California officials reject subsidies for Musk"s SpaceX over Tesla spat

A California state panel on Friday rejected a request from Elon Musk's SpaceX for $655,500 in state job and training funds, citing the chief executive's recent threats to move Tesla, the electric carmaker that he also runs, out of the state......»»

Category: topSource: reutersMay 15th, 2020

Russia"s ruble spikes as Putin and officials mull ways to prop up the currency after it dropped below a penny this week

The ruble climbed roughly 5%, hovering around 94 per dollar on Wednesday, after crashing as low as 102 on Monday. Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov (R) attend an expanded meeting of the Russian Defence Ministry Board at the National Defence Control Centre in Moscow, on December 21, 2022.MIKHAIL KIREYEV/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images) Russia's ruble jumped 5% against the dollar on Wednesday as the Kremlin mulls capital controls. President Vladimir Putin reportedly held talks with officials on ways to prop up the ruble. The ruble crashed Monday, and on Tuesday Russia's central bank raised its benchmark rate to 12% from 8.5%. Russia's currency spiked against the dollar on Wednesday, just two days after it crashed to less than a penny.The ruble climbed roughly 5%, hovering around 94 per dollar, after a report said President Vladimir Putin planned talks on potential capital controls.Sources told the Financial Times that Putin was set to hear proposals Wednesday from the finance ministry that include forcing exporters to sell up to 80% of their foreign currency revenue, capping currency swaps, and limiting how much foreign currency exporters can move out of Russia.Other proposals include a ban on paying dividends and doing out loans overseas, even to supposedly "friendly" countries, and an end to import subsidies, according to the FT.That meeting was due to follow an earlier one where Kremlin officials met with exporters to discuss reviving a requirement on companies to sell foreign exchange revenue, according to Bloomberg.It took place before the central bank raised its key interest rate from 8.5% to 12% on Tuesday. The rate hike came during an emergency session, after the ruble fell as low as 102 per dollar on Monday.The ruble is among the world's worst-performing currencies and has fallen about 23% against the dollar so far this year.After Putin launched his war on Ukraine last February, Moscow soon fell under historic sanctions that isolated it from the global financial system. The Kremlin then turned to a host of emergency capital controls as well as sharp rate hikes to stabilize the ruble. While the currency initially rebounded, it has been sliding again in recent months as the overall Russian economy deteriorates, export revenue weakens, and military spending ramps up.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytAug 16th, 2023

Two Princeton, MIT Scientists Say EPA Climate Regulations Based On A "Hoax"

Two Princeton, MIT Scientists Say EPA Climate Regulations Based On A 'Hoax' Authored by Kevin Stocklin via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), Two prominent climate scientists have taken on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new rules to cut CO2 emissions in electricity generation, arguing in testimony that the regulations “will be disastrous for the country, for no scientifically justifiable reason.” A man climbs stairs on day two of the COP 26 United Nations Climate Change Conference at SECC in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 1, 2021. (Ian Forsyth/Getty Images) Citing extensive data to support their case, William Happer, professor emeritus in physics at Princeton University, and Richard Lindzen, professor emeritus of atmospheric science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), argued that the claims used by the EPA to justify the new regulations are not based on scientific facts but rather political opinions and speculative models that have consistently proven to be wrong.  “The unscientific method of analysis, relying on consensus, peer review, government opinion, models that do not work, cherry-picking data and omitting voluminous contradictory data, is commonly employed in these studies and by the EPA in the Proposed Rule,” Mr. Happer and Mr. Lindzen stated. “None of the studies provides scientific knowledge, and thus none provides any scientific support for the Proposed Rule.” “All of the models that predict catastrophic global warming fail the key test of the scientific method: they grossly overpredict the warming versus actual data,” they stated. “The scientific method proves there is no risk that fossil fuels and carbon dioxide will cause catastrophic warming and extreme weather.” Climate models like the ones that the EPA is using have been consistently wrong for decades in predicting actual outcomes, Mr. Happer told The Epoch Times. He presented the table below to the EPA to illustrate his point. Modeled climate predictions (average shown by red line) versus actual observations (source: J.R. Christy, Univ. of Alabama; KNMI Climate Explorer) “That was already an embarrassment in the ‘90s, when I was director of energy research in the U.S. Department of Energy,” he said. “I was funding a lot of this work, and I knew very well then that the models were overpredicting the warming by a huge amount.” He and his colleague argued that the EPA has grossly overstated the harm from CO2 emissions while ignoring the benefits of CO2 to life on Earth. Many who have fought against EPA climate regulations have done so by arguing what is called the “major questions doctrine,” that the EPA does not have the authority to invent regulations that have such an enormous impact on Americans without clear direction from Congress. Mr. Happer and Mr. Lindzen, however, have taken a different tack, arguing that the EPA regulations fail the “State Farm” test because they are “arbitrary and capricious.” “Time and again, courts have applied ‘State Farm’s’ principles to invalidate agency rules where the agency failed to consider an important aspect of the problem, or cherry-picked data to support a pre-ordained conclusion,” they stated. The case they referred to is the 2003 case of State Farm v. Campell (pdf), in which the Supreme Court argued that “a State can have no legitimate interest in deliberately making the law so arbitrary that citizens will be unable to avoid punishment based solely upon bias or whim.” According to Mr. Happer and Mr. Lindzen’s testimony, “600 million years of CO2 and temperature data contradict the theory that high levels of CO2 will cause catastrophic global warming.” They present CO2 and temperature data indicating much higher levels of both CO2 and temperatures than today, with little correlation between the two. They also argue that current CO2 levels are historically at a low point. This chart shows CO2 levels (blue) and temperatures (red) over time, indicating little correlation and current levels of both at historic lows. (Source: Analysis of the Temperature Oscillations in Geological Eras by Dr. C. R. Scotese; Earth's Climate: Past and Future by Mark Peganini; Marked Decline in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentrations During the Paleocene, Science magazine vol. 309.) “The often highly emphasized 140 [parts per million] increase in CO2 since the beginning of the Industrial Age is trivial compared to CO2 changes over the geological history of life on Earth,” they stated.  In addition, the scientists' testimony to the EPA stated that the agency’s emissions rules fail to consider the fact that CO2 and fossil fuels are essential to life on earth, particularly human life. “Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere create more food for people worldwide, including more food for people in drought-stricken areas,” they stated. “Increases in carbon dioxide over the past two centuries since the Industrial Revolution, from about 280 parts per million to about 420 ppm, caused an approximate 20 percent increase in the food available to people worldwide, as well as increased greening of the planet and a benign warming in temperature.” Synthetic fertilizers (dotted line) have increased crop yields dramatically since their introduction. (Source: crop yields from USDA; fertilizer usage from Food Agriculture Organization). More CO2 in the atmosphere leads to more plant growth and higher farming yields, they argued. In addition, synthetic fertilizers, which are derivatives of natural gas, are responsible for nearly half the world’s food production today. “Net zero” goals would reduce CO2 emissions by more than 40 gigatons per year, reducing the food supply proportionally, they said. The world's population is increasingly dependent on synthetic fertilizers, a derivative of fossil fuels. (Source: In addition to disregarding the benefits of CO2, they stated, the EPA’s emission rules and the global warming narrative that has been used to justify them are based on flawed data. In addition to teaching physics at Princeton, Mr. Happer’s decades of work in physics has focused on atmospheric radiation and atmospheric turbulence, and his inventions have been used by astronomers and in national defense. “Radiation in the atmosphere is my specialty,” Mr. Happer said, “and I know more about it than, I would guess, any climate scientists.”  His expertise, he said, “involves much of the same physics that’s involved in climate, and none of it is very alarming.” The global warming narrative argues that as people burn fossil fuels, they emit higher concentrations of carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere, which absorbs sunlight and creates a “greenhouse effect,” trapping the sun’s radiation and warming the earth.  But one aspect of CO2 emissions that global warming models fail to take into account, Mr. Happer said, is a phenomenon called “saturation,” or the diminishing effect of CO2 in the atmosphere at higher concentrations. “At the current concentrations of CO2, around 400 parts per million, it decreases the radiation to space by about 30 percent, compared to what you would have if you took it all away,” Mr. Happer said. “So that’s enough to cause quite a bit of warming of the earth, and thank God for that; it helps make the earth habitable, along with the effects of water vapor and clouds.” “But if you could double the amount of CO2 from 400 to 800, and that will take a long time, the amount that you decrease radiation to space is only one percent,” Mr. Happer said. “Very few people realize how hard it is for additional carbon dioxide to make a difference to the radiation to space. That’s what’s called saturation, and it’s been well known for a century.” The "greenhouse effect" of additional CO2 does not increase in proportion to the amount of CO2 added (source: William Happer). In addition to scientific arguments about why global warming is overblown, the scientists also cite data showing large discrepancies between global warming models and actual observations. In some cases, Mr. Happer and Mr. Lindzen say, data has been disingenuously manipulated to fit the climate-change narrative. “The most striking example of that is the temperature record,” Mr. Happer said. “If you look at the temperature records that were published 20 years ago, they showed very clearly that in the United States by far the warmest years we had were during the mid-1930s.  “If you look at the data today, that is no longer true,” he said. “People in charge of that data, or what the public sees, have gradually reduced the temperatures of the ‘30s, then increased the temperature of more recent measurements.” An example of misleading data used by the EPA as proof of global warming is shown in the chart below, Mr. Happer and Mr. Lindzen claimed.  EPA data shows an increasing ratio of daily record high-to-low temperatures in order to indicate rising global temperatures (Source: NOAA/NCEI). “This chart does not actually show ‘daily temperatures,’” they state. “Instead it show a ‘ratio’ of daily record highs to lows - a number that appears designed to create the impression that temperatures are steadily rising.” By contrast, the scientists presented the following table, which indicates significantly higher temperatures in the 1930s versus today.  This data indicates that heat waves were more severe in the 1930s than today. (Source: EPA). The Scientific ‘Consensus’ for Climate Change Proponents of the global warming narrative often state that it is “settled science” and that nearly all scientists agree that global warming is real and the result of human activity. According to an official NASA statement, “the vast majority of actively publishing climate scientists—97 percent—agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change. Most of the leading science organizations around the world have issued public statements expressing this, including international and U.S. science academies, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and a whole host of reputable scientific bodies around the world.” A report by Cornell University states that “more than 99.9% of peer-reviewed scientific papers agree that climate change is mainly caused by humans, according to a new survey of 88,125 climate-related studies.” But Mr. Happer argues that consensus is not science, citing a lecture on the scientific method by renowned physicist Richard Feynman, who said, “if it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong.” “Science has never been made by consensus,” Mr. Happer said. “The way you decide something is true in science is you compare it with experiment or observations. “It doesn’t matter if there’s a consensus; it doesn’t matter if a Nobel Prize winner says it’s true, if it disagrees with observations, it’s wrong,” he said. “And that’s the situation with climate models. They are clearly wrong because they don’t agree with observations.” The National Library of Medicine cites a speech by physician and author Michael Crichton at the California Institute of Technology in 2003 in which he said, “consensus is the business of politics.” “Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world,” Dr. Crichton said. “In science, consensus is irrelevant. What are relevant are reproducible results.” “The initial predictions of climate disasters had New York flooded by now, no ice left at the North Pole, England would be like Siberia by now,” Mr. Happer said. “Nothing that they predicted actually came true. You have to do something to keep the money coming in, so they changed ‘global warming’ to ‘climate change.’” The Price of Dissent Regarding the consensus in published literature cited by Cornell University, some experts counter that academic publications routinely reject any submissions that question the global warming narrative.  “I’m lucky because I didn’t really start pushing back on this until I was close to retirement,” Mr. Happer said. He had already established himself at that point as a tenured professor at Princeton, a member of the Academy of Sciences, and director of energy research at the U.S. Department of Energy. “If I’d been much younger, they could have made sure I never got tenure, that my papers would never get published,” he said. “They can keep me from publishing papers now, but it doesn’t matter because I already have status. But it would matter a lot if I were younger and I had a career that I was trying to make.” In an interview with John Stossel, climate scientist Judith Curry said she paid the price for contradicting the narrative and called the global warming consensus “a manufactured consensus.” Ms. Curry, the former chair of Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, said that when she published a study that claimed hurricanes were increasing in intensity, “I was adopted by the environmental advocacy groups and the alarmists and I was treated like a rock star; I was flown all over the place to meet with politicians and to give these talks, and lots of media attention.” When several researchers questioned her findings, she investigated their claims and concluded that her critics were correct.  “Part of it was bad data; part of it was natural climate variability,” she said. But when she went public with that fact, she was shunned, she said and pushed out of academia.  Mr. Lindzen tells a similar tale, once he began to question the climate narrative. “Funding and publication became almost impossible,” he said, “and I was holding the most distinguished chair in meteorology,” which was MIT’s Sloan Professorship of Meteorology.  Nobel Prize-winning physicist John Clauser told The Epoch Times that he, too, was abruptly canceled from giving a speech on climate at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on July 25. Mr. Clauser had stated during a previous speech at Quantum Korea 2023 that “climate change is not a crisis.” He said that climate is a self-regulating process and that more clouds form when temperatures rise, resulting in a compensatory cooling effect. Although he agrees that atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing, he argued that the gas's effect on global warming is swamped by the natural cloud cycle. However, only days before his IMF discussion was to take place, Mr. Clauser received an email indicating that the IMF's Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) director, Pablo Moreno, didn't want the event to happen. An assistant who was coordinating the event wrote to Mr. Clauser: “When I arranged this the Director was very happy about it but things have evidently changed.” The IMF’s current policy on climate change is that “large emitting countries need to introduce a carbon tax that rises quickly to $75 a ton in 2030, consistent with limiting global warming to 2° [Celcius] or less.” The Climate Money Machine Asked why there would be a need to censor, alter, and cherry-pick data to support the global warming narrative, Mr. Lindzen said “because it’s a hoax.” Mr. Clauser said of the climate consensus, “We are totally awash in pseudoscience.” “There is this huge fraction of the population that has been brainwashed into thinking this is an existential threat to the planet,” Mr. Happer said. “I don’t blame the people; they don’t have the background to know they are being deceived, but they are being deceived.”  The World Bank announced in September 2022 that it paid out a record $31.7 billion that fiscal year to help countries address climate change, a 19 percent increase from the $26.6 billion it paid out over the previous fiscal year. And according to Reuters, the United States is projected to spend about $500 billion to fight climate change over the next decade, including $362 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act, $98 billion from the Infrastructure Act, and $54 billion from the CHIPS law. “What would happen to sustainable energy, the worthless windmills and solar panels if suddenly there were no climate change emergency,” Mr. Happer said. “They’re really not very good technology and they’re doing a lot more harm than good, but nevertheless people are making lots of money.” Many investors, most notably BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, have cited government regulations and subsidies as a key reason why investments in “green” energies would be profitable.  Research grants to study climate change are offered by many government agencies, including the EPA, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as by non-profits including Bloomberg Philanthropies and the MacArthur Foundation, which paid out $458 million since 2014. “Going back to [19]88 to ’90, funding went up by a factor of 15,” Mr. Lindzen said. “You created a whole new community. “This was a small field in 1990; not a single member of the faculty at MIT called themselves a climate scientist,” he said. “By 1996, everyone was a climate scientist, and that included impacts. If you’re studying cockroaches and you put in your grant, ‘cockroaches and climate,’ you are a climate scientist.” Asked to respond to the professors’ comments, an EPA spokesperson stated: “The Agency will review all comments we received as we work to finalize the proposed standards.” Kevin Stocklin is a business reporter, film producer and former Wall Street banker. He wrote and produced "We All Fall Down: The American Mortgage Crisis," a 2008 documentary on the collapse of the mortgage finance system. His most recent documentary is "The Shadow State," an investigation of the ESG industry. Tyler Durden Mon, 08/14/2023 - 21:40.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytAug 14th, 2023

The European Energy Crisis May Be Back Soon

The European Energy Crisis May Be Back Soon Authored by Daniel Lacalle, European natural gas prices soared almost 40 percent on the risk of a global liquefied natural gas shortage. European wholesale power prices remain below the record highs of the energy crisis but have steadily climbed as the volatility in the international commodity spectrum underscores the fragility of the European energy system. Unfortunately, the European Union bureaucrats declared the end of the energy crisis as if it were the result of decisive policy action, but the reality is that the energy problem in the EU was only diminished by purely external factors: a very mild winter and the decline in global commodity prices due to the central bank rate hikes. Thus, the energy crisis remains, and the problems of security of supply and affordability of the system persist. The European Union’s dependency on Russian gas has not been solved; it has only been disguised by a massive increase in dependency on coal (lignite) in the case of Germany and expensive liquefied natural gas imported from the rest of the world. At the end of 2022, Germany’s energy mix was the clearest example of its energy policy failure. Hard coal and lignite accounted for 31.2%, natural gas 13.8%, and mineral oil 0.8%, with nuclear at 6.0%. After almost 200 billion euros in renewable subsidies, Germany needs more coal and imported natural gas. What did the government decide after facing the mistake of shutting down almost all its nuclear fleet? You guessed it. Double down and continue with the process of closing the remaining ones. No wonder Germany is in recession. Its industrial model requires abundant and affordable energy, and the different governments have made the cost of energy uncompetitive. What about Spain? The government decided to implement an “Iberian exception” that eliminates the cost of gas from the wholesale power price only to charge it back to consumers as a surcharge in the bill. The result? The fifth highest electricity bill in Europe sent hundreds of millions of euros to France and Portugal that purchased the subsidized energy while the Spanish consumer paid the bill to natural gas producers, and its imports of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) soared, but the government tried to convince citizens that LNG from Novatek is “not Russian gas” because it is not a pipeline Gazprom supply, even when the supplier is a leading Russian energy multinational. You cannot make this up. Even worse. Consumers have not seen the improvement in commodities in their bills. If we look at the latest reported Eurostat figures of household electricity prices, these increased in all but two EU Member States in the second half of 2022, compared with the second half of 2021, just as commodities slumped in international markets. The average for the EU stands at 252 euros per MWh and 261 euros per MWh for the euro area. This is between 20 and 30% higher than the average residential electricity rate in the U.S., according to data from Energy Sage. The European energy crisis was not solved. It was disguised thanks to a mild winter and the slowdown in coal and gas imports from China. European governments continue to place all their bets on a misguided energy transition that ignores security of supply and competitiveness and will make the EU depend on China for rare earths and metals as well as the U.S. and OPEC for commodities. The European Union should have abandoned ideological decisions and allowed technology, competition, and industry to provide the optimal solution that delivers a competitive and secure supply of energy. Deciding to forbid the development of domestic resources and focus on intermittent and volatile sources of energy before the battery technology is fully operational is an enormous mistake that condemns the European Union to suffer higher costs and lower growth. Environmental policies must be considered from a global perspective. The EU accounts for less than 10% of global emissions but almost 100% of the cost. It needs to focus on competitiveness, security of supply, and respect for the environment from an industrial perspective. Ignoring the importance of making the most of nuclear, hydroelectric, gas, and all other available sources is dangerous. In China or the United States, affordability, security of supply, and competitiveness are the drivers of energy policy. In Europe, it is a misguided view of “not in my backyard” that is making the continent more dependent on others, not less. Subsidies are delaying the necessary development of intermittent and volatile energy sources because policymakers reject the importance of creative destruction and competition as driving forces of progress. Interventionism is not delivering better or cheaper energy; it is making the European Union lose in the technology and energy security race. Tyler Durden Mon, 08/14/2023 - 09:05.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeAug 14th, 2023

