Monthly Archives: July 2022

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 31, 2022


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 31, 2022

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Will elites be allowed to “cull the herd”?

Lambert Strether [Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2022]

We’re engaged in a massive social experiment to see whether an elite (ruling + governing classes) can “cull the herd” in six-figure quantities, and still retain hegemony (TINA); the Covid pandemic is only the latest and most obvious example. So far, the answer seems to be yes, or even “Hell, yeah!” Viewed in that light, is “the system” “at risk” at all?

Global power shift as USA and west commit “suicide by neoliberalism”

Is this or is this not a recession? It doesn't matter, there are much bigger changes afoot — Philip Pilkington

Philip Pilkington [Macrocosm, via Mike Norman Economics 7-29-2022]

What is going on? Simply put, the West is getting poorer. We are seeing two things at once. First of all, policymakers have lost the plot and started intervening heavily into the economy with lockdowns and various other policies that destroy the supply-side of the economy. Secondly, we are seeing an enormous geopolitical shift centered around the war in Ukraine. The old model where the rich West runs large trade deficits with the poorer developing countries in exchange for worthless paper is coming to an end. We are exacerbating this transition by engaging in self-destructive sanctions policies that interfere with markets in everything from energy to fertiliser.

In a few words: the West is in decline and our leaders are greatly accelerating and exacerbating this decline. They can cover this up with redundant arguments about what is and isn’t a recession for so long. But at some point either the inflation will get worse — perhaps by gas shortages in Europe this winter — and/or the unmeployment rate will spike. At that point, the underlying dynamics will become too obvious to ignore. For politicians and the general public anyway. Economists will likely find some other redundant nuance to debate and distract.

Russia’s Vostok 2022 has big messages 

M. K. Bhadrakumar [India Punchline, via Mike Norman Economics 7-27-2022]

[Bhadrakumar is a diplomat and former ambassador, retired from the Foreign Service of India.]

Vostok 2018, held exactly four years ago, was the first time such a massive military exercise was held after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. (At the height of the Cold War in 1981 under Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet Union held its last Vostok exercise). In the event, Vostok 2018 turned into a Russia-China gun show. 

The Russian Federation put more than 300,000 troops in the field—alongside tens of thousands of tanks, helicopters, and weapons of every sort—for a huge war game in Russia’s far-eastern reaches, and invited the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to play along, which it did.

And a whole new groove in international affairs began appearing, signifying that the interests of Russia and China have once again begun to align — this time around, in response to US military power under a pugnacious president, Donald Trump.  

On the sidelines of the exercise, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping had a breakfast of blinis together in Vladivostok. It was a powerful signal that Russia no longer saw China as an adversary but as a potential military ally. It was widely noted internationally as heralding a major shift in the co-relation of forces in world politics. 

21st Century Order 

Patrick Lawrence [Consortium News, via Naked Capitalism 7-27-2022]

Moscow/Teheran meeting: “[P]art of a long-in-the-making project that will connect Russia, Iran, and India by sea, road, rail, and, eventually, a very significant Iran–to–India oil pipeline.”

Michael Hudson [On Finance, Real Estate And The Powers Of Neoliberalism, via Mike Norman Economics 7-29-2022]
As in a Greek tragedy whose protagonist brings about precisely the fate that he has sought to avoid, the US/NATO confrontation with Russia in Ukraine is achieving just the opposite of America’s aim of preventing China, Russia and their allies from acting independently of U.S. control over their trade and investment policy. Naming China as America’s main long-term adversary, the Biden Administration’s plan was to split Russia away from China and then cripple China’s own military and economic viability. But the effect of American diplomacy has been to drive Russia and China together, joining with Iran, India and other allies. For the first time since the Bandung Conference of Non-Aligned Nations in 1955, a critical mass is able to be mutually self-sufficient to start the process of achieving independence from Dollar Diplomacy..…

Sino-forming of Global South passes point of no return 

David P. Goldman [Asia Times, via Mike Norman Economics 7-29-2022]

Drawing out the implications of this article, the US strategy of isolating China and Russia is failing. They are economically dominant in the Global South, especially China. Moreover, the US and Europe are dependent on Chinese exports ("supply chains"). And as we are seeing with sanctions, the US and Europe and also dependent on  Russia for materials and also China to a lesser extent (rare earths).

The bad news is that as this realization sets in, the remaining option to stem the tide of history from moving East is war. The US "deep state" joined at the hip with the UK "deep state"are preparing themselves and their allies for the coming conflict whose to save neoliberal, neo-imperial and neocolonial "globalization" dominated by the global elite.

[Hartman Report, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-2022]
[TW: To hundreds of people who were in the Democratic parties of Cook County, Ill., and Wayne County, Mich. in the 1980s and 1990s: I do NOT hate to tell you so. I fucking told you so. ]

[Quartz, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-2022]
[TW: Again, I do NOT hate to tell you so. I fucking told you so. ]

Empire Burlesque: What comes after the American Century? 

Daniel Bessner [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 7-24-2022]

Francis Fukuyama Is Right: Socialism Is the Only Alternative to Liberalism 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 7-27-2022]

[TW: This is symptomatic of why USA is in decline. Former neo-conservative Fukuyama apparently does not even mention the historical alternative to liberalism, civic republicanism (according a search of the book’s text using Amazon’s “Look Inside” facility. And the Jacobin author does not mention civic republicanism either. Socialism is a way to organize an economy, not a polity. Similarly, capitalism is a way to organize an economy, not a polity. Civic republicanism IS a way to organize a polity, and it includes an emphasis on the rights of society and the rights of community as well on the rights of individuals that has important implications for economic organization that liberalism, with its sole focus on individual rights, simply does not. And its inclusion of the rights of society and the rights of community makes civic republicanism quite amenable to socialist organization of major parts of the economy that, it should be clear by now, liberalism is incapable of.]

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Soft Landing RIP 

Barry Ritholtz, July 25, 2022 [The Big Picture]

A soft landing is now officially RIP.

What I have instead are questions about what the rest of 2022 looks like, and how deep into 2023 any damage persists. Here are five of those questions:

1. Will second-quarter earnings (released this month) disappoint or has the market already moderated expectations?

2. How much will the economy slow in Q3 and Q4?

3. How badly will third quarter earnings be hit?

4. Will the economic slowdown continue into 2023?

5. How much of this is priced into the stock market already?

Bank of America Memo, Revealed: “We Hope” Conditions for American Workers Will Get Worse

Ken Klippenstein, Jon Schwarz, July 29 2022 [The Intercept]

The financial behemoth privately fears that regular people have too much leverage.

A Bank of America executive stated that “we hope” working Americans will lose leverage in the labor market in a recent private memo obtained by The Intercept. Making predictions for clients about the U.S. economy over the next several years, the memo also noted that changes in the percentage of Americans seeking jobs “should help push up the unemployment rate.”

The Fed Must Emulate the Tactics of Volcker’s Fight Against Inflation 

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 7-25-2022]

[TW: I include this because FT is a mouthpiece for the City of London, so this is a key indication of what that particular part of the world elite are thinking. For those who don’t know or don’t remember, Volcker “tamed inflation” by placing usury in domination of the industrial economy. This locked in deindustrialization, and destroyed the working class: Everyone loves Paul Volcker. Everyone is wrong.]

GRAPH Households have collapsed since 1970s

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-25-2022]

[TW: In 1970, 80% of 25-34 year olds lived with a spouse. It is now less than half that rate, at 38%. One of the most discomfiting things I’ve ever experienced is listening to someone in their 30s and 40s explaining they have lost all hope of ever being able to afford getting married, buying a house, and starting a family. This is a subject that is not welcome in Democratic Party meetings. And that refusal to understand and empathize is allowing the (anti)Republican Party to pose as friendly to the working class.]



Corporate Landlords ‘Aggressively’ Evicted Tenants During Pandemic, House Report Says 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-2022]

Behind the investigative report on child labor allegations at Hyundai Alabama plant 

[NPR, via Naked Capitalism 7-27-2022]

America Was in an Early-Death Crisis Long Before COVID 

[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 7-24-2022]

Even before the pandemic began, more people here were dying at younger ages than in comparably wealthy nations

Disrupting mainstream economics

My Keynote from the Recent Levy Summer Seminar: MMT, Minsky and Godley

Stephanie Kelton [The Lens, via Mike Norman Economics 7-26-2022]

Restoring balance to the economy

Cut Off Private Equity’s Money Spigot 

David Dayen, July 28, 2022 [The American Prospect]

A variety of legislative and regulatory actions would make it hard for private equity to stay in business. That should be the goal.

It is genuinely hard to find a more destructive economic force in America today than the private equity industry. It encompasses all of the negative trends that have undermined living standards for the broad mass of citizens since the Reagan era: the escalating share of national income going to finance, the rise of market concentration, the contempt for workers, the yawning gap between rich and poor… 

 The industry is entrenched in housing and health care and energy and retail and restaurants. It’s involved in far more obscure markets, from Nielsen ratings to Smarte Carts at the airport to voting machines to Plan B, the morning-after pill. As of 2020, companies owned by private equity directly employed 11.7 million employees, comprising roughly 1 out of every 13 U.S. workers. Cheap money issued during the pandemic likely expanded that further, producing a record number of buyout deals.

