Monthly Archives: July 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 25, 2021


 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 25, 2021

by Tony Wikrent

The Pandemic

US sees COVID-19 cases surge by 224% in last three weeks as CDC director says the Indian ‘Delta’ variant now makes up 83% of all new infections 

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 7-21-2021]

‘I’m sorry, but it’s too late’: Alabama doctor on treating unvaccinated, dying COVID patients 

[, via Naked Capitalism 7-22-2021]

In the United States, COVID is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated, according to the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Alabama, state officials report 94% of COVID hospital patients and 96% of Alabamians who have died of COVID since April were not fully vaccinated….

“I try to be very non-judgmental when I’m getting a new COVID patient that’s unvaccinated, but I really just started asking them, ‘Why haven’t you gotten the vaccine?’ And I’ll just ask it point blank, in the least judgmental way possible,” she said. “And most of them, they’re very honest, they give me answers. ‘I talked to this person, I saw this thing on Facebook, I got this email, I saw this on the news,’ you know, these are all the reasons that I didn’t get vaccinated.

“And the one question that I always ask them is, did you make an appointment with your primary care doctor and ask them for their opinion on whether or not you should receive the vaccine? And so far, nobody has answered yes to that question.”

Republicans freak out because the delta variant they fostered is killing ... Republicans

Dartagnan, July 21, 2021 [DailyKos]

Let’s be clear on something: Variants to the COVID-19 virus are caused by allowing the virus to continue spreading among the unvaccinated, giving it more time and opportunity to mutate. The more unvaccinated people there are, the better the chance of a variant developing and spreading. That’s what led to this delta variant that’s now ravaging the vaccine-refusing Republican population in this country. In simpler terms, Republican intransigence and political pandering created and abetted the conditions that led to the spread of the delta variant and encouraged an environment that allowed it to flourish. And now that it’s disproportionately killing “their” people, in red-leaning states, Republican elected officials are desperately seeking—once again—to avoid the blame.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-23-21]

You have to click through to see the math and the assumptions behind 80,000 Republican voters dying of COVID in Florida over the coming year.


“In-person voting really did accelerate covid-19’s spread in America”

[Economist, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-20-21]


How the Delta variant achieves its ultrafast spread 

[Nature, via Naked Capitalism 7-23-2021]

“[T]he researchers report that virus was first detectable in people with the Delta variant four days after exposure,compared with an average of six days among people with the original strain, suggesting that Delta replicates much faster. Individuals infected with Delta also had viral loads up to 1,260 times higher than those in people infected with the original strain.” The short incubation period makes contact tracing harder, in countries that do that, and the high viral load increases the likelihood of superspreading events.

“The Delta Variant Will Drive A Steep Rise In U.S. COVID Deaths, A New Model Shows”

[National Public Radio, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-23-21]

“The current COVID-19 surge in the U.S. — fueled by the highly contagious delta variant — will steadily accelerate through the summer and fall, peaking in mid-October, with daily deaths more than triple what they are now. That’s according to new projections released Wednesday from the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, a consortium of researchers working in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help the agency track the course of the pandemic…. ‘What’s going on in the country with the virus is matching our most pessimistic scenarios,’ says Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina who helps run the modeling hub. “We might be seeing synergistic effects of people becoming less cautious in addition to the impacts of the delta variant. ‘I think it’s a big call for caution,’ he adds. The group’s latest projections combine ten different mathematical models from various academic teams to create an ‘ensemble’ projection. It offers four scenarios for its projections — varying based on what percent of the population gets vaccinated and how quickly the delta variant spreads. In the most likely scenario, Lessler says, the U.S. reaches only 70% vaccination among eligible Americans, and the delta variant is 60% more transmissible. In that scenario, at the peak in mid-October, there would be around 60,000 cases and around 850 deaths each day, Lessler says.”

America Is Getting Unvaccinated People All Wrong 

Ed Yong [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 7-23-2021]

….we tend to hear similar questions among people who are unvaccinated. They may also have heard common threads of disinformation, but they’re still asking basic questions. The top one is around side effects, which are one of the main things we talk about when we give informed consent for any procedure. If people aren’t sure about that, it’s no wonder they’re still saying no.

A lot of vaccine information isn’t common knowledge. Not everyone has access to Google. This illustrates preexisting fault lines in our health-care system, where resources—including credible information—don’t get to everyone. The information gap is driving the vaccination gap. And language that blames “the unvaccinated” misses that critical point. Black folks are one of the least vaccinated groups, in part because they have the least access to preventive health-care services.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-23-2021]


Strategic Political Economy

The Decision to Let Covid Go Chronic

Ian Welsh, July 20, 2021

Our elites  have chosen not to control Covid. It’s tiresome to keep going through Pandemic 101, but they haven’t tracked and traced, haven’t quarantined, haven’t enforced vaccines, haven’t opened up vaccine patents and helped every country manufacture them, haven’t kept lockdowns going long enough, have opened schools, refused to acknowledge Covid was airborne for too long, and on, and on, and on.

There is a playbook for defeating pandemics, it is well understood, and only a few countries ran it.

Covid has made the rich much richer. It kills old and poor people primarily. Selling Covid boosters every year or even twice a year for $150/pop to everyone who can afford them is a lovely new sinecure for pharma.

Because Covid has proved to be a great boon to almost everyone important, i.e., everyone who actually makes decisions or influences them, there’s no reason to end it.

And so it appears it’s going to go chronic.

Even if there are some countries who keep it under control, there will be vast numbers who don’t, and they will serve as pools for Covid to continue to evolve. This is good, of course, if you are a pharma exec with stock options, because that means new booster shots! Vaccinated populations which do not reach crowd immunity are a thing of beauty, allowing Covid to evolve against the vaccines!

