Monthly Archives: December 2022

Australian Politics 2022-12-30 04:00:00


US comedian's controversial Welcome to Country clip saying 'give it back or shut up' divides Australians

It's just tedious tokenism as far as I can see. It accomplishes nothing but it seems to give Leftists a warm glow. Tokenism is their thing: Very shallow

An American comedian's take on traditional land acknowledgements has exposed division among Australians over whether they are worthwhile or empty of meaning.

A video by US comedian Bill Maher talking about land acknowledgement - used in America and Canada as it is in Australia - on his show Real Time includes him telling the audience the statements are void of meaning when actual action isn't taken.

'To all the people who start every public event now with one of those land acknowledgements where they say, 'I'm standing on land that was stolen from the proud Indigenous people of the Chumash tribe', I say either give it back or shut the f*** up,' Maher said.

The clip has gained more than 48,000 likes since it was uploaded on Sunday.

The acknowledgement of land, or acknowledgement of Country, is typically used in Australia to recognise the traditional owners of the land on which an official ceremony is held. It is usually spoken at the beginning of an event.

While Maher was referring to Native Americans, his words also struck a chord with Australians who flocked to the comments section to share their thoughts.

'Australia has been doing this for years. I think the same thing every time,' one person wrote. 'It reminds me of a prayer before dinner or something,' another said. 'Every single event in Australia, at first I was like 'cool', now I'm like 'I'm done'. 'I did a course at TAFE and every single class our trainer had to do it,' another wrote.

However, not everyone was convinced stripping away the acknowledgement is the right way forward. 'Not exactly in our power to give it back. It's the least we can do,' one person commented. 'Honouring the treaties and relationships,' another said.

Earlier in the episode, Maher said he wished there was more focus on the progress countries - specifically the US - has made in its relationship with Indigenous people than its bloody history.

'That's what's so odd about this time that we're living in,' he said. 'For all the talk of fighting for the soul of America, nobody seems to like it very much.

'A country that started out bad and will always be bad and unable to change, but we have changed. A lot.'


A young woman has died from complications related to contracting Covid on a holiday with her partner

Heart damage was long played down as an effect of Covid but it is no myth

image from

Sad to lose a redhead

The 24-year-old woman from Aldinga in South Australia, Hayley Beadman, passed on Thursday, December 27 at an Adelaide hospital after going into a myocarditis-induced cardiac arrest.

Ms Beadman and her partner, Ben Moore, unknowingly returned Covid-positive from Bali on November 23 and soon after, she started experiencing chest pains.

Her family and friends believed she was 'slowly coming back' after her condition seemed to improve in mid-December.

She is being remembered by friends and family as 'one in a million', with a GoFundMe page started by Ms Beadman's friend, Moni Burrell, raising over $11,000 for her partner.

Ms Burrell wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday: 'You have left a hole in all of our hearts.'

Ms Beadman was rushed to Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide's south when she couldn't control her breathing and was experiencing chest pains.

She went into cardiac arrest soon after reaching emergency, doctors diagnosing her with myocarditis due to a positive Covid test.

'We didn’t know we had Covid because we didn’t have any symptoms,' Mr Moore told The Advertiser.

She then underwent 50 minutes of CPR before doctors places her into an induced coma, one nurse dubbing Ms Breadman as 'one of the sickest patients in Adelaide'.

She stayed in the coma for just under a month, waking on December 16, responsive and blinking her eyes. Her family were hopeful for her future.

'She is now awake. She is blinking on demand and her eyes are moving around the room watching everyone,' an update from Ms Burrell on the GoFundMe reads.

Just under two weeks later, Ms Beadman would unfortunately suffer a lethal second cardiac arrest.

She and Mr Moore had been together for five years and recently purchased a house together in Aldinga, south of Adelaide.

'Do the right thing, wear a mask if you're in areas with lots and lots of people, you never know who has COVID,' Mr Moore told the ABC.

'It can happen to anyone.'


Christian couple who were banned from adopting after saying they would force their child to 'fight the sin' of homosexuality win payout

A devout Christian couple denied the chance to have a foster child because they believe homosexuality is a sin, have been awarded hefty compensation for their 'humiliation and hurt feelings'.

Byron and Keira Hordyk, from Perth, sued the Western Australian government for religious discrimination and received a $3000 payout each, after Wanslea Family Services denied their application in 2017.

The independent agency contracted by the state refused their request after the couple, who have kids of their own, said they would tell a child who says they are gay to 'fight the sin'.

The Hordyks are members of the conservative Free Reformed Church, a denomination that told the Tasmanian law reform institute in February 2021 that they practiced 'conversion therapy' for which they issued 'no apologies'.

Conversion therapy, which has been banned in the ACT, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia, attempts to change a person's identified sexual orientation through Bible study and prayer.

The Hordyks had responded to a theoretical question about fostering a gay child by saying they would try to convert them to heterosexuality and that if this was unsuccessful the placement would have to be terminated, the State Administrative Tribunal heard.

'We certainly would not drop them off that day to another home,' the Hordyks said. 'However, we are taught and do believe that all LGBTQ identities are wrong and sinful but there will be people who have to fight against this sin,' they wrote in their answer.

'We will therefore offer our help and try and do what we can to help this child, but if the child continues to be gay and goes on to date etc. the placement will not work as this goes against our beliefs.'

Wanslea denied the Hordyks a foster child on the grounds that they could not provide a physically or emotionally safe environment for a young person who might identify as LGBTIQ+.

In response the Hordyks took the agency to the State Administrative Tribunal claiming religious discrimination. They asked for $3000 each in compensation 'for hurt feelings and humiliation'. Mrs Hordyk told the tribunal she felt 'gutted' and 'devastated' that her beliefs were labelled 'dangerous'.

In his testimony Mr Hordyk said the rejection of the core principles of his life left him feeling 'deflated'.

'It feels unfair for me to have to throw away my beliefs on these issues just so I can be acceptable to Wanslea. My religious convictions take centre stage in all aspects of my life,' Mr Hordyk told the hearing.

Wanslea argued that the couple's rigidity on issues of homosexuality and gender did not flow from their religious convictions.

However, the tribunal did not agree and ordered both the Hordyks be paid 'for the loss and damage they suffered as a result of Wanslea's discrimination'.

At the time they were knocked back by Wanslea, the Hordyks said they were speaking up for other people of faith.

'We do feel we have been discriminated against and also we felt that if we were quiet about this and didn't say anything about it, it could potentially harm or limit any people with the same Christian values as ours from fostering,' Mr Hordyk told The West Australian.

'We hold traditional Christian views on how the Bible teaches us on sexuality and marriage.


Backpackers in priority lane as numbers near pre-Covid levels

Working holiday visas are being rushed through within an average of 24 hours, lifting backpacker numbers closer to their pre-Covid levels as the government faces calls to raise the eligibility age to 50 to plug critical labour shortages and attract more skilled professionals.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said the number of backpackers working in the country had bounced back from lows of just 20,000 during the pandemic to about 120,000 as of last week.

Mr Giles said that, in addition to fast-tracking holiday-maker visas, he had changed the rules to allow backpackers to stay with a single employer for as long as they remained in the country rather than limiting them to one job for six months at a time, arguing Australia was in an international competition to attract talent.

“This is not simply an Australian skill shortage, so it’s important that we have our system moving effectively, because we’re in a global market,” Mr Giles said.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re competitive with countries like Canada and like the UK.”

“And I’m really pleased that we are in that space now, that people are getting their visas turned around quickly and that employers can now approach this competence as well.”

The changes come as new figures from peak tourism bodies show more than 70 per cent of Australians will be holidaying domestically this summer, ratcheting up demand on tourism and hospitality businesses across the country which have already been struggling for months to find workers.

Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Margy Osmond sounded the alarm, saying she was pushing the government to halve or remove all visa fees and increase the age of those eligible for working holiday visas from 35 to 50.

“A lot of businesses are still suffering in terms of getting the number of people optimal to run them,” Ms Osmond said.

“This is a massive competitive global market. Many countries have halved or removed visa fees.”

Increasing the age eligibility for working holiday visas to 50 would also give businesses a “wider pool of people with a bit more money likely to be able to afford to travel”.

“We need to fill other jobs as well. It’s not just pulling a beer at front of house; we need professionals,” Ms Osmond said.

Australian Chamber of Industry and Commerce chief executive Andrew McKellar welcomed the faster visa-processing times, but called for new requirements forcing backpackers to work in the sectors that needed them most.

“With many businesses unable to satisfy the demand for workers, the government should consider including three months of work in the tourism and hospitality sectors as qualification for extending working holiday maker visas,” Mr McKellar said.

Prior to the pandemic, Working Holiday Maker visas contributed about $3bn a year to the economy, with a usual pool of backpackers of between 150,000 and 200,000. But border closures during the Covid-19 outbreak drove down the number of working holiday visas by 85 per cent – the biggest drop of any visa class.

To fill skills shortages quickly, the government has prioritised Working Holiday Maker visas over others such as international student visas, which the Home Affairs Department in November reported were processed in about 14 days.

International students have played a major part in plugging skills gaps during the pandemic, following a move by the former government to lift the working cap of 20 hours a week.

However, higher education experts have expressed concern that the ­uncapped hours were creating a “de-facto work visa” for students coming to Australia ­primarily to earn money rather than study.

While Mr Giles said the practice of visas being used for collateral purposes was of concern and the capping of hours would return by June next year, Ms Osmond called for the uncapped hours to remain for at least all of 2023, if not longer.

“While I perfectly understand this was an interim measure because of problems we were facing, we’re not over those problems,” Ms Osmond said. “The measure should be in place for the full year. That would give industry and students certainty.”

Mr Giles said “people coming here to study should be coming here to study”.

“We have through the pandemic extended the hours that students can work,” he said. “That will continue through to 30 June (next year).

“We are constantly working with universities and other providers to make sure that the integrity of the system – and then fundamentally also the integrity of our schools and education system – is maintained.”

Mr Giles said the decision to process working holiday visas within a 24-hour timeframe was the result of new processes and investments in human resources in the department, arguing the shake-up had “finally got our visa system moving”.

“It’s got people connected to jobs and critically connected ­people to businesses … to address the skills shortage we are facing,” he said.

However, he recognised the challenges of backpackers getting to Australia, given the cost and availability of flights and accommodation.

“All of these are issues,” he said. “I don’t presume for a minute that changing the migration system in Australia can deal with all of these issues. But … the availability of visas … and turning around working holiday maker applications in less than a day, we are giving certainty to people who are coming here.”