But the market downturn in 2022, the ebbing power of the industry, and the growing awareness of its perverse impact on the economy present an opportunity to rethink how easy America makes it for predatory financiers to thrive. At every level of the private equity experience—from fundraising to acquisitions to exits—we either subsidize the industry’s business model, facilitate its war chest, or allow firms to separate actions from consequences. If we focused attention on turning off the fire hose of money flowing into the biggest firms, the worst elements of private equity could be a thing of the past. Here’s how….

The tools exist today to stop private equity, in a law written 82 years ago….

If we’re going to achieve broadly shared prosperity, we need to break the cycle of cheap money fueling runaway speculation. The goal should be to follow that money and keep it out of the hands of predators whose self-enrichment doesn’t correspond to society’s benefit.

Can Laws Spur Labor Militancy? 

Eric Blanc [Substack, via Naked Capitalism 7-24-2022]

According to a common analysis — which, for lack of a better term, I’ll call movementism — labor’s gains during the Depression as well as changes in labor law were exclusively the product of militant disruption and organizing from below…. Works that take a movementist approach to the lessons of the 1930s include Howard Zinn’s best-seller A People’s History of the United States and the voluminous writings of Charlie Post as well as associated revolutionary socialists. But the most influential account certainly comes from Michael Goldfield, a prominent political scientist and labor activist.…

But movementists stretch this correct argument beyond what the historical record can justify. As I will show in this analysis of the impact of the early New Deal’s famous legal promise of union rights — Section 7(a), passed in 1933 — there is overwhelming evidence that policy changes did play a major role in encouraging strikes and battles for union recognition. The relationship between legislative change and bottom-up militancy was much more reciprocal than suggested by the widely accepted radical truism that, to quote Charlie Post, “labor-law reform in the United States has followed working-class upsurges, not preceded them.”

On Economics And Democracy

Zachary D. Carter, July 29, 2022 [via Naked Capitalism 7-29-2022]

There are not many positive things that a 21st century Democrat can say about the Democratic Party of 1931. In the South, the party served as the administrative and enforcement mechanism for Jim Crow. Two sitting Democratic Senators were members of the Ku Klux Klan, and five other Democratic Senators had been hand-picked by the Klan over the course of the 1920s, when the Klan also successfully installed five Democratic Governors in states as far-flung as Georgia and Oregon…. In short, in 1931, the Democratic Party was racist, incompetent and controlled by the wealthy – and had been for as long as anyone could remember.

But in 1936, a Democratic candidate for president won more than 60 percent of the popular vote, including majorities in 46 out of 48 states. Democrats found themselves in control of 77 Senate seats and 334 House Seats. Democrats won the Northern vote and the Southern vote, they won majorities of women and men. They won the Catholic vote and the Protestant vote, the Jewish vote and the atheist vote. Most striking of all, Democrats won the Black vote.

Just so we do not overstate this achievement: The Black vote barely existed in the South as a result of Jim Crow. But it should nevertheless stagger us that the Party of Confederate Rebellion managed to win a majority of Black voters in the north, and never really looked back….

The first point I want to emphasize here is that these converts were not stupid. They didn’t have amnesia. They knew exactly what the Democratic Party had been in 1931 and 1921 and 1861. But by 1936, they also knew what the Democratic Party had been in 1933, 1934 and 1935. And they liked that version quite a bit….

But while FDR had plenty of personal charisma, the long-term success of his Democratic Party was built on the economic program he invented, which included much of the economic architecture of everyday American life that we often forget had to be invented at some point. Social Security, the minimum wage, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, affordable housing and public housing, deposit insurance, the SEC, a publicly controlled central bank, and on and on. Even things we have largely ceased to associate with economic policy, like the construction of schools, hospitals and post offices created infrastructure that enabled the rest of the system to work – and did so on a truly epic scale. Studies indicate that New Deal aid to schools prevented the closure of 4,000 schools in Arkansas alone.

This was a comprehensive rejection of both the laissez-faire ideal that had dominated American political discourse and of the elite corporate favoritism that had dominated American policymaking in practice….

In many respects the Democratic Party of 1931 is similar to the Republican Party of 2021. Today’s Democrats spend a lot of time pointing out that Republicans have become hostile to democracy and can’t get a majority behind their lunatic view of the world. That’s true. But they probably could if they changed their economic agenda. If Democrats do not get there first, they will lose much of what is left of the existing Democratic coalition….

Anyone who calls double-digit unemployment a solution to anything does not belong in politics. But the reasoning in play here should simply horrify people who believe in democracy. The most important cost-of-living issue for families this year is housing – in many cities, rent has exploded. Ask yourself: if the goal is lower rent, should we a) build more houses, or b) indiscriminately fire a large number of people from their jobs? The latter is the serious contention of this newly revived austerity brigade.

The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility 

[National Bureau of Economic Research, via Naked Capitalism 7-24-2022]

Newsom signs California gun bill modeled after Texas abortion law

[CNN, July 22, 2022, via Dartagnan, July 23, 2022, via “Gun manufacturers livid after Newsom signs 'bounty' bill curbing illegal firearms' sale” DailyKos]

Physical economy

The Rise and Fall of the Manufactured Home – Part II 

[Construction Physics, via Naked Capitalism 7-25-2022]

Transformative Times: Update on the U.S. Transformer Supply Chain 

[T&D World, via Naked Capitalism 7-26-2022]

Climate and environmental crises

The energy system transformation needed to achieve the US long-term strategy 

[Joule, via Naked Capitalism 7-27-2022]

Final sentence: “Creating better alignment between models and the on-the-ground realities of specific national contexts is key to supporting long-term strategies to achieve emissions reductions goals.”

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

In the field, a 50-kW solar tower reactor is fed only CO2 and water, and produces jet fuel

skralyx, July 25, 2022 [DailyKos]

If we heat ceria to a very high temperature (here they used 1,500°C), we can strip off some of its oxygen atoms.  Its crystal structure won’t change; we’ll just have vacancies where the dislodged oxygen atoms were.  Those oxygen atoms will form O2 gas up off the surface, so we can blow or vacuum that O2 away to keep it from re-reacting with the ceria.  

So now, what we’re left with is an angry material that really, really wants its oxygen atoms back.  If we spray it with some water vapor, it’ll rip O right off of H2O and give us H2 (hydrogen gas).  Or, if we blow some CO2 over it, it’ll likewise yank off an O and give us CO (carbon monoxide).  These reactions are so vigorous that they actually produce a lot of heat, so it’s best to let the stripped ceria cool down a bit before going to this step (that is, stop shining sunlight on it).  When we’re done, we have good old regular ceria back, and we can keep using it over and over again.

Information age dystopia

“Why none of my books are available on Audible”

Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic].

“Under DMCA 1201, it is a felony to “traffick” in tools that bypass DRM. Doing so can land you in prison for five years and hit you with a fine of up to $500,000 (for a first offense). This clause is so broadly written that merely passing on factual information about bugs in a system with DRM can put you in hot water. Here’s where we get to the existential risk to all computer users part. As a technology, DRM has to run as code that is beyond your observation and control. If there’s a program running on your computer or phone called “DRM” you can delete it, or go into your process manager and force-quit it. No one wants DRM. No one woke up this morning and said, “Dammit, I wish there was a way I could do less with the entertainment files I buy online.” DRM has to hide itself from you, or the first time it gets in your way, you’ll get rid of it. The proliferation of DRM means that all the commercial operating systems now have a way to run programs that the owners of computers can’t observe or control. Anything that a technologist does to weaken that sneaky, hidden facility risks DMCA 1201 prosecution – and half a decade in prison. That means that every device with DRM is designed to run programs you can’t see or kill, and no one is allowed to investigate these devices and warn you if they have defects that would allow malicious software to run in that deliberately obscured part of your computer, stealing your data and covertly operating your device’s sensors and actuators. This isn’t just about hacking your camera and microphone: remember, every computerized “appliance” is capable of running every program, which means that your car’s steering and brakes are at risk from malicious software, as are your medical implants and the smart thermostat in your home. A device that is designed for sneaky code execution and is legally off-limits to independent auditing is bad. A world of those devices – devices we put inside our bodies and put our bodies inside of – is fucking terrifying.”

