensure the broad distribution of power and opportunity that are essential to a democratic society.

Reformers made these arguments in the teeth of hostile courts determined to impose court-made doctrines to shield elites from democratic encroachment. But the elected branches could and often did challenge the Court’s interpretation of the Constitution, especially about the trajectory of the nation’s political economy—the political decisions that shape the distribution of wealth and power through our laws and institutions….

Our current court reads the First Amendment in ways that undermine not only the labor unions that workers democratically elect, but also the campaign finance regimes that our elected leaders enact in an effort to preserve democratic self-rule. It has become a pro-oligarchy Amendment.

This is a neat trick. It works the same way every time. In place of democracy, the modern court sees only a bureaucratic state. Instead of people attempting to work together to govern ourselves, the modern court sees, in every First Amendment case, simply a fight between two actors: a lone individual plaintiff whose “speech claims” are pitted against the regulatory goals of a hostile government. If we look beyond the lone plaintiff and the state, we see something else: the numerous ordinary people whose power, in politics and in economic life, depends on collective self-government as a bulwark against oligarchy….

In his Citizens United dissent, John Paul Stevens argued that “our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending.” His reference to “democratic duty” is highly unusual today. It evokes a lost world of democratic lawmaking, one that acknowledged that legislators have a constitutional duty to build the countervailing political power of the democratic majority against the wealthy few….

Unsurprisingly, for decades the remnants of this vision have been squarely in the crosshairs of conservative politicians and judges. Starting with the counterrevolution of the late 1940s, the “right to work” movement has waged an ongoing campaign of legislation and litigation funded and supported by corporate executives and employers’ associations, as well as by wealthy anti-union ideological activists, to destroy the New Deal vision of labor as a source of countervailing social and political power against oligarchy….

Opponents of racial inclusion have also long understood the connection between racial inclusion and political economy. They have not trained their fire exclusively on race-conscious programs like affirmative action. Instead they have consistently chosen lines of constitutional attack that reduce the potential of public law to intervene in our political economy in ways that might promote a broader distribution of economic or political power. They have also pressed the interventions of public law downward, away from the federal government and toward the states. This gives Southern, white political elite more power to block interventions that might benefit Black people. Finally, they have worked to carve out constitutional domains where private law norms of contract and property trump public policy interventions such as antidiscrimination law….

To reach this surprising result, Roberts had to build new constitutional doctrine. Forcing states to accept a broad and universal program for the poor and the working class, or else lose the narrower and stingier program they had before, was “coercion,” Roberts held, a “gun to the head”—and therefore unconstitutional, according to an account of the relationship between the federal government and the states that elevates the constitutional entitlements of states over those of citizens. Roberts’s opinion caused well over 2 million Americans to become uninsured. But this was no random set of Americans. About nine out of ten of the people deprived of health insurance live within the boundaries of the former Confederacy, and a vastly disproportionate number of them are Black. This fight might seem very distant from the hot-button, constitutional conflicts over race. And yet it is all about race—built on centuries of laws and policies of racial exclusion, the political economy of social insurance has a profound racial dimension.

Erwin Chemerinsky, We the People: A Progressive Reading of the Constitution for the Twenty-First Century [YouTube].



The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Global Banks Privately Prepare for ‘Dangerous Levels’ of Imminent Civil Unrest in Western Homelands 

[Byline Times, via Naked Capitalism 5-22-2022]

Global banks and investment firms are bracing themselves for an “unprecedented” upsurge in civil unrest in the US, UK and Europe as energy and food price spikes are set to drive costs of living to astronomical levels, Byline Times can exclusively reveal….

The senior investment executive, who spoke to Byline Times on condition of anonymity because the information he revealed is considered highly sensitive, said that contingency planners at top financial institutions believe “dangerous levels” of social breakdown in the West are now all but inevitable, and imminent. An outbreak of civil unrest is expected to occur anytime this year, but most likely in the coming months as the impact of the cost of living crisis begins to saturate the lives of “everyone”.