Mr Giles revealed the government had fulfilled its promise to get the total visa backlog down to 600,000, with the number of visas now on hand down to about 599,000.




Australian Politics 2022-12-29 10:23:00


Kamahl slams ABC host as a 'bully with a black soul' amid calls for him to be sacked over 'disgusting' comment about the singer and cricket icon Don Bradman

Adams is is a Leftist so I am reluctant to defend him but I think he was misunderstood here. He was clearly criticizing Bradman, not Kamahl. He was comparing Bradman to a South African Apartheid believer. Bradman has recently been "outed" as very conservative.

But any mention of race is taboo these days. Adams should have known that. But he was too anxious to get in a dig at Bradman

Legendary singer Kamahl said he feels 'humiliated' by the ABC's Phillip Adams after the broadcaster claimed cricket icon Don Bradman treated him as 'an honorary white'.

The host of ABC Late Night Live created a storm of controversy by making the claim on social media.

In the tweet on Thursday, Adams compared the cricket icon's 13-year friendship with the popular entertainer with his reluctance to meet Nelson Mandela.

'Clearly, Kamahl, [Bradman] made you an Honorary White. Whereas one of the most towering political figures of the 20th century was deemed unworthy of Bradman’s approval,' Adams said in a tweet on Tuesday morning which later went viral.

The comment was blasted on Twitter, with Aboriginal leader Warren Mundine calling Adams 'a disgrace' and leading calls for his sacking.

A tearful Kamahl, now 88, broke down as he told Daily Mail Australia he felt 'humiliated' by Adams' hurtful remark.

The iconic entertainer, who has enjoyed a successful 55 year career in Australia, labelled Adams 'a bully'.

'I think he wanted to put me down, how dare I be so successful? How can I be black and be successful?' Kamahl told Daily Mail Australia.

'He was being flippant but he’s a bully, ironically Adams has possibly the best command of the English language and he chooses to be mean-spirited. I think he was trying to be nasty.'

'Daring to suggest that Sir Donald Bradman invited me to his home in August 1988 as a 'token white' is disgusting at best.

'You may be white, but oh your soul is black!'

Kamahl said he was proud of his 13-year friendship with Bradman, which began with the singer name-checking the cricket icon in a 1988 song 'What is Australia to Me?'

The pair exchanged almost 80 letters and Kamahl was a regular guest for lunch and dinner at Bradman's home in Kensington Park, Adelaide.


Some Australians spend Boxing Day trashing famous cricketer

Social media’s love affair with cancelling long-dead celebrities has reared its head again, this time with Australian cricket icon Don Bradman in the firing line.

Bradman, known as one of history’s greatest sportsmen, has been dead for 21 years. But now, a dusty old letter addressed to Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, two days after the 1975 dismissal election, has apparently “exposed” the former cricketing great as a “right wing nutjob”.

In the letter, which was unearthed by Federation University’s Verity Archer, Bradman urged the new PM to scrap regulations on capital and warned of the risks inflation poses to Australia.

“A marvellous victory in which your personal conduct and dignity stood out against the background of arrogance and propaganda indulged in by your opponents,” Bradman wrote.

“Now you may have to travel a long and difficult road along which your enemies will seek to destroy you.”

Bradman — who was 67 at the time of writing the letter — also warned Mr Fraser about the power of unions and urged for the public to be “re-educated to believe private enterprise is entitled to rewards, as long as it obeys the rules”.

“What the people need are clearly defined rules which they can read and understand so that they can get on with their affairs,” Bradman continued.

“The public must be re-educated to believe that private enterprise is entitled to rewards as long as it obeys fair and reasonable rules laid down by government. Maybe you can influence leaders of the press to a better understanding of this necessity of presentation.”

Social media users and journalists expressed shock that Bradman — who was born in 1908 and raised in an era when horses outnumbered cars on the road — had conservative leanings.

Sydney Morning Herald writer Daniel Brettig described the letter as “extraordinary” and said it showed Bradman’s attempt at an “intervention at an explosive moment in Australian political history”.

Broadcaster Phillip Adams wrote, “Sad. Lost letter from Bradman to Fraser after Whitlam’s dismissal reveals ‘the Don’ to be a RWNJ [right-wing nutjob].”


Tony Abbott: There are already Indigenous voices in parliament

Goodwill towards Aboriginal people has never been greater and there is all-but-universal support for recognising Indigenous people in the constitution.

But this proposal for a constitutionally entrenched Indigenous voice to the government and to the parliament is way beyond recognition.

It’s a special body for some, but not all, based on how long your ancestors have been in Australia.

Is that what we really want in our constitution: two classes of Australians, based on race? That’s why the coming referendum is almost sure to be the most important issue our country faces next year and why it deserves far more debate in detail than it’s had so far.

Actually, Indigenous people already have a voice.

It’s called the Australian parliament, which now has 11 Indigenous MPs, a record number, all of whom have been chosen and elected in the normal way. Because Australian voters have become so lacking in prejudice and are now so appreciative of the qualities of Indigenous people as to disproportionately put them into our national parliament.

Although our country has never tried harder to give minorities a fair go, Indigenous people especially, that’s not enough for the Albanese government.

Hence this push for a separate and special Indigenous body, over and above the Indigenous MPs already in the parliament, the national Indigenous “coalition of peaks”, and all the Aboriginal land councils that already cover the whole country and represent the traditional owners in whom authority used to rest.

This can’t be because Aboriginal people currently lack a voice. Many Indigenous people speak out powerfully and effectively in our public life.

Nor is it because Aboriginal people currently aren’t being listened to. As the now almost ubiquitous acknowledgements of country, routine presence of the Aboriginal flag alongside the national flag, and angst over Australia Day show, officialdom takes some Indigenous concerns very seriously indeed.

This new voice that the government wants to put to a referendum in the second half of next year is not about listening more closely to Indigenous views or about finally recognising in our constitution that Aboriginal people were here first.

It’s about introducing a kind of co-governance where nothing can be done for 100 per cent of the people without taking into account the concerns of that 4 per cent, some of whose ancestors came before 1788.

As the Prime Minister has said, only a very “brave” government could ignore the voice’s representations. That’s why, should this voice be approved at a referendum, it would constitute something approaching a “third chamber of the parliament”, as Malcolm Turnbull has said.

In fact, the government has two distinct and contradictory positions on the Voice: one, pitched to the wider Australian community, is that the Voice is really no big deal, and that not to support it would be disrespectful to Indigenous people — and perhaps even racist.

The other, pitched to Indigenous leaders and its own activist supporters, is that the Voice would start to redress the shame of dispossession and might help to close the education, employment and life expectancy gap between Indigenous people and the wider Australian community.

Paradoxically, in one of its first decisions, the same government that’s pushing this new Voice totally ignored all the Indigenous voices pleading with it not to scrap the cashless debit card and not to end the alcohol bans in remote Australia which were helping to keep vulnerable women and children safe.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Indigenous voices that this government heeds are largely urban activist ones that want to change the date of Australia Day, rewrite history, conclude treaties between the Commonwealth and groups of its own citizens, and press for reparations; as opposed to those in remote areas whose focus is on getting Indigenous kids to school and adults to work, and keeping communities safe.

Unless the government plans to release a lot more detail — about exactly who could stand and who could vote for this new body; exactly what will and what won’t be within its scope; how much its members might be paid and its deliberations resourced; and how it’s going to be possible to avoid extensive litigation about whether its representations have adequately been considered and responded to (and that’s a lot to think through) — people will be expected to vote essentially on the “vibe”.

And that’s hardly a safe way to make potentially far-reaching changes to the way we are governed.

If this really was likely to produce hitherto unknown solutions to all the scandalous problems afflicting remote Australia, and if this really was likely to generate a hitherto unprecedented united resolve to make a difference, it might just be worth the risk.

But instead of the appreciation that lasting change for the better happens person-by-person, institution-by-institution and community-by-community, and is akin to slow-boring through hard wood, this new body is likely to reinforce separatism and the quest for instant solutions. That’s when it’s not acting as an echo chamber for grievances or a gravy train for activists.

That’s why I hope you will join people like Senator Jacinta Price, a proud Celtic, Warlpiri Australian woman, not just to oppose this unnecessary Voice which would be wrong in principle and bad in practice, but in finding better ways to recognise Aboriginal people in our constitution and to have the original Australians participate more fully in the great life we have here.


Tesla chaos strikes: Long Christmas holiday queues for charging station reveals the harsh reality of owning an electric vehicle in Australia

The people caught out must be either gullible or a bit dim. Electric vehicles are just not suitable for long-distance travel

Australian Tesla drivers have been forced to wait in 90-minute queues at charging stations as thousands take to the roads over the holiday period.

Queues for charging stations have been spotted nationwide, including in Victoria and NSW.

The huge queues have angered Tesla owners, with many blasting Australia's lack of electric vehicle infrastructure.

ABC reporter Phil Williams shared a video of the electric cars all lined up at a charging bay in Wodonga, on the border of Victoria and NSW on Wednesday. 'Wodonga Tesla charge points overwhelmed with wait times around 90 mins,' he said.

In the footage, Tesla owners can be seen aimlessly standing around their cars as they wait for a charge before getting on their way more than an hour later.

There were similar scenes at a Coffs Harbour charging point in northern NSW on Wednesday, with Teslas stretching through the carpark as drivers waited their turn to power up.

Many Aussies were quick to call out electric vehicles after seeing the footage. 'Think I'll stick to a petrol powered car. Takes less than 5 minutes to fill up my car's tank, pay for the petrol and to then be on my way again,' one said.

'Why anyone would want an electric car that can take up to an hour to fully recharge is beyond me,' another declared. 'They obviously have way too much time on their hands to just wait either waiting to recharge or recharge!'

'So how do you travel during peak periods in an EV? Just be prepared to add 3 hours to your trip? That won't help with the take up of the technology?' a third said.

'I'm an expat Australian and this is the reason I left. We're 10 years behind the rest of the world with EV and innovation,' added another.

Others called for an expansion of the charging network across Australia to solve the problem of long wait times.

'There are eleven petrol stations in Wodonga, multiple outlets for every major brand, and only one place to charge EVs which is just outside the council offices.'

Another suggested: 'Every petrol station should have to fit charging points.'

Others suggested the long wait times were due to the Christmas holidays, while some said it was likely the scenes in Wodonga were from a Tesla club meet-up.