Dismal Economics 

James Galbraith [Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 7-24-2021]

Although neoclassical economics relies on assumptions that should have been discarded long ago, it remains the mainstream orthodoxy. Three recent books, and one older one, help to show why its staying power should be regarded as a scandal.

Mississippi asks US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade 

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 7-23-2021]

Mississippi's attorney general told the Supreme Court on Thursday that Roe v. Wade was "egregiously wrong" and should be overturned as she urged the justices to allow a controversial law that bars most abortions after 15 weeks to go into effect.

"The conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition" state Attorney General Lynn Fitch told the justices in a new brief, launching the opening salvo in the most important abortion-related dispute the court has heard in decades.

Mississippi’s brief.

Net-Zero 2050 May Need Up To $173 Trillion Investments — Tsvetana Paraskova

[Oilprice, via Mike Norman Economics 7-22-2021]

Actually, the estimate is between 92 and 173 trillion in USD terms over the next 30 years. It is doable but will take concerted effort in a divided world, especially when the US is divided internally on the issues involved. The problem is more political than economic.

Lars P. Syll — It’s not the debt we need to fix, stupid! It’s our thinking.

[Lars P. Syll’s Blog, via Mike Norman Economics 7-22-2021]

The ad nauseam repeated claim that our public debt is excessive and that we have to balance the public budget is nothing but absolute nonsense.

“We’ve Got To Fight Disinformation,” Says Empire Made Entirely Of Disinformation 

[Caitlin Johnstone, via Naked Capitalism 7-20-2021]

Predatory Capitalism in the Time of COVID19

Medical debt overtakes nonmedical as largest source in collections. COVID-19 may be making it worse. 

[Health Care Dive, via Naked Capitalism 7-22-2021]

Economic disequilibrium

Ohio Pizzeria Workers Get $78 An Hour In Surprise Profit Sharing 

[Patch, via Naked Capitalism 7-18-2021]

Workers at the Heavenly Pizza in Findlay, Ohio, made nearly double what the owner had hoped for on the July 5 employee appreciation day.… As the day started, a typical Monday would include about 90 orders, Elchert said on Facebook — but that 200 "would be fantastic" to help the employees. By closing time, Heavenly Pizza totaled 220 orders, bringing in $6,300 in sales and $1,200 in tips.

Almost nobody is repaying their student loans 

[Yahoo News, via Naked Capitalism 7-19-2021]

As Tom Lee of the American Action Forum recently explained, the portion of borrowers repaying their student loans dropped from 46% at the beginning of 2020 to 1% today. The portion of borrowers in forbearance rose from 10% to 57%. The rest include borrowers who are still in school, who have gotten deferments or who have defaulted….

But the massive student-loan deferment may have set the stage for a chaotic resumption of payments this fall, or politically explosive intervention by the Biden administration that could impact upcoming elections.

“The Trillion-Dollar Lie” [or, “some student loans CAN be discharged in bankruptcy”]

Matt Taibbi, July 22, 2021

“What did [the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005] say, exactly? For years, it was believed that it absolutely closed the door on bankruptcy for whole classes of borrowers, and one in particular: students. Nearly fifteen years after the bill’s passage, journalists were still using language like, ‘The bill made it completely impossible to discharge student loan debt.’ Even I did this, writing multiple features about student loans stressing their absolute non-dischargeability. In 2017, I interviewed a 68 year-old named Veronica Martish who filed for personal bankruptcy — as I put it, ‘not to get free of student loans, of course, since bankruptcy protection isn’t available for students’ — and described her being chased by collectors to her deathbed. ‘By the time I die, I will probably pay over $200,000 toward an $8000 loan,’ she said. ‘They chase you until you’re old, like me. They never stop. Ever.’ I got it wrong. Beginning in the 2010s, judges all over the U.S. began handing down decisions in cases… that revealed lenders had essentially tricked the public into not asking basic questions, like: What is a ‘student loan’? Is it anything a lender calls a student loan? Is a school anything a lender calls a school? Is a student anyone who takes a class? Can lenders loan as much as they want, or can they only lend as much as school actually costs? And so on.”

Production didn’t stop when line worker died and more. Frito-Lay employee gives glimpse behind the scenes. 

[Topeka Capitol-Journal, via Naked Capitalism 7-19-2021]

The Big Law Cartel: How Antitrust Lawyers Help Their Clients Break the Law 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 7-19-2021]

Purdue bankruptcy watchdog says protections benefiting Sacklers are ‘illegal’ 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 7-20-2021]

How Did the Sacklers Pull This Off? This Is What Billionaire Justice Looks Like

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 7-18-2021]

Though they are widely reviled for profiting from a public health crisis that has resulted in the death of half a million Americans, they have used their money and influence to play our system like a harp. It is hardly news that our society treats people like Mr. Washington with sledgehammer vengeance and people like the Sacklers with velvet gloves. 

I Was Taught From a Young Age to Protect My Dynastic Wealth

[The Atlantic), via The Daily Poster 7-19-2021]

“The more interesting question is not how the men in ProPublica’s report were able to avoid paying much or anything in federal income taxes, but why. What motivates people with so much money to try to withhold every last bit of it from the public’s reach?”

Predatory Finance

Robust and Resilient Finance 

John Kay [via Naked Capitalism 7-22-2021]

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

Law Firm that Was Sued Last Year by NYS Attorney General for Refusing to Turn Over Trump Documents Lands a Partner to Head the Criminal Division in Biden’s Justice Department

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, July 22, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

“Biden to Tap Former Hill Aide for Top Treasury Post Overseeing Financial Rules” [Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-22-21]

“President Biden plans to nominate Graham Steele as assistant Treasury secretary for financial institutions, a move that would put a long-time congressional staffer with ties to progressives at the center of efforts to refocus financial rules on issues such as climate change and racial equity. Mr. Steele, a former Democratic chief counsel on the Senate Banking Committee and aide to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), would oversee the Biden administration’s plans to tighten regulations on Wall Street firms. That could include heightened scrutiny of cryptocurrencies; open-end mutual funds and hedge funds and their roles in market turbulence last year; and the financial sector’s exposure to climate-change risks. Mr. Steele is the director of the Corporations and Society Initiative at Stanford Graduate School of Business, which seeks to “promote more accountable capitalism and governance,” according to its website. He previously served as a staffer at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and also worked at Public Citizen, a progressive watchdog group, before joining Mr. Brown’s staff in 2010.”

