Monthly Archives: December 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 27, 2020


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 27, 2020

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-21-20]



It’s the economy ideology, stupid: 

What a Miserable 2020 Revealed About America

Paul Waldman, December 21, 2020 [The American Prospect]

It exposed an impotent political system, a deadly mythology of rugged individualism, and a Republican Party without shame….

Our individualism is deadly. In no other country were the simple public-health measures necessary to contain the coronavirus so quickly and easily politicized. Trump bears much of the blame, but it didn’t take much for him to convince people that wearing masks is a terrible imposition on their freedom, and that it could be a worthwhile emblem of political identity. So many of us have spent our lives steeping in the ideology of “rugged individualism,” learning that any government edict is inherently repressive and making a personal sacrifice for the good of your neighbors, even a tiny one, makes you weak. No quantity of dead Americans has managed to dissuade so many of us from believing this.

Yep, it’s definitely the ideology, stupid: 

"Neal Katyal and the Depravity of Big LawThe Democratic lawyer's sickening defense of corporate immunity in a Supreme Court case reveals a growing moral rot in the legal community. 

Alex Pareene, December 8, 2020 [The New Republic, via Avedon’s Sideshow]

The United States has a political class that mistakes its professional norms for ethics. Mainstream political journalists mindlessly grant anonymity to professional liars. Elected officials put collegiality and institutional procedure over the needs and interests of their constituents. And as for lawyers, they have refined this tendency into what amounts to a religion of self-justification. [...] It is that mutated creed that explains why Neal Katyal went to the Supreme Court last Tuesday to argue that children enslaved to work on cocoa plantations should not be allowed to sue the corporations that abetted their enslavement.

Katyal is among the most prominent and decorated attorneys in the country. He is a Democrat who has been in and out of government since Bill Clinton’s second term. He returned to his private firm, Hogan Lovells, after serving as acting solicitor general for Barack Obama’s Justice Department. He is omnipresent on television and newspaper op-ed pages as a voice of “The Resistance” to Donald Trump. He is about as close as you could come to the embodiment of Big Law’s connection to the institutional Democratic Party.

And last week he argued that because the corporation that supplied Zyklon B to the Nazis for use in their extermination camps was not indicted at Nuremberg, Nestle and Cargill should not be held liable for their use of child slave labor. In his argument before the court, Katyal espoused a view of corporate immunity so expansive that even the conservative judges seemed skeptical. If you took him at his word, he was effectively asking the Supreme Court to make it impossible for any foreigner to sue any company for any harm done to them, up to and including kidnapping and enslavement….

The point is that the cases Katyal chooses to take, the arguments he chooses to make, even the firm he chooses to work for, all speak to his values. He cannot separate his politics, whatever he thinks they are, and whatever he wants everyone else to think they are, from his decision to defend Nestle against the threat of potential lawsuits from enslaved children. That is a statement about how one believes the world should be organized and on whose behalf the legal system should operate.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-21-20]

This is David Blight, Civil War scholar, and author of the biography of Frederic Douglass which won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for history: 


The Epidemic

The inside story of how Trump’s denial, mismanagement and magical thinking led to the pandemic’s dark winter

[Washington Post 12-20-2020]

... based on interviews over the past month with 48 senior administration officials, government health professionals, outside presidential advisers and other people briefed on the inner workings of the federal response….

The catastrophe began with Trump’s initial refusal to take seriously the threat of a once-in-a-century pandemic. But, as officials detailed, it has been compounded over time by a host of damaging presidential traits — his skepticism of science, impatience with health restrictions, prioritization of personal politics over public safety, undisciplined communications, chaotic management style, indulgence of conspiracies, proclivity toward magical thinking, allowance of turf wars and flagrant disregard for the well-being of those around him.

“There isn’t a single light-switch moment where the government has screwed up and we’re going down the wrong path,” said Kyle McGowan, who resigned in August as chief of staff at the CDC under Redfield, the center’s director. “It was a series of multiple decisions that showed a lack of desire to listen to the actual scientists and also a lack of leadership in general, and that put us on this progression of where we’re at today.”….

A hallmark of the response has been the secrecy of some in the White House, including Meadows, whom other officials described as outright hostile in his denial of the virus and punitive toward colleagues who sought to follow public health guidelines or be transparent. As the virus spread wildly among White House staff this fall, Meadows sought to conceal some cases from becoming public — including, at first, his own — and instructed at least one fellow adviser who sought to disclose an infection not to. In addition, Meadows threatened to fire White House Medical Unit doctors, who fall below the chief of staff in the chain of command, if they helped release information about new infections, according to one official…. 

Kennedy said that Brad Smith, the director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation and a friend of Kushner, asked him and another volunteer to make a coronavirus model for 2020 that specifically projected a low casualty count. When Kennedy noted that he had no training in epidemiology and had never modeled a virus before, he recalled, Smith told him that it was just like making a financial model. The other models made by the health experts, Smith explained, were “too catastrophic.”

“‘They think 250,000 people could die and I want this model to show that fewer than 100,000 people will die in the worst-case scenario,’ ” Kennedy said Smith told him. “He gave us the numbers he wanted it to say.”

How Science Beat the Virus 

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-20]

“The Battle for Waterloo”

[Pro Publica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-22-20]

“As the [he Peoples Community Health Clinic] staff tended to the sick, a chilling pattern emerged: 99% of the patients either worked at the local Tyson Foods meatpacking plant or lived with someone who did. Some patients said they’d come from a town two hours away where an outbreak had shut down another Tyson plant… Meanwhile, a lawsuit would later allege, top Tyson managers in Waterloo were directing interpreters to downplay the threat of infection at the plant, while privately making winner-take-all bets on how many workers would test positive. (Seven managers were fired last week).”

“How the History of Waterloo, Iowa, Explains How Meatpacking Plants Became Hotbeds of COVID-19”

[Pro Publica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-22-20] 

Why many countries failed at COVID contact-tracing — but some got it right 

[Nature, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-20]

Why Two Vaccines Passed the Finishing Line In a Year and Others Didn’t, and a Month 12 Roundup 

Hilda Bastian, “Absolutely Maybe,” [PLOS, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-20] 

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Hospital CEOs Have Gotten Rich Cutting Staff and Supplies. Now They’re Not Ready for the Next Wave. 

[The Intercept, December 20 2020]

Years of understaffing nurses and health care workers have consequences, experts say.

“U.S. Sues Walmart, Alleging Role in Fueling Opioid Crisis”

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-23-20]

“The Justice Department’s lawsuit claims Walmart sought to boost profits by understaffing its pharmacies and pressuring employees to fill prescriptions quickly. That made it difficult for pharmacists to reject invalid prescriptions, enabling widespread drug abuse nationwide, the suit alleges. Walmart responded in a public filing Tuesday, saying the lawsuit ‘invents a legal theory that unlawfully forces pharmacists to come between patients and their doctors, and is riddled with factual inaccuracies and cherry-picked documents taken out of context.’ ‘Blaming pharmacists for not second-guessing the very doctors [the Drug Enforcement Administration] approved to prescribe opioids is a transparent attempt to shift blame from DEA’s well-documented failures in keeping bad doctors from prescribing opioids in the first place,’ Walmart said, adding that it ‘always empowered our pharmacists to refuse to fill problematic opioids prescriptions, and they refused to fill hundreds of thousands of such prescriptions.'”

Economic Armageddon: The COVID Collapsed Economy

Research Arm of Congress Confirms that Mnuchin Never Released Bulk of CARES Act Money Earmarked for Fed’s Emergency Loans
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, December 21, 2020 [Wall Street on Parade]

“Committing” money and actually turning the funds over to the Fed are very different things. For example, the Term Sheet for the Municipal Liquidity Facility indicates that the Treasury had committed $35 billion to that emergency lending facility. But the Fed’s H.4.1 that was released on December 17 shows that the Fed had only received half of that amount, $17.5 billion. The same thing occurred with the Fed’s Primary and Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facilities. The term sheet indicated that the Treasury would be providing a total of $75 billion combined to the two facilities. But the Fed’s H.4.1 has indicated for months that all it received from Treasury was exactly half that amount for the two facilities, $37.5 billion. (See footnote 14 to Table 1 of the H.4.1.)

Mnuchin was able to delude the public with the idea that the Fed has just been sitting on over $400 billion of Treasury’s money, so it was time for Mnuchin to claw it back and kill the programs, because that information was inaccurately reported by mainstream media.

Health care crises

How powerful health providers tamed a ‘surprise’ billing threat 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-20]

Progressive Policies into the Breach

A People’s Agenda for a Better Nation: The Poor People’s Campaign and Congressional Progressive Caucus team up to chart a course for the future.