Australian Politics 2022-12-28 02:28:00


Rogue antibody and mystery pathogen behind AstraZeneca blood clots: study

A rare gene combined with exposure to a mystery pathogen may have caused the blood clotting issues that plagued AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Australia pinned much of its COVID-19 response strategy on AstraZeneca’s vaccine, with 50 million doses produced by CSL’s Broadmeadows plant.

But at the height of the pandemic last year, as millions of Australians were preparing to roll up their sleeves, the vaccine was linked to an extremely rare but deadly blood clot disease.

It left many with a tough choice: get jabbed and take the three-in-100,000 risk of clots, or decline the vaccine and take your chances with the virus. In total, 173 Australians suffered clots, and eight people died.

Exactly what caused the clots has remained a mystery. But this month a team of Australian scientists led by Flinders University’s head of immunology Professor Tom Gordon reported in the journal Blood that they had traced the culprit down a single gene – and a mystery pathogen.

“This was very unusual,” Gordon said. “In 35 years of looking at blood autoantibodies I have never seen anything like this.”

“Exceptionally dangerous”

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is built around an adenovirus vector – a harmless virus modified to carry the genetic code of COVID-19’s spike protein.

After vaccination, the virus infects our cells, which then use the genetic code to produce copies of the spike protein. In turn, our immune system learns to recognise the spike and builds an arsenal of antibodies designed to fight it.

But scientists suspect the adenovirus itself can accidentally bind to a crucial natural protein in the body known as PF4. A small signalling molecule, it’s used to get blood to thicken – important in repairing cuts, for example.

In rare cases, people develop antibodies that can recognise and bind to this combination of adenovirus and PF4. By binding, the antibodies activate PF4, causing it to signal platelets in the blood to clump together.

“Once you clump platelets you get widespread clotting. So they are exceptionally dangerous,” Gordon said.

But that explanation leaves a gaping hole. We all have PF4. Why did only a few people get clots?

A rogue antibody

Working with rogue antibody samples from five people in Adelaide who suffered clots after the vaccine – including one person who died – Gordon’s team made several key discoveries.

First, they discovered the rogue antibodies slotted perfectly into a groove on PF4 that was only exposed when PF4 was exposed to AstraZeneca’s adenovirus.

Then they found the antibodies from the five people were almost identical.

Antibodies vary a lot from person to person; the immune system can make perhaps a million trillion unique types. Pulling identical antibodies from five unrelated people is extremely rare and suggests genes are playing a role.

Genetic sequencing revealed each patient was expressing a gene known as IGLV3-21*02, which was likely responsible for the unique antibody.

Case closed? Not quite.

About four people in every 100 have IGLV3-21*02, but the risk of clotting from AstraZeneca’s vaccine was a fraction of that. Something more must have been going on.

The final clue was hidden in the disease’s speed. It can take weeks for antibodies to be generated to a new virus, but some people suffered clotting just days after getting vaccinated. That suggested, Gordon said, their immune systems had already experienced this strange combination of adenovirus and PF4 – or something that looked a lot like it.

“How can it be? We don’t know. That’s one of the great mysteries,” he said.

Professor James McCluskey, an expert on the genetics of immunity and a deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne, called the study “rather remarkable”.

“Antibody genes … can vary genetically from one individual to another. For all these patients to have the same [gene] is just intuitively improbable by chance. So it looks real,” he said.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine remains in use in Australia, but official health advice is to opt for Pfizer or Moderna if you’re under 60. But AstraZeneca continues to be distributed, particularly in low-income countries.

Gordon hopes his study will open up new ways to either test people for genetic susceptibility to the condition or design medicines to treat it.


Gas crackdown already halting new investments

Future gas and LNG projects valued at $32bn are under threat of having investment stalled or pulled under the Albanese government’s “hostile attitude to Australia’s resources sector” after the Gina Rinehart-backed Senex paused its $1bn Surat Basin ­expansion project.

Up to 12 gas projects listed in the government’s resources and energy major projects investment pipeline report on Monday are considered to be facing “significant uncertainty” following the government’s crackdown on gas companies.

Amid industry concerns over the government’s one-year $12-a-gigajoule gas price cap, mandatory code of conduct on gas producers and tougher environmental approval regulations, there are rising fears that other companies could suspend projects.

Senex’s decision to halt work on its coal seam gas projects is the latest hit to Queensland’s resources industry, where coalminers Glencore and BHP have shelved or frozen investment amid a running brawl with the state’s Labor government over a shock royalty hike announced in its July budget.

Opposition resources spokeswoman Susan McDonald said “more than $15bn in future east coast gas projects are under a cloud of uncertainty due to Labor’s hostile attitude towards Australia’s energy resources sector”.

Nine projects planned to supply east coast domestic gas, and another three LNG projects that could supply gas to the east coast, are valued at $32bn.

Senex, jointly owned by POSCO and Ms Rinehart’s Hancock Energy after they sealed a $900m takeover of the ASX-listed company in March, announced the $1bn coal seam expansion project four months ago around the same time the federal government was drafting its plans to combat high domestic gas prices.

The coal seam expansion was aimed at pumping more gas into the domestic market by lifting its Atlas project to 60 petajoules within two years.

Senex has left open the possibility of returning to the $1bn ­expansion if the federal government rethinks its gas industry plans. However, it has paused ­recruitment and spending on long lead items “pending the outcome of the Albanese government’s mandatory code of conduct consultation process” on February 7.

A spokesman for Resources Minister Madeleine King said the government was “confident Senex will continue to engage constructively with the government as they design and implement the gas code of conduct”. He said the government’s gas price cap applied only to existing projects and not “new projects like Atlas”.

“The government wants to ­design a measure that does not have a chilling effect on investment, and ensures investment continues to flow to new products,” Ms King’s spokesman said.

“The gas code of conduct, once it enters into force, is not about stripping profits off producers. It’s about ensuring that where gas ­enters the domestic market, Australian households and businesses are not subject to the exponentially skyrocketing prices that we have seen throughout the course of this year. “That’s not on, and the code will prevent those runaway prices that we have seen previously.”

Acting Treasurer Katy Gallagher this week authorised the gas price cap to begin from Friday, with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission tasked with “closely monitoring” the east coast gas market and enforcing the cap.

Senator Gallagher said without capping gas and coal prices, “the average family would be paying $230 more on their electricity bill next year”.

Senator McDonald said the government was “joining forces with the Greens to implement unprecedented price controls, hand over more power to unions, ­increase environmental red-tape and fund anti-mining lawfare groups”.

“Coal and gas alone are forecast to earn Australia $223bn but under Labor’s war on conventional energy commodities, 18 coal and gas projects have been reopened for environmental assessment after already receiving approval, and 43 oil and gas projects have been required to redo their consultation,” Senator McDonald said.

“Our regional partners, like Japan and Korea, will be very concerned about Australia’s approach to providing the energy commodities they need to power their economies. All this sends strong signals to international companies that they are not welcome here, so we can expect them to consider halting their investment.”

Liberal Senator Paul Scarr says “basic economics” is all it takes to realise imposing gas price caps at “less than… the market-prevailing price” will create a shortage of investment and, consequently, energy reserve. “It’s an investment-killing concoction,” Mr Scarr told Sky News host Gary Hardgrave. “The consequences are disastrous, especially More
In the government’s major projects report, prepared before the national cabinet slapped a $125-a-tonne price cap on coal, 33 coal projects were stalled in the feasibility stage as lenders and investors, led by pension and equity funds, pull f­inance for thermal coal projects.

Global mining giant Glencore earlier this month pulled the plug on plans to build its $2bn Valeria thermal coalmine, citing Queensland’s royalty rate increase as a major cause. BHP is also considering the impact of the royalty rate hikes on the life of its Queensland coal operations.

The mining giant has already said it will not invest in Queensland growth projects while the windfall royalty rates are in place, and set aside $US750m in its annual financial accounts for potential early closure and rehabilitation costs.

Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association chief executive Samantha McCulloch said the Senex decision highlighted risks involved with the Albanese government’s gas market intervention.

“No new gas supply means no downward pressure on prices and an increased risk of future gas shortages,” Ms McCulloch said.

“Without this kind of investment, Australia misses out on crucial new gas supply to ease east coast energy system pressures as well as substantial economic ­returns including hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of local investment in regional communities.”

Opposition treasury spokesman Angus Taylor said market ­interventions were “adding to red tape and complexity for investors both domestically and abroad”.

“The billions of dollars of projects on hold or under question shows that when we are in a global race for capital, more regulation leads to less investment, which means fewer jobs, less work for small businesses and a slower economy,” Mr Taylor said.

After the Office of the Chief Economist on Monday revealed that resources and energy export earnings will fall by $68bn in 2023-24, down from a record $459bn this financial year, Mr Taylor said it was imperative for the budget bottom line to avoid ­future slides.

“This makes it all the more alarming that the government is cutting funding support for our resources sector and making extreme interventions that energy experts are warning will cool investment and decrease supply,” he said.


RBA warning: Our supply-side problems have only just begun

In one of his last speeches for the year, Reserve Bank governor Dr Philip Lowe has issued a soberingwarning. Even when we’ve got on top of the present inflation outbreak, the disruptions to supplywe’ve struggled with this year are likely to be a recurring problem in the years ahead.

Economists think of the economy as having two sides. The supply side refers to our productionof goods and services, whereas the demand side refers to our spending on those goods and services, partly for investment in new production capacity, but mainly for consumption by households.

Lowe notes that, until inflation raised its ugly head, the world had enjoyed about three decades inwhich there were few major “shocks” (sudden big disruptions) to the continuing production and supply of goods and services.

When something happens that disrupts supply, so that it can’t keep up with demand, prices jump –as we’ve seen this year with disruptions caused by the pandemic and its lockdowns, and withRussia’s attack on Ukraine.

What changes occurred over the three decades were mainly favourable: they involved increasedsupply of manufactured goods, in particular, which put gentle downward pressure on prices.

This made life easier for the world’s central banks. With the supply side behaving itself, they wereable to keep their economies growing fairly steadily by using interest rates to manage demand. Putrates up to restrain spending and inflation; put rates down to encourage spending and employment.

What’s got Lowe worried is his realisation that a lot of the problems headed our way will be shocks to supply.

The central banks were looking good because the one tool they have for influencing the economy –interest rates – was good for managing demand. Trouble is – and as we saw this year – managing demand is the only thing central banks and their interest rates can do.

