Sunday, June 5, 2022

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 5, 2022

 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 5, 2022

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-1-2022]


“Those who had to choose between material goods and France's soul, the material goods made the choice for them. The wealthy are possessed by what they possess."

[Twitter, May 29, 2022]



[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-2-2022]



Electric vehicles accelerate China’s looming dominance as a car exporter 

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 6-2-2022]

Bilderberg does China 

Pepe Escobar [The Vineyard of the Saker, via Mike Norman Economics 6-4-2022]

The Sanctioned Ones: How Iran-Russia are setting new rules

Pepe Escobar [The Cradle, via Mike Norman Economics 5-31-2022]

The first Eurasia Economic Forum, held last week in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, should be regarded as a milestone in setting the parameters for the geoeconomic integration of the Eurasian heartland.

Sergei Glazyev, Russia’s Minister in Charge of Integration and Macroeconomics of the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), is coordinating the drive to design an alternative monetary-financial system – a de facto post-Bretton Woods III – in cooperation with China.

According to Glazyev, the forum “discussed the model of a new global settlement currency pegged to baskets of national currencies and commodities. The introduction of this currency instrument in Eurasia will entail the collapse of the dollar system and the final undermining of the US military and political power. It is necessary to start negotiations on signing an appropriate international treaty within the framework of the SCO.”

How The Ukraine War Completely Upended Global Crude Flows

Tsvetana Paraskova [Oilprice, via Mike Norman Economics 5-31-2022] 

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

The Conglomerate Problem 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 6-3-2022]

Private equity is trying to gobble up baby formula. Broadcom is going to ruin VMware. Can antitrust enforcers stop the arson? Will judges let them?

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 5-30-2022]



Mastercard CEO: SWIFT Payment System May Be Replaced By (Central Bank Digital Currencies) In Five Years

[Zero Hedge, via Mike Norman Economics 5-30-2022]

There has been a long list of revelations coming out of the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, but one issue that might have gone under the media radar involves comments by Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach during a discussion on the future of cross-border payments between nations.

Miebach, participating in a panel on Central Bank Digital Currencies at the WEF and hosted by the Global Blockchain Business Council, was one of the few participants that was willing to suggest that the SWIFT system, long dominated by western interests, might be made obsolete along with the proliferation of digital currencies among central banks.

Initially dismissed as “conspiracy theory” only a few years ago by the media, whispers of CBDCs have suddenly gone mainstream and blockchain technologies took center stage at Davos in 2022. The Federal Reserve has even started active public discussions assessing the case for retail digital currency products.

Credit Unions and Banking Groups Warn of “Devastating Consequences” of a U.S Central Bank Digital Currency

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 31, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

Credit union and banking trade groups have released a joint letter to the chair and ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, warning of “devastating consequences” if the Federal Reserve moves forward with a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). The letter was sent on May 25, one day before the Committee convened a hearing on “Digital Assets and the Future of Finance: Examining the Benefits and Risks of a U.S. Central Bank Digital Currency.” That hearing took testimony from only one witness, Lael Brainard, the Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve.

The fact that credit unions, which frequently serve unionized labor, joined with banking trade groups to sign off on the letter, lends credibility to the “devastating consequences” the letter enumerates of a Central Bank Digital Currency.

A CBDC would allow the Federal Reserve to compete for deposits with credit unions and banks. The letter correctly assesses the downside of such a move as follows:

“Private money is created through financial intermediation by banks and credit unions– the process in which financial institutions take deposits and lend out and invest those deposits. Private money is used by financial institutions to provide funding for businesses and consumers and thus supports economic growth. Introducing a CBDC would be a deliberate decision to shift some volume of private money to public money, with potentially devastating consequences for the cost and availability of credit for consumers and businesses. In sum, the savings of businesses and consumers would no longer fund the assets of banks – primarily, loans – but instead would fund the assets of the Federal Reserve – primarily securities issued by the Treasury Department, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.”

Ukraine / Russia


John Helmer [Dances with Bears, via Mike Norman Economics 5-30-2022]

The Russian regime-change theory motivating US sanctions against the Russian oligarchs is that they will trigger a palace coup in which the oligarchs will arrange a bullet for President Vladimir Putin’s head, and in return the US will give them back the keys to their yachts, mansions, and offshore bank accounts.  

The terms of pain relief and life insurance which the oligarchs are discussing with Putin are different. The oligarchs want to be compensated for what they have lost offshore with an even larger stock of assets onshore, including takeover of exiting foreign companies and privatization of state assets; low-interest Central Bank finance;  import substitution and labour subsidies; tax holidays; postponement of ecological compliance; deregulation; amnesty for past crimes, immunity from prosecution for future ones….

When President Vladimir Putin announced at his meeting with state officials on May 24,   that he proposes “red tape needs to be scrapped” and “additional adjustments to the regulatory framework”, the phrases were not new. In the war economy, however, they signal deregulation and privatization — more freedom for the oligarchs, not less. When Putin added: “the Russian economy will certainly remain open in the new conditions”, the meaning, at least as the oligarchs are interpreting it, is that the president is promising more freedom from the state, not less.  