The seven-point platform is both a fundamental and ambitious list, ranging from specific policies to broad, aspirational goals:

  • COVID-19 relief that “meets the scale of the crisis” and directly addresses the pandemic’s disproportionate harm to Black, Indigenous, people of color and “other vulnerable communities”;
  • Programs to put people back to work, with a focus on moving the economy to clean, renewable energy—but also restoring and expanding worker rights, including union rights;
  • Ensuring health care for all;
  • Defending and expanding voting rights—including proposals to end gerrymandering and rein in corporate money in electoral campaigns;
  • Attacking institutional racism and white supremacy;
  • Turning away from militarism and “endless wars” in favor of a commitment to peaceful diplomacy;
  • Rejecting corporate greed and ending corporate monopoly.

Climate and environmental crises

These Trees Are Not What They Seem

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 12-20-20]

Corporations are working with the Nature Conservancy, the world’s largest environmental group, to employ far-fetched logic to help absolve them of their climate sins. By taking credit for saving well-protected land, these companies are reducing nowhere near the pollution that they claim. This is how the world’s biggest environmental group became a dealer of meaningless carbon offsets.

GM, Ford knew about climate change 50 years ago 

[E&E News, via The Big Picture 12-20-20]

Scientists at two of America’s biggest automakers knew as early as the 1960s that car emissions caused climate change, a monthslong investigation by E&E News has found. The discoveries by General Motors and Ford Motor Co. preceded decades of political lobbying by the two car giants that undermined global attempts to reduce emissions while stalling U.S. efforts to make vehicles cleaner. 

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

U.S. physicists rally around ambitious plan to build fusion power plant 

[Science, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-20]

Rotating Sails Help to Revive Wind-Powered Shipping 

[Scientific American, via Naked Capitalism 12-24-20]

Disrupting mainstream economics

Bill Mitchell — Further evidence undermining the mainstream case against fiscal deficits​​​​​​​

[Mike Norman Economics, December 21, 2020]

Yesterday, I discussed the results of recent research that demonstrated the ‘trickle down’ hypothesis, which has been used to justify the sequence of tax cuts for high income recipients, was without any empirical foundation. While mainstream economists have been enchanted with that hypothesis, heterodox (including Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) economists have never considered it had any validity – neither theoretical nor empirical. But it is good that mainstream researchers are now ratifying that long-held view. Today, I am discussing another case of the mainstream catching up. When I say catching up, the implications of these new empirical studies are devastating for key propositions that the mainstream macroeconomists maintain. The ECB Working Paper series published an interesting paper (No. 2509) yesterday (December 21, 2020) by an Italian economist from the Bank of Italy – Losers amongst the losers: the welfare effects of the Great Recession across cohorts. In brief, the research found that younger people bear disproportionate burdens during recession in the short-run, but also, face diminished prospects over the longer-term. The paper bears on some of the major fictions that have been propagated to disabuse governments of using fiscal deficits to smooth out the economic cycle – namely, the alleged burden that is created by the current generation’s excesses (the deficit) for their children and grandchildren (who according to the narrative have to pay back the debt incurred by the excesses). This is another case of evidence being produced that ratify the analysis that MMT economists have been advancing for the last 25 years

Scarcity and plenty — John Quiggin

[Mike Norman Economics, December 23, 2020]

Economics has traditionally been about scarcity. But now we have one part of the economy where scarcity remains dominant, and another, growing part, where it has just about disappeared. That raises a lot of different issues.

First, while we are accustomed to think of things like economic growth and inflation rates as objective facts, they are actually based on index numbers, which are the products of theoretical models. Those models don’t work well when an increasing part of the economy consists of information services that are becoming radically cheaper all the time. As a result, much of the debate about the desirability or otherwise of growth is misconceived.

A positive implication is that we can anticipate improving standards of living, because of ever-increasing access to information services, without economic growth in the 20th century sense of steadily increasing throughput of materials and energy, and correspondingly increasing environmental damage.

A century ago, Thorstein Veblen explained how business management engages in sabotage of industrial processes precisely to maintain scarcity and support profit levels. But that is not discussed in the book review, below…

Veblen, institutions and ideas — Diane Coyle

[Mike Norman Economics, December 27, 2020]

Short review of Veblen: The Making of an Economist Who Unmade Economics by Charles Camic. Worth reading if into the history of economics and economic thought.

The reviewer near the end writes ”I have read Theory of the Leisure Class, and found it almost unreadable.” So her understanding of Veblen is highly suspect. As Jon Larson is fond of pointing out, reading the first four or five pages of Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class  (free texts) will teach you more about economics than most professional neoliberal economists know. 

Disrupting mainstream politics

How We Won In A RED District - North Carolina House District 63 - Ricky Hurtado

Progressive Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party

On Saturday, December 19, 2020, the Progressive Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party hosted a presentation by Elaine Berry, the campaign manager for Ricky Hurtado’s successful election in District 63 of the North Carolina House of Representatives. Hurtado is the first Latinx legislator elected to  the North Carolina general assembly. And, he defeated a Republican incumbent, making this one of only two races that the Democratic Party was able to flip in the general assembly.

Yes, this is the Alamance County where protesters against vote suppression were pepper sprayed by police on the last day of early voting this year.

Berry’s presentation was via Zoom, and it was recorded, and is now available on YouTube here. The YouTube video is also embedded at the bottom of this story.

Elaine Berry is also chairman of the Alamance County Democratic Party. While she did not directly attack anyone in the North Carolina Democratic Party establishment, I do not think anyone can listen to her presentation, and not come away with a strong feeling that the state Party establishment really needs to be shaken up.

Alamance has been a solid Republican county since the 1980s, and I personally think a large reason why Democrats have suddenly become competitive in Alamance is because a bunch of new people have replaced the old guard.

I can give you one personal anecdote. About ten years ago, I was having dinner with a small group of activists, and we were discussing why the Democratic Party was not running someone against Republican fossil Howard Coble for the U.S. Congress Sixth District. Coble had been serving in that seat since 1985, and he was quite entrenched, but clearly it was time for him to retire. Fortified by a few bottles of inexpensive wine, we reached agreement that the then chair of the Alamance Democratic Party would be a great candidate. So, one of those present took out their cell phone and called her. When we told her we wanted her to run for US Congress against Coble, she explained to us that she would never think of it, never. Why? Because her father had been friends with Coble.

That little story actually tells you a lot, and accurately reflects how the state Democratic Party functions as a private club today, making it generally ineffective against the Republican seizure of power in North Carolina since 2010, and the destruction Republicans have caused with their power.

Berry explains that most Democratic campaigns failed because they are out of touch with their districts. The major campaign decisions are made in Raleigh, by the state Party, not in the district. People in the district just are not be asked what they want and what they need.

“A red district is not a blue district,” she says. “Too many decisions about candidates and campaigns are being made in Raleigh [the state capital], and they are being made by politicians with little knowledge of what it takes to win in a rural or red district.”



The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time

Biden’s Austerity Zealotry Cut The Stimulus Bill In Half 

David Sirota, December 22, 2020 [The Daily Poster]

Read that again, just so it sinks in: Biden endorsing an initiative to slash the stimulus bill in half “gave Democrats confidence to pull back on their demands” for a much more robust rescue package at a time when America faces rising food insecurity and poverty. His enthusiastic lauding of the final bill underscores the role he played.

“In November, the American people spoke clearly that now is a time for action and compromise,” Biden said in a statement. “I am heartened to see members of Congress heed that message, reach across the aisle, and work together. This is a model for the challenging work ahead for our nation.”

That last line of Biden’s statement is arguably the most disturbing foreshadow of all: He is depicting the process — which starved America for months and now skimps on benefits — as a terrific “model” for the future.

Notably, Biden’s austerity ideology was not aimed at the $671 billion military spending package that was tacked onto the COVID rescue bill, which also included billions for Trump’s Space Force and new weapons systems. Instead, austerity was targeted at the part of the omnibus legislation that was supposed to help people whose lives have been destroyed by the pandemic.

The Biden Do Not Reappoint List

[The American Prospect 12-21-2020]
In a March 2020 article, The Biden Do Not Reappoint List, Robert Kuttner flagged 12 senior Clinton and Obama alums who were corporate Democrats, and became a sort of template for Prospect administrative transition coverage throughout the year. Of the 12 profiled, only one got a (second-tier) job.

Biden Declares Political Center Alive and Well 

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 12-24-20]

….in a conversation with a few columnists on Wednesday, Mr. Biden delivered a resounding declaration that the political center is alive and well, that he resides there, that he’s always been there, and that he’s going to govern from there. “I believe that [in] the country, in both parties, the center of gravity has moved to the center and center-left,” he said.

Moreover, Mr. Biden insisted that there are enough Republican lawmakers prepared to meet him in the middle that he can get things done in an evenly divided Congress where he won’t have the kinds of Democratic majorities some of his predecessors enjoyed.

“Part of it is that Republicans are beginning to realize that there is a center that has to be responded to,” he said. 

For Republicans and conservatives, Mr. Biden is saying, in effect, that they are wrong when they claim he has been, or soon will be, captured by the most liberal elements of his Democratic Party.

And to the progressive wing of his own party, Mr. Biden is saying, essentially: Don’t forget that I won our party’s nomination, and then won the popular vote by seven million votes, by running as a candidate of the center, not as one of the left.