When prices jump because of disruptions to supply, there’s nothing they can do to fix those disruptions and get supply back to keeping up with demand. All they can do is strangle demand until prices come down.

So, what’s got Lowe worried is his realisation that a lot of the problems headed our way will be shocks to supply.

“Looking forward, the supply side looks more challenging than it has been for many years” and is likely to have a bigger effect on inflation, making it jump more often.

Lowe sees four factors leading to more supply shocks. The first is “the reversal of globalisation”.

Over recent decades, international trade increased significantly relative to the size of the global economy, he says.

Production became increasingly integrated across borders, and this lowered costs and made supply very flexible. Australia was among the major beneficiaries of this.

Now, however, international trade is no longer growing faster than the global economy. “Trading blocs are emerging and there is a step back from closer integration,” he says. “Unfortunately, today barriers to trade and investment are more likely to be increased than removed.”

This will inevitably affect both the rise in standards of living and the prices of goods and services inglobal markets.

The second factor affecting the supply side is demographics. Until relatively recently, the working-age population of the advanced economies was steadily increasing. This was also true for China andEastern Europe – both of which were being integrated into the global economy.

And the participation of women in the paid labour force was also rising rapidly. “The result was asubstantial increase in the number of workers engaged in the global economy, and advances intechnology made it easier to tap into this global labour force,” Lowe says.

So, there was a great increase in global supply. But this trend has turned and the working-agepopulation is now declining, with the decline projected to accelerate. The proportion of thepopulation who are either too young or too old to work is rising, meaning the supply of workersavailable to meet the demand for goods and services has diminished.

The third factor affecting the supply side is climate change. Over the past 20 years, the number ofmajor floods across the world has doubled and the frequency of heatwaves and droughts has alsoincreased.

This will keep getting worse These extreme weather events disrupt production and so affect prices – as we know all too well in Australia. But as well as lifting fruit and vegetable prices (and meat prices after droughts break and herd rebuilding begins), extreme weather can disrupt mining production and transport and distribution.

The fourth factor affecting the supply side is related: the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. This involves junking our investment in coal mines, gas plants and power stations, and new investment in solar farms, wind farms, batteries and rooftop solar, as well as extensively rejigging the electricity network.

It’s not just that the required new capital investment will be huge, but that the transition from the old system to the new won’t happen without disruptions.

So, energy prices will be higher (to pay for the new capital investment) and more volatile when fossil-fuel supply stops before renewables supply is ready to fill the gap.

Lowe foresees the inflation rate becoming more unstable through two channels. First, shocks to supply that cause large and rapid changes in prices.

Second, the global supply curve becoming less “elastic” (less able to respond to increases in demand by quickly increasing supply) than it has been in the past decade.

Lowe says bravely that none of these developments would undermine the central banks’ ability to achieve their inflation target “on average” - that is, over a few years – though they would make the bankers’ job more complicated.

Well, maybe. As he reminds us, adverse supply shocks can have conflicting effects, increasing inflation while reducing output and employment. The Reserve can’t increase interest rates and reduce them at the same time.

As Lowe further observes, supply shocks “also have implications for other areas of economic policy”. Yes, competition policy, for instance.


Low-fee private schools rival expensive counterparts in HSC

At Alpha Omega College, a co-ed school in a suburban office block, students don’t wear uniforms, teachers are called by their first names and there is no bell to round up pupils to class.

“It’s not a normal school,” says deputy principal Wesam Krayem. “We do things differently and it makes students feel like there are fewer barriers. We also open the school on weekends and holidays for extra tutoring sessions.”

The western Sydney college is one of multiple lower-fee private schools across NSW that had similar — or better — HSC success rates than schools where fees tip over $20,000 a year, a Herald analysis has found.

Catholic schools that charge fees of about $6000 a year or less — including Randwick’s Brigidine College, Hurstville’s Bethany College and Parramatta Marist High — had a similar or a higher portion of students achieving band-six HSC results as St Joseph’s in Hunters Hill and the Scots College in Bellevue Hill, where parents pay about $40,000 for year 12.

St Clare’s College in Waverley — which charges about $7000 for year 12 — was the highest-ranked systemic Catholic school at 31st out of the 143 top private schools analysed, based on the past two years of HSC results. It had a success rate similar to Barker College and St Ignatius College Riverview, where final-year fees are more than $32,000.

Former chair of NSW Education Standards Authority Tom Alegounarias said fees did not necessarily correlate with consistently high academic performance.

“Results likely reflect all sorts of dynamics beyond the socio-economic backgrounds of students. It could be about the relative effectiveness of the school, and if there is healthy competition among staff and students. Schools might be focusing on academic achievement and the rigours that are needed to get those results. Band sixes are also only one indicator, and are not a reliable indicator of range achievement in schools,” Alegounarias said.

At Auburn’s Alpha Omega College there is an intense focus on academic results and a strict no mobile phone policy for the 500-odd students at the school.

“There is a ‘never give up attitude’ ... students get constant feedback on how they are going. The school is open on some weekends for study groups and algebra workshops,” said Krayem. Parents pay about $13,000 for year 12 at the school.

The Herald’s analysis compared fees with HSC success rates — the ratio of band six results at a school compared to the number of students that sat exams. It used this year’s fees published on school websites, and if these weren’t available took the most recent fees and charges reported or used data from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to estimate fees.

Authorities only release the names and schools of students who achieve in the top band of their subject. Private school sectors have previously suggested the NSW government release more data to reflect the efforts of all students, not just the top achievers.

Fees at Al Noori Muslim School in Greenacre and Al Faisal College are roughly $3000 a year, and those schools had a similar portion of students in the top HSC bands as Knox Grammar and Kincoppal Rose Bay.

Chief executive of Catholic Schools NSW Dallas McInerney said the sector aimed to provide choice for parents through a system of low-fee comprehensive schools.

“HSC results do not account for socio-economic background, fees or enrolment policy, therefore the results of these schools and students are really an against-the-odds story,” he said.

‘We set the bar high’: How Reddam House blitzed HSC maths
Robyn Rodwell, the principal of Catholic systemic school Bethany College, said the school had high expectations of the girls.

“Before we teach a new topic we do pre-testing to find out what they already know, and that way after we’ve taught the unit you can see how much they’ve grown. We also invest in really solid teacher development programs,” she said.

Head of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW Geoff Newcombe said the median fee collected for private schools in NSW was around $5200 a year. “These schools are not selective, and their regular success reflects the commitment of the students, their families, teachers and principals to strong academic outcomes at all levels.”




Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 25, 2022


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 25, 2022

by Tony Wikrent

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-23-2022]








Strategic Political Economy

Come to America and Live a Shorter Life!

Harold Meyerson, December 22, 2022 [The American Prospect]

While life expectancy continued its upward climb among our peers—the nations with advanced economies—it fell in 2021 to its lowest level since 1996 in these United States according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics. COVID and fentanyl each took a terrible toll, adding to the well-documented deaths of despair from suicide, alcoholism, and the other plagues statistically associated with the lives of working-class Americans.

An American child born last year had a life expectancy of 76.4 years—down from 77 years in 2020. The earlier year, of course, was the year of COVID with no vaccines, while 2021 was the year of COVID with vaccines, which only highlights the role that vaccine resistance played in dooming some hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens who might otherwise still be among us. Lest anyone doubt that the MAGA mishegas about the satanic vaccines was key to the continuation of COVID deaths well beyond the date when the vaccines became widely available, it’s notable that the death rate from COVID among whites surpassed that among Blacks and other racial groups in mid-2021.

Indeed, as a late-October study in The Lancet Regional Health–Americas documented, there was a direct correlation between the conservatism of a congressmember’s voting record and the death rate from COVID of their constituents, across all age groups and taking into account such factors as race, education, and income. Those death rates were 11 percent higher in states with Republican governors. This wasn’t just a function of state policy (like, e.g., Ron DeSantis’s war on vaccines), of course, but also of the beliefs of our MAGA-istic compatriots.

Another late-October study, this one published in the academic journal PLOS One, demonstrated that the perils of living in red-state America aren’t limited to greater COVID mortality rates. 

Mortality Change among Less Educated Americans 

[American Economic Association. Commentary below on Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]



Can False Balance Kill You? It Sure Can 

[FAIR, via Naked Capitalism 12-23-2022]

The Washington Post (12/16/22) had a recent headline: “Can Politics Kill You? Research Says the Answer Increasingly Is Yes.” And the lead of the article, by Akilah Johnson, told readers of two studies that reveal what it calls “an uncomfortable truth”:

The toxicity of partisan politics is fueling an overall increase in mortality rates for working-age Americans.

But when you read further into the article, you find that politics is not really the problem here.  One of the studies, the Post reported, found that “people living in more conservative parts of the United States disproportionately bore the burden of illness and death linked to Covid-19.” The other found that “the more conservative a state’s policies, the shorter the lives of working-age people.

So the problem is not so much “politics” as it is conservatism.  Indeed, the article noted that one of the reports found “if all states implemented liberal policies” on the environment, guns, tobacco and other health-related policies, 170,000 lives would be saved a year.

Still, the analysis in the piece centered around the idea that it is not right-wing ideology, but lack of bipartisanship, that is to blame—as in, “The division in American politics has grown increasingly caustic and polarized.”

Workplace Fatalities Hit Highest Rate Since 2016 

[Manufacturing, via Naked Capitalism 12-23-2022]

The pandemic

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]



[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-20-2022]



[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-20-2022]



‘World Health Organisation Doomed the World by Concealing Evidence of Airborne COVID Transmission’ 

[Byline Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-20-2022]

Morgue Data Reveal Africa’s High COVID-19 Death Toll 

[Boston University School of Public Health, via Naked Capitalism 12-20-2022]

Global power shift

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-2022]



Moscow Says US Policies Have Put the US and Russia on Brink of ‘Direct Clash’

[Defend Democracy, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2022]

Russia Sitrep of Sorts

Yves Smith, December 23, 2022 [Naked Capitalism]

SCOTT RITTER: A Lexicon for Disaster 

[Consortium News, via Naked Capitalism 12-20-2022]

When the INF treaty was negotiated, U.S. and Soviet negotiators had the benefit of decades of negotiating history regarding the anti-ballistic missiles (ABM) treaty, the strategic arms limitation talks (SALT), and START, from which a common lexicon of agreed-upon arms control terminology was created.

Over the years, this lexicon helped streamline both the negotiation and implementation of various arms control agreements, ensuring that everyone was on the same page when it came to defining what had been committed to.