GOP attempt to stymie abortion in Ohio backfires spectacularly

Republicans tried to kneecap an abortion rights amendment months before it came before voters. In return, they received a major rebuke. A sign outside of an early voting location in Columbus, Ohio, where voters are considering making it harder to amend the state's constitution.Samantha Hendrickson/AP Ohioans issued a major rebuke to Republican officials on Tuesday night. Voters rejected a gambit to get ahead of an abortion rights vote this November. The result illustrates that the GOP is still struggling to figure out how to talk about abortion post-Roe. So goes Ohio. That's how a generation of political pundits used to respond to swing state's results on presidential election nights, knowing that it could almost reliably predict control of the White House. Ohio is much redder now, but Tuesday's results in an early face-off over abortion rights illustrate a much more troubling bellwether for the GOP.Ohioans did not explicitly vote on abortion rights on Tuesday. Regardless, they sent a major rebuke to key state Republican leaders as they rejected an effort to get ahead of a November abortion vote.Not long after 8 p.m., just a half hour after polls closed, margins were so lopsided that Decision Desk HQ and the Columbus Dispatch projected that voters would reject the proposed amendment.The hastily-scheduled special election on Issue 1 was about whether to increase the threshold necessary to amend the state's constitution. The timing and even the comments of some Republicans made clear it was about abortion, though. Specifically, conservatives wanted to deal a potentially lethal blow to an abortion rights amendment before voters even consider it this November.It failed.Progress Action FundTrying to claw back voters' power is now the latest gambit to fail in the wake of Roe's reversal. The Ohio results illustrate that more than a year later, Americans remain animated over the Supreme Court gutting abortion rights. Issue 1 sparked turnout that the Columbus Dispatch reported surprised election officials. They may try to find a safe harbor in the culture war du jour, but Americans are far more agitated about abortion restrictions than worried about their gas grills. Just a few years ago, abortion was still a taboo issue in Democratic politics. Their leaders defended the Hyde Amendment that banned most federal funds from being used for an abortion.Now, strategists are plotting votes guaranteeing abortion rights in just about every state they can find.Abortion rights activists have now stood down efforts to pass restrictions in Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana. Meanwhile, they've written abortion protections into the constitution in states such as Michigan. Ohio may very well join its neighbor later this November.Conservatives were elated that they realized their decades-long effort to gut Roe. Instead, it has turned into a reoccurring nightmare whenever the issue is on the ballot.Anti-abortion groups that were once in almost lockstep with GOP leaders are warring with presidential candidates and lawmakers who refuse to back nationwide abortion bans that range from unpopular (15 weeks) to a near-career ender (6 weeks).This is not to say abortion opponents have struck out. Roe's reversal opened the door to abortion bans that were ready to go. Abortion rights activists have been left to fight a bevy of court battles with limited successes in often heavily conservative courts. More states are trying to enact greater bans, such as Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed a ban on almost all abortions after 6 weeks into law. Some Republicans want to go even further, by restricting pills used for medicated abortions or by limiting out-of-state travel for abortions.Polls show those types of restrictions are almost comically unpopular.Tuesday's result may quickly be the least of the GOP's worries. The prospect of the issue coming up in a key 2024 state is becoming more likely each day.Activists in Arizona have already taken steps to put the issue on the ballot next year. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderAug 8th, 2023

Our Oil Predicament Explained: Heavy Oil And The Diesel Fuel It Provides Are Key

Our Oil Predicament Explained: Heavy Oil And The Diesel Fuel It Provides Are Key Authored by Gail Tverberg via, It has recently become clear to me that heavy oil, which is needed to produce diesel and jet fuel, plays a far more significant role in the world economy than most people understand. We need heavy oil that can be extracted, processed, and transported inexpensively to be able to provide the category of fuels sometimes referred to as Middle Distillates if our modern economy is to continue. A transition to electricity doesn’t work for most heavy equipment that is powered by diesel or jet fuel. A major concern is that the physics of our self-organizing economy plays an important role in determining what actually happens. Leaders may think that they are in charge, but their power to change the way the overall system works, in the chosen direction, is quite limited. The physics of the system tends to keep oil prices lower than heavy oil producers would prefer. It tends to cause debt bubbles to collapse. It tends to squeeze out “inefficient” uses of oil from the system in ways we wouldn’t expect. In the future, the physics of the system may keep parts of the world economy operating while other inefficient pieces get squeezed out. In this post, I will try to explain some of the issues with oil limits as they seem to be playing out, particularly as they apply to diesel and jet fuel, the major components of Middle Distillates. [1] The most serious issue with oil supply is that there seems to be plenty of oil in the ground, but the world economy cannot hold prices up sufficiently high, for long enough, to get this oil out. As I frequently point out, the world economy is a physics-based system. World oil prices are set by supply and demand. Demand is quite closely tied to what people around the world can afford to pay for food and for transportation services because the use of oil is integral to today’s food production and transportation services. Heavy oil is especially involved in this affordability issue. As oil becomes “heavier,” it becomes more viscous, and thus more difficult to ship by pipeline. If oil is very heavy, as is the oil from the Oil Sands of Canada, it needs to be mixed with an appropriate diluent to be shipped by pipeline. Heavy oil often has sulfur and other pollutants mixed in, adding costs to the refining process. Furthermore, heavy oil, especially very heavy oil, often needs to be “cracked” in a refinery to provide a desirable mix of end products, including diesel, jet fuel, and gasoline. This, too, adds costs. Otherwise, there would be too much of the product mix that would be like asphalt. Also, as noted previously, even if the costs of production are high, the selling price of diesel cannot rise very high without raising food prices. This tends to keep the prices of heavy crude oils below those for lighter crude oils. Many people believe that the high level of “Proved Oil Reserves” worldwide makes it certain that businesses can extract as much oil as they would like in the future. A major issue is whether these reserves mean as much as people assume they do. Oil reserves of OECD countries (an association of the US and other rich countries) are likely to be audited, but reserves of other countries may not be. Asking a relatively poor oil-exporting country the amount of its oil reserves is like asking the country how wealthy it is. We should not be surprised by fibbing on the high side. The problem is that the vast majority of reported oil reserves (85%) are held by non-OECD countries. These reserves may be significantly overstated. Also, even if the reserves are fairly reported, will the country have the resources to extract these reserves? Venezuela reports the highest oil reserves in the world thanks to its heavy oil in the Orinoco Belt, but it extracts a relatively small amount per year. An October 2022 article says that the country is waiting for foreign investment to expand production. Going forward, oil companies everywhere need to worry about broken supply lines for necessary items, such as steel drilling pipe. They need to worry about finding enough trained workers. They need to worry about the availability of debt and the interest rate that will be charged for this debt. If private oil companies look at the true prospects and find them too bleak, they will likely use their profits to buy back the shares of their own oil companies instead (as is happening now). [2] While oil producers can crack heavy oil to make shorter hydrocarbons in a way that is not terribly expensive, trying to make near-gasses and light oils into diesel becomes impossibly expensive. It is easy for people to assume that any part of the oil mix is substitutable for another part, but this is not true. Cracking long hydrocarbon chains works to make shorter chains, but the economics tend not to work in the other direction. Thus, it is not economically feasible to make gasoline into diesel (which is heavier), or natural gas liquids into diesel. [3] If there is inadequate oil supply, the impacts on the economy are likely to include broken supply lines, empty shelves, and inflation in the price of goods that are available. If there is not enough oil to go around, some users must be left out. The result is that some of the less profitable consumers of oil may file for bankruptcy. For example, the Wall Street Journal recently reported Trucking Giant Yellow Shuts Down Operations. This bankruptcy makes it impossible for some stores to get the merchandise that would normally be on their shelves. As a consequence, it makes it likely that some replacement parts for automobiles will not be available when needed. There is a workaround of renting another vehicle while a person’s car is waiting for repairs, but this adds to total costs. This workaround illustrates how a lack of adequate oil can indirectly lead to higher overall costs, even if the oil itself is not higher-priced. The need to work around supply line problems tends to lead to inflation in the prices of goods that continue to be available. [4] The fact that the quantity of oil that could be affordably extracted was likely to fall short about now has been known for a very long time, but this fact has been hidden from the public. In 1957, Hyman Rickover of the US navy predicted that the amount of affordable fossil fuels would fall short between 2000 and 2050, with the amount of oil falling short earlier than coal and natural gas. The book The Limits to Growth by Donella Meadows and others, published in 1972, discusses the result of early modeling efforts with respect to resource limits. These resource limits were very broadly defined, including minerals such as copper and lithium in addition to fossil fuels. A range of indications were produced, but the base model (based on business as usual) seemed to show limits hitting before 2030 (Figure 1). Figure 1. Base scenario from the 1972 book, The Limits to Growth, printed using today’s graphics by Charles Hall and John Day in “Revisiting Limits to Growth After Peak Oil.” Since the resource limits include minerals of all types, these limits would seem to preclude a transition to clean energy and electric cars. Educators, advertisers, and political leaders could see that discussing the oil problem would cause economic suicide. What would be the point of buying a car, if a person couldn’t use it for very long? Educators felt that students needed to be guided in the direction of hoped-for solutions, no matter how remote they might be, if university programs were to remain open. Politicians and government officials wanted to keep voters happy, so the self-organizing economy pushed them in the direction of keeping the story from the public. They tended to focus on climate issues instead. They added biofuels to stretch the supply of gasoline, and to a lesser extent, diesel. They also increased the share of natural gas liquids. The selling price of these liquids tends to be quite low, relative to the price of crude oil. They started providing reports showing “all liquids” rather than “crude oil,” in the hope that people wouldn’t notice the change in mix. Figure 2. World “total liquids” production by type, based on international data from the US EIA. [5] The world’s number one problem today seems to be an inadequate supply of Middle Distillates. These provide diesel and jet fuel. Diesel and jet fuel provide the big bursts of power that commercial equipment requires. Many types of equipment are dependent on Middle Distillates, including semi-trucks, agricultural equipment, ocean-going ships, jet planes, road-making equipment, school buses, and trains operating in areas with steep inclines. Because of its concentrated store of energy, diesel is also used to operate backup generators and to provide electricity in remote areas of the world where it would be impractical to have year-round electricity without an easily stored fuel. Figure 3. World oil consumption by product type based on “Regional Consumption” data from the 2023 Statistical Review of World Energy, published by the Energy Institute. Oil includes natural gas liquids. In Figure 3: Light Distillates are primarily gasoline (78% in 2022). Middle Distillates are diesel (82%) and jet fuel/kerosene (18%). Fuel Oil is a cheap, polluting, unrefined product. If environmental laws permit, it can be burned as bunker fuel (used in ships), as boiler fuel, or to provide electricity. The Other category includes near-gasses such as ethane, propane, and butane (58%). It also includes some very heavy oil used as lubricants, asphalt, or feedstocks for petrochemicals. Until recently, it has been possible to increase diesel production by refining an added share of Fuel Oil. Fuel oil is quite heavy (barely a liquid), so it is well-suited to be refined into a mix that includes a large share of Middle Distillates. Now we are running short of Fuel Oil to refine for the purpose of producing more Middle Distillates. The Fuel Oil that is still consumed is used in what I think of as the poorer countries of the world: the non-OECD countries (Figure 4). Figure 4. World Fuel Oil consumption split between OECD (rich countries) and Non-OECD (poor countries) from the 2023 Statistical Review of World Energy, published by the Energy Institute. Poor countries tend to value “low price” over “prevents pollution.” It is likely to be difficult to get these countries to move away from the use of Fuel Oil. [6] Countries around the world are now competing for Middle Distillates to maintain the food production, road building, commercial transportation, and construction portions of their economies. Figure 5 shows that since about 1983, consumption per capita for both Light Distillates and Middle Distillates has been generally slightly growing. Growth in usage tends to be higher for Middle Distillates than Light Distillates. The total quantity consumed is also higher for Middle Distillates. Figure 5. World per capita consumption of Middle Distillates and Light Distillates based on “Regional Consumption” data from the 2023 Statistical Review of World Energy, published by the Energy Institute. The dip in consumption per capita in 2020 is much more pronounced for Middle Distillates than Light Distillates. For Middle Distillates, the change from 2018 to 2020 is -16%; the change from 2018 to 2022 is -7%. The corresponding changes for Light Distillates are -11% and -4%. The difference in patterns in Light Distillates and Middle Distillates is not surprising: Gasoline, the main product of Light Distillates, has been the focus of efficiency changes. It is also possible to dilute gasoline with ethanol, made from corn. Voters in the US are particularly aware of gasoline availability and price, so politicians tend to focus on it. Diesel and jet fuel, made using Middle Distillates, are less on the minds of voters, but they are probably more important to the economy because people’s jobs depend upon the economy in its current form holding together. Inadequate Middle Distillates leaves empty shelves in stores because of broken supply lines. It also leads to inflation of the type we have recently been experiencing. Indirectly, lack of Middle Distillates can lead to debt bubbles collapsing, and to problems of a different type than inflation. Figure 6. Middle Distillate consumption for OECD and non-OECD countries, based on “Regional Consumption” data from the 2023 Statistical Review of World Energy, published by the Energy Institute. Up until 2007, Middle Distillate consumption was generally increasing for both OECD countries and non-OECD countries. The Great Recession of 2008-2009 particularly affected OECD countries. European countries found their economies doing less well. For example, less diesel was used to operate tour boats carrying tourists; a larger share of available jobs were low-paid service jobs. The year 2013 was a turning point of a different type. The consumption of non-OECD countries caught up with that of OECD countries. While non-OECD countries might like to maintain their rapid upward trajectory in the consumption of Middle Distillates, this no longer seems to be possible. [7] Under the Maximum Power Principle, the physics of the economy pushes the economy toward optimal low-cost solutions, especially as the quantity of Middle Distillates approaches limits. The economy, like every other ecosystem, operates under the principle of “survival of the best adapted.” In terms of the sale of goods, this means that the lowest-priced goods will tend to win out in a competitive environment, provided that they are of adequate quality and that the makers can earn an adequate profit in making them. Furthermore, the makers of the goods must earn a high enough profit both for reinvestment and to pay adequate taxes to their governments. Payments of taxes to governments are essential; otherwise governmental collapse would occur due to the growing debt that cannot be repaid. If inflation becomes a problem, rising interest rates would tend to push governments with large amounts of debt toward collapse because they would become unable even to make interest payments from current income. In this self-organizing economy, buyers of goods don’t know or care much about the lives of the workers in the system. Optimal low costs of manufacturing in a world market might mean: Manufacturers have access to very inexpensive energy sources and use them. Pollution control is ignored to the maximum extent possible, without serious harm to the workers. Governments provide very little in the way of benefits to citizens, such as health care or pensions, keeping the cost of government low. Workers can get along on relatively low salaries because little heating or cooling of homes is needed. Workers don’t expect private vehicles, recreational activities, or advanced medical care. Because the economy favors the lowest cost of profitable production, a person would expect that warm countries that use oil sparingly in their energy mix (India, the Philippines, and Vietnam, for example) would have a competitive edge over other countries in manufacturing. In general, a person would expect non-OECD countries to outcompete OECD countries, especially if cheap fuel for manufacturing is available. The lack of cheap fuel is increasingly becoming a problem in many parts of the world. Coal used to be cheap, but its price can now spike. Natural gas prices can also spike, especially if natural gas is purchased without a long-term contract. Electricity using wind and solar tends to be high-priced, too, when the cost of transmission is included. [8] The Maximum Power Principle seems to be pushing the EU away from diesel. The EU has a serious oil problem. It has essentially no crude oil production of its own. Furthermore, oil production in Europe outside of the EU (mainly the UK and Norway) has been falling since 1999, greatly reducing the possibility of imported oil from this area (Figure 7). Figure 7. Total Europe and European Union oil production, including natural gas liquids, based on data from the 2023 Statistical Review of World Energy, published by the Energy Institute. Under these circumstances, members of the EU found that they needed to import nearly all of their oil, and that most of this oil needed to come from outside Europe. When I look at the data regarding the types of oil the EU has chosen to consume (nearly all imported), I find that it uses an oil mix that is unusually skewed toward Middle Distillates and away from Light Distillates. (Compare Figure 8 with Figure 3). Figure 8. EU oil consumed by product type based on “Regional Consumption” data from the 2023 Statistical Review of World Energy, produced by the Energy Institute. Oil includes natural gas liquids. Part of the reason the EU uses this skewed oil mix is because it has encouraged the use of private passenger cars using diesel through its tax structure. Underlying this tax structure was most likely an understanding that Russia, through its exports of Urals Oil, which is heavy, could provide the EU with the mix of oil products it needed, including extra diesel. The EU has recently cut off most oil imports from Russia as a way of punishing Russia. This cutoff is being phased in, with most of the impact in 2023 and later. Thus, Figure 8 (which is through 2022) shouldn’t be much affected. China and India are now buying most of Russia’s exported oil. These countries tend to use the oil more “efficiently” than the EU. In particular, they do more manufacturing than the EU, and they have far fewer private passenger cars per capita than the EU. Furthermore, the EU powers quite a few of its private passenger cars with diesel. If diesel is in short supply, efficiency demands that it should be saved for uses that require it, such as powering heavy equipment. Because of the efficiency issue, I doubt that the EU will be able to continue importing as high a diesel mix in the future as it has been importing up to now. We know that Saudi Arabia cut back its oil exports by 1 million barrels per day, as of July 1, and this cutback is continuing into August. Russia is also cutting its production by 500,000 barrels a day, effective August 1. If oil prices rise again, I wonder whether the EU will be forced to cut back on its oil imports, essentially because of the Maximum Power Principle. [9] The substitution of electricity for oil so far has been mostly in the direction of replacing gasoline usage for private passenger automobiles. Substitution of electricity for Middle Distillates would be virtually impossible. Middle Distillates are largely used for the tough jobs–jobs that require big bursts of power. Electricity and the battery storage required for electricity are not adapted to these tough jobs. The vehicles become too heavy, especially when the big battery packs that would be required are considered. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that battery-powered commercial trucks can cost more than three times the price of diesel-powered trucks, a hurdle much smaller private passenger automobiles don’t face. The wide diversity of types of heavy commercial vehicles would be another huge hurdle in trying to substitute electricity for diesel. Oil is a mixture of different hydrocarbon lengths. Substitution of electricity for one part of the hydrocarbon mix, namely for the Light Distillates, is not very helpful. Oil companies need to be able to sell all parts of the mix in order to make their extraction efforts worthwhile. If oil companies find themselves without buyers for most Light Distillates, they would have difficulty recouping their overall costs. There would be a possibility of oil production stopping. Without oil, farming would mostly stop. Road repair would stop. Today’s economy would come to a halt. Of course, as a practical matter, the vast majority of the world will pay no attention to mandates that all private passenger automobiles be EVs. Buyers in most parts of the world will make decisions based on which cars are least expensive to own and operate. As a result, there is little chance of private passenger cars being completely replaced by EVs. Instead, EV mandates in some countries may somewhat reduce the selling price of gasoline worldwide because these drivers are no longer using gasoline. With lower gasoline prices, non-EV’s are likely to become cheaper to operate in countries where they are permitted, boosting their sales. This is an effect similar to Jevons Paradox. [10] There are many related topics that could be addressed, but they will need to wait until later posts. A few of samples of other issues: [a] The world economy is tightly networked together. Inadequate oil supplies per capita tend to push the economy toward forced reduced activity, as was the case in 2020. Oil prices likely won’t rise a whole lot higher, for very long, if the economy is forced to shrink. [b] Inadequate oil supplies per capita also tend to cause fighting among countries. OECD countries seem to over consume, relative to the benefits they provide to the rest of the world. Perhaps some grouping of non-OECD countries (or parts of countries) will take over in leadership roles. [c] The self-organizing economy has different priorities than human leaders. All ecosystems in a finite world go through cycles. As conditions change, different species are favored, and new species emerge. Humans have a strong preference for recent conditions that helped humans thrive. Humans need a religion to follow, so leaders have created environmental sin to replace original sin. The catch is that ecosystems are built for change. Pollution can be viewed as a type of fertilizer for different types of species or recent mutations to thrive. Higher temperatures will have a net favorable effect for some organisms. [d] If a local economy chooses to increase energy costs by taking steps to reduce its carbon footprint, the main impact may be to disadvantage the local economy relative to the world economy. If total energy costs are higher, the cost of finished goods and services is likely to be higher, making the economy less competitive. [e] I expect that the members of the EU and other rich nations will be the primary countries pursuing carbon reduction technologies. Poorer economies may pay lip service to carbon reduction, but they will tend to focus primarily on increasing the welfare of their own people, whether or not this requires more carbon. For example, in 2022, China accounted for 66% of global EV sales (5.0 million out of 7.7 million), thanks to subsidies that China made available. China no doubt had many motives, but one of them would seem to be to stimulate the economy. Another motive would be to increase the total number of vehicles in operation. The majority (61%) of electricity generation in China in 2022 was provided by electricity coming from coal-fired power plants, based on information from the Energy Institute. I would expect that more Chinese vehicles manufactured and placed into operation plus more use of electricity from coal would lead to a greater quantity of carbon emissions, rather than a smaller quantity. Tyler Durden Sat, 08/05/2023 - 20:30.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytAug 5th, 2023

Trump"s new indictment says he knew he was lying about 2020 election fraud. But prosecutors don"t need to prove that to convict him.