Pete Buttigieg: Hungry Babies, Regrettably, Are Just the Price of the Free Market 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 5-24-2022]

Personal consumption and expenditures 

Warren Mosler [The Center of the Universe, via Mike Norman Economics 5-27-2022]

Graphs: personal income and personal saving are declining; “So consumers are spending more than their incomes, mainly through borrowing;” 

“Apple’s Cement Overshoes”

[Cory Doctorow, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-26-2022]

“Many people have noticed that their parents used to keep refrigerators and washing machines in service for decades, but their own appliances all seem to end up beyond repair after a few short years. This is by design, and Apple led the appliance manufacturers to victory in killing Ohio’s Right to Repair bill, then they took the fight to Nebraska, where they helped kill farmers’ dreams of fixing their own tractors (they also convinced Ontario’s Ford “open for business” government to kill a repair bill, giving countless small businesses the shaft so that a tax-evading multinational headquartered in Cupertino, California could make more money off the people of Ontario)…. Eventually, it became clear to Apple and other anti-repair companies that they were going to lose the repair wars some day — it was a matter of when, not if. Apple needed a backup plan. They needed to make it look like they were taking steps to allow managed, safe repairs, while doing nothing of the sort. They needed to invent repairwashing. First came 2019’s certified independent repair program, which allowed independent shops to fix iPhones with Apple’s blessing. This program was designed to be as cumbersome and useless as possible…. This week, The Verge’s Sean Hollister got to try out Apple’s home repair program. The company shipped him 79 pounds’ worth of gear, in two ruggedized Pelican cases. Included in the kit: ‘an industrial-grade heat station that looks like a piece of lab equipment,’ to loosen the glue that holds the phone together (recall Apple’s aversion to ‘screws, not glue’). For all the gear Hollister got from Apple, following the official Apple manual and using official Apple tools was much harder than fixing your phone with an equivalent set of tools, parts and manuals from iFixit.”

Predatory Finance

JPMorgan Whistleblower Names Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair in Court Documents as Receiving “Emergency” Payments from Bank

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 25, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

An attorney turned whistleblower who worked in compliance at JPMorgan Chase, Shaquala Williams, has named former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair as one of the parties receiving improperly processed “emergency payments” from the bank. Williams is suing the bank for retaliating against her protected whistleblowing activities by terminating her employment after she raised concerns about these payments to Blair and other serious compliance issues. (The case is Shaquala Williams v JPMorgan Chase, Case Number 1:21-cv-09326, which was filed last November in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.) The new revelation naming Tony Blair was contained in a transcript of Williams’ deposition that was filed with the court last week. Prior to that, Blair had been referred to simply as “a high risk JPMorgan third-party intermediary for Jamie Dimon…” 

Restoring balance to the economy

How Corporate America’s Favorite Legal Trick Is Backfiring

Sam Mellins, May 27, 2022 [The Lever]

For decades, companies have used arbitration agreements to shirk responsibilities to their customers and employees — but now the tables have turned….

Uber is one of several companies that has been targeted by a new legal tactic for vindicating the rights of aggrieved consumers and employees: “mass arbitration,” which is based around the very same tool that corporate America has used for decades to insulate itself from legal responsibility.

The strategy relies on recruiting tens of thousands of injured customers or employees of a company to simultaneously file claims requesting that their complaints go to arbitration, a process in which a private mediator selected by the targeted company referees the dispute. Unlike a class action lawsuit, each arbitration claim must be litigated individually, one by one.

Victims of corporate malfeasance are turning to mass arbitration because it offers a way to force companies to pay up for their misdeeds — and in a world where many companies forbid customers and employees from suing them, is often the only way to do so.

This new grassroots strategy suggests that corporate America’s favorite trick of using arbitration rules to avoid liability could be losing some of its potency. This legal tactic was further watered down earlier this week, when the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that companies could lose their right to arbitrate if they fail to invoke that privilege in a timely manner.

Oil Windfall Brings Free College and Day Care to One of the Poorest States 

[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 5-25-2022]

New Mexico this year became the first US state to offer free college to its residents and free child care to most families, all on the back of soaring revenue from royalties and taxes on oil and gas production, which are booming on its patch of the Permian Basin. The state now ranks behind only Texas in energy production. 