Today, however, after having listened to these veteran arms control professionals, it was clear to me that a common lexicon of arms control terminology no longer existed — words that once had a shared definition now meant different things to different people, and this definition gap could— and indeed would — further devolve as each side pursued their respective vision of arms control devoid of any meaningful contact with the other.

Olaf Scholz’s foreign policy manifesto in ‘Foreign Affairs’ magazine 

Gilbert Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2022]

Now let us look at the content of the manifesto which is firstly a very carefully trimmed narrative of what over the past thirty years has brought us to the present turning point in the road, or “Global Zeitenwende,” and secondly, a road map to the future, which the author(s) say, in the subtitle to the manifesto, will enable us “to avoid a New Cold War.”

In their hands, the narrative of European and world history over the past thirty years is the story of Russian revanchism that exists in a vacuum, without context of provocations and escalations from the USA, the EU and other actors, and propelled by the animus of one man, Vladimir Putin.  

The key message about Russian culpability for everything comes in a couple of paragraphs.  The original sin was Putin’s evaluation of the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.” From that the authors fast forward to Putin’s “aggressive speech” at the February 2007 Munich Security Conference, “deriding the rules-based international order as a mere tool of American dominance.”  This was followed in short order by the war Russia launched against Georgia in 2008. And from there we are off to the races….

Yes, Germany will greatly expand its military spending and make amends for the pitiful forces of the present day Bundeswehr.  However, the Russians will not go back to their bear caves and hibernate when the fighting stops in Ukraine.  Indeed, what I now see is that progressively, over the past 300 days of warfare, Russian society has moved from consumerism and consolidated around patriotism. The ‘fifth column’ Liberals have now mostly left the country and moved to where their assets have long been kept in the West. Russian industry, under state direction, has risen to the challenge of supplying the army with equipment and munitions that are being expended at the highest daily rate since WWII. This trend will only accelerate going forward, as the Russian economy reorganizes on a war footing.  Moreover, and most importantly, the small professional army that Russia built up from the start of Putin’s tenure in the presidency has been replaced conceptually by plans to develop an army scaled to offset the whole of European conventional forces. This means, as we have heard repeatedly from the host of the Evening with Vladimir Solovyov talk show, a standing army of three million men and women...  

You’re Not Actually Helping When You “Support” Protesters In Empire-Targeted Nations 

Caitlin Johnstone [via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2022]

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Mathematical modeling in economics 

Lars P. Syll [via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]

If scientific progress in economics lies in our ability to tell ‘better and better stories’ one would, of course, expect economics journals to be filled with articles supporting the stories with empirical evidence confirming the predictions. However, the journals still show a striking and embarrassing paucity of empirical studies that (try to) substantiate these predictive claims. Equally amazing is how little one has to say about the relationship between the model and real-world target systems. It is as though explicit discussion, argumentation, and justification on the subject aren’t considered to be required.

Car repossessions are on the rise in warning sign for the economy 

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]

Monopoly Power vs Democracy – Matt Stoller

Yves Smith, December 21, 2022 [Naked Capitalism]

Yves Smith preface: 

Please enjoy a lively and wide-ranging discussion between Matt Stoller and’s Tara Baroncelli. The point of departure is Matt’s current policy focus, monopoly power, but Matt has long been interested in the way power is exercised in our economy and society.

Matt remarks that this degree of concentrated economic power is a historical anomaly. It’s hard to curb some of the drivers. One is contracts, particularly so-called contracts of adhesion, where users, usually consumer, have no ability to negotiate and in some cases even understand the agreement. Think of credit card contracts. They are necessary for many people, for instance, if you want to rent a car or buy an airline ticket. Yet even Alan Greenspan said he couldn’t understand a credit card contract and they were shorter in his day than now. How can someone possibly be deemed to have entered into an agreement on the basis of good faith and fair dealing when even experts can’t make sense of them?

This is plutocracy, not capitalism

Bank Error in Our Favor: A backroom drafting error leads to more antitrust enforcement.

Matt Stoller, BIG , via Naked Capitalism 12-24-2022]

Schumer and his Republican counterpart McConnell tried to water down the reform they did stick into the bill. They wanted to be sure that Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan couldn’t get extra money, so they put a two-year delay into the bill. Under the version they included, the merger filing fee money won’t get to the Antitrust Division until 2025, after Biden’s first term is over. It was a way of saying that they would boost enforcement, but only if people who are aggressive wouldn’t get to touch the money.

So that’s where we stood earlier this week. The problem is, someone in Schumer/McConnell world screwed up the drafting, essentially cutting and pasting the wrong Microsoft Word file. The version that had passed the House and Senate applied to new antitrust cases filed by state attorneys general. The version they accidentally stuck in the omnibus applies not only to cases filed by state attorneys going forward, but applies to pending cases. And this is a problem for Google, because they are facing just such a case in Texas. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has a devastating complaint against Google’s ad monopoly, but the suit had been removed from its Texas-friendly court and combined with a bunch of other suits in New York. If the strong version of the venue bill passed, that case would get kicked back to Texas, which Google does not want.

After the omnibus became public and Google lobbyists realized what had happened, they went nuts and demanded Schumer and McConnell fix it. California Senator Alex Padilla, who tends to support the search giant, pushed to fix it as well. So Schumer and McConnell groveled to the original authors of the bill, Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee, and asked if they would consent to fixing what everyone knew was a drafting error. Most Senators are lazy and weak, and would probably allow such a fix without putting up a fuss. But Schumer had treated Klobuchar with contempt, and Klobuchar is actually substantive. So she and Lee said that they would only agree to the legislative fix if Schumer and McConnell backtracked on the two-year merger filing fee delay, thus allowing extra money to flow to the agencies (mostly the Antitrust Division).

How Big Tech fought antitrust reform — and won

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 12-24-2022]

So how did tech companies and industry groups fight to ensure the bills didn’t reach President Biden? They leveraged big connections, and big money.

The tech industry leaned on armies of lobbyists — including ones with professional and personal ties to lawmakers — to urge opposition to the antitrust efforts.

Five former top aides to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) lobbied against antitrust bills on behalf of tech giants, along with some of Pelosi’s longtime senior staffers.

Schumer, meanwhile, faced calls from progressive groups to recuse himself from the bills because two of his daughters work for tech giants. Jessica Schumer is a registered lobbyist for Amazon in New York, while Alison Schumer is a product marketing manager at Meta.

Amazon alone deployed 20 lobbyists with ties to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to oppose AICOA. And two months ago, Sonia Gill, Democrats’ senior counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee who helped draft the antitrust bills, left to become Meta’s public policy manager.

Some companies also sent their top executives to Capitol Hill as the session drew to a close to speak with lawmakers, again letting the companies play to their individual strengths. Haworth said Apple CEO Tim Cook was on Capitol Hill “over and over” while Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was notably absent because “nobody likes Mark Zuckerberg.”….

Those lobbying efforts only scratch the surface of the tech industry’s sprawling Washington strategy. Tech giants bankrolled dozens of trade associations and advocacy groups that pushed their message when it mattered most.

As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) considered whether to back antitrust bills, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance spent millions on ads in Texas warning that AICOA would empower China in the global technology race. Many senators faced targeted ads in their home states from tech-backed progressive and free market groups.

That came after former national security officials with tech ties — including former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats — urged congressional leaders to delay AICOA over security concerns last year.

Big Tech didn’t just defeat the antitrust bills — the top priority — but also online privacy bills and legislation to funnel ad revenue from digital platforms to news outlets. The industry pulled off a clean sweep as it successfully painted all of the measures with the same brush.

Wells Fargo Wants to Buy Its Way Out of Trouble

David Dayen, December 22, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Over the course of 11 years under review by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Wells Fargo Bank denied mortgage borrowers loan modifications when they were eligible, froze and closed customer bank accounts through an automated fraud detection system without a proper rationale, charged illegal surprise overdraft fees, claimed that it would waive monthly account fees and then failed to do so, imposed phantom charges on auto loans, misapplied auto loan payments in ways that added costs to borrowers, posted the incorrect date on payments that generated millions in late fees, neglected refunds owed to auto loan customers, and repossessed customer vehicles incorrectly. This is just a sampling of a range of conduct, including fake bank accounts, falsified records, secret changes to the terms of mortgage contracts, force-placed insurance, and a personal favorite, stealing from mortgage bond investors to cover legal fees in lawsuits filed by those same investors...

“CFPB Orders Wells Fargo to Pay $3.7 Billion for Widespread Mismanagement of Auto Loans, Mortgages, and Deposit Accounts”

[Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-20-2022]

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is ordering Wells Fargo Bank to pay more than $2 billion in redress to consumers and a $1.7 billion civil penalty for legal violations across several of its largest product lines. The bank’s illegal conduct led to billions of dollars in financial harm to its customers and, for thousands of customers, the loss of their vehicles and homes. Consumers were illegally assessed fees and interest charges on auto and mortgage loans, had their cars wrongly repossessed, and had payments to auto and mortgage loans misapplied by the bank. Wells Fargo also charged consumers unlawful surprise overdraft fees and applied other incorrect charges to checking and savings accounts. Under the terms of the order, Wells Fargo will pay redress to the over 16 million affected consumer accounts, and pay a $1.7 billion fine, which will go to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund, where it will be used to provide relief to victims of consumer financial law violations. ‘Wells Fargo’s rinse-repeat cycle of violating the law has harmed millions of American families,’ said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. ‘The CFPB is ordering Wells Fargo to refund billions of dollars to consumers across the country. This is an important initial step for accountability and long-term reform of this repeat offender.'”

Banks’ Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card

Rebecca Burns & Julia Rock, December 22, 2022 [The Lever]

Wall Street lobbyists are trying to stop a federal proposal designed to punish criminal banks.

Wall Street Wins Again on Retirement Savings 

Lee Harris, , December 22, 2022 [The American Prospect]

A perk for the asset management industry found its way into the omnibus spending bill. Meanwhile, the savings of disabled Americans living in extreme poverty will continue to be strictly means-tested.

The Battle Over The Side-Letter Scam

Matthew Cunningham-Cook, December 23, 2022 [The Lever]

Lobbyists and their congressional allies are trying to protect secret deals that can enrich Wall Street insiders at workers’ expense.

DeSantis Leaves Floridians At The Mercy Of His Insurance Donors

Jason Garcia, December 19, 2022 [The Lever]

A rewrite of Florida’s property insurance laws will usher in the state’s most sweeping civil lawsuit restrictions since Jeb Bush was in office.