Donald Trump knew he was lying about 2020 election fraud, prosecutors say in the indictment. Proving it would help convince a jury to convict him. Donald Trump.Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images The new indictment against Trump argues he knew his claims of fraud in the 2020 election were lies. Proving that would help demonstrate that he had criminal intent. Prosecutors can also nail Trump by proving he acted "corruptly" and carried out actions he knew were wrong. The latest indictment against Donald Trump goes to great lengths to argue that the former president knew he was lying when he repeatedly insisted that the 2020 election was stolen from him by fraud.According to the indictment, Trump knew that his opponent Joe Biden won the contest, but lied anyway in a last-ditch effort to cling to power.Trump and six alleged co-conspirators disseminated "prolific lies," falsely claiming that large numbers of dead or ineligible voters had cast ballots and that voting machines switched votes from him to now-President Biden, among a host of other conspiracy theories, the indictment alleges. Those lies, according to the indictment, underpinned criminal conspiracies to impede Congress's certification of votes and to rob Americans of their right to vote and have their votes counted."These claims were false, and the Defendant knew that they were false," the indictment says.The indictment's focus on Trump's self-awareness — the word "knowingly" appears 26 times in the text — has led some legal observers to question whether anyone can prove that Trump knew he lost the election when he continues to maintain that he is the true winner."At the heart of the case is really a metaphysical question of whether it's even possible for Donald Trump to believe that he lost the election, or lost anything else, for that matter," DC attorney Robert Kelner told the Washington Post.But that metaphysical question is largely beside the point, according to Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University.Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith, who brought the charges with a federal grand jury in Washington, DC, doesn't need to prove that Trump knew he lost the election, Goodman told Insider. But it would help."Many of these allegations are not dependent upon that. I do think there's an oddity in the indictment, that it makes it seem as though it is central," Goodman told Insider. "I just think it's Jack Smith saying, 'If I need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, I can.' If he does prove that Trump knew he lost, then it's off to the races."Proving Trump knew he was lying helps prove criminal intentConvincing a jury that Trump knew the election results were legitimate would be one of several ways that Smith could prove Trump acted with criminal intent.Trump will almost certainly argue that he thought otherwise. The former president maintains, to this day — even after a second impeachment and numerous lawsuits against him and his allies — that he was the true victor of the 2020 election, by a landslide. He's claimed that the supposed "Massive Fraud" of the election even "allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution." Trump has denied the allegations against him and is set to formally enter a plea on Thursday afternoon.Attorneys have succeeded in discrediting Trump's claims in court before. Earlier this year, he lost a civil lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll, who alleged Trump sexually abused her in the 1990s.In a sworn deposition and public statements, Trump denied even knowing who Carroll was. But her lawyers brought Carroll's friends to testify about how she told them about the incident shortly after it occurred, bolstering her testimony, and pointed out the contradictions in Trump's statements. In the end, the jury believed Carroll was telling the truth and awarded her $5 million.According to Smith's indictment, there were numerous ways Trump knew that his ludicrous theories about election fraud were false, including that:Then-Vice President Mike Pence — who personally stood to gain by remaining in office — told him he'd seen no evidence of "outcome-determinative" fraud.Senior Justice Department leaders told him that multiple allegations of election fraud were unsupported.National security officials told him that no amount of foreign election interference changed the election outcome.Cybersecurity officials told him there was no evidence that voting systems were compromised.Senior White House attorneys, who were "selected by the Defendant to provide him candid advice," told him he there was no significant evidence of fraud and "that his presidency would end on Inauguration Day in 2021."His top campaign officials told him he could only stay in power if his legal challenges were successful — and they weren't.Courts rejected all the lawsuits filed by him and his allies.State officials who otherwise supported his campaign told him that claims about election fraud in their states were unsubstantiated.Other portions of the indictment describe how Trump privately dismissed claims of election fraud, or expected Biden to assume office, but acted differently in public.In one incident, he conceded that a national security issue would be dealt with by "the next guy," the indictment says. In another, he told advisors in private that lawyer Sidney Powell's false conspiracy theories about voting machine companies sounded "crazy," according to the indictment, but endorsed one on social media anyway.As lawyers for Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell pushed outlandish conspiracy theories about election fraud.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesThe indictment also describes moments where Trump rejects reality. During a meeting on January 4, 2021, Trump asked Pence — who was set to oversee the count and certification of electoral college votes two days later — to reject electors from seven states they lost.When Pence asked the attorney John Eastman, who had proposed the strategy, about whether doing so was legally sound, Eastman said it was untested."Did you hear that? Even your own counsel is not saying I have that authority," Pence told Trump, according to the indictment."That's okay, I prefer the other suggestion," Trump allegedly responded.The charges in the indictment related to obstructing the congressional proceeding of vote certification on January 6, 2021, require proving "corrupt intent" on Trump's part, according to Goodman. Proving he knew he lost the 2020 election would fulfill that requirement, he said."You can't try to then flip the electoral count in any which way — even if it was within Pence's authority — if you know you lost," Goodman said. "That would be the corrupt intent part.""But that's just one way up the hill," he added.Smith could also argue Trump acted with 'corrupt intent' in other waysAside from proving that Trump knew the election wasn't marred by fraud, there are other ways of proving that he acted with criminal intent for some of the charges.For the charges Smith brought, proving Trump acted "corruptly" would mean proving he intended to obstruct Congress's vote certification and was motivated by self-interest, according to a model prosecution memorandum published by Just Security.Goodman — a co-author of the memo along with several former prosecutors and other legal experts — said Smith could go the "improper means" route.Under that legal theory, he said, whether Trump won or lost, or whether there was widespread fraud in the election, would be irrelevant. Smith would just have to prove that Trump — after losing all legal challenges to the 2020 election outcome — resorted to illegal ones."What would be the improper means? False statements by the false electors. Trying to get Pence to defy his oath and go beyond his very limited ceremonial responsibilities," Goodman said. "Those are a couple."Donald Trump speaking to supporters ahead of the January 6 insurrection.BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty ImagesTrump could still be found criminally responsible even if his delusions about fraud were trueEven in a scenario where Trump really did win the election, he could still be found criminally culpable, according to Goodman.It's still a crime to pressure other public officials — like Pence, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and then-Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers — to violate their oaths and carry out schemes contrary to their legal duties, he said."He can't threaten Raffensperger with criminal prosecution and threaten him with physical violence, which is what Raffensperger testified to Congress that he experienced," Goodman said. "He can't pressure Mike Pence to violate his duties. He can't pressure Rusty Bowers in Arizona to violate his duties and his oath."The fake elector plot is also a big problem for Trump. He and co-conspirators persuaded a number of Republican officials to pretend that Trump won their respective states and submit made-up documents declaring his victory to Congress and the National Archives.According to the indictment, Trump used those fake electors to try to convince the Justice Department to intervene in the electoral counting and certification process, to pressure Pence to use those electors and declare him the winner, and to have his supporters pressure Pence to carry out that plan. All of those qualify as "improper means" for the crimes Trump was charged with, according to Goodman.In the indictment, Smith doesn't appear to hold Trump directly responsible for the violence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. He alleges Trump and his co-conspirators "exploited" the disruption caused by the mob to push more election fraud lies and pressure members of Congress to delay certifying votes.But if Smith takes a stronger tack in subsequent legal arguments, "using violence to try to interfere with the certification" certainly qualifies as "improper means," Goodman said. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytAug 3rd, 2023

Technocensorship: The Government"s War On So-Called "Dangerous Ideas"

Technocensorship: The Government's War On So-Called 'Dangerous Ideas' Authored by John & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute, “There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.” - Ray Bradbury What we are witnessing is the modern-day equivalent of book burning which involves doing away with dangerous ideas—legitimate or not—and the people who espouse them.Seventy years after Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 depicted a fictional world in which books are burned in order to suppress dissenting ideas, while televised entertainment is used to anesthetize the populace and render them easily pacified, distracted and controlled, we find ourselves navigating an eerily similar reality. Welcome to the age of technocensorship. On paper - under the First Amendment, at least - we are technically free to speak. In reality, however, we are now only as free to speak as a government official—or corporate entities such as Facebook, Google or YouTube—may allow. Case in point: internal documents released by the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government confirmed what we have long suspected: that the government has been working in tandem with social media companies to censor speech. By “censor,” we’re referring to concerted efforts by the government to muzzle, silence and altogether eradicate any speech that runs afoul of the government’s own approved narrative. This is political correctness taken to its most chilling and oppressive extreme. The revelations that Facebook worked in concert with the Biden administration to censor content related to COVID-19, including humorous jokes, credible information and so-called disinformation, followed on the heels of a ruling by a federal court in Louisiana that prohibits executive branch officials from communicating with social media companies about controversial content in their online forums. Likening the government’s heavy-handed attempts to pressure social media companies to suppress content critical of COVID vaccines or the election to “an almost dystopian scenario,” Judge Terry Doughty warned that “the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.’” This is the very definition of technofascism. Clothed in tyrannical self-righteousness, technofascism is powered by technological behemoths (both corporate and governmental) working in tandem to achieve a common goal. The government is not protecting us from “dangerous” disinformation campaigns. It is laying the groundwork to insulate us from “dangerous” ideas that might cause us to think for ourselves and, in so doing, challenge the power elite’s stranglehold over our lives. Thus far, the tech giants have been able to sidestep the First Amendment by virtue of their non-governmental status, but it’s a dubious distinction at best when they are marching in lockstep with the government’s dictates. As Philip Hamburger and Jenin Younes write for The Wall Street Journal: “The First Amendment prohibits the government from ‘abridging the freedom of speech.’ Supreme Court doctrine makes clear that government can’t constitutionally evade the amendment by working through private companies.” Nothing good can come from allowing the government to sidestep the Constitution. The steady, pervasive censorship creep that is being inflicted on us by corporate tech giants with the blessing of the powers-that-be threatens to bring about a restructuring of reality straight out of Orwell’s 1984, where the Ministry of Truth polices speech and ensures that facts conform to whatever version of reality the government propagandists embrace. Orwell intended 1984 as a warning. Instead, it is being used as a dystopian instruction manual for socially engineering a populace that is compliant, conformist and obedient to Big Brother. This is the slippery slope that leads to the end of free speech as we once knew it. In a world increasingly automated and filtered through the lens of artificial intelligence, we are finding ourselves at the mercy of inflexible algorithms that dictate the boundaries of our liberties. Once artificial intelligence becomes a fully integrated part of the government bureaucracy, there will be little recourse: we will all be subject to the intransigent judgments of techno-rulers. This is how it starts. First, the censors went after so-called extremists spouting so-called “hate speech.” Then they went after so-called extremists spouting so-called “disinformation” about stolen elections, the Holocaust, and Hunter Biden. By the time so-called extremists found themselves in the crosshairs for spouting so-called “misinformation” about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, the censors had developed a system and strategy for silencing the nonconformists. Eventually, depending on how the government and its corporate allies define what constitutes “extremism, “we the people” might all be considered guilty of some thought crime or other. Whatever we tolerate now—whatever we turn a blind eye to—whatever we rationalize when it is inflicted on others, whether in the name of securing racial justice or defending democracy or combatting fascism, will eventually come back to imprison us, one and all. Watch and learn. We should all be alarmed when any individual or group—prominent or not—is censored, silenced and made to disappear from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram for voicing ideas that are deemed politically incorrect, hateful, dangerous or conspiratorial. Given what we know about the government’s tendency to define its own reality and attach its own labels to behavior and speech that challenges its authority, this should be cause for alarm across the entire political spectrum. Here’s the point: you don’t have to like or agree with anyone who has been muzzled or made to disappear online because of their views, but to ignore the long-term ramifications of such censorship is dangerously naïve, because whatever powers you allow the government and its corporate operatives to claim now will eventually be used against you by tyrants of your own making. As Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept: The glaring fallacy that always lies at the heart of pro-censorship sentiments is the gullible, delusional belief that censorship powers will be deployed only to suppress views one dislikes, but never one’s own views… Facebook is not some benevolent, kind, compassionate parent or a subversive, radical actor who is going to police our discourse in order to protect the weak and marginalized or serve as a noble check on mischief by the powerful. They are almost always going to do exactly the opposite: protect the powerful from those who seek to undermine elite institutions and reject their orthodoxies. Tech giants, like all corporations, are required by law to have one overriding objective: maximizing shareholder value. They are always going to use their power to appease those they perceive wield the greatest political and economic power. Be warned: it’s a slippery slope from censoring so-called illegitimate ideas to silencing truth. Eventually, as George Orwell predicted, telling the truth will become a revolutionary act. If the government can control speech, it can control thought and, in turn, it can control the minds of the citizenry. It’s happening already. With every passing day, we’re being moved further down the road towards a totalitarian society characterized by government censorship, violence, corruption, hypocrisy and intolerance, all packaged for our supposed benefit in the Orwellian doublespeak of national security, tolerance and so-called “government speech.” Little by little, Americans are being conditioned to accept routine incursions on their freedoms. This is how oppression becomes systemic, what is referred to as creeping normality, or a death by a thousand cuts. It’s a concept invoked by Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist Jared Diamond to describe how major changes, if implemented slowly in small stages over time, can be accepted as normal without the shock and resistance that might greet a sudden upheaval. Diamond’s concerns related to Easter Island’s now-vanished civilization and the societal decline and environmental degradation that contributed to it, but it’s a powerful analogy for the steady erosion of our freedoms and decline of our country right under our noses. As Diamond explains, “In just a few centuries, the people of Easter Island wiped out their forest, drove their plants and animals to extinction, and saw their complex society spiral into chaos and cannibalism… Why didn’t they look around, realize what they were doing, and stop before it was too late? What were they thinking when they cut down the last palm tree?” His answer: “I suspect that the disaster happened not with a bang but with a whimper.” Much like America’s own colonists, Easter Island’s early colonists discovered a new world—“a pristine paradise”—teeming with life. Yet almost 2000 years after its first settlers arrived, Easter Island was reduced to a barren graveyard by a populace so focused on their immediate needs that they failed to preserve paradise for future generations. The same could be said of the America today: it, too, is being reduced to a barren graveyard by a populace so focused on their immediate needs that they are failing to preserve freedom for future generations. In Easter Island’s case, as Diamond speculates: The forest…vanished slowly, over decades. Perhaps war interrupted the moving teams; perhaps by the time the carvers had finished their work, the last rope snapped. In the meantime, any islander who tried to warn about the dangers of progressive deforestation would have been overridden by vested interests of carvers, bureaucrats, and chiefs, whose jobs depended on continued deforestation… The changes in forest cover from year to year would have been hard to detect… Only older people, recollecting their childhoods decades earlier, could have recognized a difference. Gradually trees became fewer, smaller, and less important. By the time the last fruit-bearing adult palm tree was cut, palms had long since ceased to be of economic significance. That left only smaller and smaller palm saplings to clear each year, along with other bushes and treelets. No one would have noticed the felling of the last small palm.” Sound painfully familiar yet? We’ve already torn down the rich forest of liberties established by our founders. It has vanished slowly, over the decades. The erosion of our freedoms has happened so incrementally, no one seems to have noticed. Only the older generations, remembering what true freedom was like, recognize the difference. Gradually, the freedoms enjoyed by the citizenry have become fewer, smaller and less important. By the time the last freedom falls, no one will know the difference. This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls: with a thousand cuts, each one justified or ignored or shrugged over as inconsequential enough by itself to bother, but they add up. Each cut, each attempt to undermine our freedoms, each loss of some critical right—to think freely, to assemble, to speak without fear of being shamed or censored, to raise our children as we see fit, to worship or not worship as our conscience dictates, to eat what we want and love who we want, to live as we want—they add up to an immeasurable failure on the part of each and every one of us to stop the descent down that slippery slope. As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we are on that downward slope now. Tyler Durden Thu, 08/03/2023 - 00:00.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytAug 3rd, 2023