America as Panopticon: You are Being Watched, Even if No One is Looking for You

Peter Krapp [Counterpunch, via Mike Norman Economics 7-25-2022]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-26-2022]



“Dashcam repo”

Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2022]

If you want a motto for the current economic situation, a touchstone to check in on whenever you hear about a new business model or a new depredation, I suggest Michael Hudson’s bedrock claim: “Debts that can’t be paid, won’t be paid.” 40 years of wage stagnation, combined with spiraling health, housing and education costs have produced a mountain of unpayable debts. Our society is organized around a small number of creditors extracting rents from an ever-growing pool of debtors whose ability to pay is eroded by every penalty and every emergency triggered by the lack of a cushion: Enter the digital arm-breaker. Networked, digital objects make arm-breaking cheaper and more effective than ever, transforming the artisinal, personal craft of terrorizing debtors into a mass-scale industrial activity. Miss a car payment? Maybe that car has a second, remote-controlled stereo that blares angry demands at you wherever you go. Or maybe the dealer can immobilize it, disabling the ignition system.  Or maybe it’s a Tesla, which will lock and immobilize itself and signal the dealer, then, when the repo man arrives, will flash its lights, honk its horn and back out of its parking place to ease repossession. Algorithms can automate the arm-breaker’s creative sadism.” • A must-read.

“Google’s Nest Will Provide Data to Police Without a Warrant”

[PetaPixel, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2022]

Incognito Mode Isn’t As Incognito As You Might Think

(Wirecutter, via The Big Picture 7-26-2022]

Private browsing (aka incognito mode) is a great way to prevent your web browser from saving what you do. But to call it privacy-focused is a stretch, and while your browser or device doesn’t log your movements in its history and cookies, that doesn’t mean the sites you visit don’t clock your behavior. Despite its name, you’re not really incognito, and you may want to dial back your confidence in what these modes really do. 

Democrats’ political suicide

Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer Have a Surprise for You

David Dayen, July 28, 2022 [The American Prospect]

An 18-month odyssey culminates in a smaller-than-promised, bigger-than-expected agreement to lower health care costs, tax corporations, and protect the planet….

There is no such thing as a genuine surprise in Washington—usually. This was a genuine surprise. I had been talking to people this week who would or should have known that talks between Manchin and Schumer, thought to be moribund, were taking place. The closest I got to foreknowledge was one source saying that they just didn’t believe it. An army of reporters, lobbyists, and hangers-on didn’t know this was happening.

The reveal was made a few hours after the Senate cleared the CHIPS and Science Act, a bill that offers semiconductor manufacturers subsidies for reshoring and boosts science programs. Mitch McConnell had threatened that bill, something highly cherished by Schumer, if Democrats persisted with a party-line bill that raised taxes and boosted clean energy. When Manchin walked away from negotiations with Schumer just two weeks ago over those two items, McConnell let his guard down and allowed a vote on CHIPS, which was popular with many of his Republican colleagues. Schumer and Manchin waited until that cleared the Senate before announcing a reconciliation deal with taxes and climate back in.

If you told me a cosmic ray hit Washington and flipped everyone’s brains, giving Schumer the Machiavellian cunning of a Republican and giving McConnell the guileless approach of a Democrat, that might be a more plausible explanation for this display than the truth. It’s a near-legendary turn of events that infuriated McConnell so much he took hostage a bill to give dying veterans exposed to toxic burn pits medical care, something Republicans passed overwhelmingly just a few weeks ago (it needed a technical fix). The combination of the revival of the Biden agenda and red-faced Republicans making terrible choices on highly popular legislation is one for the ages….

According to his interview with Politico last night, it took him all of four days after killing the deal to ask Schumer to restart it. What happened in that time? Manchin was clearly bothered by being blamed, by everyone, as the man who let the Biden agenda die and the planet burn. The very next day, he went on local radio and insisted he hadn’t ended anything, that he just wanted to see the July inflation numbers (which won’t be out for a couple more weeks). He was attacked, in op-eds that detailed “What Joe Manchin Cost Us” (written by a lead technical adviser to the Democrats on climate policy), in news stories that made very clear who was responsible. Green groups and particularly blue/green labor/environment groups were insistent. Larry Summers told him in a meeting that his rationale that climate investment and tax increases were inflationary was nonsense.

Democrats Could Still Pass Some Of Their Agenda

Julia Rock, Matthew Cunningham-Cook, Andrew Perez & Aditi Ramaswami, July 29, 2022 [The Lever]

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is a fraction of the size and ambition of the agenda spending package that Democrats debated for much of last year, thanks to the efforts of corporate lobbyists, conservative Democrats, and pundits who have blamed government aid to families during the pandemic for inflation — rather than the supply chain crisis or corporate profiteering. While the legislation would make important investments in clean energy and health care, it simultaneously props up the fossil fuel industry chiefly responsible for the climate crisis.

The Democrats original climate and social spending proposal, a $6 trillion package pitched by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (Ind.-Vt.) last June, included major investments to address infrastructure, affordable housing, and the climate crisis. Democrats eventually settled on a $3.5 trillion package that Sen. Manchin ultimately spiked late last year. The latest proposal totals $700 billion in investments.

“Wokeness isn’t why Democrats are unpopular”

Carl Beijer [via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-28-2022]

“Whenever we get a new clip of some Democratic official, journalist, social media poster, cartoon character, guy from another country, Republican, etcetera saying something woke, an avalanche of pundits make the same point: this is why Democrats can’t win. So when Kamala Harris gave us her pronouns and described what she’s wearing at a meeting on disabilities, it was only a matter of time until guys like Kinzinger above made the same point. And whenever I see this, I always think the same thing. Does anyone really believe that if Democrats were providing Medicare for All, universal childcare, UBI, free college, and so on — that voters would throw all that out the window because Kamala Harris talked about her blue suit? If you could have real economic security, would you actually trade that away because a politician said ‘birth giver’ instead of ‘mother’? Socialists have long insisted that workers are not going to accept egalitarian rhetoric and gestures as a substitute for real economic gains, and that Democrats are going to lose working class voters if they proceed otherwise. The right loves this point; they’ve been so aggressive about co-opting it in recent years that I doubt many of them even remember where they first heard it. But there’s a second half of this critique that you almost never hear: if you give voters real material security, people who get annoyed about wokeness will still support you.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 2-26-2022]



“Permanent Pandemic”

[Harpers, via Naked Capitalism 2-26-2022]

“Under the new regime, a significant portion of the decisions that, until recently, would have been considered subject to democratic procedure have instead been turned over to experts, or purported experts, who rely for the implementation of their decisions on private companies, particularly tech and pharmaceutical companies, which, in needing to turn profits for shareholders, have their own reasons for hoping that whatever crisis they have been given the task of managing does not end. Once again, in an important sense, much of this is not new: it’s just capitalism doing its thing. What has seemed unprecedented is the eagerness with which self-styled progressives have rushed to the support of the new regime, and have sought to marginalize dissenting voices as belonging to fringe conspiracy theorists and unscrupulous reactionaries. Meanwhile, those pockets of resistance—places where we find at least some inchoate commitment to the principle of popular will as a counterbalance to elite expertise, and where unease about technological overreach may be honestly expressed—are often also, as progressives have rightly but superciliously noted, hot spots of bonkers conspiracism. This may be as much a consequence of their marginalization as a reason for it. What ‘cannot’ be said will still be said, but it will be said by the sort of person prepared to convey in speaking not just the content of an idea, but the disregard for the social costs of coming across as an outsider. And so the worry about elite hegemony gets expressed as a rumor of Anthony Fauci’s ‘reptilian’ origins, and the concern about technological overreach comes through as a fantasy about Bill Gates’s insertion of microchips into each dose of the vaccine. Meanwhile we are being tracked, by chips in our phones if not in our shoulders, and Fauci’s long record of mistakes should invite any lucid thinker to question his suitability for the role of supreme authority in matters of health.”

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

How They Did It: Overturning Roe, Pt. 1 (w/ the 5-4 podcast) 

Matthew Sitman, May 28, 2022 [Know Your Enemy]

Training of Ob/Gyn ResidentThe anti-choice lobby doesn’t want them to learn the full range of reproductive care, including abortion

Robert Kuttner, June 1, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Meet Marc Short, the Former Koch Exec Who Has Now Testified Before a Grand Jury Investigating the January 6 Attack

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

Mainstream media has been abuzz over the past two days that Marc Short, the Chief of Staff to former Vice President Mike Pence, has testified under subpoena before a grand jury convened by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has now broadened its investigation of the January 6 attack on the Capitol to the masterminds. But is that really the headline?

We think the real headline is that Marc Short was previously an executive at the fossil fuels conglomerate Koch Industries, a private company run by billionaire Charles Koch who has been setting up political front groups for four decades. Short went on to become President of a Koch-related dark money group called Freedom Partners from 2011 to 2016. Freedom Partners plowed hundreds of millions of dollars into political operations in an effort to put fossil fuel friendly pawns in Congress and the White House.

Freedom Partners has shuttered its stealthy operations but when we looked at its Board of Directors in 2018, all but one of its 9-member Board was a current or former Koch company employee. The Board Chair at that time was Mark Holden, who served in the dual capacity as General Counsel of Koch Industries.

Dozens of individuals connected to Koch and/or Freedom Partners took up key positions in the Trump administration. That includes the 12 Jones Day lawyers who took their place in the Trump administration on his very first day in office. Jones Day had been outside counsel to Koch Industries. According to Public Citizen, two of the main hires from Jones Day, White House Counsel Don McGahn and Ann Donaldson, Chief of Staff to McGahn, both previously represented Freedom Partners….