Cyber Command chief confirms US took part in offensive cyber operations

Ines Kagubare [via Mike Norman Economics 6-1-2022]

They're not capitalists - they're a criminal predatory class

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-4-2022]



How John Deere leverages repair-blocking into gag orders 

Cory Doctorow [Medium, via Naked Capitalism 6-2-2022]

Economic Armageddon

Biden's Plan to Fight Inflation

Stephanie Kelton [The Lens, via Mike Norman Economics 5-31-2022]

By now, you’ve probably read (or at least seen coverage of) President Biden’s op-Ed in today’s Wall Street Journal….

At this point, the president’s plan to bring down inflation can be summed up as follows:

  • Leave the Fed alone to hike rates and slow the economy
  • Take proactive steps to reduce some costs and build more capacity
  • Take proactive steps to cut the fiscal deficit even more….

On #3, I have a very different view. The deficit is already collapsing. It has plunged from $2.8T in 2021 to around $1T this year. Some of the reduction is simply due to the fact that we have a faster growing economy, which naturally generates higher federal revenue via a progressive tax code. The bulk of the reduction, however, is coming from the active withdrawal of fiscal support—e.g. the $1,400 checks that went to most Americans last year ($350B in stimulus) is done. The expanded (CTC) child tax credit ($110B) lapsed in December. Student loan repayments are likely to start back up for tens of millions of Americans, robbing the economy of substantial spending beginning in a few months. Shut-off moratoriums just expired, leaving families drowning in utility debt ($23B in arrears as of March 1). And the list goes on….

Why the War FOR Poverty Has Made Gains: Discontinuing the expanded Child Tax Credit has plunged millions of families back into poverty and its anxieties.

Ramenda Cyrus, June 2, 2022 [The American Prospect]

The Child Tax Credit, a hallmark of American tax policy since 1997, was expanded in March 2021, lifting over three million children out of poverty from June to December. In part because of that program, 78 percent of Americans expressed that they were financially sound at the end of 2021, the highest number in the decade-long history of a survey conducted by the Federal Reserve. The CTC expansion was specifically cited in that survey as a significant boost to household well-being.

Today, six months after the expanded program ended, as inflation continues to rise, as wages lag behind it, and other pandemic-related support measures are discontinued, people raising children have been put in a position that is perhaps worse than pre-pandemic….

That expansion accounted for an almost 30 percent reduction in monthly child poverty. Without it, parents are often put in the difficult position of choosing between feeding themselves or their children. For any parent, that is a no-brainer—feed the children, always. But in the most prosperous country in human history, it is abhorrent that this is a consideration.

There is a common talking point among conservatives that government payments disincentivize people. Groups like ParentsTogether, however, are demonstrating how this is a false choice, and how a rightsized government program can make a huge difference in people’s lives. Even with inflation and a stalled agenda, enacting an adequate CTC shows that the government can ease the financial burden many families feel.

Deflating Larry Summers 

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

Larry Summers is at it again, misstating the connection between wage growth and price inflation. In an extended interview quoted in Tuesday’s Washington Post, Summers said, “I don’t think there’s a durable reduction in inflation without a meaningful reduction in wage growth.”

But Summers evidently failed to check the actual numbers. The estimable Josh Bivens of EPI did. As Bivens reported in a recent piece, wages have been lagging well behind inflation, not driving it…. Summers, in the same interview, flagrantly misstated the actual numbers. He said, “We now have wage inflation running at a close to 6 percent rate.” In fact, it was 3.7 percent in the last quarter, down substantially from 5.4 percent in 2021.

Latest Jobs Report Shames the Inflation Hawks 

Robert Kuttner, June 3, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Wage growth continues to decelerate. Contrary to Larry Summers et al., wages are not driving price increases.

The Pain Profiteers 

Rhode Fen, June 3, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Two new books reveal the distortion of the U.S. health care system by financial operators.

Disrupting mainstream economics

After Free Trade

Nic Johnson  Robert Manduca [Boston Review, May 25, 2022]

As the neoliberal order unravels, the international economic system can and must make room for cooperative forms of state-driven development.

The Neomercantilists: A Global Intellectual History
Eric Helleiner
Cornell University Press, $49.95 (cloth)

...Both sides of the so-called “new Cold War” between China and the West thus appear to be converging on a distinct but largely forgotten third tradition of political economy. This return of economic nationalism has troubled acolytes of the old religions. Though free trade is the one area where the more black-and-white canons of historical materialism and liberalism have traditionally been able to meet in agreement, today’s commentators have no widely accepted playbook or established intellectual tradition with which to make sense of the new shades of mercantilist gray. Beyond gestures to Friedrich List and Alexander Hamilton, Cold War historiography has vitiated our understanding of political economy’s past—and with it, the analytic resources for grasping our times.