“How Civil Society Can Combat Misinformation and Hate Speech Without Making It Worse”

[The Media Manipulation Casebook, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-22-20]

The Dark Side

Mitch McConnell Successfully Blocked Mandatory Paid Leave For Workers With COVID 

[Buzzfeed, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-20]

GOP Senator’s Last-Minute Fed Language Helps His Biggest Donors 

David Sirota and Matthew Cunningham-Cook [Newsweek, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-20]

Immigrant Neighborhoods Shifted Red as the Country Chose Blue 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-22-20]

“Across the United States, many areas with large populations of Latinos and residents of Asian descent, including ones with the highest numbers of immigrants, had something in common this election: a surge in turnout and a shift to the right, often a sizable one. The pattern was evident in big cities like Chicago and New York, in California and Florida, and along the Texas border with Mexico, according to a New York Times analysis of voting in 28,000 precincts in more than 20 cities…. Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, said he worried before the election that Democrats’ focus on racial justice issues came at the expense of outreach about easing the lives of hard-pressed workers. ‘In general, it suggests that Democrats’ theory of the case — that their electoral problems were all about race rather than class — was incorrect,’ he said.” • That’s rich, because nobody worked harder than Teixeira to convert the Democrat party its base in the working class to a bundle of identity politics verticals — the so-called “coalition of the ascendant” that I [lambert preens] pilloried in back in February 2016.

The Legacy of President Donald Trump

Matt Taibbi, December 23, 2020

….an egotist and gluttonous devourer of inherited cash who made it all the way through the grad programs of the country’s finest schools unblemished by insight, reflection, or idealism. Impressively, he seemed even more immune to America’s civilizing institutions than George W. Bush….

Trump began his vengeance campaign with the easiest targets, Republicans. He asked a simple question during the 2016 primary: why was one of the two most powerful political parties in the country content to put its fate in the hands of a clear sub-mediocrity like Jeb Bush?

Trump pantsed Jeb and the rest as phony “leaders” who had no will of their own and whose real job was to be puppets of other interests who didn’t have to guts to show themselves. He then deployed the same strategy against Hillary Clinton, who walked into his trap by openly courting Bush’s donors and refusing to repudiate the Wall Street titans backing her.

Trump at best was a deeply flawed human being, and maybe a level or two down from that… but he was the only politician who bothered to prioritize talking directly to voters. Democrats like Clinton were obsessed with the transactional model of politics, which dictated that winning was mainly a matter of securing the right backers, the right endorsements, and the right message, written by the right consultants…. 

He more or less completely destroyed the old Republican Party in 2016, while the damage he did to Democrats was lasting in a different way. He forced them to abandon their pretensions to kumbaya liberalism and announce themselves as the elitist authoritarians they’d always been…. Trump’s pitch was, would you rather vote for an unrepentant pig like me, or someone who goes to Oxford to learn how to make selling you out to Johnson & Johnson or Lloyd Blankfein sound like it’s your idea? If you thought in these terms, the vulgarity gap suddenly didn’t look so pronounced….

Right-Wing Embrace Of Conspiracy Is Mass Radicalization

[NPR, via The Big Picture 12-22-20]

At conferences, in op-eds and at agency meetings, domestic terrorism analysts are raising concern about the security implications of millions of conservatives buying into baseless right-wing claims. They say the line between mainstream and fringe is vanishing, with conspiracy-minded Republicans now marching alongside armed extremists at rallies across the country. Disparate factions on the right are coalescing into one side, analysts say, self-proclaimed "real Americans" who are cocooned in their own news outlets, their own social media networks and, ultimately, their own "truth."

….They added that there's no easy foil for a right-wing propaganda effort that amplifies fears and grievances on a nonstop loop. Those beliefs already have inspired political violence at protests over lockdowns and racial injustice. Political conspiracies drew thousands to last weekend's pro-Trump rally, after which the Proud Boys and other violent extremist groups wreaked havoc in downtown Washington, D.C.

"Breaking through that echo chamber is critical or else we'll see more violence," said Elizabeth Neumann, who in April resigned her post leading the Department of Homeland Security office that oversees responses to violent extremism.

"This tent that used to be sort of 'far-right extremists' has gotten a lot broader. To me, a former counterterrorism official, that's a radicalization process," said Mary McCord, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw terrorism cases and who's now a law professor at Georgetown University. “They hold views they didn’t hold 10 years ago because all they listen to is that conservative infotainment. Unless we help them break the deception, we cannot operate with 30% of the country holding the extreme views that they do.”

Ronald Reagan Paved the Way for Donald Trump 

[via Avedon’s Sideshow]

A new Showtime docuseries reminds us of just how awful Ronald Reagan was and how his brand of demagogic racism became a model for Trump. [...] Memories, how they linger — from calling in the National Guard on peaceful student protesters in Berkeley as governor to breaking the Air Traffic Controllers' strike as president, to forcing disastrous tax cuts, massive military escalation, corporate deregulation, and 'trickle-down economics' upon us. There's even the story about how Reagan got the idea for the delusional and costly 'Star Wars' missile defense system from a ray gun he carried in one of his old B movies — it's all here! But some of the details that you probably forgot — or maybe never knew — will make you groan aloud in pain that this man was unleashed upon the country at such a pivotal moment. And that his legacy, sadly, is seen everywhere today."

Race to Control U.S. Senate: “Georgians for Kelly Loeffler” Campaign Committee Packed with NY and CA Trading Firm Billionaires
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, December 18, 2020 [Wall Street on Parade]

...the fate of the Biden administration, the fate of the nation, and the future of millions of Americans about to become homeless through foreclosures, evictions and their businesses shuttering as a result of the pandemic – thus creating lots of distressed real estate debt for hedge funds and Wall Street speculators to scoop up on the cheap – hangs on the outcome of two U.S. Senate races in Georgia slated for January 5.

Comments on Naked Capitalism sjh December 21, 2020 at 9:57 am

Handy chart this morning.

“Stimulus Relief Fund

Australia: $ 1,993. a month
Canada: $ 1,433. a month
Denmark: Up to $ 3,288. a month
France: Up to $ 7,575. a month
German: Up to $ 7,326.78 a month
Ireland: Up to $ 1,793.44 a month
UK: Up to $ 3,084. a month
US: $ 1,200. to last for 32 weeks”

Reply ↓
  1. Wukchumni December 21, 2020 at 10:18 am

    Half a year, half a year,
    Half a year onward,
    All in the valley of debt
    They spent the six hundred.
    “Forward, the Light Brigade!
    Charge for the guns if you still have credit!” he said.
    Into the valley of debt
    They spent the six hundred.

Democratic Discord and Dissent

“Inauguration Part 1 w/Special Guest Daniel Bessner” (podcast)

[The West Wing Thing, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-21-20]

Lambert Strether summarizes: Good discussion of the weekend’s dustup on the left, including but not limited to Jimmy Dore, David Sirota, and Briahna Joy Gray, staring at 24:03. Dave: “Dave’s really disappointed in all of his fellow leftists. People are reallly f*cking angry right now, and they should be. It’s justifiable. This is the time when countries fall. What we’re doing to our population is how governments are overthrown.”

Alex Sammon interviews State Sen. Erica Smith on "What Went Wrong in North Carolina

[The American Prospect, via Avedon’s Sideshow]

If there was one Senate race that Democrats absolutely had to win, it was in North Carolina. Thom Tillis, the incumbent Republican, a Tea Partier and Trump diehard, sported a negative approval rating in his home state, per a July poll from High Point University, and was considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the nation. Outside of sure-thing victories in Colorado and Arizona, this was the highest-priority true flip in the country. It was well within reach; Democrats just had to be sure they didn't screw it up. That was the justification for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and Chuck Schumer intervening swiftly and decisively in the Democratic primary, plucking out of thin air an inoffensive moderate in Cal Cunningham who hadn't held public office since 2003. Schumer bestowed upon him significant financial and institutional support, and he used it to crush his primary opponent Erica Smith, a Black woman and rising star in the state Democratic Party, before the race really began. Smith, despite leading Cunningham in the polls at the time of endorsement, was not worth the risk of letting the voters decide. Cunningham boasted polling advantages over Tillis of better than ten points throughout the summer; he raised a mind-boggling $47 million, more than twice Tillis. But Cunningham stumbled to a disastrous defeat, a failure of his particular candidacy, and one that also featured elements of the party's struggles nationwide. Cunningham ran on his own character, then got popped for prodigious low-grade sexting. Tillis, who isn't even liked in the state (certainly not like Susan Collins is in Maine), put up a bigger margin of victory than Trump, blowing out Cunningham in rural districts and faring shockingly well with minority groups. 'North Carolina ranks number two in the nation in rural geography. In the last three election cycles in the state, Democrats have lost rural and first American [Native American] voters,' says Smith, who represents the state's rural Third District. 'The DSCC pattern of interfering in primaries and often elevating moderates at the expense of progressive people of color is disappointing and ultimately hurt us in multiple races across the nation in the 2020 cycle.'