Transcript: Brian Deese, NEC Director

Barry Ritholtz, July 25, 2021 [The Big Picture]

Very telling that Deese, Director of the National Economic Council, frames Biden’s executive order two weeks ago as attacking economic concentration because it has so far failed to deliver “follow-through benefit” to consumers. This is an ideological acceptance of the framing created by Robert Bork, and movement conservatives. Proof again that neoliberals are philosophically incapable of challenging conservatism. The proper way to challenge conservatism and its defense of hierarchy, privilege, and wealth is to insist on classic civic republicanism’s understanding that all concentrations of power, whether political or economic, are inherently dangerous.

DEESE: Well, I appreciate you counting words and actions because we are — we’re certainly focused on that as well. We’re really excited about this executive order, and it’s based on a kind of very simple but important intuition, which is that having fair and open competition is a fundable — fundamental ingredient of a healthy capitalist economy. It’s what actually drives better outcomes — lower prices, higher wages, more innovation, more economic growth.

And so the, quote, goal of this executive order is “to reset across the entire executive branch a focus on where and in what ways can we encourage healthy competition in service of achieving those outcomes,” lower prices, higher wages, more innovation.

And what we’ve seen across time is that our economy has gotten less competitive. We have a larger number of our industries that are now more concentrated than they were 20 or 30 years ago. We’ve seen the rate of new business formation, particularly small business formation fall by almost 50 percent since the 1970’s.

And if you look across industries, whether it’s, you know, in — in meat packing or in broadband Internet, consumers’ choices have been constrained. And we haven’t seen the kind of the — the follow-through benefit that at least has been argued by folks who say, you know, more consolidation will actually generate lower prices for consumers. We haven’t seen that either.

In fact, if you aggregate up the impact of consolidation to an American household in terms of prices and wages and other attendant costs, you know, the best estimate so that it’s costing about $5,000 a year for the typical household. So the goal of this executive order is to say how can we start to get at that. And fundamentally, this is — this is its — its — this is not about being sort of pro-business or anti-business, this is about being pro-competition.

A lot of the ideas in this executive order are actually deregulatory in nature, trying to remove some barriers to entry that actually keep workers from more effectively moving and competing for jobs or new businesses to enter into new markets, and grow and gain market share as a result. So that’s the — that’s — that’s the — at a high level, that’s our goal.

A Republican Form of Government

Robert Kuttner, July 21, 2021 [The American Prospect]

One of the sleeper clauses in the U.S. Constitution is Article IV, Section 4, known as the Guarantee Clause. It provides that “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government.”

Note that this is republican with a lowercase r, as in government by and for the people, and not Republican as in the Republican Party….  Question: If a combination of extreme voter suppression and gimmicks that allow the incumbent ruling party to overturn elections leads to the permanent entrenchment of one party, at what point does this violate the Guarantee Clause? Can a one-party state based on rigged elections, by any stretch, be considered a “republican form of government”?

Kuttner links to a paper by leading constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Berkeley law school, laying out a more expansive interpretation of the Guarantee Clause. Other useful readings: 

Arthur E. Bonfield, “The Guarantee Clause of Article IV, Section 4: A Study in Constitutional Desuetude” 46 Minnesota Law Review 513 (May, 1961)

Cass R. Sunstein, “Beyond the Republican Revival” 97 Yale Law Journal (1988).

Information Age Dystopia

[Visual Capitalist, via Mike Norman Economics 7-19-2021]
  • Collectively, Amazon, Facebook, and Google make over $112 billion in advertising revenues
  • Two-thirds of ads in the U.S. are now digital

The Most Influential Spreader of Coronavirus Misinformation Online 

[New York Times 7-24-2021]

Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician, creates and profits from misleading claims about Covid-19, researchers and regulators say. An internet-savvy entrepreneur, he has published over 600 articles on Facebook that cast doubt on vaccines.  

“Apple AirPod batteries are almost impossible to replace, showing the need for right-to-repair reform”

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-20-21]

“Some owners have noticed that, after a few years, used AirPods eventually will last only an hour or so before needing to be recharged — a big decay from the four-to-five-hour battery life they have when new. Because each AirPod is so small and so tightly packed into its housing, it’s almost impossible to swap out the old battery for a new one. Most people give up and just buy a new pair.” • Planned obsolescence

Disrupting mainstream politics

An Empire State Uprising: Progressives win primaries in western New York, intensifying their challenge to the Democratic machine.

[Daily Poster 7-19-2021]

On June 22, Rochester, New York’s third-largest and poorest city, along with the surrounding Monroe County, experienced a political earthquake. At the top of the ticket, incumbent Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren suffered a landslide loss to challenger Malik Evans. While progressives were somewhat lukewarm on Evans, some saw Warren’s ouster as a vote of no confidence in her response to police misconduct that has plagued Rochester over the past year, including an alleged cover-up surrounding the death of Daniel Prude at the hands of the Rochester police department last March….

For progressives and even mainstream Democrats, last month’s county legislature elections were a watershed, due to the defeat of the majority of a bloc of conservative Democrats who called themselves the “Black and Asian Democratic Caucus.” Despite being registered Democrats, the four members of the caucus and one closely allied legislator have for the past year “aligned strategically with the Republican majority in the Legislature,” the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported in June. The group aided Republicans on recent key votes blocking ethics reform and censure of a legislator who sent unsolicited sexually explicit photos to a young woman.