Political scientist Eric Helleiner’s new book, The Neomercantilists: A Global Intellectual History, is perfectly timed to fill this void. A sweeping account of the men and women who argued for strategic protectionism and other forms of government economic activism to promote state wealth and power—an ideology he calls “neomercantilism”—between the publication of the Wealth of Nations in 1776 and World War II, it offers the first comprehensive global study of this discourse’s diverse origins and political valences.

One reason “neomercantilism” has proven so susceptible to historical erasure is that, unlike liberalism or Marxism, there is no Wealth of Nations or Das Kapital anchoring the tradition in a world-historical canonical text… Though today’s commentators are quick to associate nationalism with right-wing authoritarianism, this view largely stems from twentieth-century liberal historiography, which condemned economic nationalism as the cause of world war and the Great Depression.…

Helleiner shows that there were as many flavors of neomercantilism as there were national, imperial, and postcolonial traditions. From Meiji Japan to Sun Yat-sen’s China, from Muhammad Ali’s Egypt to Marcus Garvey’s African diaspora and the Swadeshi movement in India, neomercantilist ideas flourished throughout the long nineteenth century. They took form in political speeches, racist diatribes, bureaucratic memos, parliamentary debate, religious sermons, polemical pamphlets, and popular journalism as often as in philosophical monographs associated with the enlightened genre of political economy….

This is one of the characteristic leitmotifs of Helleiner’s book: the multiple and overlapping origins of multilateral development lending and international economic cooperation more generally. Such schemes were proposed again and again, from the ferment of warlord-era China to the revolutionary Mexican state’s finance minister José Manuel Puig Casauranc and interwar Romania’s central banker Mihail Manoilescu (arguably the most famous neomercantilist in the interwar period), neither of whom could imagine fighting the Great Depression without some kind of global governance mechanism to direct capital. Again and again neomercantilists came to the conclusion that it would take more than tariffs or public investment to achieve their vision of state-led development: “mercantilism in one country” would hit hard upper limits on what was possible. Fervent economic nationalists thus became some of the most powerful voices in favor of international economic governance....

The drama of the first half of Helleiner’s book revolves around the contrast he draws between two economists, German-born Friedrich List and American Henry Carey, as they theorize and propagandize on behalf of what was known then as the “American System” of tariffs, export subsidies, and internal improvements. List is the much better-known figure today: to the extent that any memory of neomercantilism survived the Cold War, it is generally List’s National System of Political Economy (1841), published after List had emigrated to the United States in 1825, that shows up in classrooms and citations. The security of his legacy is partly the result of his limpid German prose. The National System is a fierce polemic against British liberalism, arguing that “free trade” was nothing more than Britain’s attempt to “kick away the ladder” by which she herself had become rich. List accurately saw the Great Specialization for what it was....

There is a popular folk history that draws a straight line from Hamilton to List, and from there to Otto von Bismarck’s Germany, which industrialized behind Listian tariffs. From there the Listian idea is supposed to have spread to Japan, which took Germany as the model political economy for successful catch-up growth, and from there to the East Asian developmental states of the postwar period. (The most readable and popular version of this story can be found in Joe Studwell’s How Asia Works (2014), otherwise a compelling book.) Helleiner’s book makes clear what this version of history gets wrong. Not only were Legalist and kokueki discourses already widely available in the East, but to the extent that Western ideas were popular in Germany and Japan, they came more from Carey’s influence, not List’s. A good deal of space in The Neomercantilists is dedicated to documenting and debunking these myths in detail.

Where List was a methodological nationalist, racial imperialist, and long-term cosmopolitan who wanted civilized countries to imitate the British industrial revolution, Carey framed his own neomercantilism as an anti-imperialist, feminist, environmentalist discourse that would save America—indeed the world—from the worst depredations of British capitalism….

Unlike List, Carey was not enamored of Britain’s achievements: he spent a great deal of time describing the terrible conditions of the working classes in the United Kingdom that resulted from their global financiers’ monopolization. Free trade was leading to “barbarism,” he argued, because it tended to erode the social institutions that fulfilled human’s “greatest need,” their desire and ability for “association” with other humans. Like Tocqueville, Carey valorized the rich civil society of the early republic; unlike Tocqueville, he worried about disintermediation of the social sphere in commercial societies without tariffs. The “increasing dependence of the laborer, and making of her that mere instrument to be used by trade” was fueling class conflict in the form of riots and strikes, ultimately threatening political stability even in the UK.

In Carey’s eyes, it was therefore not a coincidence that Britain was simultaneously at the forefront of both free trade and “the power for oppression” of the domestic workforce. Since free trade benefited only the traders, impoverishing producers and consumers alike, implementing protectionist policies could achieve an internal “harmony of interests” within each country, aligning the incentives facing farmers, manufacturers, and consumers, allowing each to prosper without impoverishing the others. Carey also emphasized how protectionist policies could improve gender relations and protect the environment. “The world presents to view nothing that is more sad, than the condition of the female portion of the British population,” he wrote in 1859.