The Vice President of M/O Strategies is Danielle Cleveland, whose bio indicates that “Most recently, she served as Deputy Executive Director of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA).” RAGA’s dark money arm, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, was one of the “Coalition Partners” that turned out the hordes of people at the Capitol on January 6. According to IRS filings made by RAGA, it has received $511,400 from Koch Industries and a subsidiary since 2014. (See our in-depth report: The Money Trail to the Siege at the Capitol Leads to Charles Koch and Koch Industries.)

Let’s hope that the U.S. Department of Justice peels this onion all the way to its corrupt core – the unbridled Koch money machine — something that the January 6 House Select Committee has yet to do

Inside the Remote California County Where the Far Right Took Over: ‘Civility Went Out the Window’

[The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 7-24-2022]

Jan. 6 committee divided on Dem meddling in GOP primaries”

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2022]

“Members of the House Jan. 6 committee are divided on whether to condemn the growing trend of Democrats meddling in GOP primaries to boost pro-Trump election deniers — a tactic designed to secure more favorable matchups in the general election. The committee has spent the last year warning that former President Trump and his allies — including candidates running in this year’s midterms — are endangering American democracy by casting doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election…. Public backlash intensified yesterday when it emerged that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is boosting an election denier in his primary against Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) — one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot…. ‘The DCCC is playing with fire. It undercuts the great work of the Jan. 6 committee and makes us look like hypocrites,’ one Democratic member of Congress told Axios.”

Texas Republican politics 'is a Russian-style oligarchy, pure and simple'

Laura Clawson, July 26, 2022 [Daily Kos Staff]

... It’s in line with the movement of the Republican Party nationwide, but everything is faster, harder, crueler. And, CNN reports in an eye-opening deep dive, much of it is coming from two billionaire donors who have relentlessly pushed Texas Republicans to the right, enabled by a Texas law allowing unlimited contributions to state-level candidates.

Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks made their fortunes in oil and fracking. Dunn and his wife have plowed $18 million into Texas politics in the past decade, while Wilks and his wife have spent $11 million. The message to Republican state legislators is clear: Embrace Wilks’ and Dunn’s positions, or they will fund a primary challenge. As a result, “They dragged all the moderate candidates to the hard right in order to keep from losing,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy told CNN.

A Republican state legislator who hasn’t fallen in line with Dunn and Wilks put it in stark terms. “It is a Russian-style oligarchy, pure and simple," state Sen. Kel Seliger said. "Really, really wealthy people who are willing to spend a lot of money to get policy made the way they want it—and they get it.” Seliger took money from Dunn in 2004, but since split with the Dunn/Wilks line over education: Seliger continues to support the existence of public education, while Dunn and Wilks want to essentially dismantle public education and replace it with vouchers—vouchers that can be spent at private religious schools.

A Republican activist who couldn’t go along with that extreme agenda on education said of Wilks, “The goal is to tear up, tear down public education to nothing and rebuild it.” And, lest it is unclear, the plan is not just to rebuild it: “And rebuild it the way God intended education to be.”

[TW: there has to be a way to apply the tenets of civic republicanism that effectively place cultural limits on what military officers can say and do politically, to place similar cultural limits on the rich.]

“Telling the Truth about the 2020 Election”

Thomas B. Griffith, J. Michael Luttig, Michael W. Mcconnell, Theodore B. Olson, Benjamin L. Ginsberg, and Dave Hoppe [National Review, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2022]

“Continuing allegations that the 2020 election was ‘stolen’ are roiling our politics and dividing our country. Indeed, now a significant percentage of the American public doubts the legitimacy of our system. That caused us, political conservatives who have spent most of our careers working to uphold the Constitution and the conservative principles upon which it is based, to delve deeply into those charges and gauge their accuracy. All of us have either worked in Republican Party politics at multiple levels and in various capacities or worked in the government as a result of Republican appointments. Indeed, one of us, Theodore B. Olson, successfully represented George W. Bush in a Supreme Court case that ended Al Gore’s unmerited challenge to the results of the 2000 presidential election. We have no affiliation with the Democratic Party…. Because allegations of fraudulent and rigged elections are so seriously affecting public opinion, especially among Republicans, we conducted an open-minded examination of the many claims by former president Trump and his supporters and allies who agree with him about the 2020 election and attempted to act on their beliefs. We take such claims seriously…. Therefore, we painstakingly surveyed each of the 187 counts in the 64 court cases brought on Trump’s behalf contesting the results of the 2020 election, the state recounts and contests brought in the name of the former president, and the post-election reviews undertaken in the six key battleground states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) to determine whether there is any fire amidst all the smoke. Our review has led us to conclude that there is simply no evidence of fraud in the 2020 presidential election of the magnitude necessary to shift the result in any state, let alone the nation as a whole. In fact, not even a single precinct’s outcome was reversed.” • Their report. It is not, however, clear that the Republican Party in which these individuals were grandees even exists anymore.

These 16 Republican congressmembers helped Trump try to overturn the 2020 election 

[Grid, via The Big Picture 7-24-2022]

“A radical plan for Trump’s second term”  

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-26-2022]

“The heart of the plan is derived from an executive order known as ‘Schedule F,’ developed and refined in secret over most of the second half of Trump’s term and launched 13 days before the 2020 election…. As Trump publicly flirts with a 2024 comeback campaign, this planning is quietly flourishing from Mar-a-Lago to Washington — with his blessing but without the knowledge of some people in his orbit. Trump remains distracted [or not, right?] by his obsession with contesting the 2020 election results. But he has endorsed the work of several groups to prime an administration-in-waiting. Personnel and action plans would be executed in the first 100 days of a second term starting on Jan. 20, 2025. New presidents typically get to replace more than 4,000 so-called ‘political’ appointees to oversee the running of their administrations. But below this rotating layer of political appointees sits a mass of government workers who enjoy strong employment protections — and typically continue their service from one administration to the next, regardless of the president’s party affiliation. An initial estimate by the Trump official who came up with Schedule F found it could apply to as many as 50,000 federal workers — a fraction of a workforce of more than 2 million, but a segment with a profound role in shaping American life. Trump, in theory, could fire tens of thousands of career government officials with no recourse for appeals. He could replace them with people he believes are more loyal to him and to his ‘America First’ agenda. Even if Trump did not deploy Schedule F to this extent, the very fact that such power exists could create a significant chilling effect on government employees. It would effectively upend the modern civil service, triggering a shock wave across the bureaucracy. The next president might then move to gut those pro-Trump ranks — and face the question of whether to replace them with her or his own loyalists, or revert to a traditional bureaucracy.”

“They Can’t Let Him Back In”

[Compact, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-28-2022] 

“The people who really run the United States of America have made it clear that they can’t, and won’t, if they can help it, allow Donald Trump to be president again…. Anti-Trump hysteria is in the final analysis not about Trump. The regime can’t allow Trump to be president not because of who he is (although that grates), but because of who his followers are. That class—Angelo Codevilla’s “country class”—must not be allowed representation by candidates who might implement their preferences, which also, and above all, must not be allowed. The rubes have no legitimate standing to affect the outcome of any political process, because of who they are, but mostly because of what they want. Complaints about the nature of Trump are just proxies for objections to the nature of his base. It doesn’t help stabilize our already twitchy situation that those who bleat the loudest about democracy are also audibly and visibly determined to deny a real choice to half the country.”

[TW: Then why do they keep giving him money?]

“Peter Thiel on the dangers of progress” (interview)

[Unherd, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-26-2022]

“[Thiel] doesn’t see restoring middle-class aspiration as a matter of returning to the past, but of seeking new real-world advances in science and technology. Along with Thiel’s own investments, which include many futuristic projects such as biotech and space exploration, the principal vehicle for his efforts to drive this change is the nonprofit Thiel Foundation, which promotes science and innovation. Its programmes include the Thiel Fellowship, which gives 20-30 young people aged 22 or under $100,000 each, every year, to drop out of college and work on an urgent idea. Graduates include Austin Russell, who founded Luminar and is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, and Vitalik Buterin, who co-founded the cryptocurrency Ethereum.” Oh. Crypto. Gee, thanks. Interesting interview, though. Less cray cray in zeritgeist-level diagnosis than I expected, way more cray on cure: “Failing other options, Thiel thinks even bleak or apocalyptic visions are better than no vision at all. The picture of European climate catastrophe associated with Greta Thunberg is, as he sees it, one of only three realistic European futures; the other two are ‘Islamic sharia law’, and ‘Chinese Communist AI’. He views the social-democratic models typical of contemporary European politics as variations on the theme of stagnation: ‘a sort of eternal Groundhog Day’. And while Greta’s vision is ‘in some ways too apocalyptic, in some ways not apocalyptic enough’, it is at least ‘a very concrete picture’, and represents the least worst of the three alternatives to stagnation.”