A Formula for Public Ownership: What the Similac debacle teaches about the consequences of arrogant corporate concentration

Robert Kuttner, May 27, 2022 [The American Prospect]

So consider: Of the two giant companies that control manufacture of this vital product, one is cavalier about sanitation and safety, and the other doesn’t want to be in the business at all. The government has a huge amount of leverage because the WIC program buys more than half of all infant formula.

The remedy is either to break the industry up into lots of smaller producers, or even better, to have a public option, where a public entity enters the market as a major producer. FDR called this “yardstick competition.” The stuff isn’t hard to make, and WIC provides a guaranteed market.

The Best (Progressive) Democrat You Probably Never Heard Of: Michael Kazin on Robert Wagner

Eric Alterman, May 27, 2022 [The American Prospect]

In 1926, Wagner won a seat in the U.S. Senate by clinging to the coattails of Al Smith, then his state’s popular governor. On Capitol Hill, he proposed measures to aid the unemployed and use government funds to stabilize the economy. When FDR became president, Wagner seized a unique opportunity to pass bold initiatives to markedly improve the lives of working Americans. Leon Keyserling, a 27-year-old economist on his staff, wrote the National Labor Relations Act, which the press immediately dubbed the Wagner Act, although it was co-sponsored with a congressman from Massachusetts. The senator also introduced bills to erect millions of units of public housing and provide every citizen with health insurance. Wagner’s reputation as the most prominent and most effective labor liberal in America made him the natural choice to oversee the drafting of the 1936 Democratic platform, on which FDR ran his campaign for re-election that carried all but two states and gave the Democrats huge majorities in both houses.

Wagner was also one of the few Democrats in Congress whose empathy for ordinary people never faded at the color line. In 1934, he proposed a bill to make lynching a federal crime and fought, in vain, to stop Southerners in his party from filibustering it to death. He also sought to amend the Social Security Act and his own National Labor Relations Act to include domestic workers and farmworkers—occupations held by two-thirds of Black workers in the South. But the New Yorker and his fellow liberals lost that struggle, too; Southern Democrats composed too large a bloc in the party and had too much power in Congress. 

Should Congress Shrink the Deficit to Fight Inflation? — Stephanie Kelton

[The Lens, via Mike Norman Economics 5-28-2022]

Climate and environmental crises

The air conditioning paradox: How do we cool people without heating up the planet?  

[Vox, via The Big Picture 5-23-2022]

The world is now 1.1 degrees Celsius — 2 degrees Fahrenheit — warmer on average than it was at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. But baked into that seemingly small change in the average is a big increase in dangerous extreme temperatures. That’s made cooling, particularly air conditioning, vital for the survival of billions of people.

The devastation of extreme temperatures is playing out right now in several places around the world. A gargantuan heat wave over India and Pakistan, where 1.5 billion people live, is now in its third week. Just 12 percent of India’s population has air conditioning, but even those people are suffering. The heat has triggered power outages, created water shortages, and killed dozens, although the true toll may not be known for weeks.

Swaths of western Europe are also facing a heat wave, with temperatures forecasted to breach 40°C, or 104°F, later this week.

Closer to home, Texas is currently facing a record-breaking heat wave just as six power plants suddenly went offline. The state’s grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, asked residents to avoid using large appliances and set thermostats to 78 degrees Fahrenheit between 3 pm and 8 pm….

During warmer weather, pollutants like ozone form faster, which can lead to breathing problems. In addition, the stress from heat is cumulative. High temperatures at night are particularly worrying because it means people have little relief from the heat during the day. Because of climate change, nights are actually warming faster than daylight hours….

Cooling is not just for people. Refrigeration and freezing are essential for producing, storing, and transporting food, medicine, electronics, and, as Carrier found, books. By 2050, AC energy use is poised to triple on its current course, according to the IEA — which is roughly equivalent to the amount of electricity China uses today.

Within the current crop of air conditioners, there is wide variation in efficiency and the power sources they use. The spaces they cool aren’t all insulated the same ways, either.