The Legal Cases Against Trump Explained

The Legal Cases Against Trump Explained Authored by Petr Svab via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), Former President Donald Trump is running for the White House while facing three indictments and one more criminal investigation. Never before has a former president been criminally charged—much less a frontrunner in another presidential race. As the remaining investigation gets closer to possible charges and the indicted ones inch closer to trials, Mr. Trump has repeatedly pledged that he would continue his campaign even if convicted. Former president Donald Trump speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa's 2023 Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 28, 2023. (SERGIO FLORES/AFP via Getty Images) Defense Documents The most developed case so far involves Mr. Trump’s keeping of documents from his presidency. Special counsel Jack Smith charged Mr. Trump and two of his employees with 37 felony counts, including illegal retention of national defense information, obstruction of government, and lying to the government. While the trial is set for May 2024, some legal observers expect further delays. The case traces back to Mr. Trump’s January 2021 exit from the White House. His belongings and some of the documents from his time in office were packed in boxes and shipped to his home at the Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach, Florida. The indictment argues that it was at this point that Mr. Trump committed 31 counts of illegally retaining national defense information because he “caused” the boxes to be moved. While this crime, under the Espionage Act, requires criminal intent, no evidence has emerged so far that Mr. Trump was aware the 31 documents in question were in the boxes. It appears that Mr. Trump was under the impression that he could go through the boxes at his own pace and keep whatever he deemed personal. However, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had a different view; it demanded the return of all presidential documents as soon as possible. This image, contained in the indictment against former President Donald Trump, shows boxes of records stored in a bathroom at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. (Department of Justice via AP) Under the Presidential Records Act, all official presidential records must be handed over to NARA, and former presidents are only allowed to take personal items such as journals and artifacts that weren’t intended for official government business. The problem is, the law doesn’t include an enforcement mechanism. In 2012, when Judicial Watch tried to force former President Bill Clinton to turn over dozens of interview tapes from his presidency that he had kept, Mr. Clinton claimed that the tapes were personal, and the court sided with him. Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an appointee of President Barack Obama, argued that the court had no way to second-guess a president’s assertion of what is or isn’t personal. “Since the President is completely entrusted with the management and even the disposal of Presidential records during his time in office, it would be difficult for this Court to conclude that Congress intended that he would have less authority to do what he pleases with what he considers to be his personal records,” Judge Jackson wrote. Mr. Trump has repeatedly cited that case as justification for keeping whatever documents he wanted. However, he faces the charges in Florida, where the case isn’t a controlling precedent. Mr. Trump sent 15 boxes of materials to NARA in January 2022. NARA then made a referral to the Department of Justice (DOJ) upon finding that some of the documents had classification markings. Shortly after, the DOJ began an investigation. On May 11, 2022, the DOJ obtained a subpoena that compelled Mr. Trump to turn over all documents with classification markings, including electronic files, at Mar-a-Lago. Some defense lawyers and former prosecutors have argued that Mr. Trump should have challenged the subpoena as overly broad. The subpoena didn’t specify whether it only covered originals or also copies and whether it covered obviously declassified documents. There are millions of declassified documents online that still have visible classification markings. Locating any such documents in Trump’s possession at Mar-a-Lago—all physical copies ever printed out and all such files on any computers and storage media he owns—would have been a monumental task. Special counsel Jack Smith speaks to the press at the Department of Justice building in Washington on Aug. 1, 2023. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images) Mr. Trump did no such all-encompassing search. He let his lawyer search some of the boxes brought from the White House. Most of the obstruction charges focus on that point, alleging that Mr. Trump had his aide, Walt Nauta, move boxes out of a storage room at Mar-a-Lago so that they couldn’t be searched by the lawyer. Smith added a few more charges on July 27, alleging that Mr. Trump asked his property manager at Mar-a-Lago, Carlos de Oliveira, to have security camera footage deleted after the DOJ subpoenaed some of the footage in June 2022. Smith alleges the footage showed Mr. Nauta moving boxes in and out of the storage room. The updated indictment doesn’t cite direct evidence that Mr. Trump made such a request—only de Oliviera’s alleged claim that he did. Mr. Smith’s adding of new charges and an additional defendant at this point may displease the judge overseeing the case, Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee. Just a few weeks ago, Mr. Smith requested that the case go to trial in December—a rather short timeline if Mr. Smith knew at the time that additional charges may be forthcoming. Mr. Trump could theoretically render the whole case moot if he wins the election and issues himself a pardon, although some legal scholars question whether presidents can do that. Mr. Smith, former head of the DOJ Public Integrity Section, was appointed a special counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland on Nov. 18, 2022, to investigate Mr. Trump’s documents retention as well as his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, protest and riot at the U.S. Capitol. January 6 Case On Aug. 1, Mr. Smith revealed his indictment of Mr. Trump in the January 6 investigation. He charged the former president with conspiracy to "impair, obstruct, and defeat" the collection and counting of electoral votes, conspiracy against Americans' right to vote, obstruction of the electoral vote counting by Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, and conspiracy to obstruct the electoral vote counting. Mr. Trump said he was informed on July 16 that he was a target of a grand jury investigation in relation to the January 6 incident. The case centers on Mr. Trump’s claims of fraud and other illegalities in the 2020 election and how they played into the events at the Capitol, where a part of a massive protest over the election results boiled over into violence, with some people breaking into the building and fighting with police. Protesters gather on the west front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images) The indictment alleges that Trump knew his attacks on the election results were false, largely because some people, including state and federal officials, told him some of the claims were false and he kept repeating them. The 45-page indictment also focuses on Trump's repeated urging of Vice President Mike Pence to reject electoral votes from states where Trump had contested the results. It further alleged that Trump incited the January 6 violence by telling the protesters that he hoped Pence would "send [the electoral votes] back to the states to recertify," despite knowing that Pence repeatedly rejected the idea. There’s extensive evidence of illegalities during the election, including illegal changes to election rules made with the excuse of the COVID-19 pandemic and some instances of fraud. None of the allegations, however, have been successfully litigated to overturn the election result in any state. Many of the cases have been dismissed for procedural reasons, rather than on the merits of the evidence. Mr. Trump has argued that if indicted, the proceedings would give him an opportunity to expose information about improprieties in the election. Georgia Election Case Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis began investigating Mr. Trump shortly after taking office in the largest Georgia county in January 2021. On Jan. 24, 2022, Fulton County Superior Court granted Ms. Willis’s request for a special purpose grand jury that couldn't bring charges, but can subpoena witnesses. That panel worked for about eight months, interviewing about 75 witnesses starting in May 2022, local media reported. Ms. Willis recently said she’s “ready to go,” following up on her previous promises to bring charges by Sept. 1. ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 06: Georgia Secretary of State Ben Raffensperger holds a press conference on the status of ballot counting on November 6, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. The 2020 presidential race between incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden is still too close to call with outstanding ballots in a number of states including Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images) The core issue of the probe, according to local media, was a telephone call by Mr. Trump to the state's secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, on Jan. 2, 2021. The content of the call was selectively leaked to the media to create the narrative that Mr. Trump asked Mr. Raffensperger to “find” him enough votes to overturn the election. When the transcript of the call was released, it turned out that Mr. Trump said he believed hundreds of thousands of ballots had been cast illegally in the state, particularly in Fulton County, which includes the Democrat bastion of Atlanta. He profusely criticized Mr. Raffensperger for failing to sufficiently investigate the fraud allegations. “Why wouldn’t you want to find the right answer?” Mr. Trump asked. Mr. Raffensperger and his team countered some of the allegations during the call, saying they were already investigated. Several times during the conversation, Mr. Trump noted that he only needed to identify about 11,000 illegal votes because that was the margin by which he lost the state. “If you check with Fulton County, you’ll have hundreds of thousands because they dumped ballots into Fulton County and the other county next to it,” Mr. Trump said. “So what are we going to do here folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break. You know, we have that in spades already.” Another part of Ms. Willis’s investigation seems to focus on the alternative set of electors who convened at the state Capitol on Dec. 14, 2020, to cast their votes for Mr. Trump, despite the official vote count giving the victory to Mr. Trump’s opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. Ms. Willis informed the electors that they were targets of her investigation, and at least eight of the 16 were granted immunity in exchange for their testimony, The Washington Post reported in May. The state’s Republican Party started a website on July 31 that criticizes the Willis investigation for targeting the electors. It says that the “contingent electors” cast their votes with the express acknowledgment that they would only be counted in case Mr. Trump’s lawsuit challenging the election results in the state succeeded. The website points to a similar incident in 1960, when John F. Kennedy sued to overturn election results in Hawaii. A set of Democrat electors had cast their votes for Mr. Kennedy even though the state already certified its vote count, with Richard Nixon as the winner. The lawsuit succeeded and the alternative votes were counted. In Mr. Trump’s case, the lawsuit wasn’t heard until Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the counting of the electoral votes. The suit was tossed on procedural grounds, never getting a hearing on its evidence. Ms. Willis was barred by a judge from pursuing charges against one of the alternate electors, Georgia’s new lieutenant governor, Burt Jones, after Ms. Willis hosted a campaign fundraiser for Mr. Jones’s opponent in the 2022 race, Charlie Bailey. Hush Money Case The first criminal charges against Mr. Trump came in March from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in New York. Mr. Bragg alleged that Mr. Trump committed 34 felonies because payments marked in his accounting books as legal expenses were in fact reimbursing his then-lawyer Michael Cohen for payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference following the arraignment of former U.S. President Donald Trump in New York City on April 4, 2023. (Kena Betancur/Getty Images) Ms. Daniels communicated to Trump ahead of the 2016 election that she intended to sell to the press her story alleging she had an affair with Trump in 2006; she said she was willing to keep the story to herself if paid. Mr. Trump indeed had Mr. Cohen pay about $130,000 in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement, which Ms. Daniels ended up breaking. Mr. Trump’s company then reimbursed Mr. Cohen. Mr. Bragg is treating the bookkeeping entries for payments to Mr. Cohen as violations of New York law against falsifying business records. Such violations would only be misdemeanors unless committed in the advancement of another crime. Mr. Bragg has argued that is indeed the case, although the indictment fails to specify what was the other crime supposed to be. There has been speculation in the media that the other crime was a campaign law violation. The argument would be that the hush money for Ms. Daniels was, in fact, an illegal campaign contribution. Trial is scheduled for March 25, 2024. Tyler Durden Wed, 08/02/2023 - 20:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeAug 2nd, 2023

Trump was indicted over his involvement in the January 6 Capitol riot and efforts to overturn the election results. Here"s what the 4 charges against him mean.

Donald Trump was indicted on four counts Tuesday. Here's what each charge means. Former President Donald Trump.AP Photo/Evan Vucci Former President Donald Trump was indicted on four charges in connection to the January 6 Capitol riot.  He's been charged with conspiracy to defraud the government, obstruction of an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights.  Here's a breakdown of the charges and what they could mean for the former president.  Former President Donald Trump was indicted Tuesday on four counts in connection to the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.The charges include conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights.It's the third criminal indictment and second federal indictment for the former commander-in-chief and arose from the special counsel Jack Smith's sprawling investigation into the deadly siege.Here's a breakdown of the new criminal charges Trump is facing and what they mean.Conspiracy to defraud the governmentThe general conspiracy statute is fairly broad, but the Supreme Court determined in two 20th-century cases that it prohibits "conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing or defeating" a lawful government function, and interfering with or obstructing the government "by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest."To secure a conviction on this charge, prosecutors would need to prove that Trump knew he lost the 2020 election and still tried to overturn the results.When Congress' January 6 select committee asked the Justice Department to prosecute Trump in connection to the Capitol riot, it included conspiracy to defraud the US as one of the four recommended charges."This was almost a certainty," Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor in California told Insider, adding that it's a "safe" charge that can also include several co-conspirators.Indeed, the January 6 committee said in a court filing last year that it had evidence Trump and his allies "entered into an agreement" to defraud the US by interfering with Congress' election-certification process, "disseminating false information about election fraud, and pressuring state officials to alter state election results and federal officials to assist in that effort."If convicted of this charge, Trump could face a maximum of 5 years in prison, Rahmani said.Obstruction of an official proceeding This charge relates primarily to allegations that Trump tried to obstruct Congress' election certification process by pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject the electors from states that Biden won and substitute fake slates of pro-Trump electors in their place.Obstruction of an official proceeding is among the most widely used charges federal prosecutors have brought against other defendants related to the Capitol riot. The January 6 committee also said last year that several judges "concluded that Congress's proceeding to count the electoral votes on January 6th was an 'official proceeding' for purposes of this section, and each has refused to dismiss charges against defendants under that section."The maximum prison sentence if Trump is convicted of this charge is 20 years.But Rahmani said that if Trump is convicted, he will likely never see that many years behind bars because prosecutors will "merge sentences ... and take the most serious one." In this case, it's obstruction of an official proceeding. Plus, Rahmani said, the judge will follow sentencing guidelines versus handing down the max. He added that sentencing ranges are advisory and that if Trump gets convicted following a trial, he'll likely be looking at a four- to five-year sentence. And if he strikes a plea deal, he could be sentenced to three to four years, Rahmani said.Conspiracy to obstruct an official proceedingProsecutors used the same evidence laid out in the first conspiracy charge to make its case here. The conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding charge relates directly to the government's accusation that Trump conspired to obstruct the congressional certification of President Joe Biden's November 2020 win. The charge carried a possible prison sentence of 20 years, The Washington Post reported.Conspiracy against rights Trump was widely expected to be charged with conspiracy to defraud the US and obstruction of an official proceeding. But legal experts were surprised when it initially surfaced that Smith's office was also considering charging Trump with conspiracy against rights.The Reconstruction-era law was originally passed to stop members of the Ku Klux Klan from terrorizing formerly enslaved people trying to exercise their constitutional rights.But it's been applied more broadly in the modern day, and in Trump's case, prosecutors want to use it in alleging that the former president tried to tamper with the 2020 election results in battleground states.If convicted of this charge, Trump could face a fine or prison time of up to 10 years, Rahmani said.Rahmani added that while the charge was less expected compared to the others, "Trump was allegedly conspiring to prevent peoples' lawful votes from being counted with the fake elector scheme.""That's why it makes sense," because "what he did fits within the four corners of the statue," Rahmani said.The law states that if someone died as a result of the conspiracy, the defendant could face life in prison. A bipartisan Senate report found that at least seven people died in connection to the riot.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytAug 1st, 2023

Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:CHTR) Q2 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:CHTR) Q2 2023 Earnings Call Transcript July 28, 2023 Charter Communications, Inc. beats earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $8.8, expectations were $7.96. Operator: Hello, and welcome to Charter Communications’ Second Quarter 2023 Investor Call. [Operator Instructions] Also, as a reminder, this conference call is being recorded today. If you have any objections, […] Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:CHTR) Q2 2023 Earnings Call Transcript July 28, 2023 Charter Communications, Inc. beats earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $8.8, expectations were $7.96. Operator: Hello, and welcome to Charter Communications’ Second Quarter 2023 Investor Call. [Operator Instructions] Also, as a reminder, this conference call is being recorded today. If you have any objections, please disconnect at this time. I will now turn the call over to Stefan Anninger. Stefan Anninger: Good morning, and welcome to Charter’s second quarter 2023 investor call. The presentation that accompanies this call can be found on our website,, under the Financial Information section. Before we proceed, I would like to remind you that there are a number of risk factors and other cautionary statements contained in our SEC filings, including our most recent 10-K and also our 10-Q filed this morning. We will not review those risk factors and other cautionary statements on this call; however, we encourage you to read them carefully. Various remarks that we make on this call concerning expectation, predictions, plans and prospects constitute forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ from historical or anticipated results. Any forward-looking statements reflect management’s current view only, and Charter undertakes no obligation to revise or update such statements or to make additional forward-looking statements in the future. During the course of today’s call, we will be referring to non-GAAP measures as defined and reconciled in our earnings materials. These non-GAAP measures, as defined by Charter, may not be comparable to measures with similar titles used by other companies. Please also note that, all growth rates noted on this call and in the presentation are calculated on a year-over-year basis unless otherwise specified. On today’s call, we have Chris Winfrey, our President and CEO; Tom Rutledge, our Executive Chairman; and Jessica Fischer, our CFO. With that, let’s turn the call over to Chris. Chris Winfrey: Thanks, Stefan. During the second quarter, we added 77,000 Internet customers, and we continue to benefit from our Spectrum One offering and our network expansion initiatives. We also added 648,000 spectrum mobile lines. At the end of the second quarter, we had over 6.6 million total mobile lines. Over 11% of our Internet customers now have mobile service, and we expect mobile penetration to meaningfully grow over the next several years. Spectrum Mobile is the nation’s fastest mobile service. We see mobile lines as an extension of our WiFi and seamless connectivity service, and we expect our increasing convergence capabilities will contribute to further Internet growth. We’re pleased with the progress of our growth initiatives and our performance in the second quarter, and we maintained EBITDA despite the significant employee investments we made through 2022, which will start generating growth benefits later this year. We remain focused on our three key strategic initiatives: evolution, expansion and execution, each of which is designed to help us grow our business and each of which remains very much on plan. Our network evolution plan is progressing well and offers us significant benefits. First, it will allow us to maintain our fastest Internet and WiFi service claims in front of our customers and competitors everywhere we operate, with symmetrical and multi-gig speeds via DOCSIS 4.0 and the ability to provide 25, 50 or even 100 gigabit per second speeds with fiber on demand. This evolution path also creates fallow upstream and downstream capacity for years, driving lower node spot capital. And by upgrading the actives and amplifiers and nodes and converting analog optics to digital, we lower our future operating and maintenance expenses all at a very low cost, much of which was funded from capital and operating cost savings over time. Unlike telco companies who prioritize more attractive footprints for their upgrades, our deployment is across our entire footprint. The cable industry is nearly ubiquitous deployment of a tremendous amount of spectrum to each home will provide the scaled platform for software and product developers to create new bandwidth-intensive, low latency, high compute services. This uniform deployment of network capabilities is what cable has always done to lead the development of new technologies into our networks at scale. And that unique approach is what has and will maintain our competitiveness into the future. So our network evolution is good for the communities we serve, and it’s good for Charter. So far, the execution of this large physical upgrade has gone well, and capital costs are coming in on target. Excluding the benefit of any network savings, we continue to expect to spend $100 per passing. Our converged product offering also continues to evolve. Spectrum One is performing well in the marketplace. It offers the fastest connectivity and includes differentiated features like Mobile Speed Boost and Spectrum Mobile network, each of which run on our advanced WiFi product. Today, over 45% of our Internet customers have our advanced WiFi product, and over 75% of our mobile customers now attached to the Spectrum Mobile network outside of their homes, providing higher speeds with more reliability to customers with lower cost to Charter. Spectrum One also offers significant savings for customers with market-leading pricing at both promotion and retail. We’re excited for the upcoming release of the Xumo product, which I believe will be an industry-leading platform for customers to access all of their linear and DTC video content with unified search and discovery. Together with our Spectrum TV app, the most viewed linear MVPD streaming service in the US, Xumo will be our go-to-market platform for new video sales. We’re currently conducting field trials in the product, and we remain on track for deployment later this year. Our expansion initiative with subsidized rural construction is also on plan. Penetration gains in subsidized rural passings continues to grow at a better pace than planned. Charter is the largest and fastest-growing rural provider in the nation. Our scale and reputation as a rural builder positions us well for winning additional state and local funds, and we hope significant BEAD infrastructure funding. Although the rules and recommendations from NTIA on BEAD funding differ from successful programs currently deployed by the states in which we operate, we’ll work with key stakeholders and government officials to reach a place where the rules are still conducive to private investment. And finally, we remain committed to the execution of our core operating strategy, which prioritizes customer experience and satisfaction, driving faster customer growth. We continue to see the benefits of our investments in training and tenure, including better employee retention, higher quality service transactions and better sales yields. Additionally, the increasing digitization of our customer service platforms will further reduce transactions. There’s been a lot of discussion about what artificial intelligence and machine learning can do to improve products and business models. Charter already uses advanced analytics and machine learning in various stages and forms across sales, service and network operations. And we expect to continue our investments in AI, machine learning and digital service in ways that meet customers where and how they want to receive service and continually enhance tools for our sales and service employees to simplify their jobs. Ultimately, AI will improve both customer and employee satisfaction and enhance our operating efficiency by driving fewer physical service transactions, lower cost and lower churn for years to come. Our operating strategy is focused on running our business for long-term value creation for our shareholders, which includes two of the cable industry’s most successful investors. Simply put, our operating strategy is founded on having great products, pricing and packaging that creates value for customers and is very difficult for competitors to replicate so that we get more products into each household and drive more penetration across the network, which lowers our cost to serve. And then combine that with investments in high-quality service, which also increases our competitiveness to acquire more customers. We have a great team here at Charter, and we’re committed to disciplined execution and investment in this operating strategy, which we believe is good for customers, employees and the communities we serve and will drive significant long-term value creation for shareholders. With that, I’ll turn the call over to Jessica. Jessica Fischer: Thanks, Chris. Let’s turn to our customer results on slide 6. Including residential and SMB, we added 77,000 Internet customers in the second quarter, versus 38,000 in the prior year period when excluding last year’s Internet disconnects related to the transition from EBB to ACP. Video customers in the second quarter declined by $200,000 and wireline voice declined by 221,000, and we added 648,000 mobile lines. Internet churn remained near record lows for the second quarter and flat year-over-year. and Internet gross additions improved year-over-year. The year-over-year improvement in Internet net additions was driven by tailwinds from our rural construction initiative, the continued success of our Spectrum One product, better sales yields from higher tenured employees and a slower pace of fiber overbuild in our footprint during the quarter. Despite the year-over-year improvement in net adds, overall market activity remains well below pre-COVID level, partly driven by very low move rates. We also continue to see some impact from fixed wireless access competitors in the price-sensitive customer segment of residential and SMB. As Chris mentioned, our Spectrum Mobile product continued to perform well in the quarter. The majority of new lines continue to come from existing Internet customers, though the percentage of lines coming from new customers continued to increase and was higher than what we saw in the first quarter. Important from other carriers as a portion of our gross additions are essentially the same today as they were prior to the launch of Spectrum One despite much higher mobile sales. And with good usage on those promotional lines and unbeatable quality and value at a $30 retail price point, we expect the lines to perform well as long-term customers. Turning to rural, subsidized rural passings growth accelerated in the quarter with 68,000 passing activated and we continue to expect approximately 300,000 new subsidized rural passings this year. Additionally, costs are coming in as planned and we have the labor, equipment and supply necessary to execute our bills. We continue to bid on additional subsidies. In addition to RDOF, we’ve now won over $700 million in state subsidies for over 300,000 passings with a gross build cost of approximately $1.7 billion and a per passing cost to Charter net of subsidies of approximately $3,200. As Chris mentioned, we also look forward to the bidding process, assuming the right regulatory conditions. Moving to financial results, starting on slide 7. Over the last year, residential customers grew by 0.2%, with new customer growth driven by Internet, partly offset by video-only customer churn. Residential revenue per customer relationship declined by 0.3% year-over-year given a higher mix of non-video customers and growth of lower priced video packages within our base, partly offset by promotional rate step-ups, rate adjustments and the accelerated growth of Spectrum Mobile. As Slide 7 shows, residential revenue declined by 0.3% year-over-year. Turning to commercial. SMB revenue grew by 0.2% year-over-year, reflecting SMB customer growth of 1.7%, partly offset by lower monthly SMB revenue per customer, primarily due to a higher mix of lower-priced video packages and a lower number of voice lines per SMB customer. Enterprise revenue was up by 3.2% year-over-year. Enterprise PSUs grew by 6.2% year-over-year. And excluding all wholesale revenue, enterprise revenue grew by 7.2%. Second quarter advertising revenue declined by 16.5% year-over-year due to less political revenue. Core advertising revenue was down 3.5% year-over-year due to a more challenged advertising market partly offset by our growing advanced advertising capabilities. Other revenue grew 28.5% year-over-year driven by higher mobile device sales. And in total, consolidated second quarter revenue was up 0.5% year-over-year and up 1.1% year-over-year when excluding advertising. Moving to operating expense and adjusted EBITDA on Slide 8. In the second quarter, total operating expenses grew by $48 million or 0.6% year-over-year. Programming costs declined by 7.8% year-over-year due to a decline in video customers of 5.1% year-over-year, a higher mix of lighter video packages, partly offset by higher programming rates in the second half of ’22 – by higher programming rates. In the second half of 2023, we now expect year-over-year growth in programming cost per video customer to be similar to the growth we saw in the first half of 2023. other cost of revenue increased by 15.4%, primarily driven by higher mobile device sales, other mobile direct costs and higher RSN costs driven by more Lakers games partly offset by lower ad sales costs. Cost to service customers increased by 3.6% year-over-year, driven by adjustments to job structure, pay and benefits to build a more skilled and longer tenured workforce, resulting in lower frontline employee attrition compared to 2022 and additional activity to support the accelerated growth of Spectrum Mobile, which is partly offset by productivity improvements, lower service transactions per customer and lower bad debt. As we mentioned last quarter, our employee attrition has declined more quickly than we expected given the programs we discussed at our December investor meeting. In response, we lowered our normal hiring in the first half of this year, and our overall headcount is now normalizing with increasing overall tenure and quality. Longer term, we continue to expect to see additional efficiencies in cost to service customers as a result of our continuing lower service transactions, service tenure and digital service investments, proactive maintenance, and network evolution investments. Sales and marketing costs grew by 3.6%, primarily driven by higher staffing across sales channels and the accelerated growth of Spectrum Mobile and other expenses declined by 0.4%, driven by favorability in insurance expense, mostly offset by higher labor costs. Adjusted EBITDA grew by 0.2% year-over-year in the quarter. Turning to net income on Slide 9. We generated $1.2 billion of net income attributable to Charter shareholders in the second quarter, down from $1.5 billion last year with higher adjusted EBITDA more than offset by additional interest expense. Turning to Slide 10. Capital expenditures totaled $2.8 billion in the second quarter, above last year’s second quarter spend of $2.2 billion. The increase was primarily driven by higher spend on line extensions, which totaled $1.1 billion in the second quarter of 2023 and compared to $693 million in the second quarter of 2022. The increase in line extension was driven by Charter’s subsidized rural construction initiative and continued network expansion across residential and commercial greenfield and market selling opportunity. Second quarter capital expenditures, excluding line extensions, totaled $1.8 billion compared to $1.5 billion in the second quarter of 2022. We spent more on upgrade rebuild primarily due to our network evolution initiative, and support capital was higher primarily due to investments in information technology system. For the full year, we continue to expect capital expenditures, excluding line extensions to be between $6.5 billion and $6.8 billion. Following the expected completion of our network evolution initiative at the end of 2025 or the beginning of 2026, capital expenditures, excluding line extensions as a percentage of revenue, should decline to below 2022 levels and continue to decline thereafter. And we expect 2023 line extension capital expenditures to reach approximately $4 billion. We continue to expect 2024 and 2025 line extension CapEx to look similar to our outlook for 2023 at approximately $4 billion per year. And our 2024 and 2025 line extension capital expenditure expectations assume we win funding for or otherwise commit to additional rural spending, including BEAD. As Slide 11 shows, we generated $668 million of consolidated free cash flow this quarter versus $1.7 billion in the second quarter of last year. The decline was driven by higher CapEx and mostly driven by our network expansion and network evolution initiatives and higher cash taxes as we became a full federal cash taxpayer in 2023. We finished the quarter with $97.8 billion in debt principal. Our current run rate annualized cash interest is $5.1 billion. And as of the end of the second quarter, our ratio of net debt to last 12-month adjusted EBITDA was 4.47 times. We intend to stay at or just below the high end of our 4 times to 4.5 times target leverage range. During the quarter, we repurchased 1.1 million Charter shares in Charter Holdings common units, totaling about $400 million at an average price of $341 per share. While our goal is to grow the business in the long-term, our focus on execution is driving operating leverage in the business even now. When you take the noise from political ads – when you take out the noise from political advertising, EBITDA grew by 1.3% year-over-year in the quarter, which means that we were more efficient despite significant mobile growth and a onetime step-up in labor investments. And we believe our financials will improve as we move later into the year with additional revenue growth in Internet and mobile that will begin showing in Q4 and lower service cost per customer as we realize the 10-year benefits of our investment in employees and lap last year’s labor step up. Longer-term, we also expect to see continuing benefits in operating expenses from further digitization, network improvements, and benefits of programs like proactive maintenance. We’re well poised for the future. Operator, we’re now ready for Q&A. Q&A Session Follow Charter Communications Inc (NASDAQ:CHTR) Follow Charter Communications Inc (NASDAQ:CHTR) We may use your email to send marketing emails about our services. Click here to read our privacy policy. Operator: [Operator Instructions] We’ll take our first question from Ben Swinburne with Morgan Stanley. Your line is open. Ben Swinburne: Thanks. Good morning. I guess two questions. Maybe first, I think you guys will start to lap Spectrum One later this year, and it will probably be one of the first indications for all of us externally to sort of see the promotional roll-off activity and sort of the impact on churn, if any. I don’t know if you could just maybe talk about what we should be expecting or how you guys are approaching that or what your expectations are as you go through that sort of first wave of promotional roll off. And then, I know we don’t typically talk about video on these calls, but you guys have a lot going on there. And I was just wondering if you could spend a minute talking about sort of your strategy with Xumo and also the new sort of RSNs changes you’ve made? And just anything we should be thinking about in terms of the implications of this strategy on your financials, whether there’s set-top box revenues we should be thinking about or capital intensity coming down, et cetera. Obviously, these are kind of big changes to a part of the business that we don’t tend to spend a lot of time on. So I wanted to get your thoughts there. Thank you very much. Chris Winfrey: Sure. Hi Ben, there’s actually a lot in there. So on Spectrum One, we started – we launched Spectrum One at the beginning of October last year. And so you’ll have the beginning anniversary dates start occurring then. The usage on these is high. And if you think through the comments in Jessica’s prepared remarks, these are really good customers. And when you put the Internet WiFi and mobile together, you can’t get that product, you can’t get that quality and you can’t get that pricing anywhere else inside the marketplace. And even if you just take a look at it as mobile stand-alone, at $30, at retail pricing, that’s unmatchable. And to have that with the fastest mobile product in the marketplace, I don’t see any reason to think that we’re going to have difficulty managing through those roll-offs. Now that doesn’t mean that you’ll have to evaluate and make sure that you’re poised to handle and address customer questions, but I think it sticks. We’ll also have quietly in the marketplace this time last year, beginning in late July and through August. We did do some testing. So we’ll have the opportunity as we go through the course of this quarter to perfect any reactions that we have from customers in small scale along the way. And so I think we’re well set up to do that always have. And so I think we’re in a good position. Could we have a small amount of turn potentially, but I don’t think it’s going to be material given the quality and the value that we’re providing in and I think we found something that sticks. I don’t know that Spectrum One will be permanently our end-state convergence and seamless connectivity, branding and platform. It’s working well today, but we’re going to continue to try things in the marketplace because I think we have a technology and a structure and capability that none of our competitors can really replicate in the marketplace. And I think that product and seamless connectivity will stick, and I think the value is very tied to customers. On video strategy, there hasn’t been a fundamental change in our video strategy. We’re losing the least amount of video customers of any of our peers or competitors. The reason that we’ve been able to do that is for two reasons. One is that we have flexibility, and we’ve tried to use that wisely in a way that is valuable to consumers to create products, pricing and packaging that will stick. And secondly, I think we have a high-quality video product as you think about our capabilities. If you want live TV, if you want DVR video on demand, if you want expanded basic, which is the majority of what we sell, or you want smaller packages, if you want that inside the home, outside the home across multiple devices, Cloud DVR, no set-top box, Roku, Apple TV or on your iPad all of those things exist. And there’s not many providers who can provide that breadth of content and that level of functionality across the marketplace. The product is good and is designed for the vast majority of people in the marketplace. The issue has been price. And the fact that programmers have required us to take and provide content that customers may not necessarily watch or value and at the same time, increase the pricing. And so as we’ve talked about in the past, you’ve priced out a large number of customers out of the marketplace through that strategy by the programmers. And at the same time, they’ve gone around and sold that same content at a lower price in a less secure environment. So they’ve devalued the same content, and that creates a structural problem for the business. We’ve always thought that if we had the ability to create packages and we had better security in the marketplace of the content that these programmers have that we could sell more video and that would be good, obviously, for customers. It’d be good for the program is ultimately and it would be better for us. But that will take a fair amount of leadership in the programming space to be able to get to that environment. What we found in the RSNs, which was the part of the question that you asked is that prior to Diamond entering into a restructuring environment, we had already created the capacity to have significant flexibility with our packages. And we’ve achieved that across the RSN space for the vast majority of the country, and we’re rolling out versions of our select expanded basic with and without RSNs. We’ll be doing that shortly, which does exactly what I just described. And it enables us to have a lower cost video packages for those who are not interested in RSNs because we have that flexibility. And I think as a result, we’ll sell more video. And then if you think about the deal that we just did or announced in ourselves, as an RSN ourselves with the Dodgers and Lakers we took our own medicine. We increased the flexibility to an affiliate dramatically. And at the same time, we announced that we would launch eventually a direct-to-consumer app, but not just in the marketplace, but it will be available to all affiliates, including DIRECTV and including to our own customers. We think that’s a model, both having flexibility as well as access to the DTC for the affiliates that could have some legs going forward and create packages that are valuable to consumers and actually allow us to sell more video. Xumo suggested about that really is an extension of what we’ve been doing already. Two-thirds of our video sales today are without a set-top box, meaning they’re going on to Roku, Apple TV, Samsung TV or other platforms. And the concept around Xumo was to, through a joint venture with Comcast, have an ownership in an independent entity, which is Xumo that provides better functionality and exist for customers today where they can integrate all of their DTC SVOD and linear services in a single place with unified search and discovery with a voice remote. And so that will be our platform of choice to deliver to our video subscriptions going forward. And ultimately, I expect us to provide that to some broadband customers over time as well. And that will be good for Xumo as an independent platform, but I also think it provides functionality to our connectivity customers and we can provide the level of video services to our customers through our connectivity packages. So the financial implications of that and this will be an attractively priced box for customers as well as for us. I don’t expect any material change to our capital expenditure outlook as a result of that. We’ve already been on a path where the equipment revenue that we’ve historically had through from set-top boxes has been on decline. So this kind of continues that path. So I think the financial implications are not that material. Jessica Fischer: Yes. And that being said, I mean, the margin from the video product has been sort of – has shrunk over time. And our position has been that we’re not willing to lose money in video. And so we believe the product is valuable for our customers. We’re continuing to seek out ways that we can continue to provide those products in the way that people want, but to do it while still generating some financial return and whether that’s in the form of set-top box revenue or in the way that we package the product overall, ultimately, we’re continuing to try to sort of defend having margin in that business. Chris Winfrey: Look, the video platform adds value to our connectivity services on a stand-alone basis. We’re at or near the point of indifference. But we’re committed to trying to find a path forward for video because we think it’s a good product. We think it adds values to customers. And if we can have the flexibility to package and price it the right way, we think it’s good for customers and it’s good for us. And ultimately, it’s much better for programmers over time as opposed to having the cord cutting continue to accelerate at the pace it’s going. Ben Swinburne: Thank you. Stefan Anninger: Thanks. Operator, we will take our next question please. Operator: Thank you. We’ll take our next question from Phil Cusick with JPMorgan. Your line is open. Phil Cusick: Thanks guys. A couple. Nice margin in the quarter. Jessica, you mentioned headcount. Can you remind us of the expected trend in costs in the second half of the year and into 2024? How will those be impacted by rural initiatives and that headcount sort of normalizing? And then can you talk about the cadence of CapEx for the balance of the year and into 2024, so all-encompassing that line extensions and regular way business? Thank you. Jessica Fischer: Yes. So first, on the expense side, I gave some outlook in the first quarter investor call during the Q&A regarding cost to service expense and sales and marketing expense growth and that really – that outlook hasn’t changed. I think we’ll have a difficult comp in other expense in Q3 because there were lower corporate costs in the third quarter. But aside from that, I think what we have said already continues to be true about the trajectory on the expense side. In terms of capital expenditures and timing across the year, our rural construction initiative now, I would say, is spending at a more consistent pace than has been the history of the business. And so I think you saw it was somewhat more CapEx loaded into the front half of the year this year relative to our outlook for the entire year than what you would often see in a year. I would expect because that rural build sort of has to continue at a pace over time that you will see that greater level of consistency in CapEx across the quarters, with maybe less back-end loading into Q4 than what you’ve seen in other than what you’ve seen us do in the past. And I would expect that as well as we continue sort of into next year. The pace of the build on the network evolution and the overall activity, we’ll just keep a base level of CapEx in the business that might have been – that might have had more of a seasonal trend previously. Phil Cusick: Thanks, Jessica Stefan Anninger: Thanks, Phil. Shall we. We’ll take our next question, please. Operator: Thank you. We’ll take our next question from John Hodulik, UBS. John Hodulik: Thanks. Two questions for you. First, could you comment on the recent price increase? I think it’s $5 increase on high-speed data. First, is that across the whole base? Maybe if you could compare it to sort of previous price increases? And do you think it’s sort of enough to get the revenue per customer back into the black. So that’s sort of number one. And number two, you guys over-indexed to the ACP program. Is there any way you could size that for us in terms of how large it is within the base talk about the strategy a little bit. And as we sort of go through that process, does that over time, potentially become a headwind for you guys in terms of broadband growth? Thanks. Jessica Fischer: So the price adjustment in August is a $5 retail Internet increase for flagship and above customers, but it’s coupled with a new auto pay discount of $5, so customers who are currently on Auto Pay or who opt into Auto Pay won’t see a change in their overall price for Internet. There’s a lot going on in ARPU. If we move into Q3, we’ll fully lap the April 2022 rate adjustment, which included pass-through of video programming expenses. You’ll have that August price adjustment and similar to recent trends, I mean when you talk about there being the reduction in ARPU on a per customer basis. It’s really the headwind from the lighter mix of non-video customers and lower-priced video tiers that’s driving that. And that obviously, I think, continues going forward. If you move into Q4, you’ll start to see the Spectrum on promotional roll off. And have sort of the continuance of the other factors that I talked about. But that will be partially offset by lapping the November 2022 Internet-only rate adjustment. So I think that we’ve had fairly consistent growth in ARPU. If you look at the Internet ARPU growth. And I think, ultimately, our strategy is never to sort of grow the business just based on price. We aim to have competitive prices and to have good penetration because of that on our footprint. But that doesn’t mean that we’re sort of immune to the inflation impact and that where it’s appropriate, we don’t take adjustments in the market, which I think is what we’ve tried to do, but try to do it in a way that’s prudent and consistent with our overall strategy. Chris Winfrey: John, I think Jessica said it, but the $5 would not apply to anybody who’s already on promotion, it only be a retail and it would to the extent that somebody is or it comes on auto pay, that won’t pass through. So it’s not that material in the end. On ACP, the – on ACP our strategy is to respond to the governmental request from the White House FCC and Congress of using this program. And we’ve been – I think, the most successful at doing that of providing a way for new customers to get into broadband or in the local income space as well as for existing customers to be able to stay in the broadband space through times of affordability issues, meaning the coming in and out of the market through nonpay churn. And we’ve been very successful doing that at the request of the government, and it’s worked very well for those customers. I do think that there’s some questions around it being renewed. It has bipartisan support. And so we’re hopeful that it will be renewed. I think it’s been a very good and successful program. And so it’s brought in some new customers, particularly early on through EBB and ACP, and we’ve been able to also have existing customers benefit from staying in broadband through that program. To the extent that it went away, many of these customers were existing broadband customers and both for new and existing customers plus you. The – for new and existing customers. We have programs. We’ve always had programs like Spectrum Internet Assist and low-income programs that we can accommodate in dealing with that at the back end. I’m hopeful that’s not the case and that it gets renewed because I do think it’s a successful program. John Hodulik: Thank you. Stefan Anninger: Thanks, John. We’ll take our next question, shall we please. Operator: Thank you. We’ll take our next question from Jonathan Chaplin with New Street. Your line is open. Jonathan Chaplin: Great, thanks, guys. I wonder if you can just stick with the ARPU theme for a second. It looks like ARPU in 2Q was a little bit lower than we expected maybe you didn’t get the – as much of a benefit from the November price increase as we thought you would – or again, as Jessica said, there’s a lot going on in ARPU. Maybe it’s a function of how the bundled discount for Spectrum One is allocated across the different products. If you can give us some sort of some insight into drivers of ARPU in 2Q, that would be really helpful. And then Jessica, I think you mentioned during the call during your prepared remarks, the benefit that you’re seeing in broadband from Spectrum. But I just missed the comment. If you can give us some more context on the pull-through effect you’re seeing and how you think that progresses the longer that Spectrum One is in the market, that would be really helpful as well. Thank you. Jessica Fischer: Jonathan, on the ARPU point, we did continue, I guess, in the year-over-year, you have the offsetting impact of having lapped last year’s rate adjustments and with what you talked about, which is that you had the price adjustments that we made earlier in the year, offset by some gap allocation of the discount related to the Spectrum One offer. I think you have all the components, right? And that is the sum of what’s happening in ARPU in this quarter. That it does Chris Winfrey: I think there’s also a fallacy in trying to oversimplify it, too. There’s a tremendous amount of activity that’s taken place in the course of the year and the course of the quarter with acquisition, retention, bundle allocations, rate increases in the past, rate increases in the more current period, there’s a very complicated model that goes there. In the end, it was 2.5%, I think, ARPU growth in Internet year-over-year despite some of the allocation differences. And given the fact that we’re growing and taking share in both – in all parts of our footprint, I think the – we’re really pleased with that mix and that outcome. And if we can accelerate particularly the growth, as we get through later part of this year, I think we’d be very happy with that. On – tied to that, your second question, Jonathan, was Spectrum One and pull-through – the point that was being made is that a higher portion of our Mobile is coming from new customer connects through Spectrum One, and that is very promising. Still the majority of our Mobile and extra coming through existing customers, but the portion of which is coming through new connects is increasing, which means that it’s having an effect in the marketplace. The real key for us is to be able to educate customers about what seems connectivity is, what gigabit wireless can provide. It’s in essence a new category, and that takes time to resonate, which is why I said, in Spectrum One is our first iteration of convergence and seamless connectivity, and it’s going well. And I think that bodes well for Internet. And I think it bodes well for Mobile, and it bodes well for Convergence for us overtime. Jonathan Chaplin: And Chris, do you expect that percentage to continue to increase? Is this sort of building momentum in terms of the benefit it has for broadband subs, do you think? Chris Winfrey: Yes. But I also expect the Mobile attach rate to our existing Internet customers to increase too, because it’s resonating not just for new customers, but for existing customers. And so you have benefits all around. Jonathan Chaplin: Great. Thanks, guys. Stefan Anninger: Thanks, Jonathan. Operator, we’ll take our next question, please. Operator: Thank you. We’ll take our next question from Brett Feldman with Goldman Sachs. Your line is open. Brett Feldman: Yes, two questions. Thanks. One of the topics that have been discussed a lot so far this earnings season is that seasonality in the broadband business appears to be much more muted than we’ve seen previously. I’m curious for your take on it and how you’re thinking about the significance of seasonal dynamics as you look into the remainder of the year. And then, just you noted that cash taxes were up a lot year-on-year, as you’ve transitioned to being a full cash taxpayer. I was hoping you could maybe give us some insight as to how to think about the way cash taxes are likely to trend over the course of any given year. I think historically, 2Q tends to be a high watermark, but I’m not sure, if there are nuances in terms of what we should be expecting for Charter? Thank you. Jessica Fischer: On the seasonality side, market activity, including move activity continues to be quite low. And because of that, it’s really difficult to predict what we might see in terms of seasonality going forward. We really think that the drivers inside of this Q2 or some of other factors, which include tailwinds from our overall construction initiative, the continued success of Spectrum One, the performance of the sales force, particularly higher sales yields and the slower pace of fiber overbuild that we saw. And so I would think more about those and sort of less about the seasonal patterns as you try to interpret what happened with our Q2 results. Your second question was. Brett Feldman: Cash taxes. Jessica Fischer: Cash taxes. Thank you. On cash taxes, there are two payments inside of Q2. And so Q2 is the natural high watermark for the cash tax payments, and I think you should anticipate that our total cash taxes are consistent with the guidance that we’ve previously given, and that those payments are – those remaining payments are spread between Q3 and Q4. There’s – you don’t have that same phenomenon of the two cash tax payments in any other quarter. Brett Feldman: Thank you. Stefan Anninger: Thanks, Brett. Operator. We’ll take our next question please. Operator: Thank you. We’ll take our next question from Craig Moffett with MoffettNathanson. Craig Moffett: Hi. Thank you. I’m sure you guys have heard T-Mobile’s discussion of your wireless net adds that they tend to be more non-port than would be the industry norm. And I wonder, if you could just talk about the kind of customers you’re acquiring, whether they’re coming from prepaid predominantly, whether a lot of them are new to wireless, meaning kind of younger kids, anything that you can do that could share some insight into where your subscribers are coming from? And then, obviously, always my favorite topic, anything that you can discuss particularly now that you’re not reporting wireless profitability anymore. Anything you can discuss about margins and the trajectory towards profitability from that business? Chris Winfrey: Sure. So look, I’d start by saying that any time you have your competitors that continue to talk about you on their earnings call, I take that as a compliment. The second thing I would say is clearly, some of their data, they’re not really good at producing it, and that’s not accurate. The third thing I would say is that in Jessica’s prepared remarks, she mentioned the level of port activity is at/or better than it was even prior to the Spectrum One launch. So we’re – we feel very good that these are not only good and high-quality customers, the majority of which are broadband customers today. So they’ve resembled the marketplace and the product is very attractive, it’s selling in very well, and it’s going to stick very well. And we look forward to seeing that develop over the next few quarters. On the mobile margin, you had done some work at your conference, I mentioned that if we thought your work was wrong, we would have let you know. And so that hasn’t changed. And that was based off of some of the Verizon’s disclosure as opposed to ours. Right now, we have a significant amount of customer acquisition, and so we have the cost of acquiring those customers and we have the cost of operating those customers. And we don’t always have the full revenue attached to those customers just yet, and that will start to occur beginning in October and just grow from there. So the overall profitability of the mobile product, if it were a stand-alone product, which is not, is good. It’s very good. And – but it’s not – it’s also at the same time, I want to be careful not to be dragged into it. It’s never how we thought about that product. It’s really an extension of our broadband product and seamless connectivity and a broadband product that none of our competitors can deploy ubiquitously across their footprint. And so you got to think about the broader profitability. But if it were a standalone product, the profitability is good, and our expectations have continued to move in that direction. Jessica Fischer: Yes. The other thing I would point out in our December Investor Day, we showed the progress that we had made in the profitability, excluding customer acquisition costs. And I pointed out then that some of that progress was made because of – that that progress was not dependent on what you were paying in MVNO costs that on our side, we had work to do and that we were still doing and driving down the cost to serve our mobile customers. And that actually has been very successful through the first part of this year. And I think in terms of what we’re thinking about in cost to serve per mobile customer that actually is coming down in a way that we expected it to. And I think as we continue to scale up the mobile business, have longer-tenured customers there as well as to improve our service activity that we’ll continue to gain efficiency on the expense side for our internal expenses and drive additional profitability to the business that way as well. Craig Moffett: Thank you. Chris Winfrey: Thanks, Greg. Stefan Anninger: Thanks, Greg. Operator, we’ll take our next question please. Operator: We’ll take our next question from Vijay Jayant with Evercore. Your line is open. Vijay Jayant: Thanks. I just want to talk about seasonality, obviously, Chris sort of suggesting we didn’t see the same sort of seasonal impact in 2Q in terms of college and/or snowbirds and so forth. So can you help us think about – is that really changed? And does that mean that 3Q and 4Q that we see sort of reversals may not be as pronounced? Thank you. Chris Winfrey: Let me – Jessica I answered this before, and so let me just add, I guess, some additional color to it. The – of course, we still had college disconnects, and we had snowbirds effect as well coming out of Florida. It’s just the level of activity is a bit more muted compared to what it was pre-COVID. And what we’ve seen over the past couple of years is the visibility for us and it appears for everybody, has been a lot less around seasonals in Q2 and Q3 than it was pre-pandemic. So I think we want to be careful about how far we get ahead of our skis and letting people look out to Q3 and say that they’ll be the pre-pandemic. I think the point that Jessica was trying to make is seasonality aside, the underlying trends are very good through Spectrum One through the rural construction build our competitiveness. And I’ll come back to the fiber overbuild that’s at a slower pace. But even in the areas that have fiber, which is in some sense, a larger amount of fiber than it had been in the past, we’re performing better in those markets than we did even just a year ago. And so we feel good about seasonality aside the underlying trends. And I guess since we’re on point, its everybody wants to hear if we haven’t said it already, our goal is still to have higher net adds this year than it was last year. And so instead of focusing on quarters, we’d like to focus on just the overall trajectory and the long-term trend and it’s good. Vijay Jayant: Thanks Chris. Stefan Anninger: Thanks Vijay. Shelby, we’ll take our next question please. Operator: Thank you. We’ll take our next question from Bryan Kraft with Deutsche Bank. Your line is open. Bryan Kraft: Hi, good morning. I had two questions, if I could. First, and I apologize if you said this and I missed it, but I was wondering if you could talk about the contribution to broadband net adds from the rural line extensions and RDOFs? And then secondly, would you mind just giving us an update on your CBRS efforts? And also as part of that, I wanted to ask a hypothetical question. If portfolio of the fallow spectrum from low band through mid and high bands were available either through auction or acquisition. Is that something at this point that Charter would consider either alone or with a partner? Or is the current course still the much preferred strategy? thank you. Chris Winfrey: Hi Bryan, it was in the materials subsidized rural construction is 26,000 Internet net adds inside the quarter. On CBRS, we are at a full commercial launch inside of a market today, and it is going well and on that basis and making sure that the handover times which are working very well right now, continue to perform like that at scale. Then we’ll set the next year are the basis for our broader CBRS rollout. It’s – I don’t want to spook people either that we’re going to be very focused on deploying that CBRS where there’s a high and fast ROI. We have a number of other accretive projects that are going on right now through network evolution and expansion. And so we’re very cognizant of the overall CapEx build. But we’re going to build that in a measured way across our footprint, fully deployed the CBRS and the markets that we’ve acquired over time. But we’re going to do it in a way that’s very targeted and it generates fast returns. Your third question was around portfolio spectrum. I can’t imagine why you’re asking that. But forecasting. But we have a very strategic, good perpetual MVNO relationship with Verizon. And the economics as everybody knows, are very good. And that means – and combine that with what we were just talking about before. The ability through better and better WiFi and through CBRS over time to have the vast majority of the traffic continue and increasingly be over our network with faster speeds, means that we have the ability to lease the macro cell towers at an attractive rate and not be in the business directly of having to continue to build those towers, densify those towers and acquire additional spectrum. And I think it’s a capital-light model that really works well for us. And I think it’s a model that, as you can see, has worked very well for Verizon, our partner as well. So I think it’s symbiotic. And I would never say never. We’ll always take a look at things as they come up, but we haven’t felt the need to be in the macro cell tower construction densification and Spectrum acquisition business at scale. Bryan Kraft: Great, thank you, Chris. Stefan Anninger: Thanks, Brian. We’ll take our last question from Michael Rollins. Go ahead, operator, sorry. Operator: Thank you. We’ll take our next question from Michael Rollins with Citi. Your line is open. Michael Rollins: Thanks and Good morning. I was just curious to follow up on just the mobile discussion with a couple of questions on some of the segments. So in – one of the comments is that 11% of internet customers are taking mobile, which would infer almost two lines per account. Just curious if you’re starting to see more of a shift to multiline and family plan adoption of your mobile services and if there’s a significant opportunity to take up the number of lines per account over time. And then on the SMB side, are there some opportunities to accelerate the mobile gains there where they’ve been running at about 15,000 to 20,000 per quarter. Thanks. Chris Winfrey: So Michael, you’re right. The opportunity for us to continue to increase the lines per customer is high. As you know, certain customers have multiple lines inside the household that are on different EIP plans and time lines. And so our success has been using the high value and high speeds that we have in the mobile product to acquire as many lines upfront in the household. And then over time, the opportunities to upgrade those other lines that are on different cascading EIP time lines. So that’s working well and the opportunity is to continue to grow, not just penetration of mobile broadband customers, but to add new seamless connectivity customers through spectrum on but also to increase the number of lines per household, which, as you know, increases the stickiness of the product over time. It increases the over value that we provide because of the significant savings. The second question you asked is on SMB, and I think we’re doing a good job there, but I think we can continue to do even better over time. And I think it’s still early days in the SMB space, but we can add value there the same way that we do in residential and attack the space. Michael Rolls: Thanks. Stefan Anninger: Thanks, Michael. That concludes our call. Operator, back to you. Chris Winfrey: Thank you very much. Operator: Thank you. That concludes today’s teleconference. Thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect. 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Category: topSource: insidermonkeyJul 29th, 2023