US Federal Reserve Bank economists going Marxist on us

Bill Mitchell [billy blog, via Mike Norman Economics 5-29-2022]

... work that was explicit in the 1960s is now being recognised by the central bank of the largest economy. In fact, the foundations of this new acceptance goes back to the C19th and was developed by you know who – K. Marx. Then a socialist in the 1940s wrote a path breaking article further building the foundations. And then a group of Marxist economists brought the ideas together as a coherent theory of inflation early 1970s as a counter to the growing Monetarist fiction that inflationary pressures were ultimately the product of irresponsible government policy designed to reduce unemployment below some ‘natural rate’. I am referring here to a Finance and Economics Discussion Series (FEDS) working paper – Who Killed the Phillips Curve? A Murder Mystery – published on May 20, 2022 by the Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve System. I suppose it is progress but along the way – over those 6 decades – there have been a lot of casualties of the fiction central banks created in denial of these findings

[Young Money, via The Big Picture 6-4-2022]
I personally think there’s more to this market thing than the net present value of future cash flows, and markets certainly don’t seem to efficiently digest new information. CAPM, meet CAP MEME.

Where Can I Study MMT?

Stephanie Kelton [The Lens, via Mike Norman Economics 5-30-2022]

...I always recommend the same handful of programs, starting with the University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC), which became the bastion of MMT in the early 2000s, and the Levy Economics Institute, where some of the early developers of MMT currently teach. Today, I included an exciting new option—Torrens University in Australia.

The Torrens program is the brainchild of MMT economist Steven Hail (together with the indefatigable Gabrielle Bond), who’s leading the effort to combine Modern Monetary Theory with environmental and ecological sustainability. If you’re familiar with the work of Mariana Mazzucato and Kate Raworth, you can think of the Torrens program as, in part, a melding together of our work.

Restoring balance to the economy

No Surprises Act Blocked 2 Million Medical Bills in 2 Months: Report 

[WebMD, via Naked Capitalism 5-31-2022]

“How Amazon and Starbucks Workers Are Upending the Organizing Rules”

[In These Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-3-2022]

“The goal of momentum organizers is to foster a virtuous cycle of building to trigger events and then absorbing the subsequent explosion of energy through mass trainings and decentralized structures, while then building to another, future, trigger event. Police violence can be a trigger event, such as in the case of the murder of George Floyd, but so can worker victories. It’s not difficult to see this virtuous cycle being unleashed at Starbucks, where dozens of stores have successfully won union elections and hundreds more are seeking to vote. When the whirlwind comes, what was once seen as a risky long-shot action or fringe idea — going on strike, organizing a union, running for political office as a socialist, advocating for policies that divest from police and prisons and invest in communities — suddenly snowballs into a series of independent, self-organized actions. Among structure-based organizers, ​’mobilizing’ is often described, somewhat derisively, as turning out everyone who already agrees with us, while ​’organizing’ is seen as the more difficult work of systematically convincing those who don’t yet agree with us. This approach underestimates the power of movement moments — the whirlwind — where, very suddenly, the number of people who actively agree with us skyrockets. In the structure-based approach, organizers often spend months having organizing conversations, building committees, and assessing workers in the lead up to a union vote. They often spend even longer painstakingly building the confidence of workers through small, workplace actions to build to a strike. But in a whirlwind moment, those kinds of actions can suddenly be jump-started by the workers themselves. ‘In most conditions, momentum organizing is not the way to organize unions,’ Engler says. ​’The elders in the structure-based tradition know what they are doing and their advice is solid under normal conditions, but they don’t have the skills or the way of thinking that can take advantage of moments when those conditions radically change.’ Engler is not surprised that Amazon was organized through the self-activity of workers outside the mainstream labor movement. ‘It’s not structure-based mass organizations that can step into the void and absorb momentum quickly,’ Engler says. ​’It’s the people coming out of nowhere. Often by people who don’t even know how to do it or by those who are rooted in the mass protest tradition. It’s the unusual suspects.'” • Very interesting, well worth a read.

City Limits: Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s bold plans for affordable housing run into old-school politics, perverse regulations, and limited home rule.

Gabrielle Gurley, June 2, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Germany Slashes Summer Train Fares More Than 90 Percent To Curb Driving, Save Fuel 

[Yale Environment 360, via Naked Capitalism 6-1-2022]

Germany’s parliament has set summer train fares at 9 euros per month in a bid to slash pollution and curb imports of Russian oil by spurring drivers to take public transit.

The initiative takes effect on June 1, with 9 euros covering the cost of all buses, trams, subways, and regional trains, effectively cutting fares by more than 90 percent in some cities. Berlin commuters will save 98 euros on their monthly travel pass, while commuters in Hamburg will save more than 105 euros, Bloomberg reported. Deutsche Bahn is adding 50 additional trains to absorb the expected increase in users.