Candidates backed by the Working Families Party, including a professional boxing promoter, defeated three legislators affiliated with the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus. With a fourth retiring, the bloc’s influence is effectively dead.

The COVID Delta Variant Is Creating Pandemonium in Washington 

[Vanity Fair, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-23-21]


History As End: 1619, 1776, and the politics of the past

Matthew Karp [Harpers, via Naked Capitalism 7-22-2021]

….Today it is not conservatives but liberals who are most sincerely committed to American history. Yet they too have evolved, perhaps even more dramatically, from their ideological forbearers. Great liberal historians from Thomas Babington Macaulay to James M. McPherson are famous for a kind of baseline optimism, expressed in complex accounts of contested and contingent events that ultimately lead to progress. In lesser hands, the liberal narrative can slide toward complacency—or worse, the construction of an American story in which each act of brutality (colonization, slavery, Jim Crow) somehow only sets the stage for the triumphant advance to come (nationhood, emancipation, civil rights). This has been the rhetorical terrain of Democratic presidents since John F. Kennedy, a happy realm where confessed historical crimes painlessly resolve into patriotic triumphs….

Today’s historicist critics operate within a different kind of cosmology. In her essay introducing the 1619 Project, the journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones notes that black Americans have fought for and achieved “astounding progress,” not only for themselves, but for all Americans. Yet the project does not really explore this compelling story: in fact, it largely skips over the antislavery movement, the Civil War, and the civil-rights era. Strikingly, Frederick Douglass appears more often in [Trump’s] 1776 Report than in the 1619 Project, where he originally received just two brief mentions, both in an essay by Wesley Morris on black music. Martin Luther King Jr., for his part, makes only one appearance in the 1619 Project, the same number as Martin Shkreli. In more than one hundred pages of print, we read about very few major advocates of abolition or labor and civil rights: Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Henry Highland Garnet, A. Philip Randolph, Ella Baker, Rosa Parks, and Bayard Rustin are just a few of those who go unmentioned….

The question, as The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer has written, is not only about the facts, but the politics of the metaphor: “a fundamental disagreement over the trajectory of American society.” In a country that is now wealthier than any society in human history but which still groans under the most grotesque inequalities in the developed world—in health care, housing, criminal justice, and every other dimension of social life—the optimistic liberal narrative put forward by Kennedy and Clinton has ceased to inspire….

Whatever birthday it chooses to commemorate, origins-obsessed history faces a debilitating intellectual problem: it cannot explain historical change. A triumphant celebration of 1776 as the basis of American freedom stumbles right out of the gate—it cannot describe how this splendid new republic quickly became the largest slave society in the Western Hemisphere. A history that draws a straight line forward from 1619, meanwhile, cannot explain how that same American slave society was shattered at the peak of its wealth and power—a process of emancipation whose rapidity, violence, and radicalism have been rivaled only by the Haitian Revolution. This approach to the past, as the scholar Steven Hahn has written, risks becoming a “history without history,” deaf to shifts in power both loud and quiet. Thus it offers no way to understand either the fall of Richmond in 1865 or its symbolic echo in 2020, when an antiracist coalition emerged whose cultural and institutional strength reflects undeniable changes in American society. The 1619 Project may help explain the “forces that led to the election of Donald Trump,” as the Times executive editor Dean Baquet described its mission, but it cannot fathom the forces that led to Trump’s defeat—let alone its own Pulitzer Prize.  

The Dark Side

“‘Buying Votes’ Is Good, Actually”

[Eric Levitz, New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-20-21]

“To be fair, [Fox Business host Stuart] Varney does seem to recognize that voters like social democratic policies. That is, more or less, his secondary objection to the CTC; that the Democrats’ embrace of the policy represents a craven act of pandering to the popular will. Varney’s argument seems to be that elected officials have a responsibility to avoid competing on the basis of how much aid they can deliver to the public, lest they end up in a race to the bottom. To violate this tacit gentleman’s agreement is to corrupt the political system through mass bribery. Democrats are, in his words, ‘buying votes.’ This sentiment has a long pedigree on the right. It is essentially an updated version of 19th-century conservatives’ arguments against mass democracy: That granting all men political equality would render government hostage to the imprudent, extortionate appetites of popular majorities. As the chancellor of New York, James Kent, argued at the Empire State’s Constitutional Convention in 1820, “the tendency of universal suffrage is to jeopardize the rights of property and the principles of liberty.”

“Does the Biden Administration Really Think It Can ‘Out-Organize’ Voter Suppression?”

[Vanity Fair, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-23-21]

“There is a certain amount of political realism to this tack: The John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act can’t pass with the filibuster in place, and even if Biden were to come around on abolishing it, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema say there’s no circumstance in which they would. Returning to a talking filibuster or lowering the bar from 60 votes to 55 could be possible, but such changes may not be enough to stop Republicans, whose political prospects depend on the very voter suppression efforts the bills are meant to prevent. “I would talk till I fell over,” Lindsey Graham said in March, suggesting that even making the filibuster more difficult to deploy wouldn’t keep Republicans from doing so. To the White House, it might make more sense to direct their efforts where they have a better chance of succeeding. Democrats turned out a record number of voters for Biden in 2020, even with the obstacles to access that already existed and a raging pandemic. Surely they could do it again — right?”

Lambert Strether notes that “Butchering the pandemic over the summer won’t help.”

Gambling on the Martingale Strategy

Suppose for a minute that you just wagered 25 cents on the outcome of a coin flip with a friend. The coin flip happens, you call "heads" while it's in the air, but after it falls, it comes up "tails". You've lost.

Your friend offers you the chance to go again. You take it, but you double the size of your bet to 50 cents. The coin is flipped and you call "tails", but it comes up "heads" and you lose again. Now, you're down 75 cents. Your friend offers you another chance to play.