There is also a huge gap in access. The IEA notes that for the nearly 3 billion people living in the hottest parts of the world, only 8 percent of them have ACs. And within countries, ACs are not distributed evenly. Access varies by income, but also by location. Last summer’s massive heat wave across the Pacific Northwest was especially worrying because so few people in the region have air conditioners due to the ordinarily mild climate. Seattle has the lowest percentage of households with air conditioning of any major metro area in the US. That likely contributed to hundreds of excess deaths.

Exxon Faces the Music


In 2019, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey sued ExxonMobil over the fact that it had long known about the climate crisis and its own role in making the problem worse. The fossil fuel giant sought to get the case thrown out of court, using a state law designed to prevent frivolous lawsuits against journalists and claiming the company was engaged in protected speech.

But this week, Massachusetts’ high court rejected Exxon’s spurious argument and allowed the lawsuit to go forward. There will now be a trial in a lower court to determine what Exxon knew and when it knew it — and the results could expose the company to enormous financial liability for misleading investors and the public.

A New Enzyme Found in Compost Just Set a Speed Record For Breaking Down Plastic 

[Science Alert, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2022]

New night-time solar technology can be used to generate electricity in the dark 

[AutoEvolution, 23 May 2022, via Clean Power Roundup]

Renewable energy research may have taken an unexpected turn as UNSW scientists found a way to produce electricity from the so-called "night-time" solar power. This is possible because the Earth stores the sun's energy as heat during the day, radiating it during the night. This heat can be harvested as infrared light using materials usually found in night-vision equipment.

A semiconductor device called a thermoradiative diode was used to generate power from the infrared light emitted at night. The amount of energy generated this way is tiny, about 100,000 times less than what you get from a solar panel during the day. Nevertheless, the researchers believe the result can be improved in the future once they will find the best materials to convert infrared light into electricity.

Information age dystopia

The Surveillance State Is Primed for Criminalized Abortion 

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2022]

Your Phone Could Be Used to Prosecute for Getting an Abortion: Here’s How 

[Scientific American, via Naked Capitalism 5-28-2022]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2022]



The Way We Discuss “Disinformation” Is Toxic 

[Slate, via The Big Picture 5-26-2022]

Study the literature surrounding terms like misinformation, disinformation, fake news, and propaganda. Despite the terms’ complexities and heavy connotations, they’ve become buzzwords, often thrown around with little justification. The practice can have serious consequences for those accused of spreading “disinformation” and the larger media environment.

What People Misunderstand About Red-Pilling

[Slate, via The Big Picture 5-25-2022]

I’ve been doing fieldwork in far-right online communities since 2016. I hang out on white supremacist Telegram channels, comb through QAnon threads on 8kun (formerly known as 8chan), and watch TikToks that claim COVID-19 is a globalist plot. Like most people who work with far-right content, I find it emotionally draining and unpleasant. But I’m also convinced that the mainstream acceptability of extremely racist and conspiratorial beliefs is a threat to American democracy.  

If You Think Free Speech Is Defined By Your Ability To Be An Asshole Without Consequence, You Don’t Understand Free Speech

[Tech Dirt, via The Big Picture 5-24-2022]

One of the more frustrating things about the various “debates” regarding “free speech” lately, is how little they are actually about free speech. Quite often, they are actually about people who are quite upset about having to face social consequences for their own free speech. But facing social consequences has always been part of free speech. Indeed, it’s part of the vaunted “marketplace of ideas.” If people think your ideas aren’t worth shit, they may ignore or shun you… or encourage others to do the same.

Over at The Bulwark, Prof. Nicholas Grossman has a really good article exploring Elon Musk’s attempt at reframing the debate over free speech. It is well worth reading. The crux of the argument that Grossman makes (in great detail that you should go read to have it all make sense) is that when you break down what Musk actually seems to be thinking about free speech, his definition hews quite similarly to what a lot of trolls think free speech means: the right to be a total asshole without consequence.

“Free Speech” Ought to Mean More than Mocking Trans People 

Nicholas Grossman [The Bulwark, via The Big Picture 5-24-2022]

Where the internet went wrong – and how we can reboot it 

[New Statesman, via The Big Picture 5-22-2022]

The online world is run by tech companies that we depend on but deeply distrust. New books by Justin EH Smith and Ben Tarnoff ask: is an alternative possible? 