15 Republican Companies with Conservative Values

In this article, we will take a look at the 15 republican companies with conservative values. Political opinions steer people in many ways. The same is true for corporations and companies that place value on political matters. And these things could affect their reputation as a corporation or their goodwill. Accountable US President Kyle Herrig […] In this article, we will take a look at the 15 republican companies with conservative values. Political opinions steer people in many ways. The same is true for corporations and companies that place value on political matters. And these things could affect their reputation as a corporation or their goodwill. Accountable US President Kyle Herrig said, in a statement to VICE News, that companies should stop deceiving the public about what they value far more—amassing political influence—and cease spending money on politics in accordance with their declared principles supporting democracy. Donations are one of the ways they express their political opinions and support. For example, the New York Times highlighted a new conservative nonprofit organization that received a $1.6 billion windfall last year from a little-known contributor—an unprecedented sum that may provide Republicans and their causes with a significant financial boost ahead of the midterm elections and for years to come. The money came from Barre Seid, an electronics manufacturing magnate, and it is one of the largest, if not the largest, single gifts ever given to a politically focused nonprofit. The benefactor is a new political organization founded by Leonard A. Leo, an activist who has leveraged his ties to Republican funders and officials to help construct conservative Supreme Court supremacy and to fund fights over abortion rights, voting laws, and climate change policy. Christopher Halloran / Our Methodology We used nine different sources (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) and carried out an extensive study to identify the 15 Republican companies with conservative values. At first, these sources cited more than 35 different companies. A single point was given to each company that may be found on the list of sources. The 15 Republican companies with conservative ideals were identified by ranking them according to these parameters. Let’s now discuss the 15 Republican companies with conservative values. 15 Republican Companies with Conservative Values 15. Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) When it comes to political donations, employees are the most active. According to Zippia, a job search website, Delta Airlines received $2,045,942 in political donations from their workers between 2007 and 2017. 52.2% went to Republicans, while 45.4% went to Democrats. Delta is a big airline based in Atlanta. 14. General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE:GD) According to federal election contribution data compiled by the liberal group Accountable.US, General Dynamics donated more than $20,000 to multiple GOP members in March 2020. The American aerospace and military company General Dynamics Corporation has its main office in Reston, Virginia. General Dynamics reported $38 billion in sales for 2021 while employing almost 100,000 employees worldwide. According to Defense News magazine’s annual poll of industry leaders published in 2022, it ranks as the fifth-biggest military contractor in the world by revenue. 13. Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) Between 2007 and 2017, Lockheed Martin employees gave $2,364,432 to partisan causes, according to Zippia. Republicans received 54.7% of the donation, while Democrats received 43.7%. With over 100,000 employees, Lockheed Martin is the largest defense contractor in the world. Martin Marietta and Lockheed amalgamated in 1995, giving birth to Lockheed Martin. The business has over 8,500 workers and is based in Bethesda, Maryland. It is the world’s biggest defense contractor. 12. Exelon Corporation (NASDAQ:EXC) said that Exelon’s CEO, Christopher Crane, donated the most money, $297,900. John Rowe, Chairperson, made a second significant donation of $255,900. Exelon is a Chicago-based energy firm. Exelon, one of the largest energy suppliers to date, is also led by some of the most zealous Republicans. The company has donated more than $560,000 to the 2020 election season and is continuing to do so. In addition to direct contributions, Exelon continues to spend millions of dollars on lobbying and PAC operations to influence policy and leadership. 11. Las Vegas Sands Corp. (NYSE:LVS) Based on the statistics on lobbying and campaign money tracked by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group Open Secrets, Sheldon Adelson, CEO, made the largest donation of $1,218,700, while Miriam Adelson, Director, made a second significant donation of $604,400. The late Sheldon Adelson, the founder of Las Vegas Sands, was the single greatest contributor to the Republican Party. Sheldon and his wife, Miriam, both donated through LVS and their non-profit, Adelson Clinic. According to the Guardian, Sheldon gave $50 million to Super PACs supporting Donald Trump’s campaign during the midterm elections. 10. Koch Industries Koch Industries takes pride in the fact that it has never endorsed a Democrat for public office. Instead, the firm contributes to the Super PAC KochPAC, which has only supported Republican and conservative politicians. In all, Koch Industries, through KochPAC, has contributed over $150,000 to different Republican races in the 2020 Presidential Election while not giving to a single Democratic campaign. Since the 1960s, this has been the situation. Koch Industries is the country’s second-biggest privately held corporation. It is run by the notoriously conservative Koch Brothers, who utilize the prestige and riches of their firm to support conservative ideas. Koch Industries is an official chemical manufacturing corporation. However, along with the majority of other businesses, it is active in the financial industry (among others). 9. Papa John’s International, Inc. (NASDAQ:PZZA) John Schnatter, the founder and former CEO of Papa John’s, spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2022. Schnatter had contributed to and supported Republicans. A brief glance at the Center for Responsive Politics’ website indicates that Schnatter consistently donates to Republican causes. 7. Forbes Before being passed down to his son and subsequently to his grandson, BC Forbes started Forbes. Steve Forbes, in particular, is quite conservative and promotes this by utilizing his ownership of Forbes. The current Editor-in-Chief of Forbes, Steve Forbes, ran twice for the Republican Party’s nomination: the first time was in 1996, and the second time was in 2000. He advocated for reducing the size of the federal government here, among other things. Forbes has remained a conservative even after his unsuccessful attempts, being most well-known for his rout against homosexual conservatives. Forbes routinely uses his publications to advance the conservative and capitalist agendas. 6. Deere & Company (NYSE:DE) As shown in the federal election contribution data collated by the liberal group Accountable.US, agricultural machinery company Deere & Company gave more than $800,000 to Republicans who voted to reject the 2020 election results. Moreover, a review of FEC (Federal election contribution) records reveals that Deere contributed $75,000 to more than a dozen Republicans. Deere & Company is a well-known American producer of farm machinery and industrial equipment. Its headquarters are located in Moline, Illinois. 5. The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD) As noted by on the list of Top Republican Donors, Francis Blake, Chairperson of Home Depot, made the largest donation of $258,650, followed by Bernard Marcus, the founder, with a $196,000 donation to the Republicans. Home Depot not only gives 60% of its donations to Republicans, but its founder, Bernard Marcus, also gives millions through his Family Foundation. Marcus gave two million dollars for the 2020 election cycle, while Home Depot contributed 1.6 million, according to CRP. Rob Wilson / 4. Chick-Fil-A According to the Axios Harris Poll 100, Republicans prefer Chick-fil-A. Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby are among the top five most trusted corporations among Republicans. Chick-fil-A has a more defined political identity because its founder opposed same-sex marriage, while it has been attempting to downplay politics in order to extend its appeal. Per OpenSecrets, the majority of Chick-fil-A’s contributions (almost 90%) went to Republican politicians and related groups. However, in this case, contributions come mostly from “employees, members, or owners of the organization and those individuals’ immediate family members, rather than a connected PAC......»»

Category: topSource: insidermonkeyJul 28th, 2023

Trump Makes Appeal To Unions Emboldened Under Biden Administration

Trump Makes Appeal To Unions Emboldened Under Biden Administration Authored by Catherine Yang via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), President Joe Biden delivers a speech on NATO at the Vilnius University in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12, 2023, after the end of the NATO Summit. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images) / Former U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks during the Georgia state GOP convention at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center in Columbus, Ga., on June 10, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) When former President Donald Trump released a campaign video outlining plans to boost the auto industry last Thursday, he took the opportunity to court the United Auto Workers (UAW), which has notably withheld its endorsement of President Joe Biden as contract negotiations continue and the threat of yet another strike looms. While Mr. Trump’s appeal might have interested a few rank-and-file workers, it certainly wouldn’t have swayed union leadership. “I think they feel emboldened,” said Mark Mix, of the union leadership. As president of the National Right to Work Foundation, Mr. Mix has watched labor negotiations closely over the years, and the tone they’ve taken on this year is unusual. Unions routinely vote to authorize a strike ahead of negotiations, just to have it as a chip on the bargaining table, but the language union leaders have been using this summer has become “militant,” Mr. Mix said. The Teamsters, which just reached a deal with UPS today, walked away from the table twice and announced intent, not just authorization, to strike on a historic scale over a month ahead of the end of the contract. Sean M. O’Brien, the newly elected president, had gone on CNN ahead of Tuesday’s negotiations to say of their tactics, “we strategize, we organize, now it’s time to pulverize.” He had asked the White House to not intervene if they went on strike. The UAW, which began negotiations with the Big Three automakers last week as the current contract expires Sept. 14, has likewise made a lot of noise about its willingness to strike before talks even began. “There is a new environment. These union officials feel empowered,” Mr. Mix said. “And I think one of the reasons that is the fact and why we’re seeing more of this saber-rattling is because the Biden administration … basically has created an environment where the union officials think the Department of Labor, and the Department of Justice, and the National Labor Relations Board—which are the three agencies that would be involved and interested in in violence, intimidation, or violation of individual workers rights—that they’re controlled by the Biden administration.” “Union officials feel like they’re emboldened by this White House and this administration to do basically whatever it takes to get what they’re demanding,” he said. In Thursday’s video, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. Biden’s policies affecting the auto industry, referencing unsold electric vehicles “piling up on car lots” by the thousands. “They are absolutely destroying your business,” Mr. Trump said of the government subsidies for electric vehicles at the expense of the market. “That’s why I’m going to terminate these Green New Deal atrocities on day one.” He touted his track records on trade, including the NAFTA renegotiation, and how that benefited the auto industry. “I saved the auto industry once, and now I will save it again,” he said. That same day, Mr. Biden visited a shipyard in Philadelphia to speak on “Bidenomics” and “clean energy” jobs. “A lot of my friends in organized labor know: When I think climate, I think jobs. I think union jobs,” he said. “Here today, workers from nine different unions will start building a vessel called the Acadia. It’s going to place heavy rocks at the base of the offshore wind projects to stabilize them when they put these down, and it’s going to protect it against erosion.” Where Are the Union Jobs? Experts say that while the Biden administration benefits union leadership and is pro-unionization, it has a mixed record when it comes to rank-and-file workers. Mr. Mix pointed to the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline project, which was meant to bring tens of thousands of union jobs. He said the administration had also fanned the flames of possible strikes in other ways, including with its pandemic-era policies. Stimulus checks and unemployment gave many no reason to work, and UPS had to raise wages in order to increase its workforce. “Everyone who has been working for UPS and was on the job was saying, ‘Wait a minute, how can somebody who has just started today make the same amount that I’m making?’ So that caused the demand for these wage increases, for the part-timers in particular,” Mr. Mix said. F. Vincent Vernuccio, senior fellow at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Center’s director of labor policy between 2012 and 2017, said that some of the UAW jobs could be going away because of the president’s push for electric vehicles. He pointed to a recent report estimating that the new electric vehicle targets could eliminate 117,000 manufacturing jobs. “You’re seeing it reflected in jobs moving down south to right-to-work states,” he said, referring to states that make forced unionization illegal. Employees who want to cross the picket line and work when unions have issued a strike have to do it legally, else face fines or other disciplinary action from the unions. He said that large, industrialized unions tend to have one-size-fits-all contracts that benefit some but not all workers, making the administration’s push for unionization where there was none before a net negative. He advocates instead for term flexibility for workers, unionized or not. Of the jobs that are left, Mr. Mix says you can be sure the union leadership is demanding the Biden administration guarantee they will be union jobs. “That’s what they’re demanding now, more privilege and more power,” Mr. Mix said. Tyler Durden Thu, 07/27/2023 - 20:40.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytJul 27th, 2023