Once again, you take it. But once again, you double the size of your bet, raising it to one dollar (or 100 cents, if you prefer). This time, the outcome of the coin toss matches your call, and you win. You've gone from 75 cents in hole to a net gain of 25 cents compared to when you started playing.

You may not realize it, but you've been using the martingale system (or strategy) in choosing the size of your bets. The strategy was first put forward by French mathematician Paul Lévy, who realized that one winning bet was all that was needed to turn around and fully reverse the outcome of a series of losing bets. Of course, the catch is that you have to have sufficient resources to weather the losses while you're racking up losing bets and realistic odds of eventually winning your wager to make it work for you, but if you want to learn more about the mathematical insight behind it, check out the following 19 minute Numberphile video featuring Tom Crawford.

If you're ready to head to the casino after seeing the video, you can rest assured you will not see any games where you have a 50% chance of winning or losing. There are some games that come close to those odds, but the potential rewards will be less.

With some modifications, you could apply the system to investing, but you'll find that approach has many of the same limitations:

Drawbacks of the Martingale Strategy

  • The amount spent on trading can reach huge proportions after just a few transactions.
  • If the trader runs out of funds and exits the trade while using the strategy, the losses faced can be disastrous.
  • There is a chance that the stocks stop trading at some point in time.
  • The risk-to-reward ratio of the Martingale Strategy is not reasonable. While using the strategy, higher amounts are spent with every loss until a win, and the final profit is only equal to the initial bet size.
  • The strategy ignores transaction costs associated with every trade.
  • There are limits placed by exchanges on trade size. Therefore, a trader does not receive an infinite number of chances to double a bet.

Don't forget that time is one of the transaction costs you pay. So are opportunity costs, because you may have other, better things to do with your stake that you are passing up by trying to come out just slightly ahead in continuing to play the same game you started losing.

Australian Politics 2021-07-23 09:52:00


How white Aussies who pretend to be Aboriginal are taking over universities and stealing high-paid jobs meant for real Indigenous Australians

Andrew Bolt blew the whistle on this some years back and was prosecuted for it

Aboriginal academic Victoria Grieve-Williams remembers the first time a white female acquaintance asked if she would support her claim to be Indigenous.

The woman was working in what was then the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and it would help her career if she was actually Aboriginal.

Dr Grieve-Williams, a Warraimaay woman from the mid-north coast of NSW and now adjunct professor at RMIT University in Melbourne, refused the woman's request.

'She actually called me and asked if I would support her in her claim to be an Aboriginal person,' Dr Grieve-Williams told Daily Mail Australia.

'I said to her that I couldn't do that because I didn't know anything about it. I'd always known her as a non-Aboriginal person.'

Ten years earlier the woman's mother, who worked at a university with Dr Grieve-Williams, had made a point of saying her daughter was not Aboriginal when they were discussing a particular course.

'Other people filled in the story with what was going on with her and why she wanted to be Aboriginal,' Dr Grieve-Williams said.

'A big reason was that she was working within ATSIC and they'd reclassified a job to be a position held by an Indigenous person. She told me that on the phone.'

The woman then sought to claim membership of an Aboriginal family group but they rejected her. A second mob did the same and she has since sought to identify with a third group that has not accepted her as one of their own.

The woman is now a professor at an Australian university where at least on paper she is considered Aboriginal.

Dr Grieve-Williams says the woman is one of growing number of Australians who claim to be Indigenous when they have no such ancestry.

These people are sometimes called 'box-tickers' - because they literally tick a box to say they are Aboriginal - but are known in Canada as Pretendians and in the United States as race-shifters.

Dr Grieve-Williams describes what they do as 'Indigenous identify fraud'.

'Aboriginal people are actually very badly affected by this,' she said. 'Universities and governments are employing so-called Aboriginal people without due diligence. 'High-level positions, huge salaries, great opportunities through Indigenous Business Australia, all of that's being gobbled up.

'There's no penalties, or checks and balances. These numbers are increasing.'

There is no way of knowing how many box-tickers there are in Australia but the practice seems particularly prevalent in academia and sectors of the public service where Aboriginality is sought and sometimes rewarded.

'It's a huge problem but the figures are difficult to assess,' Dr Grieve-Williams said.

Dr Grieve-Williams said Australian universities employed bogus Aboriginal academics as professors and right up to pro and deputy vice-chancellors.

How the government accepts Aboriginality

The federal government has applied a three-part test of Indigeneity since the 1980s. A person is considered Indigenous if he or she:

a) Is of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent

b) Identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and

c) Is accepted as such by the Indigenous community in which he or she resides or has resided.

When accessing services intended to address the social, health and educational issues that Indigenous people often face, proof of Indigeneity is required to ensure the intention of the assistance is honoured.

Most individuals seeking government assistance are required to provide a certified statement from an appropriately qualified individual or organisation (such as a local land council) to prove their identity and eligibility to receive services.

'The interesting thing I'm finding with my research is that Aboriginal people always recognise them, they always know they're not Aboriginal,' Dr Grieve-Williams said. 'Aboriginal people have been saying, "Hold on, that person isn't one of us" and nobody takes any notice.

'It's not only Aboriginal people who recognise it. It's non-Aboriginal people too.'

Box-tickers, who are concentrated in major east coast cities, are appropriating a culture that is not theirs and taking jobs and resources meant for Aboriginal Australians.

'It's very surreal, particularly to a person my age because when I grew up the worst thing you could be was Aboriginal,' Dr Grieve-Williams said.

'Aboriginal people were so scorned and vilified. There were these nasty "Abo" jokes. I couldn't begin to tell you the depths of racism that I experienced.

'We were always made to feel in deficit. And now the tables have turned right around but it's not the real Aboriginal people who are getting the benefit from all of this.'

There are particular benefits for box-tickers within academia who falsely claim to be Aboriginal.