Oligarchs' war on the experiment of republican self-government

Ten Times Empire Managers Showed Us That They Want To Control Our Thoughts 

Caitlin Johnstone [via Mike Norman Economics 5-30-2022]

In Australia’s Election, Rupert Murdoch Was a Surprise Loser 

[The Intercept, May 30, 2022]

The Labor Party’s victory offers a blueprint for diminishing the global influence of the Fox News founder….

Despite years in which Murdoch’s media properties vociferously backed conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Labor leader Anthony Albanese won the May 21 contest. Australia saw a wave of climate-friendly, independent candidates and Greens politicians take power in a thorough rejection of the culture wars around trans rights and “religious freedom” unleashed by Morrison and his backers in the Murdoch media.

Morrison lost for a range of reasons, including the basic fact that he’d become a deeply unpopular and unsympathetic figure after his Liberal Party had been in power for nearly a decade. He routinely mismanaged cases of sexual abuse and rape of women at the Australian Parliament House in Canberra. No amount of support and scaremongering from media outlets owned by Murdoch, who controls a stunning 65 percent of newspaper circulation in the country, could persuade voters to keep Morrison in power.

Despite daily attacks on Albanese and the other candidates who won office, the Murdoch campaign failed spectacularly. This shows that the power of the Murdoch empire isn’t enough when it’s selling rotten goods. More importantly, it shows the effectiveness of loud voices taking on Murdoch directly. Nobody does it better than former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who has spent years publicly condemning the mogul’s right-wing agenda. Rudd has urged politicians to reject Murdoch’s divide-and-conquer tacticsto name and shame the journalists and editors who produce Murdoch’s confected culture war poison. 

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-4-2022]





Chris Hedges | America's PATHOLOGICAL Oligarchy




The Crazy Policies Are Going To Get (A Lot) Worse” (video)

Gonzalo Lira [YouTube, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-31-2022].

Lambert Strether summarizes: “Our elites have gone cray cray because they know what’s coming and don’t see how to stop it. So, gather ye rosebuds while ye may! Well worth a listen, because I think Lira has fought through to an important truth. or at least an aspect of it.”



Thom Hartmann: The Hidden History of the Oligarchy



...the modern oligarchy that we're fighting came out of that and where it started arguably was in 1951 a fellow by the name of Russell Kirk wrote a book called The Conservative Mind and this is the book that kicked off the modern conservative
movement….[Discusses the Powell


...there's one one more piece to the story. In 1976, the Supreme Court -- Lewis Powell now on the court — the Supreme Court changed the rules of the game. After the Nixon bribery scandals of 1973-74 we passed a lot of good government legislation limiting the influence of money in politics… Lewis Powell and the Supreme Court looked at these laws and they said… if a individual billionaire wants to own a politician, wants to be the principal patron of a politician, the only source for that politician, and that politician wants to do whatever that billionaire wants in terms of producing legislation and voting — we used to call that corruption; we used to call that in fact bribery, but we're not going to call it that
anymore because what we're going to say is that money is not money, giving money to a politician that's not bribery, that's not money, that is speech and so when a billionaire Owns a politician he's exercising his right of free speech which is protected by the first amendment. And then two years later another decision that Lewis Powell actually wrote called First National Bank versus Belotti, the supreme court extended that logic to corporations because... “corporations are people too you know” this opened a floodgate of cash….

Climate and environmental crises

Vanuatu declares climate emergency 

[Bangkok Post, via Naked Capitalism 5-31-2022]

“Vanuatu’s responsibility is to push responsible nations to match action to the size and urgency of the crisis,” [Prime Minister Bob] Loughman said.

“The use of the term emergency is a way of signalling the need to go beyond reform as usual.”

Countries expected to face large claims from fossil fuel investors in pursuit of decarbonization 

[S&P Global, via Naked Capitalism 6-4-2022]

While there are growing calls from the scientific community that fossil fuel investment should be halted to avoid a climate catastrophe, lawyers and researchers warn governments could face large legal claims for cutting ties with high-carbon energy sources.

In a recent study published by Science, a team of researchers at Boston University, Colorado State University, and Queen's University in Canada estimated countries might be liable for up to $340 billion in compensation for terminating proposed oil and natural gas projects that have yet to begin production.

The analysis focused on potential claims from investors via the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) procedure, a type of international arbitration mechanism that allows an investor to take legal action against a foreign government for alleged violation of trade and investment agreements.

France limits water usage

[RT, via Mike Norman Economics 5-29-2022]

A severe drought has prompted 24 out of France's 96 departments to impose limits on water usage, the country’s Ministry of Ecological Transition said on Saturday.

The restrictions range from simple calls to save water in some areas to a more than 50% reduction in agricultural withdrawals and bans on washing cars, watering gardens and filling swimming pools in others, the ministry told Le Figaro.