“This Guilty Land”

Eric Foner, London Review of Books [Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-21-20] 

“The divergent paths chosen by Brown and Lincoln illuminate a problem as old as civilisation itself – what is a person’s moral responsibility in the face of glaring injustice?… Today, Lincoln is widely revered, while many Americans, including some historians, consider Brown mad. Yet it was Brown’s strategy that brought slavery to an end. In a note written shortly before his death, Brown wrote: ‘The crimes of this guilty land will not be purged away but with blood.’ And Lincoln, the centrist politician, ended up presiding over slaughter on a scale neither he nor Brown could possibly have imagined. At his Second Inaugural, in March 1865, Lincoln embraced Brown’s penetrating insight that slavery was already a system of violence and so could not be eradicated peacefully. Echoing Brown, Lincoln explained the Civil War’s staggering death toll as divine retribution for two and a half centuries of ‘blood drawn by the lash’. He was reminding his listeners that violence in America did not begin when John Brown unsheathed his sword; it was embedded in slave society from the outset. And in the end, as Brands concludes, ‘Union arms, not Union arguments, overthrew slavery.'”

Australian Politics 2020-12-27 09:33:00


How a regional Australian city became an unlikely home for hundreds of Yazidi refugees

Yazidis are Indo-Europeans, related to European populations, not Arabs or Iranians. They have their own monotheistic religion. They should settle well in Australia

It's been almost three years since about 600 Yazidi refugees from Northern Iraq and Syria began resettling in Australia, many fleeing trauma after persecution by the IS terror group.

One of the resettlement areas was Armidale, where the community has embraced its new migrants.

Aedo, who arrived two years ago, is now helping transform a plot of land just outside of the town into prime pasture, as part of a new agriculture initiative set up for the Yazidi community.

"What we're trying to achieve is help them realise their place in Armidale, through acquisition of skills and using those skills to gain employment,” says Lance McNamara from Northern Settlement Services.

Aedo hopes the opportunity will help him secure stable employment in Australia.

"The first thing I get is experience, so I know how work will be like and I can get the best work every day,” he says.

The land was donated by members of the local rotary club to give the Yazidi community, who typically worked on the land, a place of their own to farm.

Peter Lloyd from Armidale Rotary says members of his organisation have been stunned by the rapid progress the community has made in transforming the plot.

"It's absolutely amazing, 250 metres of fencing disappeared in a couple of hours,” he says.

“The speed of work, efficiency, and the degree of learning is quite impressive."

Resettlement program

Armidale, which has a population of about 25,000, was selected as a regional resettlement site by the Turnbull Government in August 2017, with the first refugees from Syria and Iraq arriving just over six months later.

Mr Lloyd says the way the families have been settled has helped them assimilate into the wider community.

"The families are being distributed, if you like, with their homes quite separated within the township and many families, their neighbours are taking everyone under their wings,” he says.

“There's a lot of exchanges, especially of recipes!”

“There's a lot of Yazidi bread that's being consumed in Armidale and a lot of other things [happening] that are really beneficial in a social sense, a language sense, and also an educational sense."

Yazidi cuisine has become a highlight at one local hotel. The Minnie Barn, which opened at the beginning of this year, has employed Yazidi chefs to cook up a unique menu.

The dishes have proved popular, even during periods impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

“We knew about the Yazidi community, we approached them, and we found a couple of guys that were willing to come on board,” says Comfort City Inn manager Phil Mitchell.

“It was a bit of a struggle from the start with the language barriers and working out how to operate a professional kitchen with them. But a couple of months in, it's really taking off."

Salam Qaro and his wife Fryal Khalaf arrived in Australia in July 2019. Since settling in Armidale, the family has thrived.

“I was surprised because the physical aspects of Armidale are similar to my hometown, where I was living in Northern Iraq,” Salam says.

“I noticed that Armidale was so quiet, and also the people were welcoming, and I feel safe with my family here.”

The rest of his family remain in Northern Iraq, where they have faced persecution, he says. Some are still missing or were killed by IS.

"Two uncles of mine are missing by ISIS, and also my grandmother, my cousin was killed by ISIS, and no-one cared about that.”

“In my country, there is no future for anyone, especially for the Yazidi community, because the Yazidi community is all the time living very dangerous situations."

While he Fryal were able to settle in Armidale as refugees, applications to bring other family members to Australia on humanitarian grounds have not been successful.

“We received it with a declined outcome by [the Department of] Immigration. We don’t know why, and we are still asking why,” he says.

While his psychology degree is not recognised in Australia, Salam now helps settle other refugees in the area and is planning to build a house of his own with Fryal.

In June, the family also expanded when they welcomed baby Sama.

"We were lucky with Sama, she was born in Australia and she is an Australian citizen now,” he says. “She will have a good future in Australia."

Australian universities allowing almost anyone into their courses this year

Teenagers who missed out on studying their dream degree due to a low ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) are being urged to take a short bridging course or apply directly for entry.

One university is admitting students based on teacher recommendations, rather than ATAR scores, this year.

Others are counting community service and work experience towards university entry.

Students who copped health or financial curveballs in 2020 can also apply for special entry on “equity’’ grounds.

Universities, bleeding cash due to the lockout of fee-paying international students, are bending over backwards to admit more domestic students for 2021.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said 2020 had been “exceptionally tough’’ for students and advised them to use different “pathways’’ to a degree.

“These include work experience, other qualifications such as bridging courses, leadership and community service, equity and special circumstances,’’ she told News Corp Australia.

“Options for university admission don’t end with the ATAR.

“Universities understand that the disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis may have affected students differently and will be looking to provide flexibility to students.

“All universities will be ready and willing to talk with students about their individual situation.’’

Budding criminologist Megan Ting, 23, was devastated when she received a low ATAR but is now studying a Bachelor of Forensics Science at UTS, after completing a bridging Diploma of Life Science at UTS Insearch.

“Your ATAR doesn’t define you at all,’’ she said.

“Just don’t stress out – there’s always another way.

“I wish someone had told me earlier not to stress out and think it’s the end of the world.’’

The University of Tasmania has already admitted 1800 students through a side door, using its Schools’ Recommendation Program.

“We take a teachers’ recommendation along with prior academic performance, not just ATAR which is not a good predictor of future success,’’ vice-chancellor Professor Rufus Black said yesterday.

“Teachers are ideally placed to know if a student is on the right path to further studies.

“We (also) take into account people’s work and other life experience when considering their application to study.

“Not having an ATAR, or not having the ATAR you were hoping for, doesn’t have to be a barrier to your dream course.’’

Charles Sturt University (CSU) gives school leavers from regional areas a five-point ATAR bonus, and has already made 1859 early offers to school leavers.

CSU takes into account “soft skills’’ such as empathy and resilience, demonstrated through community and charity work.

Indigenous students can undertake a five-day entry program that provides guaranteed entry into a broad range of bachelor degrees.

CSU also offers “micro-credentials” in community leadership and resilience, to certify skills that show a student’s ability to do a job or continue study.

CSU acting vice-chancellor Professor John Germov said that “ATAR scores are not what they used to be’’, with 70 per cent of students entering via other pathways.

“ATAR scores do not necessarily reflect the skills and attributes that many occupations and professions require, and which students might possess when they apply for entry to university,’’ he said.

“A nurse is nothing without empathy for her patients, a veterinarian will struggle without the resilience required to deal with the death of the animals in his care.’’

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) offers free three-month Tertiary Preparation Programs, covering English, maths and study management, with guaranteed entry to a range of USQ bachelor degrees regardless of ATAR results.

It also offers six-month certificate programs as a stepping stone to a full degree.

“You do not have to give up on your dream career,’’ vice-chancellor Professor Geraldine Mackenzie said.

“This year 12 cohort has had a lot thrown at them in the last 12 months.

“They’ve shown grit and resilience and will no doubt continue to do this throughout their university studies and into their careers.’’

In Victoria, RMIT University offers a new Pathways Guaranteed program, to help students without an ATAR get into a degree course by completing a TAFE course first.

“The benchmark of some VCE students will be disproportionately impacted this year by the disruptions of bushfires and COVID-19,’’ a spokeswoman said.

“The cost of a Pathways Package is often cheaper than completing a full Bachelor program.’’

University of Queensland acting deputy vice-chancellor Professor Doune Macdonald urged school leavers to “keep their ATAR in perspective’’.

“While it’s disappointing not to get the ATAR they were hoping for it can be a detour for school leavers – and for many students, that detour can become their passion,’’ she said.

The University of South Australia is offering diplomas or foundation studies to help students leapfrog into a degree.

“If students didn’t achieve the result they needed to get into their chosen degree, we encourage having a back-up plan by preferencing a degree in a similar field,’’ UniSA chief academic services officer Professor Marie Wilson said yesterday,

The Australian Catholic University (ACU) has introduced a new Foundation Studies Program at its Blacktown Campus in Sydney, to help students without a Year 12 qualification get into uni.