Right-Wing Think Tank Family Research Council Is Now a Church in Eyes of the IRS  

[ProPublica, via The Big Picture 7-24-2022]

The FRC, a staunch opponent of abortion and LGBTQ rights, joins a growing list of activist groups seeking church status, which allows organizations to shield themselves from financial scrutiny. 

Chris Walke [Truthout, via Mike Norman Economics 7-26-2022]

The Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Tampa, Florida, featured a number of speakers, including former President Donald Trump. During his speech, Trump promoted the idea that a belief in God was requisite to truly be a part of the nation, disregarding the millions of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated or agnostic.

“We are Americans and Americans kneel to God, and God alone,” Trump said.

Luke 12:15Luke 18:25Revelation 3:17 

The Claremont Institute triumphed in the Trump years. Then came Jan. 6.

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 7-27-2022]

After Trump helped revolutionize Claremont from a minor academic outfit to a key Washington player, the think tank is facing blowback for standing by lawyer John Eastman after he counseled Trump on overturning the 2020 election. 

The Department of Justice Is Circling Donald Trump Very Slowly 

Charles Pierce [Esquire, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-2022]

After all these months, it’s strange to see it in black and white. Even after the case that the House select committee laid out so plainly in its public hearings, it’s strange to see it in black and white. Even after all the dogged reporting out of Washington, and Georgia, and Arizona; after four years of a chaotic and periodically insane presidency, and an even more chaotic and constantly insane post-presidency, it’s strange to see it set out so plainly and so starkly in print. The Department of Justice is investigating the former president* of the United States on suspicion of organizing a criminal cabal of second-rate ratfckers to overthrow the United States government, with a violent attack on the Capitol as its last overt act.

A Political Party With an Armed Paramilitary Wing Is Not Consistent with Democracy 

[Hartmann Report, via The Big Picture 7-24-2022]

One in five US adults condone ‘justified’ political violence, mega-survey finds 

[(The Guardian, via The Big Picture 7-24-2022]

As mistrust and alienation from democratic institutions peaks, researchers explore how willing Americans are to commit violence

“On the campaign trail, many Republicans talk of violence” 

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2022]

“Both candidates described a country that was not merely in trouble, but being destroyed by leaders who despise most Americans — effectively part of a civil war. In both swing states and safe seats, many Republicans say that liberals hate them personally[1] and may turn rioters or a police state[2] on people who disobey them.”  

Israeli Supreme Court Rules Citizens Can be Stripped of Status for ‘Breach of Loyalty’ 

[Mondoweiss, via Naked Capitalism 7-25-2022]

Israel can now strip away 48 Palestinians’ citizenship 

[Middle East Eye, via Naked Capitalism 7-26-2022]

“Anti-Social Conservatives”

[Gawker, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-26-2022]

“The belief that society doesn’t exist, or shouldn’t, is a rejection of neighborliness and trust, a democratic civic culture, and the possibility of encountering those unlike yourself on equal ground….. The conservative assault on society can also be seen in their attempt to turn our public spaces into zones of armed conflict — extending the privileges of defending your home or property to, well, almost anywhere. An armed society is not a polite society, as the trite bumper sticker asserts, but something closer to the state of nature, the war of all against all… But if society can be attacked and weakened, it also can be supported and strengthened. Democrats, at least in the past, knew how to do the latter. One of the most striking emphases of historian Eric Rauchway’s excellent recent book, Why the New Deal Matters, is that Franklin Roosevelt and his administration understood that despair could be countered and democracy fortified by a kind of social infrastructure. So they built public libraries at time when, as Rauchway observes, Nazis were burning and banning books. They built theaters and public pools and commissioned murals to beautify public spaces. My favorite detail from Rauchway’s book is how many sidewalks the New Deal helped build: throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s, workers hired by the Work Projects Administration laid about twenty-four thousand miles of new sidewalks and improved another seven thousand more. Some of this, certainly, was meant to give people jobs during the Great Depression. But they were also public goods that brought people together, and were ways of making communities easier to feel a part of and entertainment and culture enjoyable for more than the rich. It is no accident that, in the wake of such efforts, the rightwing in America was, if all too briefly, pushed to margins of our political life.”

The Myth of "The Rugged Individual"

Townsends [YouTube]


We read over and over in accounts and journals of that time period that the men that went out into the frontier usually went out in in groups it went out in parties as it were groups of men 3, 6, 9, 12 men at a time maybe more. And early on they went out in hunting parties, they went out to survey the land, to explore it, to hunt, to bring back hides, to have an idea about what there was but they didn't do that alone.

200 Years Before "Mayberry" - The Self Sufficient Small Town Of Early America

Townsends [YouTube]


The people in the communities of small towns in America in the 18th century... had to live together tightly interwoven. They had to rely on one another for everything, really everything. So if we look at Matthew Patton's diary, we see him having commercial interactions with all of his neighbors, basically everyone around town, and it almost seems very, very purposeful that he wants to connect with each and every person. Because he knows he might have to rely on any of these people, so he wants to make sure he uses the services of all the different people. If there is more than one grain mill in town, he's going to use both of those grain mills. He's going to make sure to order flour from both of those different ones. He needs them both to be in business, because one may not work and he needs to go to the other one. If there are multiple stores in town, a place where he needs to go and shop to order different thing,s pick up different items,  he's going to be doing business with all of them. A little business here, a little business there. Matthew Patton is using all of his neighbors for different kinds of food, so he will purchase things or sell things to each one of his neighbors, sort of in turn in a sense. So they're always relying on him, and he's always relying on them.

Australian Politics 2022-07-31 02:03:00


Plans to light up one of Australia’s most famous war memorials in rainbow colours are SCRAPPED after ‘hateful’ threats and abuse aimed at staff

Plans to light up Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance in rainbow colours have been abandoned after staff were subjected to 'hateful' threats and abuse.

The display was intended to commemorate LGBTQI people in service as part of the upcoming exhibition Defending with Pride, which chronicles their stories of denial and exclusion, along with recognition and inclusion.

The Shrine of Remembrance organisation announced on Saturday afternoon that while the exhibition and Last Post service scheduled for Sunday would go ahead, the lighting of its colonnades would not.

'Over several days, our staff have received and been subject to sustained abuse and, in some cases, threats,' chief executive officer Dean Lee said.

'We have seen something of what members of the LGBTIQ+ community experience every day. It is hateful.'

In the interests of minimising harm, the shrine sought guidance from partners and others including veteran associations, the Victorian government, and representatives of the LGBTQI veteran community.

Some media commentators and members of the community opposed the light show.

Mr Lee noted that, 50 years ago, creating a memorial to women's service was controversial and opposed by many, as was the introduction of an annual service commemorating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

'We are proud to recognise and celebrate the history and service of LGBTIQ+ people, something that has traditionally been absent or under-represented within Australia's war memorials,' he said.

'A decade ago, conversations around veteran suicide were taboo, yet today it is the subject of a Royal Commission.

'Society's values change, and the Shrine is a participant in that change and will continue its efforts to honour the service and sacrifice of all who have served Australia.'

The shrine's pride exhibition officially runs from August until July 2023.


Crazy primary curriculum

Stressed school principals are demanding changes to the new national curriculum, warning it is “impossible to teach” and can be nonsensical to students.

Blasting education bureaucrats for imposing “cruel’’ workloads, the Australian Primary Principals Association has blamed a confusing curriculum, red tape and “micromanagement’’ for driving teachers out of the profession.

“The current primary and early childhood curriculum is too crowded (and) impossible to teach if taken literally,’’ APPA has told the Productivity Commission review of the national school reform agreement.

“We call for rethink of the primary and early childhood curriculum (to create) a curriculum which is coherent and makes sense to teachers and students.

“Where is the space for play, for wonder?’’

Criticism of the curriculum, which was updated in April after a two-year review, comes as federal Education Minister Jason Clare prepares to meet his state and territory colleagues next month to troubleshoot the teacher shortage.

APPA said principals and teachers felt “confined by a morass of measurement which kills initiative and creativity’’.

“In recent years, the intensification of the workload for principals has been cruel,’’ it states in its submission to the Productivity Commission review.

“When the bureaucracy is organised in silos, each of which transmits their edicts to schools without the crucial test of practicality, this adds to the intensification of work.’’

APPA said education departments were “constantly measuring … in the hope that results come from increased micromanagement’’.

“Instead of creating flourishing organisations, this results in mediocrity, in a measurement-induced mire as schools struggle to respond,’’ it said.

APPA president Malcolm Elliott said literacy and numeracy must remain the “the foundation stones of learning’’.

But Mr Elliot described the revised curriculum – which had its content cut by 20 per cent in April – as a “millstone around people’s necks’’.

He said teachers were disappointed that former Coalition education minister Dan Tehan’s pledge to “take a chainsaw to the curriculum’’ had failed to make it much simpler.

“It’s a huge document and teachers are overburdened,’’ he told The Weekend Australian.

“The volume of the documentation is less, but the workload has been little reduced, if at all.

“It has to be cut back considerably and expressed much more simply in ways that everyone can understand and follow and implement.’’