"Bidenomics" Is A Fraud Based On Deliberately Misrepresented Stats

"Bidenomics" Is A Fraud Based On Deliberately Misrepresented Stats Authored by Brandon Smith via, Economic issues are some of the most politically abused issues often because the data politicians exploit is easy to present out of context. The vast majority of the public doesn’t spend their time immersed in the intricacies of monetary policy, unemployment stats and the processes of inflation vs deflation. They hear a soundbite on the news or social media once in a while, assume it must be true and then go on with their day. This is how economic crisis events always seem to take the population by surprise – The establishment tells people all is well and no one questions the narrative in the face of numerous warning signs. Sometimes, the populace continues to believe that everything is fine despite the financial framework burning down around them, all because the “experts” continue to convince them that recovery is “right around the corner.” There are numerous incentives for government officials and mainstream economists to mislead the citizenry with tales of imminent prosperity in the midst of instability. Primarily, the goal is to keep the middle-class population as docile as possible so that they don’t revolt until it’s too late (the middle class being predominantly conservative, and the greatest threat to any corrupt regime). Understand that economics is the root of power, and economic perception is the key to influencing the masses. Hidden Indicators And Rampant Money Printing The reality is that the US was hurtling towards stagflationary disaster ever since the crash of 2008, when Barack Obama and Joe Biden (with the help of the Federal Reserve) oversaw the near doubling of the national debt from $10 trillion to almost $20 trillion – The most egregious abuse of monetary policy that the US had ever seen. And, keep in mind this was only the officially reported cash. Because of pressure brought by people like Ron Paul in 2011, the government was forced to pursue a limited audit of the Federal Reserve bailouts at that time. This revealed at least $16 trillion created from nothing by the Fed to prop up the failing system. In 2006, right before the derivatives collapse, the Federal Reserve conveniently and abruptly ended their M3 money supply report. They now only report the M2 money supply, which does not include the vast assets held in corporate coffers, large time deposits in banks, institutional money market funds, short-term repurchase agreements (repo), and larger liquid assets. It was as if they knew an inflationary event was about to take place and they needed to obscure the evidence. In other words, in economics there is the “official government data” and then there is the REAL data, which is sometimes so hidden it is impossible to quantify. Even if we only go by the M2 report, the money supply skyrocketed starting in 2020, and rose exponentially through 2021 and 2022 – It jumped by 40% in only two years. This is why the cost of most necessities has risen 25% or more. I’m sure most readers have noticed that inflation is not going away despite Joe Biden’s claims that he has “cut inflation in half” under his “Bidenomics” plan. This is because inflation is cumulative. The CPI might fluctuate, but the effects of inflation remain as prices tend to increase and stay high perpetually. There Is No Such Thing As “Bidenomics” The supposed financial progress that Biden is trying to take credit for has nothing to do with Biden’s policies. Not a thing. Unless, of course, you count market manipulation as a positive. For example, the reduction in CPI is directly related to the continuous interest rate hikes of the Federal Reserve, which Biden has zero control over. The Fed is autonomous and makes its decisions independent of the White House or government. This is a fact openly admitted by former chairman Alan Greenspan. When the fed raises rates, debt becomes more expensive, lending slows down and thus the economy slows down. One of the only ways that Biden can influence CPI is through artificial deflation of energy prices. The Biden Administration has been dumping US strategic oil reserves on the market for the past year as a means to suppress oil prices, thereby directly and indirectly keeping the CPI numbers down. This is not progress, it’s economic fraud. The misuse of stats extends to other sectors, such as Biden’s attempt to take credit for the recent reduction in the US deficit. Again, this has nothing to do with Biden; the Fed’s interest rate hikes make it more expensive for the government to take on debt, therefore, debt spending drops. It’s also not a situation that signals a recovery in the economy – The Fed continues to hike rates supposedly to stall inflation, but higher rates in a debt heavy environment lead to inevitable deflationary upheaval. As I predicted a year ago, the Fed is continuing to increase interest rates until this happens. Employment Miracle Or Employment Scam? This issue has been brought up by many analysts but I’ll touch on it again here because Biden is relentless in his falsehoods when it comes to employment data. FACT: 72% of all “new jobs” Biden takes credit for were originally lost during the pandemic lockdowns. The very lockdowns which Democrats avidly enforced and tried to keep in place perpetually. You can’t take credit for “creating” jobs that you are responsible for destroying. In terms of higher labor demand, the pressure is in low wage service sector jobs and these are the majority of jobs added since Biden took office. And, this rush into retail/service was purchased with $8 trillion+ in covid stimulus cash along with a moratorium on rent and student loan payments. That much extra money in circulation buys at least a few years of consumer spending, propping up jobs numbers. Throughout history, such gains from inflationary actions and government interventions are always short term, and they always end with a dramatic plunge in employment once the effects subside. Biden’s Fake Manufacturing Boom Biden has recently touted a jump in US manufacturing as the latest achievement of Bidenomics, but like every other claim he makes, you have to look at the context. These are not free market manufacturing facilities built according to market demand. Rather, Biden is pumping billions of taxpayer dollars into green tech, once again artificially engineering a “manufacturing boom” through government subsidies for products that have limited demand. Biden wants to rig the demand, too, by enforcing climate laws which make gas, oil and coal sources too expensive and solar panels and wind turbines cheaper by comparison. For example, Biden is increasing costs for oil and gas exploration on federal lands, while greatly lowering the prices for building solar farms on federal lands. In other words, the government uses your money to create factories for green tech and then creates laws which force people to use that green tech. In the meantime, Joe’s manufacturing “boom” paid for with tax dollars also comes at the cost of America’s oil, gas and coal industries, not to mention less energy freedom for the general public. It’s socialism, not a revolution in domestic manufacturing. For Biden, The Key Is To Create As Many Government Cash Injections As Possible Until 2025 You want to know why Democrats are so angry that the Supreme Court blocked Biden’s plan to make taxpayers cover student loan debts? It’s not because they care about naive college kids who paid too much money for garbage degrees – It’s because student debt relief would immediately add trillions more in spending in the short term to the US economy. An interesting side effect of the college loan moratorium is the surprising credit boost – As soon as college loan payments were put on hold, millions of former students had their credit ratings increase by default. Meaning, they could now hike their credit limits and spend MORE money they don’t have. It’s an incredibly sneaky way to artificially prop up the system WITHOUT using direct stimulus measures that rely on the central bank. This false boost will disappear by October of this year. Biden’s constant attempts to introduce infrastructure programs are another way the government can create the illusion of recovery by using debt spending as a means to mitigate the signals of greater fiscal decline. Without Fed stimulus it’s the only option Biden has, and as rates rise it becomes costly. The bottom line is this – The US economy is on a short timetable as long as the Fed continues to raise interest rates into weakness as a means to suppress inflation. As we witnessed in the spring, higher rates are already breaking the back of mid-tier banks across the western world and the Fed’s backstop funds are only enough to stall the debt crisis for a time. I continue to predict that once the Fed Funds Rate is raised to 6% or more, we will once again see a banking calamity similar to the 2008 crash, but this time if the Fed steps in with a bailout hyperinflation will be the immediate result. Bidenomics is a sham in every respect. Anything that could be considered an economic improvement is due to the Federal Reserve playing the odds with interest rates. A massive 40% increase in the money supply sure helps in obscuring fiscal weakness as well. Luckily, nearly 60% of Americans in recent polls say they aren’t buying the Bidenomics fairytale – They see the dangers around them every day. The covid event was a catalyst that revealed all the weaknesses of the US system that many of us in alternative economics have been warning about for years. And now it seems as if the establishment is trying to drag things along for just a little while longer. The reason why is up for speculation, but the fact remains that a broken structure cannot be propped up with stop gaps. I’m doubtful that Biden will be able to ride the wave created by covid stimulus until the end of 2024. Something has to give. *  *  * If you would like to support the work that Alt-Market does while also receiving content on advanced tactics for defeating the globalist agenda, subscribe to our exclusive newsletter The Wild Bunch Dispatch.  Learn more about it HERE. Tyler Durden Thu, 07/27/2023 - 13:00.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytJul 27th, 2023

Who Ordered The Lab-Leak Cover-Up?

Who Ordered The Lab-Leak Cover-Up? Authored by Will Jones via, Who instigated the cover-up of the lab leak theory of Covid’s origins? Many of us have assumed it was Anthony Fauci, then-Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). However, newly released emails and messages indicate that initially Fauci was open to investigating the possibility of a lab leak properly. Following his now infamous February 1st 2020 teleconference with leading virologists Kristian Andersen, Eddie Holmes and others, Fauci wrote to several Government officials to inform them that Jeremy Farrar, the Director of the Wellcome Trust, and Francis Collins, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, had been tasked with contacting the WHO to set up an international investigation group into virus origins with “no judgement at all” on the outcome. “Where that leads remains to be seen,” he wrote. Fauci writes that some of the scientists on the call deemed a lab origin possible or likely, doing so even “more strongly” after the call, while just two said they believed such a scenario could be ruled out (these were Ron Fouchier and Christian Drosten). Fauci thus presents the matter to Government colleagues as an unresolved scientific argument, with a number of scientists favouring a lab origin. The main course of action he proposes is to organise a group under the auspices of the WHO to look into it in an impartial way. The following day, Collins wrote to Farrar to confirm he was following this up with WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Collins told Farrar he was “coming around to the view that a natural origin is more likely” but said it needed to be looked into by the WHO – though also added that he “shares your view” that this is mainly to be a “confidence-inspiring” initiative to pre-empt “voices of conspiracy” that would otherwise do “great potential harm to science and international harmony”. This does suggest a non-neutral political agenda being pursued, much more so than Fauci’s email of the day before, an agenda apparently being driven by Farrar. What happened next is crucial. The impartial investigation Fauci proposed never took place. What happened instead was that on February 3rd – two days after the teleconference and Fauci’s email – another teleconference was convened, this one hosted by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS). This was in response to requests from the U.S. Government for scientific advice on the origin of the virus. Fauci was invited to give the “perspective from NIH/NIAID” ahead of an open discussion. The proposed output prior to the meeting appears to have been a “based on science” web posting, not unlike what Andersen and others were already working on. However, the following day an email went out from Andrew Pope, an official in the NAS, saying the “plans have changed” and in place of a ‘based on science’ web posting there was now to be a statement signed by the Presidents of the three National Academies and sent to the Government. It appears that this change was what was agreed at the teleconference, though that is not completely clear as the email doesn’t specify who the “we” are who now think the original plan is not “appropriate”. What makes it likely it was agreed at the teleconference is that the email does not seem to expect anyone to object to the change and assumes all are on board with the new proposal. As can be seen below, the statement from the NAS (in the form of a letter) claims to have consulted relevant scientific specialists (this presumably was what the teleconference was doing) and reports from them a consensus that the available genomic data are “consistent with natural evolution” and there is “no evidence” the virus was engineered. This is not a fair summary of the conversations the scientists were actually having at the time, of course. Rather, it represents a political effort to shut down the lab origin theory – the beginning of such an effort, in fact. Kristian Andersen was involved in both the Fauci teleconference of February 1st and the NAS teleconference of February 3rd, and interestingly his contribution after the latter was to push for the statement to be stronger on rejecting the idea that the virus was engineered, claiming that the “data conclusively show” that it wasn’t. This is despite him being a key voice both before and after this arguing that a lab origin can’t be ruled out. Andersen seemed to take a very different attitude two weeks later, when Nature rejected the first version of the ‘Proximal Origin’ paper because one of the reviewers (who was never publicly identified) said it was not strong enough on dismissing a lab origin. Andersen responded (on February 20th) with a robust defence of not dismissing the possibility of a lab origin, saying the evidence didn’t allow ruling it out and it “must be considered as a serious scientific theory”. It seems odd that this is the same scientist who was urging the NAS to go further in dismissing a lab origin. The most likely explanation is that Andersen is making an obscure distinction between an engineered virus and a virus that originated in a lab from serial passage through cell culture. This is a distinction that will be lost on most people, and indeed some of the scientists in the email discussions themselves said the distinction was not valid in this context. Andersen’s arguments ruling out engineering are also not sound. The ‘Proximal Origin’ paper was then amended to reject a lab origin more strongly before being accepted for publication in Nature Medicine. Andersen told the House Pandemic Subcommittee that he had changed his view on the possibility of a lab origin between the rejection and re-submission, which must therefore have occurred between February 20th and 27th. However, as the team at Public have shown, it’s clear that Andersen did still think a lab origin (including engineering) was plausible after this date. On April 16th he wrote to his co-authors: “I’m still not fully convinced that no culture was involved. We also can’t fully rule out engineering (for basic research).” It’s apparent from Andersen’s messages that pressure to reject a lab origin came from ‘higher-ups’ and he was either feigning rejecting the theory or had artificially talked himself into it for a period of time. So who did orchestrate the suppression of the lab origin theory? We can now see for the first time when precisely the cover-up began. It began with the NAS teleconference on February 3rd and not, as many have previously assumed, with the Fauci teleconference on February 1st. This is clear because while Fauci came away from his teleconference proposing an impartial investigation “with no judgement” to see “where that leads”, the outcome of the NAS teleconference was an explicit plan to dismiss a lab origin and artificially claim consensus. Who made that decision? It seems to have been something agreed at the NAS teleconference. But who pushed it in that direction, and why did scientists like Andersen endorse it despite not really being in agreement? Indeed, Andersen and Co were still trying to get a lab theory into Nature on February 20th, only abandoning it because a hostile reviewer insisted the possibility be ruled out. So despite Andersen, Holmes and others stating at times in their private messages that they are keen to try to disprove the lab idea, they don’t appear to be the instigators of the cover-up. It is possible Fauci suddenly changed his mind overnight, but it also seems unlikely, at least without some pressure put on him from elsewhere. So he does not seem to be the original source of the suppression idea, even if he soon became a ruthless enforcer of it – though we’d need to know more about his role at the NAS teleconference to know for sure. It also seems unlikely to be the biodefence people like Robert Kadlec, as Kadlec was and continues to be a lab leak proponent, being the main author of the recent Muddy Waters Senate report pushing the theory. U.S. security services are known to have been involved in pushing lab origin theories right from the start of January 2020. Why they were doing that is not fully clear, but it may relate to wanting to paint China as the villain and upping the fear of the virus as a potential biological agent to allow activation of biodefence protocols. It’s fair to say that the clash between the security services pushing the lab origin theory and the suppression of that theory by other parts of the state, and even at times by the security services themselves, has been one of the more confusing aspects of the pandemic origin picture. It might be thought, for example, that the biodefence people would want to protect their biodefence research and not jeopardise it by convincing everyone that the virus could have come from such research. But this doesn’t appear to be the case, at least not for all of them. So whom does that leave? Farrar seems a prime suspect, as it was him who seems to have been persuading Francis Collins of the importance of avoiding “harm to science and international harmony” by dismissing a lab origin. But a glance at the NAS teleconference invite list below indicates he doesn’t appear to have been involved (unless he was blind copied). EcoHealth Alliance’s Peter Daszak is on there, but why would he have authority to demand a cover-up? Ralph Baric is also there, whose paper with the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s Shi Zhengli on manipulating coronaviruses had so startled Andersen. But what authority would he have in this group? Perhaps then it was just a groupthink that took over during the teleconference out of a misplaced sense of needing to protect “science and international harmony”. But is groupthink really sufficient to explain such a powerful and sustained move to suppress the theory? Despite all the effort that has gone into investigating Covid origins, this key question remains outstanding. Who ordered the cover-up? Tyler Durden Wed, 07/26/2023 - 12:45.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytJul 26th, 2023