“While the year was extremely challenging for Year 12s, we are also seeing a very large number of applicants with high ATARs so not all students will be able to get in to their first choice,’’ ACU vice-chancellor Professor Greg Craven said yesterday.

He said the federal government was funding extra places for school leavers to complete a certificate first, and then transfer into a bachelor degree once they meet the entry requirements.

The University of New England (UNE) already admits 90 per cent of its students without an ATAR result, and offers free short courses to gain entry.

“If you didn’t get the ATAR that you hoped for, there is absolutely no reason why you still can’t go to university and go on to a successful career in your chosen field,’’ UNE student success director Barb Shaw said yesterday.

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) advises school leavers to study a diploma or certificate in a similar discipline, as a pathway to a full degree.

Students can also combine a TAFE certificate with a QUT qualification, or study a different bachelor degree course before switching to their dream degree.

James Cook University (JCU) offers a Certificate of Higher Education that lets students catch up on any missing prerequisite subjects, in time to start most bachelor degrees in February 2021.

“If a student didn’t get the ATAR they need for their dream course, the Diploma of Higher Education is a six-month to one-year full-time course designed to help them meet the entry requirements for most JCU courses,’’ a spokesman said.

“They’ll study a combination of introductory and first-year degree subjects and develop the practical skills to be a successful university student and gain credit towards their chosen degree.’’

Shrinking family is fertile ground for concern

There are times when I wish I had a dollar for every insult I have endured for the size of my family. The number of children that I have managed to produce, nine, has been the source of a never-ending stream of jokes and jibes, from complete strangers.

They range from the lamely comedic: “Don’t you have a TV?” my reply, “we found something much better to do”, to the snide: “How can you afford them?” muttered to a nine-year-old, to which she replied: “Do you have to pay for yours?” But the absolute worst was: “people have families, not litters” a statement that was actually published in the letters section of a metropolitan newspaper.

That a large family like mine is open season for attack and ridicule shows more about why there is a so-called “baby drought’” than any number of statistics and theories.

The rot at the heart of declining fertility is not as some think, just economic, nor just about women’s working patterns or men’s inability to “commit”. It is deeply cultural. It is the product of a sick society that has pushed the natural child-bearing family to the periphery.

This decline can all be traced to exactly one year, 1961, the year the pill was introduced. From the very year of its introduction the total fertility rate (TFR) literally plummeted. The graph dips in a Matterhorn-like precipitous decline.From 1961 the Australian birthrate went from 3.55, as an average number of births per woman over a lifetime, to the current 1.6.

But a worse cultural malaise took hold. The nexus between sex and fertility was lost, and gradually, the consequences of this sexual revolution, the “great dis-ruption”, as Francis Fukayama described it, have been disastrous.

One of the first things that happened was the marriage rate began to decline. This is particularly bad for fertility because most people do not want children outside the marriage bond. Even today, over 64 per cent of children are born into a registered marriage.

Over 50 years, casual sexual relationships became more common. Marriage went from the gold standard foundation of sexual relationships, something sacred, profound and exclusive to heterosexual sex because of the children that might be produced from that natural biological pairing, to a “partnership” in which the children were an optional extra.

Gradually within this milieu, serial sexual relationships have replaced marriage. Even in exclusive partnerships marriage is delayed. The consequence on a practical level is that people are getting older at marriage, and women who have delayed childbirth simply can’t have as many children as in the past – or even as many as all the social surveys show they would like.

Peter Costello is right. He knows full well that we have to increase the fertility rate in Australia or we will simply run short of young productive people to fuel the economy. We must have migration just to top up our ever-dwindling natural fertility, which must be just over 2 per woman over a lifetime for our population to simply remain static. The last time this happened was in 1997. It was the Baby Bonus blip, but it was not sustainable. Right now, our economic future is running on empty, with a pitifully shrinking fertility and alarmingly low migration statistics due to the COVID-19 crisis which has cut the projected population increase by over a million.

Some influential people have been brainwashed by the so-called “population bomb” of the zero-population growth movement, which gave its advocates an ideologically respectable reason not to have kids. But the world’s population increase is slowing and is predicted to reach stasis in about 2050. Already some countries, notably Russia, have actually lost population.

Ours is not a country that has too many people. It is a country where too many people are crammed into only six cities. It is a country that needs decentralisation, but nevertheless, we are a society that is running short of young people to fuel our economy. So, we keep importing them in ever increasing numbers just to keep things going. Migration works to expand the youthful workforce in the short term but it exponentially increases the ageing of the population since migrants arrive as adults, and have about the same numbers of children as the native born.

Since 1961 some dangerously scarring phenomena have been embedded into the social culture. The advent of the pill seemed to give women, and men, great freedom to plan their families responsibly. But on the downside it had a more subtle effect on male /female relationships. It has always been assumed it was good for women, but many women found that the pill subtly allowed men to assume women were always available – in effect infertile vessels for sex.

Now feminists and others are often puzzled as to why despite practical advances, the exploitation of women has not improved and why in the 50 years since the pill there has been a huge increase in the creep of pornography, which is fundamentally exploitive, into mainstream culture. Look back to that “revolution” which bore as one of its fruits a hyper sexualised culture, which denies the greatest gift of sex, the child.

The current confusing social/sexual milieu is another evolutionary step which seriously mitigates against healthy heterosexual sexual relations and marriage. Many young people literally don’t know if they are Arthur or Martha, having been told from a very young age, they can change. But although most people, are horrified by these developments they are too intimidated to call out this naked emperor.

Worse, in the ACT and soon in Victoria parents will be legally robbed of their authority to do so. No wonder well-meaning people are afraid of child-bearing. This attack on parental authority by the state, which only supports parents who agree with them, is an attack unprecedented in democracies. It is both an extreme symptom and cause of the collapse of the family, the real cause of the baby drought.

Adelaide man who suffered broken leg during SA Police arrest secures $854,000 compensation

The Supreme Court of South Australia has upheld an $854,000 compensation payment for a man whose leg was broken as police arrested him more than seven years ago.

SA Police officers used capsicum spray and a "figure four leg lock" as they tried to arrest Matthew Charles Crossley on Bank Street in the Adelaide CBD in March 2013.

The leg lock manoeuvre, designed to restrain someone thrashing or kicking, left Mr Crossley's femur so badly broken that a 40-centimetre rod was inserted during surgery hours after the incident.

In February, the District Court ruled that the police officers had committed three acts of battery during the arrest and, in May, awarded Mr Crossley $700,000 in compensation for the "egregious" and "violent" arrest.

At the time, District Court Judge Sydney Tilmouth found the use of the leg lock to handcuff Mr Crossley was "unnecessary and excessive" because he was already restrained.

He added that Mr Crossley was entitled to resist the arrest because the officers' failure to explain their reasoning rendered it "unlawful".

More damages were added in July to bring the total to $854,313.

In an appeal to the Supreme Court, the State Government argued the officers had lawfully arrested Mr Crossley for disorderly behaviour.

Lawyers for the government argued that using pepper spray and the leg lock was lawful and justified in the circumstances.

But the court dismissed the appeal, on all grounds, in a judgement handed down this week.

In the reasons for the unanimous decision, Justice David Peek said the officers' actions "were unjustified and unlawful, irrespective of whether or not [Mr Crossley] had been properly informed as to the reason for his arrest".

"The judge was correct in finding that [Senior Constable] Lovell attempted to carry out a 'figure four leg lock' manoeuvre by applying his full body weight across the respondent's legs while bending and twisting his left leg at the knee and that this was inherently dangerous and unjustified," Justice Peek wrote.

An SA Police spokeswoman said it was "assessing the outcomes of the appeal and have no further comment to make".

In a hearing earlier this year, Mr Crossley said he used crutches for six months and a walking stick for a further three-to-four months after the injury but was otherwise left "basically bed-bound" most of the time.

He has suffered complications with the rod, walks with a limp and will require continued rehabilitation as part of his ongoing recovery.

Additionally, his treating psychiatrist said he experiences symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression.

Mr Crossley told the court he had not worked since the incident because he was "not physically capable".




NSW Police create a deadly incident


News report below followed by some comments from a reader.  My reader did the smart thing.  He didn't run

The family of an apprentice tradesman killed by a senior constable in Western Sydney has called for a royal commission into policing in New South Wales.

Bradley Balzan, 20, was walking to the shops at St Marys when four plain-clothed officers pulled up next to him in an unmarked car two days ago.

His grandmother Nola Balzan said one of the undercover officers asked, "What are you doing?" but failed to disclose he was with the police force.

"He ignored them, which, if you didn't know a person, you would ignore them — then they kept following him and he said something like 'I am sick of this, f-off' and he ran because he was scared," she said.

Assistant Commissioner Mark Jones said on Wednesday he was acting "suspiciously" but would not elaborate on his behaviour.

With four officers chasing after him, Bradley Balzan sprinted only a few hundred metres home and into his backyard on Acacia Street.

Nola Balzan said she believes he grabbed a shovel to defend himself before his pet dog bit one of the officers, sending him to hospital with minor injuries.