'The benefits are to do with status, you have a certain status when you're a recognised Aboriginal person,' Dr Grieve-Williams said. 'But the main benefit is material.

'People get promoted very quickly. The interesting thing is box-tickers, or those committing identity fraud, seem to get the big jobs.

'They're promoted over other Aboriginal people. We joke and we say they're better at being Aboriginal people than we are.'

Until recently, the focus in Australia on box-tickers has been on outing individuals - in what some see as a witch hunt - but race-shifting is now recognised to be an international phenomenon.

Dr Grieve-Williams, a historian, spoke on the topic in May at a conference held by the Canadian Anthropology Society at the University of Guelph, Ontario.

She and fellow conference contributors were concerned the willingness to adopt a fake Aboriginal persona was causing real harm to genuine Indigenous people.

'I just thought this needs to be viable new area for research the way that it is in the United States and Canada,' Dr Grieve-Williams said. 'We need to be able to research this without a lot of opprobrium.

'The voices in Australia in defence of Indigenous identity fraud are very shrill, they're very damaging. You can be absolutely cancelled out because a lot of people have something to protect.

'One of the things that's been established in the United States and Canada is that the Pretendians support each other and it's the same thing in Australia.

'They will give each other jobs, they will give each other references, and they will often be quite aggressive and ostracising of real Aboriginal people.'

Dr Grieve-Williams said non-Aboriginal people taking public service jobs meant for Aboriginal applicants were known as 'nine-to-five blacks' and caused resentment.

'If you've got a person who comes in who calls themselves Aboriginal but who actually doesn't know anything about being Aboriginal then they rely on other people to inform them,' she said.

'They call them nine-to-five blacks because they're only black when they're in the office and then they go home to their white lives.'

Another term, 'black cladding', refers to a non-Indigenous business masquerading as an Indigenous business by deceptive marketing which invents or exaggerates Aboriginal involvement in the enterprise.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt - who is Indigenous - said there were government guidelines to reduce such fraud.

'Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander identity is something that is personal and can be extremely complex,' the spokeswoman said.

'Where concerns around a person's Indigeneity are raised, it is important that these concerns are considered on a case-by-case basis in an appropriate and sensitive manner.'

A spokesman for the Department of Education, Skills and Employment said: 'Verifying student and staff identities are matters for individual universities.'

Dr Grieve-Williams was frustrated the box-ticking problem was not taken more seriously by governments.

She said any debate was stifled by those with vested interests and that the fakes protested personal offence when their Aboriginality was challenged.

'The people who are committing this identify fraud, they cry lateral violence. They say, "Are you questioning my Aboriginality? I'm getting traumatised by this".'

It is indisputable the number of Australians who say they are Aboriginal has been increasing for decades at a rate far faster than the broader population, or that can be explained by births.

The last Census, conducted in 2016, estimated there were 798,400 Indigenous Australians - Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or both - making up 3.3 per cent of the citizenry.

That number was an increase of 19 per cent - or 128,500 people - on the estimate of 669,900 from the previous 2011 Census.

During the same period the whole Australian population grew by just 8.4 per cent to 24,210,800.

Since the introduction of a Standard Indigenous Question in 1996 - 'Are you of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin?' - the Census count of Indigenous Australians had increased by 83.9 per cent.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics cites several factors in this increase, including higher fertility rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

But it also recognises some respondents change whether or not they identify as Indigenous between Censuses, the next of which will be taken on August 10.

Part of the increase can be attributed to Australians discovering a previously unknown forebear, or a late acceptance of a once-shunned Aboriginal ancestry.

But at least some of these box-tickers are likely to be moved by a belief that to be white in modern Australia is to accept being part of a dark colonial history deeply associated with guilt.

Anecdotes suggest there is a mindset that identifying as Aboriginal seems more exotic, or might somehow afford claimants some spiritual connection with the land that doesn't exist.

Censuses record Australians in age brackets and there are not enough 'new' Indigenous individuals in the 0-4 years range each five years to account for the rise.

Between 2011 and 2016 almost every five-year Indigenous age cohort under 70 increased in size. And where the increases occur shows box-tickers don't live in the bush.

'The growth in counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons between 2011 and 2016 is not consistent across the country, with growth primarily occurring in major cities and on the eastern coast of Australia,' the Australian Bureau of Statistics states.

Dr Grieve-Williams has a store of tales about white people suddenly - or conveniently - deciding they were black.

'A friend of mine was running an ATSIC office in Tasmania in the 1990s and the Aboriginal population in Tasmania had just suddenly boomed by 13,000 people. She said people were just able to do it.'

'I'll never forget at one student meeting at a university in Brisbane this young man said that he was Aboriginal because he supported Aboriginal people's aims.

'He actually thought that was all he had to do to be Aboriginal. Then somebody said is your family Aboriginal and he said no.'


'Sick and tired of sport being ruined by politics': Pauline Hanson unleashes on the Matildas for posing with the Aboriginal flag at the Olympics

Pauline Hanson has unleashed on Olypmic athletes the Matildas after they posed with the Aboriginal flag at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Australian women's soccer side posed with the flag ahead of their Olympic Games opener against New Zealand in Tokyo on Wednesday night.

Ms Hanson claimed the moment was 'a slap in the face to all Australians' and accused the team of 'hijacking' the sporting competition.

The One Nation leader claimed the gesture was a 'token' effort to be politically correct.

'Australians are sick and tired of their favourite sports being ruined by politics,' Ms Hanson wrote in her press release on Friday.

'Indigenous flags don't represent all Australians. There's only one flag which truly represents all of us.'

After they posed with the flag, The Matildas then stood arm-in-arm on the halfway line as their Kiwi opponents dropped to one knee in a show of support against racism prior to the kick off.

But Ms Hanson said the gesture was designed to 'inflame division' rather than promote solidarity.

'Taxpayers don't shell out millions of dollars to send Olympic teams to represent two nations. We're one nation, Australia, indigenous and non-indigenous alike,' she said.