Restoring balance to the economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]



Disrupting mainstream economics

MMT answers — Richard Murphy

[December 20, 2022, via Mike Norman Economics]

Tom Hickey’s preface: 

Basic stuff, but it is difficult for many people to get since they are programmed otherwise.

In my experience (anecdotally), those who know little to nothing about economics and finance get the MMT basics of money creation pretty easily since it make sense in the absence of countervailing the assumptions. Accountants also get MMT; Richard Murphy is an expert in accountancy, for instance. As one accountant replied after I finished explaining MMT, "How else could it be?" It's just the way the accounting works.


But the real reason why it is perplexing is that there is nothing in MMT that says that:

  • Money can be created without limit;
  • There are no inflationary consequences of money creation;
  • Additional money, compared to existing budgets, must be created.

People who do not understand MMT, or have not read it, or who seek to undermine it might suggest it says such things, but the reality is that it does not.

MMT explains how money works. It says that government spending is in a modern economy with its own central bank is always funded by central bank money creation in the first instance. This is as true of right wing as it is true of left wing governments. There is no policy prescription here.

Then it notes that money cannot be created without limit. In fact it makes explicitly clear that such money would be worthless. That is because MMT says a government must tax to reclaim the money it has created, and by demanding that the tax in question be paid using the currency that it has created it both gives that currency value and requires that it be used for transactions in its own economy, providing it with macroeconomic control. Tax is in that case as much a part of MMT as money creation is.

Professional Management Class war on workers

Apple ‘created decoy labor group’ to derail unionization 

[The Register, via Naked Capitalism 12-19-2022]

Climate and environmental crises

Global coal use set to reach fresh record 

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]

Audi Is Converting All Factories To Produce EVs As It Phases Out Gas Cars 

[Electrek, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2022]

USPS Expects To Only Buy Electric Delivery Vehicles Starting in 2026 

[Engadget, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2022]

Billion-dollar NASA satellite launches to track Earth’s water 

[Nature, via Naked Capitalism 12-19-2022]

Information age dystopia

The Earthling: Out-of-control AIs are here 

[Nonzero, via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]

Notes from the Twitter Files: Twitter and the Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF)

Matt Taibbi [TK News, via Naked Capitalism 12-19-2022]

“In a curious exchange, the government expresses annoyance with Twitter for reporting little ‘recent’ foreign activity.” What’s “curious” about it? Institutionally, it’s exactly like cops with an arrest quota. “Agent 86, I’ve got a budget to secure. Now get out there and find me some foreign influencers!”

Twitter Aided the Pentagon in its Covert Online Propaganda Campaign 

Lee Fang [Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2022]

Disrupting mainstream politics

“Volunteers fueled an upset WA Congressional win one doorbell at a time”

[Seattle Times (PI), via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-20-2022]

“Amid the punditry and late-night quarterbacking of the postelection season, a major lesson is getting lost: The importance of volunteers knocking on doors. A case in point is the astonishing victory that an army of volunteers more than 500 strong, most of them young mothers, pulled off in the last weeks of the race in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District that includes Vancouver. The pollsters at FiveThirtyEight had given Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, a down-to-earth auto body shop owner and Democrat, a 2% chance of winning the district against Joe Kent, a career soldier and rising MAGA Republican star who was crushing Gluesenkamp Perez in their debates.” Good detail on the volunterers, and: “Early on in Gluesenkamp Perez’s campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee decided it had bigger fish to fry, leaving her largely to fend for herself. Just across the river, the party threw its weight behind Jamie McLeod-Skinner, the incumbent in Oregon’s District 5, south of Portland. The DCCC funded a field staff at least five times larger than Glusenkamp Perez’s but recruited many fewer volunteers. McLeod-Skinner lost by 2 points. Most campaigns don’t believe that people will volunteer their time to save their country, and that’s a fatal mistake. Many elections that decide the future of the country come down to a handful of votes. Yet a number of voters hold a complex set of views and can go either way. A real conversation with a volunteer from their community is the most effective way to persuade them to go to the polls.”

Democrats Frittered Away the Lame-Duck Session

David Dayen, December 22, 2022 [The American Prospect]

A lackadaisical approach led to failure for numerous bipartisan bills, and kept alive Republican goals to take the debt limit hostage in 2023.

“The surprising resurgence of Republicans in Miami”

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-20-2022]

“When Raquel Regalado was growing up in 1980s Miami, she remembers protesters demanding that immigrants speak English and an inhospitable bumper sticker that asked: ‘Will the last American to leave please remember to bring the flag?’ These days, Regalado, a county commissioner who is the daughter of Cuban immigrants, delights in what she calls ‘this fusion that is very Miami’. It is a place where Hispanic immigrants of various stripes have mixed and mingled and intermarried. Bilingualism and multiculturalism are the norm. So, increasingly, is the Republican party. In one of the more surprising results of November’s midterm elections, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis became the first Republican candidate for statewide office in 20 years to conquer Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county and a Democratic bastion dominated by black and Hispanic voters. DeSantis’s 11-point victory in Miami-Dade represented a whiplash-inducing 40-point swing from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 triumph there over Donald Trump, intensifying speculation the governor will mount a White House campaign. It also confirmed what many on the ground already knew: Republicans now dominate what was, until recently, a vital swing state that has shifted to the right even as conservatives’ grip appears to be loosening on other traditional havens, such as neighbouring Georgia. It had become conventional wisdom among pundits that the growing numbers of Latino voters in states such as Florida would fill the Democrats’ ranks. Instead, Miami-Dade’s turn could be a sign that Republicans have honed their appeal to more culturally conservative Latino voters, something that could pay dividends far beyond south Florida.”

[Lambert Strether comments: “The “coalition of the ascendant” — the concept that Democrats didn’t actually have to deliver on anything, because demographics would do their work for them — turned out to be a debacle (called it). It’s been quietly abandoned, but very naturally nobody has been held accountable since this is, after all, the Democrat party.” ]

Seven Theses On American Politics

Dylan Riley & Robert Brenner [New Left Review, via Naked Capitalism 12-24-2022]

This new electoral structure is related to the rise of a new regime of accumulation: let us call it political capitalism. Under political capitalism, raw political power, rather than productive investment, is the key determinant of the rate of return. This new form of accumulation is associated with a series of novel mechanisms of ‘politically constituted rip-off’.footnote2 These include an escalating series of tax breaks, the privatization of public assets at bargain-basement prices, quantitative easing plus ultra-low interest rates, to promote stock-market speculation—and, crucially, massive state spending aimed directly at private industry, with trickledown effects for the broader population: Bush’s Prescription Drug legislation, Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Trump’s cares Act, Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the Infrastructure and chips Acts and the Inflation Reduction Act.footnote3 All these mechanisms of surplus extraction are openly and obviously political. They allow for returns, not on the basis of investment in plant, equipment, labour and inputs to produce use values, but rather on the basis of investments in politics.footnote4 This new structure is the real basis of Piketty’s main finding: that the rate of return on capital now outstrips the rate of growth (although Piketty himself, in our view incorrectly, presents this as a return to capitalist normality after the exceptional period of the long boom).footnote5

The rise of political capitalism has profoundly reconfigured politics. At the elite level, it is associated with vertiginous levels of campaign expenditure and open corruption on a vast scale. At the mass level, it is associated with the unravelling of the previous hegemonic order, for in a persistently low- or no-growth environment––‘secular stagnation’—parties can no longer operate on the basis of programmes for growth. They cannot therefore preside over a ‘class compromise’ in the classic sense. In these conditions, political parties become fundamentally fiscal rather than productivist coalitions. Before going on to hypothesize how these coalitions work, we should first clarify the terms we use for class analysis….

A brief narrative of how Biden came to occupy his current position may be useful here. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016 was as strongly committed to neoliberalism as the three prior administrations had been—appealing to the Democratic Party’s natural constituencies among the credentialled fraction of the working class in the twin terms of expertise and diversity, but proposing virtually nothing by way of economic growth. Had Clinton won, this would have represented the ongoing hegemony of multicultural neoliberalism in its pure form.

Trump’s surprise victory blocked that path. This electoral break with multicultural neoliberalism was then compounded by the pandemic. Although Trump himself resisted at every step of the way the obvious and rational response to the Covid-19 crisis, his Administration nonetheless opened a path towards a new form of politics due to the unavoidable necessity of countering the pandemic. The Federal state intervened massively to sustain the lives of many ordinary working-class Americans—the opposite of what Trump and his collaborators proclaimed they wanted. This produced a bizarre situation, in which Trump discredited the very policies his Administration had pursued, especially with regard to masks and mass vaccination.

[TW: I have mixed feelings including Riley and Brenner’s article. They struggle to explain why there are no class-based politics in USA, but do have some insights which are interesting and perhaps even useful. But I think their article is symptomatic of how Marxist analysis fails to fully grasp reality. They reject the concept of a professional management class, with very little to counter the massive evidence of a PMC. More importantly, there is no discussion whatsoever of predatory finance, banks, or Wall Street, and thus the primary economic factor of usury as the leading cause of the immiseration of the working class, is excluded by focusing on exploitation instead. This avoids having to grant any credibility to the socio-economic analysis of the ancient religions—for example Richard Murphy’s twitter thread at the beginning of this wrap: ]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-22-2022]



Book Review: Lance deHaven-Smith, “C*******cy T****y in America”

Lambert Strether, December 19, 2022

3) DeHaven-Smith’s purpose in writing the book is to replace CT with a what he calls a policy science of State Crimes Against Democracy (SCADs):

“In contrast to conspiracy theories, which speculate about each suspicious event in isolation, the SCAD construct delineates a general category of criminality and calls for crimes that fit this category to be examined comparatively.”

And there is this description of the political class, which is much the same as a professional management class, which Riley and Brenner argue does not really exist:

With advantageous and profitable connections proliferating between government and business in political-economic complexes and therefore between individuals Who can be of mutual service to one another, the political class is becoming increasingly cohesive as a group aware of itself and motivated by this awareness to increase its cohesion and influence. It is comprised of the officials, lobbyists, technocrats think tanks, and other individuals and organizations who participate in the nation’s governing processes. The Founders do not appear to have anticipated the mobilization of political officials and insiders as a unified force. Otherwise they surely would have tried to devise institutional arrangements to insert cheeks and balances between various parts of the organism. The political class as a whole appears to be on its way to forming into a cohesive, self-serving faction of its own, independent of both the distinct constituencies its various components may represent and the branch or significant structural unit in which it may be located.