Police claim Bradley Balzan snatched the gun from one of two senior constables and fired "at least one shot" before one of them fired the deadly shot.

"Bradley has no criminal record — I think it was police brutality because everything that happened to him was terrifying," Nola Balzan said.

Bradley Balzan was treated by paramedics but died shortly after going into cardiac arrest while his father, Adam, was told to stay inside. "Even at that stage, the officers hadn't identified themselves as police," Nola Balzan said.

"Adam said, 'Is that my son?' and they said, 'We don't know' — Bradley doesn't drive so he doesn't have a licence with photo ID." "They ended up taking a photo and showing him, and it was Bradley's face with blood all over it so that's how he knew it was his son, which is absolutely crazy … it was traumatising."

Adam Balzan hasn't been able to return home since the tragedy on his backdoor step but told the ABC "police must be held accountable for their actions".

Nola Balzan said her son was "devastated". "They have only one child and now they have none," she said. "[Bradley] was handsome, he was cheeky, he made us laugh, he loved his family, he loved his pets, his friends and mountain biking."

An internal police investigation which will be carried out by homicide detectives promises to scrutinise the actions of the two senior constables before the findings are independently reviewed.

But Nola Balzan is calling for a royal commission style of inquiry into the state's police force following the shooting.

"Think before you shoot. There's pepper spray, which was used on Bradley, there's tasers that they are allowed to use which would have been a deterrent," she said.

"Shooting someone in the stomach is not shooting to stop, that's shooting to kill," she said.

Nola Balzan said Christmas used to be the one time of the year she looked forward to and when all eight of her grandchildren would come together under one roof.

"Christmas is now dead to us — I have cancelled our lunch, it doesn't feel right with Bradley not here — I don't know how we are going to come back from this," she said. "A good deal of people are going to be missing him."

Bradley Balzan was only a year into his apprenticeship as a tradesman and had recently started taking a course to become a barman.

A reader writes:

I too was once stopped by two out of uniform police who did not identify themselves as police. It frightened me too.

I was in the bush on crown land up the back of where I lived, just sitting, contemplating things, which as you know, contemplation is a pastime of mine.

Both men were armed with rifles. I presumed them to be deer hunters. One demanded of me, "What are you doing here?" I replied, "Nothing, just sitting." He repeated his demand several times, to which I made the same reply each time.

His question was was not asked as an enquiring question, but as a demand for an answer. His eyes were piecing and his manner was very very assertive. And he gave no explanation of why he was challenging me; no introduction, no identification that he was police, nothing; he was just aggressive man with a rifle repeating a demand that I tell him what I am doing there.

The second armed man stood several steps back, as if ready to back up his mate. I was very frightened. I thought I was going to be murdered. I felt that if I fled I would be shot, and if I moved I would be shot.

Eventually they turned and left, both giving me a parting look as if they could kill me if they wanted to.

At the time I frequently swam at a local pool, and one of the local policemen swam there too. While we both took a rest at the shallow end from swimming laps, I mentioned the incident to him. He told me not to worry about it, that they were just two off duty police doing some deer shooting up the back.

That was no reassurance to me. Some men should not become police. If the story in this linked article is as described, that plain clothes police bailed up the young man without identifying themselves as police, then I can well appreciate his fear, and can understand why he ran. To then be chased, grappled and shot is tragic and criminal -- if that is the case.

Australian Politics 2020-12-24 08:29:00


Behind the scenes at your Queensland government hospital

If the doctors and nurses seem a bit distracted, here is why. And management are in denial

A Queensland-wide nurses group has taken aim at the Townsville Hospital and Health Service for what it believes is a “systematic” and “longstanding and toxic culture of bullying”.

Recent statistics revealed half of staff surveyed at THHS had witnessed bullying or sexual harassment in the workplace in the past year, the highest rate in the state.

The data was gathered from 77 THHS staff members who participated in the Working for Queensland survey.

The Nurses Professional Association of Queensland wasn’t surprised with the findings, with a spokeswoman saying it had been an issue that had reared its head for some time.

“There’s been a longstanding and toxic culture of bullying in Queensland Health colleagues and members have been reporting to me for some time,” the spokeswoman said.

“Unfortunately, Queensland Health’s bullying culture permeates the whole organisation, from top to bottom. There’s bullying that occurs both up and down the chain of management, and no one is truly protected.

“There absolutely is a statewide toxic bullying epidemic in Queensland Health that exists regardless of geography or seniority.”

The spokeswoman said some previous cases of bullying had a detrimental impact.

“We’ve had many members who have basically been institutionalised as a result of the horrendous bullying they’ve experienced,” she said.

“Members have contacted me directly with their cases, reporting having to be admitted to mental health facilities as a direct result of bullying and harassment suffered at Queensland Health. For some members, this has resulted in lifelong workplace injuries.

“Obviously, this is an extremely complex issue that is deeply embedded in Queensland Health. We note that minister Yvette D’Ath is touring Townsville as a part of her review into systemic bullying. We look forward to supporting her and working with her closely to turn this culture around.”

THHS chair Tony Mooney said there was no place for bullying in the service.

“I am looking forward to welcoming the Minister for Health to Townsville Hospital and Health Service to showcase the fantastic work our 6500 staff do in caring for our community, not to do a review into bullying,” Mr Mooney said.

“There are no active bullying or harassment cases across the Townsville HHS being managed by our industrial relations team. Bullying and harassment will not be tolerated on my watch.”

Mr Mooney said as well as causing distress to others, bullying took away from the great work and care provided by a dedicated workforce.

He said THHS had done significant work to improve workplace culture through mandatory bullying and harassment training, additional one-on-one support offered to resolve workplace issues within teams and to create a mechanism to bring on independent experts to support and review complex cases.

'Balancing act': The problem with COVID mandates

By Julie Leask

Recent developments in the pandemic such as vaccines and the outbreak of COVID-19 on Sydney's northern beaches have prompted calls for governments to mandate public health measures such as vaccination or mask wearing to control the virus.

Mandating certain behaviours to prevent the spread of infectious diseases can be an effective measure in public health. It can bring about behaviour change at-scale and remove the burden on individual decision making. But mandates come with downsides which are often overlooked.

Mandates will always carry a penalty for non-compliance: a fine for not wearing a mask or denial of childcare or family payments for the incompletely vaccinated child. These are serious consequences, particularly for people experiencing disadvantage, who themselves are already more likely to be economically or socially affected by pandemic measures. Yet it is those experiencing disadvantage who are more likely to be fined for COVID-19 rule compliance breaches. For example, in April, Sydney’s poorer Fairfield Local Government Area had just 0.98 per cent of cases but 3.7 per cent of infringements while richer Waverly had 6.7per cent of cases but just 0.79 per cent of infringements.

Mandates lead to interpersonal conflict at the point of enforcement. This is a particular problem if those with roles in implementing the requirement also provide the service because it can undermine the relationship between citizen and service. For example, the driver who turns away unmasked people boarding a bus taking them to an appointment or a doctor refusing to grant a medical exemption for an unvaccinated child will inevitably end up dealing with distressed and sometimes abusive people.

Mandates bring a tonal shift in pandemic control – from solidarity to enforcement. Rules can offer support – it’s sometime easier to just be told to do something. A few people only respond to rules. But they can also undermine intrinsic motivations towards the public co-operation more generally, making behaviour more about what I can and can’t do than what I should do for others. For long-haul behaviours like pandemic control ones, intrinsic motivation is better because it carries across a number of minute and everyday behaviours impossible to police.

Mandates should bring a meaningful additional level of compliance to controlling the spread of a disease. Right now in NSW, some commentators have called for mandatory masks for all of Sydney, at a time when the state is recording reductions in locally acquired new cases, decreasing from a high of 38 on December 19 to 8 cases on December 23. The most important control measures have been rapid identification and isolation of cases and contacts, helping bring this outbreak under control, like NSW did in July after a cluster began in south western Sydney. In Victoria, mandatory masks were hoped to be enough to bring a rising outbreak under control. But within a week it was clear that a prolonged lockdown was also needed.

Mandates require significant resourcing and attention from government departments. Legislation needs to be carefully drafted to account for the range of implications they will bring. There should be a threshold for determining what is, and is not, required and means for determining compliance. This is easier for policing the wearing of masks. For vaccination, Australia uses a national register to determine compliance. But recording error or failure to enter the data means some fully compliant families have wrongly lost family assistance payments under the No Jab No Pay. Mandates need good systems in place to be fair and feasible.

Most of these issues can be justified and managed if the benefits of mandating a behaviour are deemed to outweigh the risks. Right now in Sydney, mask wearing when one cannot distance is strongly recommended. But a mandate to do so would be disproportionate when considering the downsides along with their limited role right now in controlling COVID-19. If we are unlucky enough to see established transmission across Sydney or any other region, that might change.