'Australians supporting their Olympic team deserve an explanation from the Australian Olympic Committee, and I'm sure they want to know what the Prime Minister has to say about it too.'

The Aboriginal flag was declared by law as the of the official flags of the nation in 1995.

The design of the flag includes three colours - black representing First Nations people, yellow representing the sun, and red the earth.

Viewers watching back home appreciated the inclusive gesture, but some also questioned why the team chose not to pose with the Australian flag.

'Hey Matildas.. you represent Australia. The Aboriginal flag is not the Australian flag,' one fan wrote.

Another added: 'I absolutely love watching the Matildas play but why the hell did they display the Aboriginal flag and not the Australian flag? It is such a strange, divisive situation for a country to have two flags in my opinion.

Others accused the Matildas of making a political statement.

'When will sport just be about getting on and playing sport, yes I agree statements need to be made about political issues but there is a place for that to happen surely,' one viewer commented.

Another questioned why the Matildas also didn't take a knee prior to kick-off.

'Lots of questions about the Matildas at the Olympics. Strong choice in not holding the Australian flag only the Aboriginal flag, but then not taking a knee like their NZ counterparts. Anyone know why or did I miss it?,' one woman tweeted.

But many viewers were pleased to see the Aboriginal flag on display.

'Well done Matildas for standing arm in arm in a show of unity and togetherness for all Australian cultures , if only those who kneel new the true value of equality,' one fan wrote.

Matildas captain Sam Kerr defended the gesture after the match and said decided on consultation with fellow indigenous members in the squad.

'We are really proud of it,' the star striker said following the 2-1 win against the New Zealanders.

'It's something we spoke about a lot as a team. 'We let the Indigenous girls drive it.'

'We didn't want to do something that goes along with the grain, we wanted to do something that was relevant for our country.'

Australia takes on world number five ranked Sweden in their next clash on Saturday who caused a massive upset on Wednesday night by defeating gold medal favourites USA 3-0.


Gas a critical interim energy source in move to renewables

When much of Queensland was blacked out by a power station explosion, it wasn’t renewables that came to the rescue, writes Des Houghton.

You could be forgiven for thinking there would have been a soaring demand for lovely green renewable power after the catastrophic explosion and fire that disrupted the Callide power station causing widespread blackouts in May.

Alas, it was not wind or solar power that came to the rescue, it was gas.

“The figures don’t lie. In Queensland’s hour of need it was gas that came to the rescue,” Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association CEO Andrew McConville said.

In fact the use of gas to generate power doubled to more than 20 per cent. Solar was hovering around 5 per cent and wind power much less.

“Gas has once again shown its versatility and reliability, literally keeping the lights on,” he said.

“Gas can do things that renewables simply can’t, including providing feedstock to manufacturing plants and helping create everyday products such as clothes, computers, phones, fertilisers and vital medical equipment such as heart valves.’’

The association’s Queensland chief Matt Paull said gas was worth $11.1 billion to the Queensland economy each year, and directly and indirectly employed more than 47,000 Queenslanders.

That is something for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to ponder as she continues to demonise hydrocarbons and criticise federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese for visiting a mine.

Paull said the sector has also invested more than $70 billion in Queensland’s economy to develop the natural gas and LNG industries.

Government estimates Australia’s LNG has the potential to lower emissions in LNG importing countries by around 170 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year by providing an alternative to higher emissions fuels – the equivalent of almost one-third of Australia’s total annual emissions.

Renewables will have their day, but not yet.


Australia's education crisis laid bare with shocking data showing one in five adults are unable to read or do math - as experts warn it will only get WORSE

Australia needs a national plan on reading, writing and numeracy for adults because learning at school is no longer enough, educators have told a federal inquiry.

The inquiry heard shame and embarrassment were also barriers to learning and people need to be reassured they are not alone.

One in five Australians, or around three million adults, have low literacy and/or numeracy scores, federal parliament's employment, education and training committee heard on Monday.

The educators and community workers called for a national plan to stop Australia from falling behind the rest of the developed world.

Language and literacy education expert Joseph Lo Bianco called for co-ordination, standard-setting and innovation from the Commonwealth.

'Adult literacy is no longer a welfare activity by good-hearted people,' Professor Bianco said.

'That's not enough.'

He said Australia was facing a historic moment as other nations adjusted to technology.

'We have to keep in mind artificial intelligence which, combined with cyber systems, is going to require much higher levels of comprehension and functioning than we've ever had.'

People who are adequate on reading and writing often nosedive in performance when numbers and charts are added, the committee heard.

Rapid change means learning on the job is becoming too risky.

Adult educators said farmers were coming forward to seek help in understanding the use of toxic chemicals and making critical decisions.

Australian Council for Educational Research spokeswoman Louise Wignall said aged care was another area needing strong digital literacy, for clinical notes and online learning for qualifications.

People need to know what words mean when applied in the real world.

'In real estate, it's location, location, location. In literacy, it's context, context, context,' Ms Wignall said.

Numerous reviews over the years have highlighted the need to target and support the improvement of adult and youth language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy across Australia.

Lowitja Institute chair Pat Anderson slammed mainstream models for First Nations peoples.

'These models in the past have just not worked,' she said.

Ms Anderson said it was public policy when her mother was young to not teach her to read and write.

'This is the perennial issue for the nation, that we still haven't really dealt with,' she said.

First Nations educators said bilingual learning would help young ones.

Australian Education Union boss Susan Hopgood said one quarter of Australian children arrive at school without the skills they need to learn, and never catch up.

'The intergenerational impacts of low literacy demonstrate exactly why the Commonwealth should prioritise resourcing for all levels of education,' she said.

The committee was keen on Victoria's state-funded 'learn local' model that offers a safe, non-stigmatised environment for adults.