Lee Harvey Oswald, the CIA, and LSD: New Clues in Newly Declassified Documents 

Ryan Grim [Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 12-20-2022]

The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

“Conservative Judges Are Helping the “Freedom of Contract” Stage a Dramatic, Dangerous Comeback”

[Balls and Strikes, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-22-2022]

“Earlier this month, in Golden Glow v. Columbus, a three-judge panel of Fifth Circuit judges disposed of a lawsuit filed by a tanning salon owner against the City of Columbus, Missouri, over COVID-19 lockdowns that forced the business to temporarily close while places like churches, Walmarts, and liquor stores stayed open. In the opinion, Judge Edith Jones explained that the panel felt boxed in: Although ‘subsequent experience strongly suggests that draconian shutdowns were debatable measures’ and ‘inflicted enormous economic damage,’ she wrote, they were ‘constrained’ to affirm. But Ho wasn’t happy just signing onto a bog-standard Fifth Circuit case that grumbled about COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Instead, he had to write his own concurrence based on the premise that it’s time to start thinking about ‘the right to earn a living’ as a constitutional right. In it, Ho complains that the Supreme Court’s approach to ‘unenumerated’ rights, including the right to privacy, ‘privileges a broad swath of non-economic human activities, while leaving economic activities out in the cold.’ He also grumbles about government grants of monopolies, quoting James Madison, who referred to them as ‘justly classed among the greatest nuisances in government.’… [Ho’s concurrence] is a thinly-veiled call for the revival of the ‘freedom of contract,’ which the Supreme Court tossed into the dustbin of history nearly a century ago. In 1905, in Lochner v. New York, the Court held that worker safety laws that limited bakers’ work hours ran afoul of their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Ho writes in terms of the ‘right to earn a living,’ but this is a distinction without a difference.) The logic of Lochner was ascendant until 1937, when the Court, in the midst of the Great Depression, changed its mind and upheld a minimum wage law, holding that economic regulations are generally permissible—a case that forms the legal foundation for basic workplace safety rules to this day. Ho and his ilk are not fans of unenumerated rights when it comes to, say, abortion, so it’s easiest to read this opinion as a particularly lazy troll job: If you love some unenumerated rights, he argues, you have to love his favorite one, too.” 

The Corruption of Supreme Court Conservatives

[The Threats Within, via The Big Picture 12-18-2022]

The Court’s falling approval is worsened by conservative Justices’ blatant partisanship. Many of its decisions are untethered from any form of recognizable jurisprudence, and the contempt of conservative Justices for precedent is incomprehensible. The collapse of public approval for the Court – dismissed in arrogance by people like Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito – has nothing to do with disagreeing with “objective” decisions. Rather, it is a wide recognition that justices like Alito and Clarence Thomas consider themselves no different than lifetime senators, and don’t even bother to hide it….

Now, we need to delve into how unusual this “precedent be damned” outcome of the Roberts Court has been. Of the more than 25,500 decisions handed down by the Supreme Court since its creation in 1789, it has only reversed course 146 times, less than one-half of one percent. Yet…almost 25 of those reversals have come in the Roberts Court - or one-in-five of the cases overruling precedent in the past 233 years. That means the Court overturned precedent about once every two years prior to the Roberts Court. Then, the reversals skyrocketed to once every eight months.

Roberts is one of only two justices since 1946 to support 100% of decisions overturning precedent that led to conservative outcomes. His record in precedent-overturning cases is the second-most conservative among 37 justices who have ruled in at least 5 precedent-overturning cases since 1946. With 84% conservative votes in precedent-reversing cases, Roberts only trails Justice Alito’s 88%. He is the second-most frequent member of the majority in precedent-overturning cases. Only Justice Thomas has been a more frequent member of the majority in such cases at 90%.

Not all absurdities that are rubber-stamping GOP political positions have come from reversing precedent. Some just involve irrational refusals to abide by lower court decisions without ruling on them. Best example: the court's action in a 2014 Ohio voting case. Ohio has long been at the forefront of a campaign by Republican-led states to keep the poor, students and other citizens who are more likely to vote Democratic from being able to cast a ballot (an effort made all the easier by the court's decision to gut the Voting Rights Act just ‘cause). The 2014 campaign aimed to cut back on early voting, particularly on Sundays.

A 2012 report in The Palm Beach Post quoted former GOP officeholders and strategists who said that once the party realized how many Democratic voters were turning up at the polls because of the longer schedules, Republicans wrote legislation to cut them back. In particular, they wanted to limit Sunday voting, which is used by black churches to organize buses and carpools to bring parishioners to the polls. "I know that the cutting out of the Sunday before Election Day was one of their targets only because that's a big day when the black churches organize themselves," one GOP consultant told the Post.


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

The Meadows Texts: A Plot To Overturn An American Election

[Talking Points Memo, via The Big Picture 12-18-2022]

“NC Supreme Court strikes down voter ID constitutional amendment”

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-21-2022]

“North Carolina’s Supreme Court on Friday struck down a state voter ID requirement, finding that it was enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose and violated the state’s constitution. Senate Bill 824 — which was passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature in 2018 over a veto from its Democratic governor — sought to implement a state constitutional amendment requiring photo ID to vote. The court found that while the law appeared neutral on its face, it was enacted ‘to target African-American voters who were unlikely to vote for Republican candidates.’ ‘In doing so, we do not conclude that the General Assembly harbored racial animus; however, we conclude just as the trial court did, that in passing S.B. 824, the Republican majority ‘targeted voters who, based on race, were unlikely to vote for the majority party,” the court said in its ruling in Holmes v. Moore.”

British Labour Party war on progressives

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]



[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-19-2022]



The Biggest Math Story of 2022

We've come to the end of 2022, making it time to take stock of the biggest math stories of the year that was!

In choosing these stories, we've emphasized math stories involving practical applications in selecting the contenders for the Biggest Math Story of 2022, which we'll present at the end of this year's edition. But before we get started, let's take a minute to do something mathematical that has no direct practical application but which is surprisingly satisfying by watching the following video visualizing the first million integers and coloring them by their prime factors.

There is a practical application in John Williamson's integer mapping exercise, which is the UMAP data visualization tool used to make this short video. UMAP is the acronym for Uniform Manifold Approximation and Projection, which can be applied to large datasets to help make better sense of the information within them in the growing field of visual analytics.

This introduction is already working on several different levels. Intentionally. Most obviously, it's the beginning of the longest article we write each year. It's also provided the opportunity to introduce a practical application that came about from maths that were originally developed as little more than intellectual curiosities. Maths that weren't very practical until the applications they enabled made them essential. The Biggest Math Story of 2022 involves what we'll describe in this introduction as the ultimate application arising from what some describe as most unlikely math.

We'll get there soon enough. Because the Biggest Math Story of 2022 serves as our final article of the year, we've written it to be read and revisited as you might like throughout the holidays. You can take your time to explore the stories and follow the links to go deeper into the various topics. Or you can just blow past all the sections and go straight to the Biggest Math Story of 2022 so you have something extra smart to talk about at holiday parties. Let's get to it....

Artificial Intelligence Discovers Faster Math

Stable Diffusion 2.1 Demo: artificial intelligence finds a faster way to multiply matrices

Picking up from where we left off with the biggest math story of 2021, artificial intelligence continued to make inroads in powering mathematical discoveries, even as the technology made bigger headlines during the year in other fields, including in art and writing.

Perhaps the most notable accomplishment after last year's major achievements by the DeepMind team was the discovery of a faster, more efficient method for multiplying matrices. And they did it by making a game out of doing the math:

The DeepMind team approached the problem by turning tensor decomposition into a single-player game. They started with a deep learning algorithm descended from AlphaGo — another DeepMind AI that in 2016 learned to play the board game Go well enough to beat the top human players.

Using that base, they developed a new agent called AlphaTensor to play their matrix multiplication game. The DeepMind team summarized their approach in the paper announcing their accomplishment:

Here we report a deep reinforcement learning approach based on AlphaZero for discovering efficient and provably correct algorithms for the multiplication of arbitrary matrices. Our agent, AlphaTensor, is trained to play a single-player game where the objective is finding tensor decompositions within a finite factor space. AlphaTensor discovered algorithms that outperform the state-of-the-art complexity for many matrix sizes. Particularly relevant is the case of 4 × 4 matrices in a finite field, where AlphaTensor’s algorithm improves on Strassen’s two-level algorithm for the first time, to our knowledge, since its discovery 50 years ago.

That has the makings of being a big deal, but as the researchers acknowledge, their accomplishment is limited in its utility:

Researchers also emphasized that immediate applications of the record-breaking 4-by-4 algorithm would be limited: Not only is it valid only in modulo 2 arithmetic, but in real life there are important considerations besides speed.

Here's a basic introduction to modular arithmetic, where Modulo 2 arithmetic is the type that deals exclusively with zeroes and ones. Although not mentioned in this story, important considerations other than speed in doing calculations include things like precision and accuracy.

Meanwhile, if you're wondering about the illustration for this section, we generated it using Stable Diffusion's 2.1 Demo, using the prompt "artificial intelligence finds a faster way to multiply matrices". If you think about it, it's an AI telling us what another AI looks like!...

Finding the Limits of Math That Can Be Done

Stable Diffusion 2.1 Demo: fluid flow becomes violently unstable

The limitations of the AI-developed matrix multiplication algorithm point toward another of the big challenges mathematicians took on in 2022. Specifically, the challenges associated with determining when calculations can be done with confidence they'll deliver good results and identifying the limits where they stop working well.

The biggest math story in this category involves a new proof that also relied upon advanced computing techniques to find out when and under what conditions Euler's equations describing fluid mechanics might "blow up".

In this case, "blowing up" means the math breaks down and starts providing results that are violently unstable. That's similar to the situation where you have a simple fraction with zero in the denominator, the result for which is undefined when you attempt to perform the implied division operation. But as you're about to see, that's not the only challenge associated with the proof that's been advanced:

In a preprint posted online last month, a pair of mathematicians has shown that a particular version of the Euler equations does indeed sometimes fail. The proof marks a major breakthrough — and while it doesn’t completely solve the problem for the more general version of the equations, it offers hope that such a solution is finally within reach. “It’s an amazing result,” said Tristan Buckmaster, a mathematician at the University of Maryland who was not involved in the work. “There are no results of its kind in the literature.”