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority did not consult directly with APPA in revising the curriculum, but met regularly with the National Peak Parents and Principals Forum, of which APPA is a member.

ACARA chief executive David de Carvalho said the new curriculum had involved “extensive consultation and input from subject, curriculum and teacher experts, including primary teachers and experts’’.

“The primary years’ content was reviewed through two dedicated primary reference groups,’’ he said.

“In addition, 47 volunteer primary schools and their teachers tested the updated primary curriculum … to ensure it was user-friendly for generalist primary teachers.

“During the project, primary teachers said the new curriculum was more manageable and they particularly liked the separation of the Foundation year (kindy or prep) and appreciated the focused time to plan and develop a deep understanding of learning areas across Foundation to year 6.’’

The ninth version of the curriculum – the first update in six years – appears to be clearer than the previous version.

For example, the previous year 8 syllabus required students to “recognise that vocabulary choices contribute to the specificity, abstraction and style of texts”.

In the current version, they must “identify and use vocab­ulary typical of academic texts”.

The ACARA website describes the new curriculum as “three-dimensional; it includes learning areas, general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities’’, with an “inline glossary with in-built definitions’’.

Mr Elliott warned that Australia’s teacher shortage was at crisis point, with a relief teacher in regional NSW having to teach five combined classes this week.

“In some schools in NSW, positions have been left unfilled for longer than a year because they’re unable to find people to take up those roles,’’ he told The Weekend Australian.

“Schools in NSW that would usually be regarded as very highly desirable are unable to fill positions because teachers can’t afford to live within commuting distance – they can’t find anything to rent and they can’t afford to buy.’’

Mr Elliott said some states had underestimated the teacher shortage because out-of-date teacher registration lists included those who had retired or died.

He said APPA’s survey of 2590 principals last year, conducted by the Australian Catholic University, found that half worked at least 56 hours a week, with a quarter working at least 61 hours a week during school term, and work during school holidays averaging 21 hours a week.


Trapped in a climate fantasy: We actually need coal and gas

Here are four fundamental, unacknowledged realities underlying our energy, climate change and economic situation.

One. Coal is not a stranded asset. It is booming worldwide. The amount of traded coal is increasing. The share of global electricity coal generates has barely moved in 30 years, despite intense Western efforts to end financing for coal.

Two. This is true of fossil fuels generally. The percentage of global electricity generated by gas is rising.

Three. Australia’s economy is totally dependent on exports of gas, coal, iron ore and other minerals. Nothing can replace this. Without it, our social spending, defence, aid would all be unaffordable.

Four. The push for renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is overwhelming in developed countries and strong in developing countries. However, if the world, or Australia, is to get anywhere near net zero, this will come at enormous financial cost and reduced living standards. This may be a sacrifice worth making to save the planet, but enormous costs are inevitable.

It is perhaps surprising that the political leader making the strongest effort to integrate these disparate realities into some kind of coherent policy is actually the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. It’s important if Australian policy is to have any coherence that Albanese holds sway within his own party. It’s a perplexing feature of the new government that Albanese seems to be alone in making the case that new coal and gas projects should be approved because Australian coal is cleaner – that is, generates fewer emissions per unit of energy – than any coal that might replace it. And gas is cleaner than coal. That Albanese seems alone in advocating this proposition, which is Labor policy, is dangerous for the ALP.

It may be that his long involvement with the infrastructure portfolio has endowed Albanese with a deeper familiarity and appreciation than most left-wing politicians have of wealth creation rather than just redistribution.

A great deal of our climate ­debate is based on falsehoods, ­ignores fundamental facts and avoids realistic international comparisons. It’s commonly claimed Australia has lost a decade due to the ­climate wars and most other nations are thus far ahead of us. This is complete baloney based on a failure to take note of the most ­elementary facts of international life. In most developed nations, ­including Australia, greenhouse gas emissions have been either steady or declining for more than a decade.

The great big growth in emissions is in developing and middle income nations like China, India and Indonesia. In case those who claim we are uniquely disadvantaged haven’t noticed, most of Western Europe, which has gone much further in de-industrialising and embracing renewables than we have, is suffering a crippling ­energy crisis.

Western Europe depends on Russian gas. Germany used Russian gas to enable it to close coal-fired power stations and, very foolishly, nuclear power stations. The most stable nation in energy is France, because it relies so heavily on nuclear energy. Germany, like other Europeans, has restarted coal-fired power stations.

Germany wants to sanction Russia, but then objects to Russia not selling it more gas. Germany demonises fossil fuels but is completely dependent on gas. There is a parallel in Australia. Victorian Premier Dan Andrews wants more Queensland gas. But Victoria would be producing its own gas if his government had not placed so many prohibitions, restrictions and moratoriums on gas.

Russia is making as much money as ever from its energy ­exports. It sells energy to non-Western nations which are not boycotting it, such as China and India. And the gas it still sells to Europe it sells at sky high prices. Far from the West crippling Russia through energy sanctions, Moscow has intentionally turned down the volume of gas it will send to Europe, both to put Europe under pressure and to prevent Europe from filling up its gas reserves heading into winter.

As a result, the European Union has made a deal among its members to voluntarily reduce gas consumption by 15 per cent. But if it’s a cold winter in Europe, watch out for big domestic political trouble. In Britain, Tory leadership front runner Liz Truss is promising to cut green energy levies because of soaring energy prices, and inflation generally.

And in the United States, far from the climate wars being over, Joe Biden cannot get his climate plans legislated. The Democrats won the White House and both the Senate and the House of Representatives and yet the US political system will not pass Biden’s climate measures. Republicans are overwhelmingly likely to win the House in November and more narrowly favoured to win the Senate. That puts Biden’s climate agenda into complete reverse.

Canada has less political division over the issue but its big adjustments are ahead.

More here:


Calls to review transgender treatment for kids after British Tavistock Clinic is closed

Australian gender clinics are under fresh scrutiny and face calls for an independent review of their prescription of puberty blockers to teenagers after a leading British clinic was closed down over safety concerns.

The ordered close of the Tavistock Clinic – the model for treating trans people around the world – on Thursday followed concerns raised by doctors that young ­patients were being referred on to a gender transitioning path too quickly and that there was insufficient evidence as to the long-term cognitive and physical impacts of puberty blockers.

With several major Australian gender clinics based at children’s hospitals having been strongly influenced by the Tavistock Clinic, some doctors say the findings of the British review by Dr Hilary Cass are likely to apply equally in Australia amid a dominance of a “gender affirming” approach to treating gender dysphoria.

Some of the nation’s leading trans clinics, including the centre at the Royal Melbourne’s Children Hospital, defended their methods on Friday and said they followed best Australian practice.

Queensland paediatrician Dylan Wilson said the closing of Tavistock should lead to Australian authorities reconsidering the treatment of children experiencing gender dysphoria.

“The concerns that have been raised with the UK Tavistock Clinic translate directly to the same concerns that can be applied to gender clinics here in Australia,” Dr Wilson said.

“The fact that Dr Cass noted that there is insufficient evidence to recommend puberty blockers but they have been used by gender clinics in Australia is of huge concern.

“They are now only going to be used in the UK as part of research trials with significant ethical oversight which is the same pathway that Sweden has followed, but the gender clinics in Australia continue unabated to prescribe them on a regular basis without any oversight or scrutiny whatsoever.

“The concern is that children are, as the Cass report found, instantly socially and medically ­affirmed without any exploration of any other diagnoses or contributing factors to their gender identity being considered, which means as soon as they are ­affirmed as children that are transgender, they are placed along a pathway which leads them to medical treatment, and medical treatment pathway leads them to lifelong medicalisation.”

The National Association of Practising Psychiatrists – which has adopted a cautious, psychotherapy-first approach to treating gender dysphoria – is also calling for a review of gender clinics in Australia.

“The longer-term studies of what happens to children and ­adolescents when they’re treated with puberty blockers is not known. The evidence base is lacking,” said association president Philip Morris.

Public gender clinics in Australia all say puberty blockers and hormone therapy is prescribed only after comprehensive clinical assessment.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s gender clinic led by Michelle Telfer, head of the hospital’s ­Department of Adolescent Medicine and director of the RCH Gender Service, developed the Australian standards of care for the treatment of gender dysphoria.

The hospital says the clinic’s service “is underpinned by research methodology to monitor outcomes that will continuously inform best practice”. Critics say published research on the long-term outcomes of hormone treatment of children is non-existent.

“We will continue to closely monitor how services nationally and internationally develop and evolve, and welcome all actions that ensure that trans children and young people continue to ­receive the highest possible quality of care, regardless of where they live,” a hospital spokesman said.

The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney, which has a trans and gender diverse service, said all patients referred to the clinic underwent a specialised and comprehensive assessment involving consultation with specialists in psychological medicine, adolescent medicine and endocrinology.

“Children are only ever considered for stage 1 treatment (puberty blockers) once this assessment has taken place and in close consultation with the patient, parents and treating medical teams. This treatment is reversible,” a hospital spokesperson said.