For now, the measures announced on Wednesday are reasonable – limited numbers inside homes with restrictions around movement of people on the northern beaches where the cluster remains focused. We must remain focused on the most effective measures – testing and isolating if symptomatic, rapid contact tracing, quarantining of contacts, and limiting large gatherings, vigilant hand and respiratory hygiene and wearing masks when social distancing is not possible. Venues need to systematically ensure all customers accurately log their details when entering.

Mandating individual actions to prevent infectious disease spread should only be in place when the shift to mandating will be effective and carries little risk, the requirement is reasonable, feasible to enforce, and well justified. Taken together, this is about weighing the benefits of an action against its risks – something Australians have become adept at doing in 2020 when it comes to infectious diseases.

Hotel quarantine inquiry revealed a deep and shocking truth

Pru Goward

The report of the Coate inquiry into the Victorian hotel quarantine system reveals one deep and shocking truth –no, it’s not that no one made a decision about private security guards, it’s that there was no system. Now it is all too late, and the proud Victorian public service, once the benchmark for all others, is having to be told how to put a crisis response plan together. Public administration 101.

The conclusion, that Mr Nobody made a decision to use private security guards in quarantine hotels, is a metaphor for a much wider cultural problem. Premier Andrews has been quick to point this out, so he already knows that real reform will take more than Justice Jennifer Coate’s carefully crafted recommendations for an improved health emergency management system. What her report fundamentally revealed was the incapacity of the public service leadership to follow orders or anything close to good process. If this malaise is widespread, then reform must be also.

Let’s deal with the private security guards problem first. This is essentially a red herring. Victoria used them, but so did NSW. Under Australian public sector pay arrangements, even the leaner ones that have operated in NSW since 2011, when the incoming O’Farrell government instituted a 2.5 per cent cap on public sector wage rises, police are expensive. Take note of the absence of police in triple-time pay periods. Understandably, the Victorian Police Commissioner wasn’t having his already stretched wages budget trashed further; private security firms seemed an obvious suggestion.

NSW had more capacity to use its police than Victoria (Mick Fuller rarely loses at Expenditure Review Committee) but also grabbed the offer of free Australian Defence Force personnel to augment its efforts. Significantly, it also used private security guards. Why ever not?

It’s the supervision question. Who was telling 20-something-year-old bodybuilder security guards (with an assumed zero knowledge of infection control) what to do and making sure they did not risk their own health? Again, both Victoria and NSW had health officials on site, but the Victorian officials told the inquiry they were there to “co-ordinate” health advice and cavilled at the suggestion that their team leaders were “in charge”. There was no such doubt in NSW; NSW Health was the boss.

Reading the report, which I have done with morbid fascination, is to read a litany of contradicting answers, Keystone Cops falling over each other. It gets down to the decision-making steps and minute-taking at senior executive meetings. As the Coate report reveals, there were none. Because when you follow the rules of meeting procedure, the reason for every decision needs to be documented. This has the added benefit of the group actually making a decision. Sadly, these tedious niceties went out the window.

Finally, there’s the question of who’s running the show. Is it the public service or the elected government? As the report archly documents, the Victorian health minister at the time, Jenny Mikakos, barely understood what was going on and didn’t think to ask. Martin Pakula, Minister for Jobs, Precincts and Regions, didn’t know much either and again, did not ask. Even when a security company that was not on the preferred tenderers’ list got the bulk of the work, the minister didn’t ask. Did the department not think it worth providing an explanation, assuming at some point, this might become a matter of interest to the Auditor-General? By the end of volume two, there was still no explanation for this brazen decision to give millions of dollars to a security firm that hadn’t made the cut.

And what about the secretary of Health and Human Services, Kym Peake, ignoring the Premier’s written instruction to focus solely on the pandemic response? Was there a letter back explaining why he was wrong? No wonder the Premier didn’t refuse her resignation.

It is true ministers are told to stay out of operational matters and there are certainly risks in making decisions that go against departmental advice. In the case of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian’s managerial strengths enable her to drive the decision-making, but all ministers, like board members, have a duty to ask questions. Their ultimate public accountability entitles them to answers and good ministers often provide exactly the informed questioning that tests a decision the public sector, with its very different mindset, may have got wrong.

Ministers also think on their feet. Sydney has the second largest consular corps in the world; the advice was not to hotel quarantine returning diplomats who, under international law, cannot be charged if they refuse to do so. Instead, a minister suggested health officials ring them at home several times a day, every day, to check they are where they said they would be for 14 days.

In my experience, ministers of any political persuasion are conscientious and hard-working, only too well aware that it is they who swing first at the end of a political rope if all goes wrong. Ask Jenny Mikakos … whose ghost should now be heard, demanding public sector reform.

NSW backs Scott Morrison's gas plant as 'critical' for state's renewable ambitions

NSW is smoothing the path for a prominent piece of the federal government's gas-led recovery by granting critical infrastructure status to plans for a Commonwealth-funded gas-fired power station in the Hunter Valley.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes declared the federal government's gas plant proposal as Critical State Significant Infrastructure on Wednesday to standardise and streamline the project assessment process.

"Gas-fired power stations will have a critical role to play in ensuring our energy security as we transition to a low-carbon emissions economy with renewable energy projects such as wind and solar," Mr Stokes said.

"As well, this project could create jobs for up to 600 construction workers and generate around $800 million worth of investment for the local economy."

NSW announced in November a strategy to become a "renewable energy superpower" and stimulate construction of a whopping 12 gigawatts in new wind, solar and pumped-hydro projects.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor have said they would commission Commonwealth-owned Snowy Hydro to build a 1000 megawatts gas plant to supply dispatchable power into the grid.

Mr Taylor said he did not trust private industry to replace the baseload power which will be lost due the scheduled closure in 2023 of the 1000 megawatt Liddell coal-fired power plant.

If private power generators did not commit before April next year to build a total of 1000 megawatts "government will fill the remaining capacity", but only to fill a shortfall, Mr Taylor said in September. "If industry steps up, we'll step back."

The critical declaration from Mr Stokes lists a gas plant with capacity up to 750 megawatts, which indicates industry is expected to deliver at least 250 megawatts of generation by the deadline.

Energy analysts told this masthead in October that the independent Australian Energy Market Operator had not forecast any shortfall in dispatchable power supply due to the closure of Liddell.

The operator's forecast noted a potential shortfall of just 157 megawatts by 2022, but noted the NSW government had confirmed investment in 170 megawatts of dispatchable batteries.

However, Mr Taylor said 1000 megawatts of extra capacity was required to stop power price rises and that "government has always been clear - we need to see life extension or like-for-like replacement of Liddell".

The power station would be located on the former site of a demolished aluminium smelter at Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley.

The NSW state government also this week approved a $500 million underground coal mine proposal in the Hunter Valley.

Malabar Resources' Maxwell mine, located at Jerrys Plains, will produce around 8 million tonnes per annum of metallurgical coal which is used for steel making. The mine is expected to operate for 26 years.

The Independent Planning Commission said in a statement the potential impacts from the Maxwell mine are manageable, and the risks of adverse impacts on the environment are low.

Lock the Gate co-ordinator Georgina Woods said approval of the Maxwell mine "further entrenches an industry with a highly uncertain future" and Hunter Valley communities would "bear the brunt of this government stupidity".




Ellen Brown – FDR Knew Exactly How to Solve Today’s Unemployment Crisis


by Ellen Brown, December 17, 2020

A self-funding national infrastructure bank modeled on the “American System” of Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt would help solve not one but two of the country’s biggest problems.

Millions of Americans have joined the ranks of the unemployed, and government relief checks and savings are running out; meanwhile, the country still needs trillions of dollars in infrastructure. Putting the unemployed to work on those infrastructure projects seems an obvious solution, especially given that the $600 or $700 stimulus checks Congress is planning on issuing will do little to address the growing crisis. Various plans for solving the infrastructure crisis involving public-private partnerships have been proposed, but they’ll invariably result in private investors reaping the profits while the public bears the costs and liabilities. We have relied for too long on private, often global, capital, while the Chinese run circles around us building infrastructure with credit simply created on the books of their government-owned banks.

Earlier publicly-owned U.S. national banks and U.S. Treasuries pulled off similar feats, using what Sen. Henry Clay, U.S. statesman from 1806 to 1852, named the “American System” – funding national production simply with “sovereign” money and credit. They included the First (1791-1811) and Second (1816-1836) Banks of the United States, President Lincoln’s federal treasury and banking system, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) (1932-1957). Chester Morrill, former Secretary of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, wrote of the RFC:

[I]t became apparent almost immediately, to many Congressmen and Senators, that here was a device which would enable them to provide for activities that they favored for which government funds would be required, but without any apparent increase in appropriations. . . . [T]here need be no more appropriations and its activities could be enlarged indefinitely, as they were, almost to fantastic proportions. [emphasis added]

Even the Federal Reserve with its “quantitative easing” cannot fund infrastructure without driving up federal expenditures or debt, at least without changes to the Federal Reserve Act. The Fed is not allowed to spend money directly into the economy or to lend directly to Congress. It must go through the private banking system and its “primary dealers.” The Fed can create and pay only with “reserves” credited to the reserve accounts of banks. These reserves are a completely separate system from the deposits circulating in the real producer/consumer economy; and those deposits are chiefly created by banks when they make loans. (See the Bank of England’s 2014 quarterly report here.) New liquidity gets into the real economy when banks make loans to local businesses and individuals; and in risky environments like that today, banks are not lending adequately even with massive reserves on their books.