Rainfall levels have been well below normal in France since September 2021, and last month the deficit reached 25%. The situation was exacerbated by abnormally hot temperatures in May, which is on track to become the warmest on record.

How San Diego secured its water supply, at a cost 

[ABC, via Naked Capitalism 5-31-2022]

Over the past three decades, San Diego County diversified its water supply, ramped up conservation and invested in big-ticket water infrastructure including the Western hemisphere’s largest desalination plant, which removes salt and impurities from ocean water. As a result, the water agency that serves 24 water utilities including the city of San Diego says it can avoid cuts until at least 2045, even during dry periods. But that security has come at a cost.

San Diego County's water is among the most expensive in the country, costing about 26% more at the wholesale level in 2021 than the Metropolitan Water District's, which serves Los Angeles and surrounding counties. Now, two rural irrigation districts in San Diego County home to large avocado industries want to break away from the regional water supplier, saying they can purchase cheaper water elsewhere. 

This Is Where Dirty Old Cars Go to Die

[Wired, via The Big Picture 5-31-2022]

...Western Europe’s old vehicles generally get packed up and shipped off to Eastern Europe. When they’ve reached the end of their useful life there, but are still roadworthy, they go south to Africa. North America’s unwanted cars travel south to developing countries in South America; Asia’s vehicles get shipped around the continent until they’re deemed unpalatable for consumers there, then they go to Africa.

Between 2015 and 2020, consumers around the world bought 10.2 million electric vehicles. But during the same time period, 23 million used light duty vehicles (LDVs)—cars, vans, SUVs, and pickup trucks—were exported. Two-thirds are sent to developing countries, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). And when they arrive on the other side of the world, they keep on polluting.

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Giant Deep Ocean Turbine Trial Offers Hope of Endless Green Power 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 5-31-2022]

Siemens and partners to build Egypt’s 2000km new rail network

[International Railway Journal, May 30, 2022]

EGYPT’s National Authority for Tunnels (NAT) has signed a contract with Siemens Mobility, Orascom Construction and The Arab Contractors to build 2000km of high-speed lines and create what Siemens says would be the six-largest high-speed rail system in the world.

The Siemens Mobility share of the contract is €8.1bn, including an €2.7bn initial contract for the first 660km route from Ain Sokhna to Marsa Matrouh and Alexandria signed on September 1 2021.

According to Dr Roland Busch, president and CEO of Siemens, “it is the biggest order in the history of Siemens.”….

Construction of the new network will directly create up to 40,000 local jobs, with an additional 6700 jobs at Egyptian suppliers and indirectly through the wider Egyptian economy….

“The extensive 2000km high-speed rail network will connect 60 cities and enable around 500 million journeys a year. It will link the country like never before, fight pollution and global warming, while also providing an effective and reliable method for the movement of goods.”

Paris - Berlin high-speed service to launch in 2023

International Railway Journal, May 25, 2022

THE launch in 2023 of a high-speed service between Paris and Berlin was announced on May 24 by Mr Jean-Pierre Farandou, president and CEO of French National Railways (SNCF), and Mr Richard Lutz, chairman of German Rail (DB).

SNCF and DB are currently studying the extension of the existing Paris - Frankfurt service operated with DB ICE high-speed trains, which would offer a journey time of around 7 hours from Paris to Berlin.

The two operators say that passengers are increasingly willing to make longer rail journeys to avoid flying. Their joint Frankfurt - Marseille service operated with an SNCF TGV Duplex train offers a journey time of 7h 48min, for example.

In the 15 years since the opening of the first section of the LGV Est high-speed line between Paris and Strasbourg, high-speed services operated by the Alleo joint venture of DB and SNCF have carried 25 million passengers.

In 2021 more than 50% of passengers on the Frankfurt - Paris route opted for rail, with an even bigger proportion choosing the train between Stuttgart and Paris.

Lithium mining: How new production technologies could fuel the global EV revolution.

[McKinsey, via The Big Picture 5-31-2022]

Lithium is the driving force behind electric vehicles, but will supply keep pace with demand? New technologies and sources of supply can fill the gap. 

3D Printing: Scientists can now grow wood in a lab without cutting a single tree 

[Interesting Engineering, via Naked Capitalism 6-4-2022]

The researchers at MIT performed an experiment that gave stem cell-like properties to normal plant cells. They extracted cells from the leaves of a flowering plant called Common zinnia (Zinnia elegans) and then stored the same in a liquid medium for a couple of days. In the next step, the researchers treated the plant cells with a gel-based medium enriched with nutrients and hormones.  

After some time, the cells gave rise to new plant cells. The researchers also noticed that by changing the hormonal concentration in the gel medium, they could control the physical and mechanical properties of the newly grown cells. During the experiments, plant material that contained high hormone concentrations turned stiff….