Transcend Australia, an organisation that supports trans, gender diverse and non-binary children, rejected the calls for a review and said Australian standards of care had been developed by best practice.

Transcend Australia chief executive Jeremy Wiggins said treatment often gave young ­people a chance to consider their identify for longer and said the ­effects of puberty blockers were reversible.

“The treatment is highly considered and given to people who demonstrate that they meet the criteria for gender dysphoria. It is considered for them to be lifesaving treatment so they can continue and get on with their lives,” he said.

“I’d be concerned for any government in any country to remove access to treatment for a highly vulnerable population.”

The close of the Tavistock Clinic comes as Dr Cass recommends a shift to a more “holistic” mode of care amid concerns that other clinical presentations including mental health issues were “overshadowed” when gender was raised by children referred to the clinic.

Puberty blockers will now only be able to be prescribed in the UK as part of a clinical trial that follows children until adulthood.

“Puberty blockers, rather than acting as a “pause button” allowing children time to explore their identity, seem to lock them into a medicalised treatment pathway,” Dr Cass’s interim report said.




Maxwell’s Equations

In 1985, Caltech's David Goodstein introduced The Mechanical Universe, which stands as one of the best explanatory series on physics ever committed to video. The following 28-minute video telling the story of James Maxwell's mathematical insights linking electricity and magnetism represents one of the highlights of the 52-part series.

Maxwell's equations opened the door to great practical applications, which we find all around us today in the electronic devices that make the world of today so different from how it was when Maxwell first formulated them.

HT: Steven Strogatz, who also points to YouTube's playlist for the entire series.

Australian Politics 2022-07-29 11:17:00


Atheist Senate president Sue Lines wants Lord’s Prayer ‘gone’

I am an atheist but I think a reminder of the Christian origins of our culture is valuable. I think the prayer is theologically interesting but does anybody else think of that when they utter it?

New Senate president Sue Lines says she would like to see the longstanding tradition of reading the Lord’s Prayer at the start of each sitting day “gone”, as she prepares to put her mark on the chamber by warning senators she’ll be tougher on those who demean their colleagues.

Senator Lines, only the second woman elected to the role of president, said as an atheist she did not want to say the prayer, which has been read by the presiding officers in the lower and upper houses at the start of each sitting day since 1901.

“On the one hand we’ve had ­almost every parliamentary leader applaud the diversity of the parliament and so if we are genuine about the diversity of the parliament we cannot continue to say a Christian prayer to open the day,” Senator Lines said.

“Personally, I would like to see the prayers gone. I’m an atheist. I don’t want to say the prayers. If others want to say the prayers they’re open to do that.

“Personally I would like to see them gone but again it’s not something I can ­decree. It’s a view of the Senate.” Senator Lines said the abolition of the Lord’s Prayer was “certainly on the agenda” and would be raised with the Senate procedure committee, which considers any matter relating to procedures referred to it by the chamber or the president.

The Senate agreed on Wednesday that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags would be displayed with the Australian flag in the chamber.

The move infuriated One ­Nation leader Pauline Hanson, who walked out of the Senate, ­ declaring “no I won’t and I never will” while Senator Lines was making an ­acknowledgment of country, which follows the prayer reading.

The three flags are positioned next to each other on the floor of the House of Representatives for the first time, after Anthony Albanese and leader of the house Tony Burke made the change.

Senators and members are not required to be present or participate in the reading of the Lord’s Prayer.

There have been several unsuccessful attempts to change the standing orders to replace the prayers with a personal prayer or reflection, including by former Greens leader Bob Brown in 1997.

The acknowledgment of country was added to the standing orders in 2010.

It is understood the House of Representatives Speaker Milton Dick has no desire or plans to change the arrangements for the Lord’s Prayer or acknowledgment of country.

Mr Dick, 50, hails from the Anglican faith and has spoken at the parliamentary prayer breakfast. He is a known supporter of ­religious communities in his Brisbane electorate of Oxley.

Senator Lines said she had a particular interest in implementing the Jenkins review recommendations and making parliament a safer place to work, revealing she had been sexually assaulted when she was five.

While she has witnessed bullying and name-calling in federal parliament – having been called a “squawking seagull” – Senator Lines said she had never seen or experienced sexual harassment or assault in the building.

But she said the chamber was too accepting of bad behaviour and it was up to her and other ­Senate chairs to raise standards.

“The standing orders do say you can’t demean a person and I think in the past we’ve kind of let that go unless it’s been really ­particularly bad. We have to raise the standards as chairs, whether it’s me or the deputy president or the deputy chairs,” Senator Lines said. “We actually do (need to) start to pull people up a little more. That’s one of the areas we’ve ­developed too high a bar for moderating bad behaviour.”

She will push for the chamber’s hours to be brought into line with the house’s after the Jenkins ­review found long and irregular hours of work could exacerbate aggressiveness in the workplace.

Though Senator Lines conceded there would still be occasions when the Senate needed to sit for long periods.


Greenie lunacy

Power grids transitioning to renewable energy generates great debate, but no one is discussing the Australian government’s transition into madness, marked by bouts of delusion and dissociation from reality on any issue involving climate.

An obvious area of denial is the chaos in power grids, with wholesale electricity prices spiking and major users being paid to stay off the grid to balance supply. Yet in the midst of it all, as if nothing was happening, a minster or official will declare that the switch to renewables must be accelerated.

Another is the declaration by defence minister Richard Marles that climate change – specifically rising sea levels – is a greater threat to the Pacific than Chinese military aggression. Made during a visit to the US in mid-July the minister’s comments may have had more to do with maintaining harmony at the Pacific Island Forum then being held in Fiji and attended by Prime Minister Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong, or cosying up to Beijing, but it was a strange statement for a defence minister to make.

As part of the forum the federal government followed the fad of declaring climate emergencies signing a joint forum declaration including the phrase. Now all they have to do is to produce an emergency, although they will probably settle for another State of the Climate report declaring that eco-systems are on the point of collapse, as they have for more than 30 years.

For island nations the declaration makes complete sense. Tuvalu, for example, sits on the peak of a submerged mountain top with poor soils, half way between Australia and Hawaii, where it is regularly visited by cyclones. So climate has always been a problem. But if the developed countries can be persuaded that the nation’s troubles are somehow their fault, they may contribute billions to a climate fund long promised during the endless series of international summits. Some of that climate money would be funnelled to the Pacific nations.

From the point of view of the minister of defence however, his declaration is madness. Satellites have tracked sea level increases world-wide for decades with the results publicly available on a site run by Columbia university. Since the early 1990s, when satellite monitoring began, sea levels have been increasing at an average rate of 3.3 millimetres a year. Such an increase, if extended over a whole century, adds up to an undramatic one third of a metre.

In addition, in a paper in the journal Nature Communications in February 2018 three New Zealand academics point out that there is growing evidence that islands are geologically dynamic, with features that adjust to changing sea level and climatic conditions. As a result, Tuvalu’s overall area has been increasing, not decreasing, although the island’s government strongly disputes that any of the additional surface area is usable land. Storms are another, obvious problem in the Pacific, but a paper in the journal Nature Climate Change in June, authored by 12 mostly Australian academics, states that the frequency of tropical cyclones has been declining due to climate change. The paper was reported straight-faced by the mainstream media without acknowledging that it contradicted decades of green propaganda.

Then there is the ongoing power crisis which has affected most Western countries. In Australia, the lack of a power capacity market, which pays generators simply to be ready to produce power, combined with relentless green propaganda against coal-fired power plants means no new plants have been built for years, there are fewer coal-fired generators capable of delivering on-demand power, and those still operating are increasingly unreliable due to age and lack of maintenance.

Those problems, combined with massive increase in energy prices, have resulted in spikes in wholesale power prices, particularly in Queensland, with advisor Energy Edge noting that wholesale power prices in the state more than doubled to an unheard-of average of $323 a megawatt-hour in the June quarter. When coal-fired power stations ruled the old state grids 20 years ago, wholesale power cost about $40 a megawatt hour. A few years ago, it was $80 a megawatt hour.

The chaos, and revelations that the government may pay some $1.7 billion to major power users who agree to stay off the grid during the crisis, has not affected the worldview of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. In a recent conference in Sydney, as the crisis was unfolding, he talked of the shift to net zero and ‘the transformative role of clean energy technologies’.

Activists claim a big part of the problem is the increase in prices for gas and coal, but they bear the blame, having repeatedly attacked new coal mines and gas projects, and their financiers, using propaganda, protests and legal actions designed to deter or delay projects.

Thanks to their efforts, no one should be surprised that developed countries are dependent for energy supplies on the likes of Russia, where green activists trying to shut fossil fuel projects get into serious trouble. In 2013, for example, the Russian government charged Greenpeace activists who tried to interfere with an oil platform above the Arctic circle with piracy. The charges were dropped after two months but activists have stayed away from Russian oil platforms.

Threatening to throw activists in jail for up to 12 years is unlikely to happen in the West but any government serious about energy security must recognise that the grid will require base-load fossil fuel power for many years to come, and do more to stand up to climate trouble-makers. Along the way they could try to regain their sanity.