A publicly-owned national infrastructure bank, on the other hand, would be mandated to lend into the real economy; and if the loans were of the “self funding” sort characterizing most infrastructure projects (generating fees to pay off the loans), they would be repaid, canceling out the debt by which the money was created. That is how China built 12,000 miles of high-speed rail in a decade: credit created on the books of government-owned banks was advanced to pay for workers and materials, and the loans were repaid with profits from passenger fees.

Unlike the QE pumped into financial markets, which creates asset bubbles in stocks and housing, this sort of public credit mechanism is not inflationary. Credit money advanced for productive purposes balances the circulating money supply with new goods and services in the real economy. Supply and demand rise together, keeping prices stable. China increased its money supply by nearly 1800% over 24 years (from 1996 to 2020) without driving up price inflation, by increasing GDP in step with the money supply.

HR 6422, The National Infrastructure Bank Act of 2020

A promising new bill for a national infrastructure bank modeled on the RFC and the American System, H.R. 6422, was filed by Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., in March. The National Infrastructure Bank of 2020 (NIB) is projected to create $4 trillion or more in bank credit money to rebuild the nation’s rusting bridges, roads, and power grid; relieve traffic congestion; and provide clean air and water, new schools and affordable housing. It will do this while generating up to 25 million union jobs paying union-level wages. The bill projects a net profit to the government of $80 billion per year, which can be used to cover infrastructure needs that are not self-funding (broken pipes, aging sewers, potholes in roads, etc.). The bill also provides for substantial investment in “disadvantage communities,” those defined by persistent poverty.

The NIB is designed to be a true depository bank, giving it the perks of those institutions for leverage and liquidity, including the ability to borrow at the Fed’s discount window without penalty at 0.25% interest (almost interest-free). According to Alphecca Muttardy, a former macroeconomist for the International Monetary Fund and chief economist on the 2020 NIB team, the NIB will create the $4 trillion it lends simply as deposits on its books, as the Bank of England attests all depository banks do. For liquidity to cover withdrawals, the NIB can either borrow from the Fed at 0.25% or issue and sell bonds.

Modeled on its American System predecessors, the NIB will be capitalized with existing federal government debt. According to the summary on the NIB Coalition website:

The NIB would be capitalized by purchasing up to $500 billion in existing Treasury bonds held by the private sector (e.g., in pension and other savings funds), in exchange for an equivalent in shares of preferred [non-voting] stock in the NIB. The exchange would take place via a sales contract with the NIB/Federal Government that guarantees a preferred stock dividend of 2% more than private-holders currently earn on their Treasuries. The contract would form a binding obligation to provide the incremental 2%, or about $10 billion per year, from the Budget. While temporarily appearing as mandatory spending under the Budget, the $10 billion per year would ultimately be returned as a dividend paid to government, from the NIB’s earnings stream.

Since the federal government will be paying the interest on the bonds, the NIB needs to come up with only the 2% dividend to entice investors. The proposal is to make infrastructure loans at a very modest 2%, substantially lower than the rates now available to the state and local governments that create most of the nation’s infrastructure. At a 10% capital requirement, the bonds can capitalize ten times their value in loans. The return will thus be 20% on a 2% dividend outlay from the NIB, for a net return on investment of 18% less operating costs. The U.S. Treasury will also be asked to deposit Treasury bonds with the bank as an “on-call” subscriber.

The American System: Sovereign Money and Credit

U.S. precedents for funding internal improvements with “sovereign credit” – credit issued by the national government rather than borrowed from the private banking system – go back to the American colonists’ paper scrip, colonial Pennsylvania’s “land bank”, and the First U.S. Bank of Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. Treasury Secretary. Hamilton proposed to achieve the constitutional ideal of “promoting the general welfare” by nurturing the country’s fledgling industries with federal subsidies for roads, canals, and other internal improvements; protective measures such as tariffs; and easy credit provided through a national bank. Production and the money to finance it would all be kept “in house,” without incurring debt to foreign financiers. The national bank would promote a single currency, making trade easier, and would issue loans in the form of “sovereign credit.” ’

Senator Henry Clay called this model the “American System” to distinguish it from the “British System” that left the market to the “invisible hand” of “free trade,” allowing big monopolies to gobble up small entrepreneurs, and foreign bankers and industrialists to exploit the country’s labor and materials. After the charter for the First US Bank expired in 1811, Congress created the Second Bank of the United States in 1816 on the American System model.

In 1836, Pres. Andrew Jackson shut down the Second U.S. Bank due to perceived corruption, leaving the country with no national currency and precipitating a recession. “Wildcat” banks issued their own banknotes – promissory notes allegedly backed by gold. But the banks often lacked the gold necessary to redeem the notes, and the era was beset with bank runs and banking crises.

Abraham Lincoln’s economic advisor was Henry Carey, the son of Matthew Carey, a well-known printer and publisher who had been tutored by Benjamin Franklin and had tutored Henry Clay. Henry Carey proposed creating an independent national currency that was non-exportable, one that would remain at home to do the country’s own work. He advocated a currency founded on “national credit,” something he defined as “a national system based entirely on the credit of the government with the people, not liable to interference from abroad.” It would simply be a paper unit of account that tallied work performed and goods delivered.

On that model, in 1862 Abraham Lincoln issued U.S. Notes or Greenbacks directly from the U.S. Treasury, allowing Lincoln’s government not only to avoid an exorbitant debt to British bankers and win the Civil War, but to fund major economic development, including tying the country together with the transcontinental railroad – an investment that actually turned a profit for the government.

After Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, the Greenback program was discontinued; but Lincoln’s government also passed the National Bank Act of 1863, supplemented by the National Bank Act of 1864. Originally known as the National Currency Act, its stated purpose was to stabilize the banking system by eradicating the problem of notes issued by multiple banks circulating at the same time. A single banker-issued national currency was created through chartered national banks, which could issue notes backed by the U.S. Treasury in a quantity proportional to the bank’s level of capital (cash and federal bonds) deposited with the Comptroller of the Currency.

From Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation (1932-57) to HR 6422

The American president dealing with an economic situation most closely resembling that today, however, was Franklin D. Roosevelt. America’s 32nd president resolved massive unemployment and infrastructure problems by greatly expanding the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) set up by his predecessor Herbert Hoover. The RFC was a remarkable publicly-owned credit machine that allowed the government to finance the New Deal and World War II without turning to Congress or the taxpayers for appropriations. The RFC was not called an infrastructure bank and was not even a bank, but it served the same basic functions. It was continually enlarged and modified by Pres. Roosevelt to meet the crisis of the times until it became America’s largest corporation and the world’s largest financial organization. Its semi-independent status let it work quickly, allowing New Deal agencies to be financed as the need arose. According to

[T]he RFC—by far the most influential of New Deal agencies—was an institution designed to save capitalism from the ravages of the Great Depression. Through the RFC, Roosevelt and the New Deal handed over $10 billion to tens of thousands of private businesses, keeping them afloat when they would otherwise have gone under ….

A similar arrangement could save local economies from the ravages of the global shutdowns today.

The Banking Acts of 1932 provided the RFC with capital stock of $500 million and the authority to extend credit up to $1.5 billion (subsequently increased several times). The initial capital came from a stock sale to the U.S. Treasury. With those modest resources, from 1932 to 1957 the RFC loaned or invested more than $40 billion. A small part of this came from its initial capitalization. The rest was financed with bonds sold to the Treasury, some of which were then sold to the public. The RFC ended up borrowing a total of $51.3 billion from the Treasury and $3.1 billion from the public.

Thus the Treasury was the lender, not the borrower, in this arrangement. As the self-funding loans were repaid, so were the bonds that were sold to the Treasury, leaving the RFC with a net profit. The RFC was the lender for thousands of infrastructure and small business projects that revitalized the economy, and these loans produced a total net income of over $690 million on the RFC’s “normal” lending functions (omitting such things as extraordinary grants for wartime). The RFC financed roads, bridges, dams, post offices, universities, electrical power, mortgages, farms, and much more–all while generating income for the government.

HR 6422 proposes to mimic this feat. The National Infrastructure Bank of 2020 can rebuild crumbling infrastructure across America, pushing up long-term growth, not only without driving up taxes or the federal debt, but without hyperinflating the money supply or generating financial asset bubbles. The NIB has growing support across the country from labor leaders, elected officials, and grassroots organizations. It can generate real wealth in the form of upgraded infrastructure and increased employment as well as federal and local taxes and GDP, paying for itself several times over without additional outlays from the federal government. With official unemployment at nearly double what it was a year ago and an economic crisis unlike the U.S. has seen in nearly a century, the NIB can trigger the sort of “economic miracle” the country desperately needs.