'Learn local is really reducing a lot of barriers,' Victorian Council of Social Service policy officer Deb Fewster said.




Environmental Arguments Against the Penny

2021 Lincoln Penny Observse and Reverse - Source: U.S. Mint

As of 2019, roughly one third of polled Americans favor abolishing the penny.

That's still a minority, since over half of Americans responding to that poll favored keeping the penny circulating in the U.S. economy. But with inflation rising and the penny falling in value, the economics for keeping the penny in use are changing. From that perspective alone, it might soon be worth revisiting whether the U.S. Mint should continue stamping out the millions of copper-plated zinc discs it does each year.

That would follow the example of Canada. We learned a lot of economic arguments in favor of abolishing the penny from that country's "Godfather of the Ban-the-Penny Movement".

But we hadn't encountered an environmental argument against the lowest value U.S. coin in circulation until the American Council on Science and Health's Josh Bloom did some back-of-the-envelope math to quantify some of that impact.

Here's a portion of that discussion:

Pennies are not only a nuisance (stores hate them), but they are also an environmentally harmful nuisance. Here are a few facts that support this.

  • The melt value of a zinc penny is one-half of a cent.
  • Even so, according to the US Mint, it costs about 2.4 cents to make one penny.
  • In 2013 alone, this cost taxpayers $105 million.
  • Since 1982, 327 billion pennies have been minted.
  • A zinc penny weighs 2.5 g.
  • Doing the math, 327 billion pennies weigh 1.8 billion pounds
  • Tractor-trailer trucks can transport 80,000 pounds.
  • Given these figures, it required 22,500 full trucks to transport all the pennies that were minted since 1982.
  • A full tractor-trailer truck gets about 5 mpg.
  • Assuming that your average penny must travel 1,000 miles from the mint to wherever it is going (pure guess), it has taken 4.5 million gallons of fuel just to transport all the pennies that have been minted since 1982.
  • One gallon of diesel fuel produces 23.8 pounds of carbon dioxide when burned.
  • So, by simply hauling around all the stupid useless pennies since 1982, 107 million pounds of carbon dioxide has been emitted, plus who knows how much diesel pollution.
  • A whole bunch of zinc is being mined for no good reason. The mining itself causes more pollution.
  • About two-thirds of pennies don't even circulate. They are either thrown out or sitting around in jars.
  • Other countries have dropped the penny and started rounding off to the nearest five cents. It worked out just fine.
  • Some of this math may be correct.

And, these (very) rough calculations do not include the energy needed to mine the zinc ore, transport it to a smelter, purify the ore, transport the purified zinc to the mint, and then make it into pennies.

And that doesn't consider that most the world's zinc, including that used to make U.S. pennies since 1982, is mined in China before being shipped overseas, which also adds to the coin's carbon footprint.

We think the changing economics of pennies will have more impact on whether it makes sense to stop minting them than the environmental case. Exit question: how many people have already begun hoarding the copper pennies minted in 1982 and earlier the way people harvested silver coins out of general circulation after they stopped being minted in 1964?


Bloom, Josh. If Cash Is No Longer King What Does That Make Stupid Pennies? American Council on Science and Health. [Online Article]. 16 July 2021.

U.S. Mint. H.I.P. Pocket Change Kids Site: Penny. [Online article]. 2021.

Previously on Political Calculations

2010’s Worst Paying College Degrees Ten Years Later

In 2010, U.S. compensation and data software firm Payscale identified the 10 lowest paying college degrees for those starting their first jobs in their fields after graduation. We wondered how on the mark that list was, so we tapped Payscale's 2020 data for starting wages by college major to see if things got relatively better or worse for today's graduates in those fields.

The results are shown in the following chart. The original 2010 data is shown in blue and the newer 2020 data is shown in green. In between, in orange, we've adjusted the 2010 starting salary data for inflation to be in terms of 2020 U.S. dollars to make those older salaries directly comparable to the actual starting pay for graduates in the listed fields in 2020.

Starting Pay for 2010's Worst Paying College Degrees

After adjusting for inflation, we see only two degrees where the actual starting pay for graduates in 2020 is ahead of 2010's inflation-adjusted level: Athletic Training and Elementary Education. Horticulture comes close to breaking even, so to speak, and the remaining fields would appear to have become even less rewarding.

Of these less rewarding degrees, Culinary Arts presents the biggest gap between 2010's inflation adjusted pay and 2020's actual starting pay, followed by Special Eduation and Paralegal Studies.

In 2010, Payscale also indicated what an individual holding these degrees could expect to make at a mid-career point, some 10 or more years after graduation. Since it's 10 years later, we thought it would be especially interesting to see how 2020's actual mid-career pay compares with 2010's inflation-adjusted mid-career pay. Our results are shown in the next chart:

Mid-Career Pay for 2010's Worst Paying College Degrees

Once again, the fields of Culinary Arts and Athletic Training come out the furthest ahead after accounting for inflation, but Theology graduates also gained more income than would have been expected based on 2010's inflation-adjusted pay.

Most the other fields saw their 2010 graduates making something within a several percent of their 2010 peers' inflation adjusted pay, with one big exception, which looks like it is in error.

According to Payscale's 2020 survey data, individuals holding degrees in Special Education with 10 or more years of experience saw the average mid-career pay in their field collapse. At $54,500, it is just $700 higher than 2010's non-inflation adjusted pay, some $9,800 below what adjusting the mid-career income for 2010 would predict.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the median pay for Special Education teachers was $61,420 per year in 2019, which is more in line with Payscale's 2010 inflation-adjusted mid-career income figure.

We sampled other income data for other fields, which appears to be in line with Payscale's surveyed reults, so the 2020 mid-career pay figure for Special Education degree holders appears to be an outlier.

Overall, it appears most of 2010's lowest paying degrees for college graduates turned out to be as bad for pay 10 years later as 2010's data suggested they would be.