Disrupting mainstream economics

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-26-2022]



Oligarchs' war on the experiment of republican self-government

The Crypto Kings Are Making Big Political Donations. What Could Go Wrong? 

[New Republic, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2022]

The list is long and spans the geographical and political spectrum: Bankman-Fried has donated to both Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. Fred Ehrsam, the co-founder of the successful cryptocurrency investment firm Paradigm, has donated to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden’s campaign and Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen’s reelection campaign as well (both are Democrats). Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (of Facebook and The Social Network fame) have also poured thousands into Senate and congressional races. Somewhat paradoxically, they’ve donated both to Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s reelection campaign and the campaign of Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, who is seeking the GOP nomination to face Senator Mark Kelly and is a Peter Thiel protégé. The Winklevoss brothers have also donated to Donald Trump’s Save America PAC.

Democrats’ political suicide

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-25-2022]



The Liberal Obsession With ‘Disinformation’ Is Not Helping

[New York Magazine, via The Lever 5-22-2022]

“The other pernicious problem with liberals’ fixation on ‘disinformation’ is that it allows them to lie to themselves. Trump’s ascendance in 2016 posed a painful psychic challenge to liberal elites. It suggested the possibility that many millions of Americans were motivated by deep, venomous dissatisfactions with the world they had helped create, that our cultural disagreements were profound, not superficial, and that our perspectives were practically irreconcilable inversions of each other.”

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Republicans on the Wrong Side of Public Outrage

Robert Kuttner, May 25, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Here’s the bizarre thing about mass gun violence that takes the lives of schoolchildren and the likely reversal of Roe v. Wade: Public opinion is not with the right. It is overwhelmingly in favor of banning civilian purchase of assault weapons. It is overwhelmingly in favor of keeping Roe. And yet a party that espouses these and other extreme views is on the verge of taking over the country. If we let it.

What can prevent this grim fate is resolute leadership that stands with most Americans—and also hangs this lunacy around the necks of Republicans and makes them squirm. In his first statement on the mass murder, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott noted that the shooter was dead. You can imagine how much comfort that offers parents.

Other Republicans have offered reassurance by pointing out that the killer acted alone. No, he did not. He had multiple Republican accomplices who keep blocking gun control and valorizing guns with open-carry laws.

Heather Cox Richardson: U.S. Politics "A Tyranny of the Minority" | Amanpour and Company [YouTube], March 27, 2022


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

​​​​​​​...during the Cold War, American leaders came to treat democracy and capitalism as if they were interchangeable. So long as the United States embraced capitalism, by which they meant an economic system in which individuals, rather than the state, owned the means of production, liberal democracy would automatically follow.

That theory seemed justified by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The crumbling of that communist system convinced democratic nations that they had won, they had defeated communism, their system of government would dominate the future… In the 1990s, America’s leaders believed that the spread of capitalism would turn the world democratic as it delivered to them global dominance, but they talked a lot less about democracy than they did about so-called free markets.

In fact, the apparent success of capitalism actually undercut democracy in the U.S. The end of the Cold War was a gift to those determined to destroy the popular liberal state that had regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and invested in infrastructure since the New Deal. They turned their animosity from the Soviet Union to the majority at home, those they claimed were bringing communism to America. “​​For 40 years conservatives fought a two-front battle against statism, against the Soviet empire abroad and the American left at home,” right-wing operative Grover Norquist said in 1994. “Now the Soviet Union is gone and conservatives can redeploy. And this time, the other team doesn't have nuclear weapons.”

Heather Cox Richardson, May 26, 2022 [Letters from an American] 

Last night, Texas candidate for governor Beto O’Rourke confronted Texas governor Greg Abbott at a press conference. Last year, Abbott signed at least seven new laws to make it easier to obtain guns, and after the Uvalde murders, he said tougher gun laws are not “a real solution.” O’Rourke offered a different vision for defending our children than stocking up on guns. "The time to stop the next shooting is right now, and you are doing nothing," O'Rourke said, standing in front of a dais at which Abbott sat. "You said this is not predictable…. This is totally predictable…. This is on you, until you choose to do something different…. This will continue to happen. Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed, just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday.”