An estimate suggests that the current furniture-making process leads to the loss of about 30% of the total wood as waste. Interestingly, the 3D bioprinting technique suggested by the researchers at MIT does not generate any waste and can be employed to produce plant material of any shape and size. “The idea is that you can grow these plant materials in exactly the shape that you need, so you don’t need to do any subtractive manufacturing after the fact, which reduces the amount of energy and waste," Beckwith said.

Guns = malthusian population culling

Crossing Lines — A Change in the Leading Cause of Death among U.S. Children

[New England Journal of Medicine, April 21, 2022]

For more than 60 years, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of injury-related death among young people. Beginning in 2017, however, firearm-related injuries took their place to become the most common cause of death from injury (see graph).1 This change occurred because of both the rising number of firearm-related deaths in this age group and the nearly continuous reduction in deaths from motor vehicle crashes. The crossing of these trend lines demonstrates how a concerted approach to injury prevention can reduce injuries and deaths — and, conversely, how a public health problem can be exacerbated in the absence of such attention. Between 2000 and 2020, the number of firearm-related deaths among children, adolescents, and young adults increased from 6998 (7.30 per 100,000 persons) to 10,186 (10.28 per 100,000 persons), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Science Is Clear: Gun Control Saves Lives.

[Scientific American, via The Big Picture 5-30-2022]

In the U.S., we have existing infrastructure that we could easily emulate to make gun use safer: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Created by Congress in 1970, this federal agency is tasked, among other things, with helping us drive a car safely. It gathers data on automobile deaths. It’s the agency that monitors and studies seat belt usage. While we track firearm-related deaths, no such safety-driven agency exists for gun use.

During the early 1990s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began to explore gun violence as a public health issue. After studies tied having a firearm to increased homicide risk, the National Rifle Association took action, spearheading the infamous Dickey Amendment, diverting gun research dollars and preventing federal funding from being used to promote gun control. For more than 20 years, research on gun violence in this country has been hard to do.

What research we have is clear and grim. For example, in 2017, guns overtook 60 years of cars as the biggest injury-based killer of children and young adults (ages one to 24) in the U.S. By 2020, about eight in every 100,000 people died of car crashes. About 10 in every 100,000 people died of gun injuries.

The State Laws That Are Most Effective at Stopping Mass Shootings

[CityLab, via The Big Picture 6-1-2022]

With casualties mounting after the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, a health scholar’s research has found that enacting a few state policies can reduce gun violence by a third. 

Two Professors Found What Creates a Mass Shooter. Will Politicians Pay Attention? 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 6-3-2022]

When Science Becomes Embroiled in Conflict: Recognizing the Public’s Need for Debate while Combating Conspiracies and Misinformation 

[The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, via Naked Capitalism 6-2-2022]

Professional management class clowns

The jury verdict in the Depp-Heard case: A telling, deserved blow to the #MeToo witch-hunt 

[World Socialist Web Site, via Naked Capitalism 6-4-2022]

How Rich People Stole Identity Politics 

[The American Prospect, May 31, 2022]

Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò charts a course between cynical corporate liberalism and right-wing anti-wokeness.

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

‘New Right’ takes it back to old pre-neocon roots, starting with Ukraine 

[Responsible Statecraft, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-3-2022]

“[O]pposition to the $40 billion bill that Biden promptly signed into law was a minority position. But zero Democrats in either chamber of Congress voted against it. All 11 no votes in the Senate and 57 in the House came from Republicans….. Soon there were reports that the conservative-libertarian coalition that has for over a decade sought to defang the GOP hawks are seeing this as their big moment. And they have as unlikely allies some of the biggest guns in the conservative movement, including new Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts. ‘Heritage is consciously shifting gears on foreign policy, with an eye toward less military involvement in Europe and more attention on China in particular,’ Roberts told Axios in an interview saying the venerable think tank that helped arm the Ronald Reagan revolution was shifting its gears closer to those of the Cato Institute and Koch network. ‘Roberts said Heritage’s rank and file donors have generally come down firmly on the restraint side of the foreign policy fight,’ Axios stated.”

Lambert Strether notes: “a nice little description of the linkage between donor, NGO, and party. The donors rejiggered their NGO portfolio, and that in turn affected the party.”

“The New MAGA Establishment”

[The Bulwark, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-3-2022]

“If you want to understand what an ‘establishment’ is in politics, it is this: A collection of people, institutions, and ideas which are not all powerful but are dominant to the point of being all-encompassing. The establishment can be, every once in a while, circumvented or leapfrogged. But it cannot be successfully opposed. Which is why the Reagan legacy remained in firm control of the GOP for 28 years after Reagan had left office. Until Trump… e are now six years into the Trump era and one clearly sees—in the donor and media ecosystems, in the new ideologies (however poorly grounded and tendentious), in the odd combination of orthodoxies that an establishment can enforce and the flexibility it can grant itself—that a new MAGA establishment has been created. Do not count on it going away soon. It may not last as long as the Reaganite establishment. That establishment was built on the foundations of a large-scale win over a sitting president, followed by a massive re-election victory, followed by the election of Reagan’s vice president, followed by a victory in the Cold War which had been set in motion by Reagan’s policies, followed by one of the largest expansions of peace and prosperity in America’s history. The Trump establishment obviously has no such claims. Instead, Trump’s claim on the party centers around failures. He beat a weak Democratic candidate in 2016 while losing the popular vote. He lost the popular vote by an even bigger margin in 2020, as he became the first sitting president to lose re-election in 30 years. His hold over the party is based not on expansion, but on contraction: He has whittled the party base down to a demographic nub—but it is a nub which is in thrall to him precisely because of its sense of grievance.”