There’s just one catch.

The 177-page proof — the result of a decade-long research program — makes significant use of computers. This arguably makes it difficult for other mathematicians to verify it. (In fact, they are still in the process of doing so, though many experts believe the new work will turn out to be correct.) It also forces them to reckon with philosophical questions about what a “proof” is, and what it will mean if the only viable way to solve such important questions going forward is with the help of computers.

You know you're on the bleeding edge of progress in maths when new questions like these are being raised!

Should the new proof hold, it marks a major development toward determining if the more general Navier-Stokes fluid dynamics equation could be similarly vulnerable to blowing up as well. The challenge of answering that question is the subject of one of the Clay Mathematics Institute's Millennium Prize Problems, where the mathematicians who definitively determine if there are or if their are not any conditions that could cause the equation to blow up will win a $1 million prize. There's been a lot of mathematicians nibbling around the edges for resolving that question, but with no results confirmed as yet.

Approximate and Exact Solutions

When we write up the biggest math story of the year, we're really seeking out the biggest math story that offers real practical application. During the year, we featured a story with that headline about such an application that involved finding a simple and relatively accurate approximation to math that might otherwise require more significant computing resources to obtain results.

Here, several chemists realized that the calculus integral developed by epidemiologial pioneers W. O. Kermack and A. G. McKendrick to describe how a contagious disease might propagate through a population was identical to the math used to describe the progress of an autocatalytic reaction in chemistry. That integral has no direct solution, but it happened to be math for which they developed an approximate algebraic formulation to solve problems involving autocatalytic reactions that they realized could be applied to quickly solve the Kermack-McKendrick integral with a small margin of error.

One of the authors described how they found the connection:

Dr. Baird presented the model in May at the Southeastern Theoretical Chemistry Association meeting in Atlanta.

"The World Health Organization could program our equation into a hand-held computer," Dr. Baird says. "Our formula is able to predict the time required for the number of infected individuals to achieve its maximum. In the chemical analog, this is known as the induction time."

The formula is capable of predicting the number of hospitalizations, death rates, community exposure rates and related variables. It also calculates the populations of susceptible, infectious and recovered individuals, and predicts a clean separation between the period of onset of the disease and the period of subsidence....

"The rate of infection initially accelerates until it reaches a point where the infection rate is balanced by the recovery rate of infected individuals, at which point the number of infected people peaks and then starts to decay," he says.

That mechanism reminded him of the mechanism that governs an autocatalytic reaction.

"I subsequently learned that the mathematical description of the spread of infectious diseases was first described by Kermack and McKendrick," Dr. Baird says.

"When I read their paper, I realized that their mechanism was exactly the same as that of an autocatalytic reaction, where a catalyst molecule combines with a reactant molecule to produce two catalyst molecules," he says. "The rate of production of catalyst molecules accelerates until it is balanced by the rate of decay of the catalyst to form the product."

This story is also about the tradeoff between accepting small errors in return for obtaining reasonably accurate results with speed. But what if you could develop a formula that provided an exact solution?

That scenario is playing out at the University of Bristol, where the math needed to realistically modeling the process of diffusion has been developed by Toby Kay, an engineering mathematics PhD student, and Dr. Luca Giuggioli, who has been working on the math of diffusion for some time.

A groundbreaking mathematical equation that could transform medical procedures, natural gas extraction, and plastic packaging production in the future has been discovered.

The new equation, developed by scientists at the University of Bristol, indicates that diffusive movement through permeable material can be modeled exactly for the very first time. It comes a century after world-leading physicists Albert Einstein and Marian von Smoluchowski derived the first diffusion equation, and marks important progress in representing motion for a wide range of entities from microscopic particles and natural organisms to man-made devices.

Until now, scientists looking at particle motion through porous materials, such as biological tissues, polymers, various rocks and sponges have had to rely on approximations or incomplete perspectives.

The findings, published today in the journal Physical Review Research, provide a novel technique that presents exciting opportunities in a diverse range of settings including health, energy, and the food industry.

Here's a sampling of where the new diffusion math described in their paper might be applied in its next steps:

Further research is needed to apply this mathematical tool to experimental applications, which could improve products and services. For example, being able to model accurately the diffusion of water molecules through biological tissue will advance the interpretation of diffusion-weighted MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) readings. It could also offer more accurate representation of air spreading through food packaging materials, helping to determine shelf life and contamination risk. In addition, quantifying the behavior of foraging animals interacting with macroscopic barriers, such as fences and roads, could provide better predictions on the consequence of climate change for conservation purposes.

That's a lot of exciting potential, but doesn't qualify as the Biggest Math Story of 2022. For that, you'll need to read on....

Persistence and Dedication

Stable Diffusion 2.1 Demo: large chalkboard filled with math equations and algebraic curves in a living room

In assembling the Biggest Math Story of the year, we often discover themes or trends that make the year stand out from others. In 2018, it was the role of amateurs in advancing mathematical knowledge. In 2019, social media proved to be an enabling factor in many of the year's bigger math stories. 2020 was completely defined by the failure of the world's premier epidemiological models to forecast the coronavirus pandemic. And we've already mentioned 2021 as the year artificial intelligence contributed to significant mathematical discoveries.

We think the underlying theme for 2022 is persistence and dedication. Like 2018, amateurs made some very practical advances, including high school students like Glenn Bruda, who identified an improved method for integrating complex equations and Daniel Larsen, who developed a proof for a theorem about the distribution of Carmichael numbers, also known as "pseudoprime" numbers, which parallels work being done by well established mathematicians to crack number theory's "twin prime" conjecture. When you dig into these stories, these achievements are the result of these amateur mathematicians' unusual persistence and dedication.

But it's not just amateurs. We found the story of how mathematicians Eric Larson and Isabel Vogt solved a several hundred year-old conjecture about algebraic curves to be unusually charming. Here's an excerpt from Quanta Magazine's Jordana Cepelwicz' story on their discovery:

... in a proof posted online earlier this year, two young mathematicians at Brown University, Eric Larson and Isabel Vogt, have finally dealt the problem its final blow, solving it completely and systematically. The paper marks the culmination of nearly a decade of work, during which they gradually chipped away at the question, solved important related problems about what curves look like and how they behave — and also got married.

“It’s really a remarkable story,” said Sam Payne, a mathematician at the University of Texas, Austin, “for [people] that young and that early in their mathematical development to latch on to such a deep, hard problem, and then to be so persistent.”

The best part of the story is its revelation that Larson and Vogt keep chalkboards in their home so they can work on problems. If you know anything about mathematicians and their love of chalk, you appreciate their dedication!

Then again, they are professional mathematicians! Pure mathematics, as done by professional mathematicians, often doesn't directly connect to practical applications. But when it does, the outcome can be stunning.

That's the category into which we would place the work that mathematicians Jinyoung Park and Huy Tuan Pham did to prove the Kahn-Kalai Conjecture, which had been a major open problem in the field of probabilistic combinatorics. The press release announcing their proof describes how it connects to practical considerations:

The conjecture concerns determining the precise point (e.g. temperature, pressure, probability, etc.) at which a "phase transition" occurs in a large variety of systems. The systems are studied widely in statistical mechanics and graph theory. While this point is extremely hard to compute, in 2006 Jeff Kahn and Gil Kalai, past IAS Member (1995, 2000) and frequent visitor, conjectured that it is very close to another parameter which is much easier to compute. If true, it could be possible to approximate well when phase transitions occur. This has been called “the expectation threshold conjecture.’’

That's the sort of thing that would be very useful in applications like directing chemical reactions, managing an electrical grid, or determining the resilience of a financial system. What's more remarkable is that Park and Pham's proof is just a mere six pages long. If you're interested in finding out more, the invaluable Quanta Magazine introduces more information about their proof.

There is one more story that needs to be told under 2022's unofficial theme of persistence and dedication. That story is graduate student Jared Duker Lichtman's proof of a conjecture proposed by the prolific mathematician Paul Erdős regarding prime numbers and primitive sets. Fortunately for us, Lichtman discussed his proof with Numberphile's Brady Haran in the following video:

We've featured many Numberphile videos over the years, this one has quickly become one of our favorites. It's not the biggest math story of the year, but it's well worth your time in watching because it explores why the challenge of proving math conjectures can command such persistence and dedication!

Real Numbers Alone Cannot Describe Reality!

When we wrapped up the biggest stories in math for 2021, the publication of the paper by Marc-Olivier Renou, David Trillo, Mirjam Weilenmann, Thinh P. Le, Armin Tavakoli, Nicolas Gisin, Antonio Acín, and Miguel Navascués demonstration that a theory of quantum mechanics based only upon real numbers is false just barely missed our cutoff date for inclusion.

This is a massively important story with universal impact, because it means the universe itself cannot exist without complex numbers, or rather, a combination of both real numbers and imaginary numbers!

That's not just hyperbole coming from mathematicians. That's the direct outcome from two experiments that put real numbers to the test of explaining physical reality and found them wanting. Here's some background for the experiments:

Some physicists have attempted to build quantum theory using real numbers only, avoiding the imaginary realm with versions called “real quantum mechanics.” But without an experimental test of such theories, the question remained whether imaginary numbers were truly necessary in quantum physics, or just a useful computational tool.

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

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

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

That wasn't the only experiment to suggest it takes both real and imaginary numbers to describe reality.

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

The math of complex numbers is essential to the modern world, and is increasingly so with the development of advanced electronics and other technologies that are being built in the microscopic scales where quantum mechanics define what's possible. That central role makes the story of how real and imaginary numbers are essential for the universe's existence the Biggest Math Story of 2022. There just aren't any practical applications that are bigger than that!

Bonus Update: Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder discussed whether complex numbers exist back in March 2021, back when the paper was just a preprint! Here's the video:

Previously on Political Calculations

The Biggest Math Story of the Year is how we've traditionally marked the end of our posting year since 2014. Here are links to our previous editions and our coverage of other math stories during 2022:

This is Political Calculations' final post for 2022. Thank you for passing time with us this year - we hope you have a wonderful holiday season! We'll see you again in the New Year, which we'll start with another annual tradition by presenting a tool to help you find out what your paycheck will look like in 2023 after an increasingly cash-strapped U.S. government takes its cut from it....

Before we go, Quanta Magazine has put together an article and video with their take on the year's top three math breakthroughs, two of which will hopefully be familiar to you....

We'll see you in the new year!