Uvalde mayor Don McLaughlin shouted profanities at O'Rourke; Texas Republican lieutenant governorDan Patrick told the former congressman, "You're out of line and an embarrassment”; and Senator Ted Cruz told him, “Sit down.”

“GOP frustration builds with Freedom Caucus floor tactics”

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-25-2022]

“[Members of the House Freedom Caucus] have forced recorded votes on normally noncontroversial bills on the suspension calendar, forcing lawmakers to hang around the chamber for hours to get their votes in rather than conduct other business…. Some GOP lawmakers are getting frustrated with the hard-line tactics of the conservative House Freedom Caucus…. [Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.)] said that he told the Freedom Caucus members: ‘​​I’m just telling y’all, just giving you a heads up, you’re getting a lot of ill will around here. This stuff will come back to you. You just can’t do this to people and think that they’re not going to remember it.’…. Bills and resolutions considered under suspension of the rules have historically passed by voice vote, often with few members in the House chamber. They account for the majority of bills passed in modern Congresses. But Freedom Caucus members last year started demanding recorded votes for those bills, drastically changing the pace of floor action. Perry and Roy in a joint interview argued that most all bills deserve a recorded vote, that it gives more time for members to review the legislation and that leadership often sneaks through controversial bills as suspension bills. Members should not be considered as on record supporting a bill that passed by voice vote if they did not get a chance to vote on it, they say. ‘What ought to happen in this body, irrespective of what we’re doing at any particular moment, is we ought to have a consensus on a fair way to move bills through appropriately, where we start with the default position of voting, and you’re only moving something by voice or consent when there’s universal agreement that is unobjectionable,’ Roy said. Freedom Caucus members have also argued that the tactic helps slow down and delay Democrats’ agenda.”

The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

The Supreme Court just made it much easier to bribe a member of Congress 

[Vox, via The Big Picture 5-22-2022]

A case brought by Ted Cruz is a huge boon to rich candidates and moneyed lobbyists…. 

The Court’s decision in FEC v. Ted Cruz for Senate is a boon to wealthy candidates. It strikes down an anti-bribery law that limited the amount of money candidates could raise after an election in order to repay loans they made to their own campaign.

Federal law permits candidates to loan money to their campaigns. In 2001, however, Congress prohibited campaigns from repaying more than $250,000 of these loans using funds raised after the election. They can repay as much as they want from campaign donations received before the election (although a federal regulation required them to do so “within 20 days of the election”).

Threat Lurks to STB’s Independence 

Frank N. Wilner, [Railway Age]

Once upon a time, conservative jurists were the best friends to federal regulatory agencies such as the Surface Transportation Board (STB). When those agencies pushed the boundaries of their decision-making independence, federal courts considered them experts in their field and accordingly deferred to their interpretations of the statutes they administered….

To be tested is a 1984 Supreme Court decision, Chevron USA v. Natural Resources Defense Council, written by former Justice John Paul Stevens, then considered part of the Court’s liberal wing. The decision—creating what is known as the Chevron Doctrine—later was celebrated by one of the court’s more conservative justices, the late Antonin Scalia, and all seemed well for activist federal regulatory agencies.

That 1984 decision held that expert federal regulatory agencies such as the STB—not federal courts—should be the primary interpreters of statutes that Congress authorized those agencies to administer. Federal regulatory agencies, holds the Chevron Doctrine, should be afforded deference in their rulemakings even if they differ from what the court considers to be the best interpretation, except where the statutory language permits only one interpretation.…

Many conservative jurists previously supportive of Chevron Deference “now disavow” it, says Harvard Law Professor Cass R. Sunstein in a review of a new book by Columbia University Law Professor Thomas W. Merrill (The Chevron Doctrine: Its Rise and Fall, and the Future of the Administrative State)…. Conservatives nowadays, wrote Sunstein in the May 26 New York Review of Books, have adopted the view “that much of the modern administrative state is unconstitutional and that there is something seriously wrong with a situation in which major policy decisions are made by [federal regulatory] agencies instead of by Congress.”

The Dark Side

This Is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse 

[Christianity Today, via Naked Capitalism 5-23-2022]

The report on Southern Baptist abuses is a portrait of brutal misogyny 

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2022]