“Trump’s Insurrection Is Building Professionalized Institutions Next time, they won’t rely on amateurs.”

Jonathan Chait [New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-3-2022]

“The plan is to flood voting sites with Republican volunteers, who largely believe they are witnessing crime scenes. The Republican poll watchers will almost inevitably harass and challenge both voters they suspect of fraud (i.e., ones who have dark skin) and the poll workers processing their votes. These objections can gum up the workers, increase lines, and discourage potential voters. Worse, they can trigger messy disputes, which opens the door for legislatures to override the results and select the winner. ‘Come Election Day, you create massive failure of certification’ in Democratic precincts, Nick Penniman, founder and CEO of Issue One, an election-watchdog group, tells Politico. ‘The real hope is that you can throw the choosing of electors to state legislatures.'”

The RNC’s Ground Game of Inches: Inside the secretive, dubious, and extremely offline attempt to convert minorities into Republicans

Alexander Sammon, June 1, 2022 [The American Prospect]

The community centers were established to bore the opening further, making the appeal directly to racial minorities inside their communities, with an extremely offline, grassroots offering. This wasn’t a soft sell: The centers beckon potential voters with everything from movie nights to free dinners to holiday parties to gun safety trainings, thrown by local organizers and paid for by your friends at the RNC, which has dedicated millions of dollars to the program. If those tactics sound familiar, that’s because they were once used to great effect, by groups as varied as the Black Panthers in Oakland or Democrats in New York’s Tammany Hall.

The Republican blueprint to steal the 2024 election 

[CNN, via The Big Picture 5-29-2022]

The objective is not to rescind the 2020 election — that’s constitutionally impossible. Trump’s and the Republicans’ far more ambitious objective is to execute successfully in 2024 the very same plan they failed to execute in 2020 — and overturn the 2024 election if Trump or his anointed successor loses again.

Clarence and Ginni Thomas Are Telling Us Exactly How the 2024 Coup Will Go Down 

[Slate, via The Big Picture 5-29-2022]

But the other way to look at the texts and emails that were pinging around the highest echelons of power and influence in the weeks after November 2020 is as a warning and road map for what is already being put into place for the next presidential contest. But next time, the lawyers won’t be sweating brown makeup or referencing crackpot theories of Italian election meddling. (Slate)

Anti-abortion activists are collecting the data they’ll need for prosecutions post-Roe 

[MIT Technology Review, via Naked Capitalism 6-1-2022]

How Sean Patrick Maloney Has Built Power for Republicans 

Lee Harris. June 3, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Maloney’s announcement that he will exit his old district for a slightly safer seat spells doom for Democrats. But he has long put personal interests over his party….

But local politicians in Maloney’s region say that although the congressman heads the party’s national electoral strategy, his willingness to sabotage fellow Democrats is familiar. Maloney has long guarded his right flank by supporting Republicans and declining to campaign for Democrats in the district he is now exiting.

That strategy, several disgruntled Democrats said, is representative of a party that has jettisoned issues popular with its base, such as abortion rights and environmental issues, in favor of promoting bipartisanship that may not deliver returns.

“He hasn’t done anything to build the party or the infrastructure behind it,” former Dutchess County Democratic Committee Chairman Joe Ruggiero told the Prospect and New York Focus. “Locally, he’s all about himself.”….

MALONEY BIGFOOTED HIS WAY into the district he’s bigfooting out of. He originally entered the old 18th after buying a home in Cold Spring, and quickly became a force holding the line against progressives.

Elisa Sumner, then chairwoman of the Dutchess County Democratic Committee, had recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with DCCC chair Steve Israel about strategy for the region, where she and other party leaders were confident that a progressive could win. She pointed to Rep. John Hall, an environmentalist and rock star with the 1970s band Orleans (“Still the One”) who had written music performed by Pete Seeger, criticized the Iraq War, and been a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

If Hall could win in the Hudson Valley, she reasoned, so could another progressive local like Matt Alexander, then mayor of Wappingers Falls. But she learned that Maloney, who had been an aide to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, had President Bill Clinton making robocalls on his behalf.

“We begged him not to run in the district,” Sumner said. “We already had [political] machines up and running, and he just came in and cleared the field.” In response, she added, Maloney “intimated that he wanted to be in this district because it was closer to the New York City media market.”

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