The Left is winning the language wars

Judith Sloan

Once upon a time, we – or most of us, at least – knew what words meant. Needless to say, from society’s point of view, this was very useful – we were all working from the same page.

If someone had used the term economic rationalism, the typical response would have been to query the need for repetition. Yep, economics is about making trade-offs and who would sign up to irrationalism? What happened, in fact, was that economic rationalism became a term of derision, the message being that economics is a heartless discipline that should be ignored by both politicians and concerned persons.

While the term economic rationalism has luckily gone out of fashion, the connotation lives on. Social justice was another term that became wildly fashionable a while back. I’m not sure who is against social justice, but hands up all those who know what social justice actually means. The main point is that social justice is just a short-hand term for everything that progressives regard as important and woe betide anyone who disagrees.

There are plenty of murky, even meaningless, words and terms that have been captured by the Left to throw stones at those who disagree with them. To describe economics as neoliberal makes no sense at all. But it is a way of casting economics as a callous discipline based on absurd assumptions. The fact that right-minded economists don’t ever describe themselves as neoliberal is irrelevant to activists pushing greater government intervention.

Extraordinarily long-serving economics editor at the Sydney Morning Herald, Ross Gittins – succession planning is clearly not the long suit of the editors – is always at pains to distance himself from neo-liberalism. As he puts it, ‘economics has many useful insights to offer the community. It must be rescued from neoliberalism because neoliberalism is simply bad economics.’ We can’t be sure why it’s bad economics because we don’t know what neoliberalism is – well apart from it being bad.

Austerity is another term purloined by the Left to attack any politician who attempts to cut government spending. Actually, make that cut the growth of government spending. Where once austerity might have been interpreted as responsible behaviour, particularly after a period of excess, these days it is another abridged term for merciless pruning of government expenditure.

Recall those 365 economists who wrote to the Times in 1981 complaining about Maggie Thatcher’s economic policies. They were confident that the fiscal and monetary tightening that was being implemented ‘will deepen the depression (sic)’. They even went as far as to suggest that Thatcher’s 1981 budget would ‘threaten social and political stability’. As events panned out, inflation came under control and unemployment began to trend down. Oops for the ‘experts’ (another misused term).

The Australian Labor party also has form in terms of misrepresenting austerity and spending cuts. At recent elections (but not 2022), Labor would claim that the Coalition had plans to cut spending on education, health and other areas. Who could forget the vacuous Tanya Plibersek making this claim when in fact federal government spending on education under the Coalition had increased and was forecast to increase further?

The trick was for Labor to foreshadow ridiculously rapid increases in spending and judge Coalition plans against this fabrication. Of course, there were always fine words attached to Labor’s plans like removing the impact of socio-economic background on educational outcomes. Yeah, right! But the point is that Labor was able to misuse language to score political points. Arguably, this tactic forced Tony Abbott to agree, during the 2013 election campaign, that there would be no cuts to education, health or the ABC (!) under a Coalition government.

Nimby – not in my backyard – is another term that has been snaffled by the Left to push for any of their preferred developments while denigrating those who oppose them. The objective is to delegitimise any preferences that locals have in order to achieve ‘progressive’ objectives. (Yes, there’s another word that’s misused – progressive.)

The Grattan Institute has long promoted high-rise developments in inner and middle suburbs as a means of providing housing for a rapidly growing population, the latter mainly the result of very high rates of immigration. For people living in those suburbs who object to these developments – gosh, doesn’t everyone want a 30-storey apartment building next to their freestanding house? – the argument is that they should be ignored as selfish, privileged buffoons.

Because Nimby-ism is bad, so the Left’s argument goes, governments should be able to ignore the preferences of locals and simply force through new developments. It’s like China’s modus operandi, when you think about it. Nimby arguments are reaching a crescendo in some regional areas. Proposals to build massive transmission lines across farms or close to cities or towns are understandably causing disquiet among locals.

Recently, there was a well-attended protest in Ballarat objecting to the construction of huge pylons in western Victoria. This has put local federal member, Labor’s Catherine King, in something of a quandary, particularly as she is also minister for infrastructure. Weirdly, two state shadow ministers from the Victorian Liberal party turned up too, notwithstanding their party’s bizarre embrace of net zero by 2050 and a 50 per cent cut in the state’s emissions by 2030. Who ever said politicians needed to be consistent?

There is also a great deal of disquiet about a solar farm proposed for the outskirts of Goulburn, with many locals unhappy that a large chunk of the Gundary Plain should be used for this purpose. Apart from the loss of land, there is anxiety about glare from the panels and the ambient heat effect. Energy behemoth, BP, is a partner in the project.

The broader point about the promotion of renewable energy is that those living in regional areas are expected to bear the external costs of developments with any objections being written off as mere Nimby-ism.

So language matters. But the sensible centre-right has been totally outgunned and has completely lost the contest.


Energy prices smash records as coal generation slumps

The scale of Australia’s energy crisis has been laid bare with wholesale power and gas prices surging to new highs after coal generation plummeted to its lowest level of supply on record.

Wholesale electricity prices more than tripled in the second quarter of 2022 to average $264 per megawatt hour compared with $87MWh in the first three months of this year, the Australian Energy Market Operator said, with Queensland and NSW posting the highest prices.

Gas prices across the east coast markets also soared to more than $28 per gigajoule on average from less than $10/GJ in the first quarter, and peaked at more than $41/GJ on June 30, exceeding international LNG netback prices in both May and June as Russia’s restrictions on supply roiled global markets.

The collapse of black coal-fired generation contributed to the price hit with a string of plant breakdowns and supply shortages resulting in the fossil fuel recording its lowest second quarter output since the national electricity market began in 1998. Coal, which normally accounts for 60 per cent of supply, fell to 43 per cent in the three months to June 30.

The amount of coal out of action hit a peak of 4600MW in June, nearly 10 per cent of the entire capacity of the power grid.

The supply squeeze, along with high gas prices, saw wholesale energy prices jump which forced AEMO to impose a price cap. Some high cost producers refused to supply the market over fears of running at a loss, eventually forcing the entire market to be suspended amid accusations from Anthony Albanese that generators were essentially “gaming the system”.

READ MORE:Solar installations dip as costs bite
More than 400 separate lack of reserve conditions were declared by AEMO in the second quarter, compared with 36 in the March quarter and 73 a year earlier.

While the suspension was lifted after a week, a gas price cap remains in place for Victoria while an emergency guarantee mechanism was triggered to help arrest shortfalls in the state where demand surges threefold in winter.

Gas and renewables filled the gap left by the coal generation sitting on the sidelines. Gas generation jumped 27 per cent or 472MW from the same time a year ago to reach its highest second quarter level since 2017, while clean energy supply grew by a fifth over the same period although it remained seasonally lower than the first quarter of this year. “Wholesale energy price hikes and volatility were driven by multiple factors, including high international commodity prices, coal-fired generation outages, elevated levels of gas-fired generation, fuel supply issues, and many east coast cities experiencing their coldest start to June in decades,” AEMO executive Violette Mouchaileh said in its quarterly energy dynamics report.

AEMO reinforced its call for Australia to accelerate a move away from coal to renewables and storage and urgently sanction more than $10bn of transmission projects to escape the ongoing threat of blackouts and high power prices amid a national energy crisis.

“What’s clear is the urgent need to build-out renewable energy with diversified firming generation – like batteries, hydro and gas – and transmission investment to provide homes and businesses with low-cost, reliable energy.”

Separately, rooftop solar installations fell to their lowest level in three years for the three months to June 30 with households paying $1000 more for the same system due to higher costs and supply snags, the Australian Energy Council said.

Solar installed on rooftops fell by more than half in the second quarter of 2022 to 52,950 systems from 109,000 for the same time a year earlier and 86,000 in 2020. A reporting lag means this year’s figure will likely be bumped up to 80,000 installations, indicating just over a quarter fewer systems put in place.

Households in 2022 are typically paying $1000 more for the same solar set-up their neighbours paid last year, fuelling hesitancy which has been amplified by cost of living pressures and economic jitters.

The cost hike was triggered by supply chain issues, the increased cost of polysilicon which is used to make solar cells, and a reduction in subsidies paid through small-scale technology certificates.

The number of STCs a rooftop solar system creates falls each year through to 2030 when the scheme ends.

The average installed solar system size for residential households has more than tripled over the last decade to 9.54 kilowatts from 2.65kW in January 2012.

The Victorian postcodes of 3029 – Hoppers Crossing, Tarneit and Truganina – and 3064 – Donnybrook – were first and second respectively for the biggest solar uptake in Australia while the NSW postcode of 2765 in Sydney’s northwest was third.

South Australia and NSW account for more than half the market for those combining solar and batteries, with Queensland lagging after its incentive scheme was exhausted in 2019.

Over 3.1 million households have added solar to their rooftops since the turn of the century, adding 15 gigawatts of capacity to the national electricity market.