Solar Panels Are Three Times More Carbon-Intensive Than IPCC Claims

Solar Panels Are Three Times More Carbon-Intensive Than IPCC Claims Authored by C. P. Colum and Lea Booth via Public, This investigation was done in collaboration with Environmental Progress and The Blind Spot Last August, in an amalgamation of “The Green New Deal” meets “Build Back Better,” President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act gifted the renewables industry with billions of dollars worth of taxpayer-funded subsidies. What few backing the bill realized was that the largest beneficiary would likely be China due to its expansive grip on the global solar photovoltaic (PV) industry. Worse than that, it might end up misdirecting the world’s clean energy efforts into dirtier than appreciated energy technologies because of the country’s ongoing dependence on coal-fired energy. Information unearthed by Environmental Progress, a nonprofit research organization, points to a gaping oversight in how the figures influencing government net zero policy and investments in solar worldwide are compiled and collated due to the difficulty of collecting accurate information out of China, especially for the purification processes used to create silicon wafers. Transport trucks transfer raw coal in pits as deep as 200 meters at the East Junggar Basin on July 4, 2018, in Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous of China. The East Junggar Basin, as one of the largest coalfields in Xinjiang has predicted coal reserves of 390 billion tons. (Photo by Liu Xin/China News Service/Visual China Group via Getty Images) The key to this blind spot is that a small number of data compilers provides the source material for most of the assessments. And many, if not all, of them work in collaboration with the International Energy Agency (IEA). The industry voluntarily submits the data in response to academic surveys. The nature and profile of the respondents are never publicly revealed, so there is the potential for conflicts of interest to develop. A further puzzle is how that data feeds into an organization called Ecoinvent, a Swiss-based non-profit founded in 1998 that dubs itself “the world’s most consistent and transparent life cycle inventory database.” This data is relied on by institutions worldwide, including the IPCC and IEA itself, to calculate their carbon footprint projections, including the sixth assessment report published as recently as March 2023. Based on such data, the IPCC claims solar PV is 48 gCO2/kWh. But, as we’ll see below, a new investigation started by Italian researcher Enrico Mariutti suggests that the number is closer to between 170 and 250 gCO2/kWh, depending on the energy mix used to power PV production. If this estimate is accurate, solar would not compare favorably with natural gas, which is around 50 gCO2/kWh with carbon capture and 400 to 500 without. China’s Dirty Fuel Advantage Paul Basore and David Feldman, Solar Photovoltaics: Supply Chain Deep Dive Assessment, U.S. Department of Energy, February 24, 2022. Over the course of a four-month investigation, Environmental Progress has confirmed that Ecoinvent — perhaps the world’s largest database on the environmental impact of renewables — has no data from China about its photovoltaic industry. Meanwhile, the ultimate source of the IEA’s supposedly public data on PV carbon intensity is confidential, and the data, therefore, is unverifiable. Much of the cradle-to-grave carbon intensity data that governments depend on to guide photovoltaic arrays are instead based on modeling assumptions that are likely to have grossly under-estimated — if not made up — solar’s carbon emissions because they cannot get insights from Chinese manufacturers. In its most recent report, the IEA predicts that China will continue to dominate solar energy production, delivering over 50 percent of solar PV projects globally by 2024. This trajectory is especially concerning given that China already commands most solar panel production. The IEA noted that in 2022 China’s manufacturing capacity for wafers, cells, and modules rose 40-50 percent and almost doubled for silicon. In fact, according to market intelligence firm Bernreuter Research, in 2021, China produced more than 80 percent of global solar-grade polysilicon, a critical input into solar arrays. It doesn’t stop there; China manufactures 97 percent of the global supply of solar wafers, another essential component. How China amassed that market concentration remains an inconvenient truth, all too readily swept under the rug by those pushing for net zero policies. What we know for sure is that up until the mid-2000s, the market was dominated by Japanese, US, and German manufacturers, many of whom were in the midst of automating their production lines, when Chinese manufacturers swooped in to take their market share. The disruption happened in under a decade, with China’s global share of PV production surging from 14 percent in 2006 to 60 percent by 2013. But the majority of experts consulted by Environmental Progress agree that China’s competitive advantage did not lie in an innovative new technological process but rather in the very same factors the country has always used to outcompete the West: cheap coal-fired energy, mass government subsidies for strategic industries, and human labor operating in poor working conditions. Basic reasoning suggests the manufacturing shift must have added to solar’s carbon intensity. But as Environmental Progress has learned, nobody in the carbon counting world has seen fit to research by how much. The modelers are estimating the carbon emissions of solar production as if the panels are still made mostly in the West, grossly underestimating their carbon intensity, even as governments rush to draft and implement net zero policy based on the very same flawed data. A Lone And Obstinate Italian Data Crusader Enrico Mariutti (source: LinkedIn) The China-sized black hole at the heart of the world’s photovoltaic data might, in the context of the industry, seem obvious. That didn’t make it any easier for Enrico Mariutti, an introspective but compulsive 37-year-old Italian from Rome, to convince others in the field there might be a problem. It was Mariutti who first made substantial efforts to flag the data discrepancies. Like Greta Thunberg, Mariutti comes to the tale as an environmental obsessive passionate about facilitating the world’s transition from fossil fuels to cleaner forms of energy. Unlike Greta, Mariutti finished school and knows how to crunch through a data set. He holds a degree in geopolitics and global security, which, while unrelated to the field, has equipped him with enough quantitative skills to ensure he can recognize the difference between good and bad data. Mariutti first noticed something wasn’t quite right with photovoltaic assessments about two years ago. He was preparing for an online renewables debate with Nicola Armaroli, a research director at the Italian Research Council. But being a data junkie, he decided to pour over the source material to try and figure out why. What he discovered unnerved him. The data didn’t reconcile. "They [the data] showed how much solar photovoltaic systems used in terms of raw materials: silicon, aluminum, copper, glass, steel, and silver. Then I saw the carbon footprint. It just seemed way too small,” he told Environmental Progress. According to his findings, the carbon intensity of solar panels manufactured in China and installed in European countries like Italy was off by an order of magnitude. An initial back-of-the-envelope calculation put it at between 170 and 250g of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour (kWh), as opposed to the official estimate from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of 20-40g per kWh. Way off. The scale of the IPCC’s undercount shocks once applied to the EU’s “clean” energy plans. Following Mariutti’s math, the esteemed scientific body underestimates the emissions from the EU’s solar installations built in 2022 alone by 5.4 to 7.6 million metric tons, equivalent to adding 3.4 to 4.8 million cars to the road. By 2020, Mariutti felt compelled to make his findings public. He managed to publish an op-ed in Italy’s premier financial newspaper Il Sole. The piece argued it was wrong to describe an energy transition that depended on mineral-hungry tech, which “could double the exploitation of the earth’s resources within a few decades,” as a green revolution. It was a hit and went viral across Italian social media. Enthused by what felt like a public mandate for his mission, Mariutti continued his research, firing off dozens of queries to the data compilers. Responses, however, were far from forthcoming. Until one day in November 2022, a leading Dutch renewables expert, Mariska de Wild-Scholten, replied. Mariutti was delighted to have made an inroad. Wild-Scholten had been one of five key authors who had made significant contributions — she is named some 454 times  —  to the IEA report Life Cycle Inventories and Life Cycle Assessments of Photovoltaic Systems (2020) — a starting point for much government decision-making on net zero policy. But what she told Mariutti was not reassuring. De Wild-Scholten’s Secret Data Stash Mariska de Wild-Scholten (credit: LinkedIn) In two emailed responses, Wild-Scholten said that, when determining the electricity consumption of silicon purification, which is used to make wafers, she rarely read scientific papers “because of low data quality, outdated data and or non-transparent data,” while saying little about her own preferred sources other than that it is based on surveys. Responses to other queries were no more reassuring. Mariutti asked what she thought about 192 countries deciding their long-term energy strategy based on data that at the time reasonably underestimated the average carbon intensity of photovoltaic energy by one order of magnitude (40 vs. 250 gCO2/kWh). Her reply invited more questions than answers. “My experience is that nobody would like to pay for the data aggregation which is needed to come up with publicly available and free updates,” she said, adding that she was working on updating the public data “but only slowly.” Little to no indication was given for the source of her own data. But, she said, she was happy to share the data she used to inform the 2020 IEA study — attaching it to the email — because it was now “outdated”. It was based on confidential individual company data, she said but did not specify the regional profile of those companies or any other aspects of their identity. She had kept it private only because she had not managed to get the studies funded. By February 2023, Mariutti decided to self-publish his findings on his own website in a piece titled, “The dirty secret of the solar industry.” The piece made a bold claim: scientists were disingenuously using European data to model the carbon intensity of Chinese solar manufacturing. Was the goal here, he asked, to measure the carbon footprint of solar energy or merely to convince us that it’s green? With a little prod from Mariutti, it was picked up in May in a piece by Giovanni Brussato for the Milan-based weekly Panorama. Brussato drew on Mariutti’s claim that one needs only to look at the life cycle analysis of China’s glass industry by the China Development and Reform Commission to see if there is a data reconciliation problem.According to Chinese sources, it noted, glass manufacturing – another critical input in solar production – bears a carbon footprint of only 0.68 kgCO2e/Kg despite an admitted 70 percent dependence on coal-fired energy. A comparable study by Western researchers into the UK’s glass industry, which is mostly powered by cleaner natural gas energy, based on data from Eurostat and Guardian Europe, assessed the industry as having a carbon footprint of 1.12 KgCO2e/kg. To compare, the IEA scores solar between 0.5 and 1 kgCO2e/kg and Ecoinvent with 1 kgCO2e/kg. A major issue with solar data, according to Mariutti, is that data compilers have been slow to recognize the displacement of the industry to China. It wasn’t until 2016, long after much PV production had already moved east, that the transition appeared on data collectors’ radars. But even then, they depended on new estimates and models rather than data from the source. “In 2014, they calculated the carbon intensity of PV energy as if the panels were made in Europe, with low-carbon energy,” Mariutti told Environmental Progress, referring to data compilers. “By 2016, calculations started to appear as if the panels were made in China, i.e., supposedly with carbon-intensive energy.” However, whatever model was used, the resulting carbon intensity was always around 20 to 40 gCO2/kWh. “Had they done the math right, it would come out at around 80 to 106 gCO2/kWh, and that’s with important factors still left out,” claims Mariutti. After the publication of the Panorama piece, Mariutti’s claims drew the reaction of Dr. Marco Raugei, a leading researcher of emissions from renewable technologies at Oxford Brookes University, embroiling both in an extended online spat. “We all used Chinese electricity mixes for c-Si PV. And we still got results nowhere near as high as you imply one would. So something is clearly off in your back-of-the-envelope calculations,” Raugei tweeted in April this year. By way of example, he cited an influential paper from 2021 on the sustainability of PV systems by life-cycle analysts Enrica Leccisi and Vsili Fthenakis. Mariutti had previously critiqued Leccisi and Fthenakis’ analysis in his self-published piece, noting that while the electrical input of solar was modeled according to a Chinese scenario, thermal input remained European. After Mariutti pointed out to Raugei that he had tried to contact Leccisi for comment on his findings without success, the conversation with Raugei went cold. In further correspondence with Environmental Progress, Dr. Raugei stressed that in his research, he endeavored to use the closest possible approximations to Chinese data in order to create a realistic scenario. The Missing Chinese Data EcoInvent web site (source: When scientists, academics, or researchers lack accurate data in the Western world, they usually work hard to fill the data void directly. Major efforts are undertaken, and huge sums are spent on sourcing ever more reliable and better data. Not so, however, with the China data anomaly. A lack of transparency, language barriers, and a plethora of inaccessible institutions – alongside a general reluctance by researchers to unearth realities that might dispel existing assumptions – have led to an overreliance on models and inputs extrapolated from Western manufacturing processes. The IPCC’s own estimate that solar’s carbon intensity is four times that of wind and nuclear, but 10 times less than gas and 20 times less than coal is derived from such assumptions. Unsurprisingly, the authors of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report, casually referred to as AR6, base their life cycle assessments (LCA) of solar energy on studies that do not represent the current state of the industry. Of the four studies cited by the authors, two evaluate only European manufacturing of solar panels. The third model is a state-of-the-art Chinese-manufactured panel, the Upgraded Metallurgical Grade Silicon (UMG-Si), which is no longer in production. The fourth reviews 16 studies, all of which either model solar panels that are no longer in production, model panels that make up only a few percentage points of the global market, or employ Ecoinvent’s 1 or 2 inventories, which also use European electricity mixes. Ecoinvent, the omnipresent database that is relied upon by policymakers and academics across the planet, as well as manufacturers, big and small, was founded by Dr. Rolf Frischknecht. For over 20 years, his Swiss non-profit, funded at least in part by the Swiss government and the photovoltaic industry, has collected data on the environmental impact of renewable energies. Whether you’re modeling the low-carbon appeal of recycled plastic packaging, automotive filters, or titanium powder, Ecoinvent is the likely source of the data. A recently agreed collaboration on zero-carbon shipping with major players in that industry showcases the association’s still-growing influence. Since the early 90s, the reputation of Dr. Frischknecht has grown in step with the renewables industry. Some 20 years ago, he began a collaboration with the IEA through the Photovoltaics Power Systems Programme (PVPS), a joint initiative from the IEA and the global PV industry to conduct research on solar and turn it into a global energy “cornerstone”. Despite his careful stewardship of Ecoinvent, in 2021, Frischknecht quietly resigned from the body he had founded decades earlier. In his resignation letter he noted “irreconcilably different perceptions regarding materiality, reality, quality and accountability” of their latest data. “There was a drastic shift from (appropriate) data to methodology,” Frischknecht wrote to Environmental Progress. Faced with a movement away from real-world data collection, discussion of what were the crucial data points, proper referencing, and extensive data quality checks, as he had explained in his resignation letter, Frischknecht felt obliged to move on. “During my career, I tried, and try, to be independent of direct, indirect, and subtle attempts to influence the modeling or the data,” he told Environmental Progress. He then cast doubt on the quality of the Ecoinvent data, telling Environmental Progress, “The PV data in Ecoinvent is from 2011, and there is no data from Chinese information sources.” In email correspondence with Ecoinvent, Environmental Progress was able to confirm Frischknecht’s allegation. Frischknecht now runs Treeze, a “young and experienced” life cycle assessment consultancy, which is “involved in large EU projects”. Treeze also receives funding from the Swiss Federal Office of Energy and collects life cycle data for the PVPS “Task 12” report on solar’s sustainability. The total lack of Chinese input into Ecoinvent’s data, however, has not stopped the IEA from continuing to depend on the potentially outdated work of Frischknecht’s brainchild for their own estimates. These revelations undermine the foundations of the sustainability industry, which bases a significant portion of its certifications on Ecoinvent’s data and promises businesses and governments that earning their certifications protects the planet. The sector has ample reason to trust Ecoinvent without checking its data. The sustainability sector makes billions of dollars each year thanks to the scale of carbon reductions they claim to provide, and disclosing that it failed to deliver its most basic pledges threatens its business. Read the rest here... Tyler Durden Wed, 07/26/2023 - 06:30.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytJul 26th, 2023

EPA’s Power Grid Assumptions Are Disconnected From Reality

EPA’s Power Grid Assumptions Are Disconnected From Reality Authored by Travis Fisher via RealClear Wire, The U.S. power grid is already straining under excess regulations, with blackouts possible, but now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed two more rules that promise to cause even more major problems. One is a tailpipe emissions standard that would require 60% of new cars sold in 2030 to be electric. The other is a rule that would force hundreds of power plants to shut down. The unintended consequences of these rules are obscured by the flawed assumptions the EPA uses in assessing the effects they’ll have on grid reliability and cost. People simply cannot make informed decisions about EPA regulations—like choosing whether to support or oppose them—when the assessments don’t reflect reality. The new tailpipe emissions standard is so strict that it requires most new passenger vehicles sold to be electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030. It is a de facto EV mandate that will saddle the nation’s power grid with much more demand (here are the public comments I provided the EPA on this proposed rule). The emissions standard for power plants has been called the Clean Power Plan 2.0 because it is EPA’s second attempt to redesign the power sector (the first try was rejected by the Supreme Court). The Clean Power Plan 2.0 is so strict that the only realistic way for many plants to comply is to shut down. It is another de facto mandate—particularly mandating the closure of existing coal-fired power plants—that will cause a sharp decrease in the supply available to the U.S. power grid (comments on this rule are due to EPA on Aug. 8 and can be submitted here). The legal problems surrounding these rules are many, but let’s assume for a moment that the Supreme Court upholds them. Are they good policy? What will happen if they go into effect? The EPA says neither rule will cause reliability problems or increase prices. One tactic the agency uses to reach these conclusions is to ignore its other rules (for example, to ignore the power plant rule when analyzing the effects of the tailpipe rule). According to the EPA, the increase in electricity demand from the EV mandate doesn’t conflict with the severe reduction in supply from the power plant rule; they simply assume the companion rules don’t exist. The agency then dodges questions about electric reliability by assuming EV charging will only occur when it’s convenient for the power grid. As we see in California, that is simply untrue—people will charge their EV whenever they want, and many will ignore calls for voluntary conservation during the highest-stress hours on the grid. Such conservation calls are named “flex alerts” in California and have become commonplace during the summer months. Texas also faces tight grid conditions. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas recently set up a California-style alert program—called the Texas Advisory and Notification System—to discourage electricity use when the power grid is stressed, which seems to happen more and more. Notably, California and Texas are both big on EVs. Among the three leading EV states, the one that doesn’t regularly call for conservation is Florida. But that may have more to do with Florida’s reluctance to force renewables onto its system and close existing power plants, unlike California and Texas. The importance of reliable supply brings us to EPA’s power plant rule. The Clean Power Plan 2.0 makes it legally impossible to continue operating coal-fired power plants, which contribute about 20% of electricity generation, and represent about 25% of the reliable capacity on the U.S. electric grid. The rule superficially offers three solutions—coal plant owners can use “green” hydrogen (hydrogen electrolyzed by renewables), capture nearly all carbon dioxide emissions, or shut down—but only the last option is truly viable. Given previous regulatory gamesmanship at the EPA, many see the Clean Power Plan 2.0 as a cynical play to scare owners of coal plants to close, whether or not the rule survives court challenge. The unanimous opinion of the four members of the nation’s independent agency in charge of grid reliability (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) is that coal-fired power plants are essential for grid reliability.  The rule also applies to existing natural gas plants, despite their lower carbon footprint compared to coal plants, and despite resistance from the EPA that the White House plan over-reached into the existing natural gas sector. Perhaps the agency knows better than the White House that—despite billions in subsidies for renewables—natural gas-fired generation is still growing in Texas and is holding strong in green-tinted California, above 40% of the electricity mix and even hitting 60% of all generation during last summer’s heat wave.  That is because intermittent renewables like wind and solar need a more reliable source like gas to satisfy demand when they cannot, which is most of the time. Regarding cost, the EPA’s denial of reality hits new heights. The agency estimates that the EV mandate could in fact reduce electricity prices in some areas. This is implausible because EVs represent a large new demand on the power grid, and we know they cause utilities to invest heavily in local distribution systems, especially when multiple homes plug EVs into the same radial power line. A Princeton study analyzing a “net zero by 2050” scenario found that, of the staggering $2.5 trillion in spending needed in the 2020s in a high electrification case, over $1.4 trillion would be needed to support the expansion of electricity generation, transmission, and distribution networks and on EVs and charging stations. California alone may spend $50 billion by 2035 to accommodate new electrification of products such as EVs. The EPA denies that these costs exist. Once again, agency officials selectively assume that transmission and distribution costs won’t change from the no-policy baseline, a ridiculous assumption that should get the rule thrown out. When it comes to EPA regulations, buyer beware. The price tags in its regulatory impact analyses are unconnected to reality, and even the most predictable grid reliability problems have been swept under the rug. This is no way to sell a transition to the American people. The EPA should go back to the drawing board and return with a set of honest assessments. Travis Fisher is a Senior Research Fellow in Energy and Environment at The Heritage Foundation.  Tyler Durden Tue, 07/25/2023 - 20:45.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytJul 26th, 2023

Watchdog Asks CFTC To Reject Proposal Allowing Betting On US Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) submitted a comment to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), asking it ... Read more WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) submitted a comment to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), asking it to reject betting company KalshiEX, LLC’s proposal to allow events contracts based on the result of US elections. CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith wrote, in part: “As an organization dedicated to exposing misconduct in public life, Campaign for Accountability has a great deal of experience examining situations where financial incentives promote behavior contrary to the public good. We fear that giving a green light to betting on the outcome of U.S. elections would be one of these situations. Currently, the people most incentivized to advocate for a certain election outcome are the citizens that make up that election’s constituency – at least, that is how it should be. In recent years, we have seen foreign actors stage large-scale attempts to influence the outcomes of U.S. elections when they feel that one outcome may better serve their own interests. We’ve also seen dark money operations overwhelm smaller races with massive contributions that weaken the power of individual constituents. While we should work to minimize these outside influences, they can at least be partially mitigated through an understanding of the platforms and policies that special interests are attempting to shape via their preferred candidate. In contrast, individuals allowed to gamble on election outcomes would be incentivized to influence races without any consideration of what officials will do once elected. While this incentive does not make American citizens worse off by necessity, it promotes the idea of “electoral victory as end result” that undoubtably draws us away from the aspirations of representative democracy.” Read CfA’s full comment. See other comments on the proposal. About Campaign for Accountability Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions......»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkJul 25th, 2023

Swedish Embassy In Baghdad Burned As Iraqis Storm Compound Over Planned Quran-Burning

Swedish Embassy In Baghdad Burned As Iraqis Storm Compound Over Planned Quran-Burning Hundreds of Iraqis outraged by a planned burning of a Koran in Stockholm stormed Sweden's embassy in Baghdad over Wednesday night and set it ablaze.  Iraq-Baghdad-Swedish Embassy! — Ali Al-Mikdam علي المگدام (@ali_almikdam) July 19, 2023 The protesters were spurred into action by the powerful Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has railed against a string of incidents in Sweden where the Quran has been variously burned or torn apart. His latest call to action was a response to the anticipated Thursday burning of a Quran and an Iraqi flag outside Iraq's embassy in Stockholm.  “Attacks on embassies and diplomats constitute a serious violation of the Vienna Convention," said the Swedish Foreign Ministry in a statement. "Iraqi authorities have the responsibility to protect diplomatic missions and diplomatic staff.” Swedish officials said all of its embassy employees were unharmed, but the same can't be said for the place where they work. Videos circulating on social media that purportedly depict the situation at the embassy show the building emitting flames and smoke, with the grounds fully controlled by a rowdy mob. Rioters are currently Storming and have set Fire to the Swedish Embassy in the Iraqi Capital of Baghdad. — OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) July 20, 2023 Declaring Sweden "hostile" to Islam, Sadr has urged the Iraqi government to cut diplomatic ties. Neighboring Iran said it wouldn't send a new ambassador to Sweden, and summoned the country's charge d'affaires for a scolding over toleration of serial desecration of Islam's central religious text. Condemnation has also been issued by Egypt, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Jordan.  #BREAKING: Rioters storm and set fire to the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, reportedly in response to the burning of the Quran in Stockholm. #BreakingNews — Breaking 4 News (@Breaking_4_News) July 20, 2023 One of the people who desecrated a Quran in Sweden is an Iraqi Christian who calls himself a refugee and wants the Quran to be banned. Iraq's government is asking Sweden to extradite him to face consequences in his native country. Sweden has charged him with agitation against an ethnic or national group. Social media accounts of the embassy takeover suggest that protesters amassed around the compound around 1 am local time and conquered it by 2 am.  Protesters scale the walls near the Swedish embassy in Baghdad (Ahmed Saad/Reuters) Iraq's foreign ministry condemned the sacking of the embassy, noting that the government had ordered authorities to swiftly investigate it and hold responsible parties to account.  On Thursday morning, Iraqi security forces used a water cannon to clear protesters from the Swedish embassy compound (Ahmed Saad/Reuters) As daylight broke, Iraqi security forces had secured the compound, and the great majority of the Sadrist mob had left the area.  Sweden's string of Quran incidents is complicating the country's drive to join NATO, which requires Turkey's vote. Turkey has cited the incidents as one reason to potentially reject Sweden's application.  Turkish president Erdogan given a series of mixed signals about his government's support for Sweden's bid. Last week, NATO said Erdogan had agreed to endorse Sweden's joining of the mutual defense treaty, only to have Erdogan dampen optimism again by saying the choice was up to the Turkish parliament -- and noting that Sweden had more work to do to secure its support.  Tyler Durden Thu, 07/20/2023 - 11:15.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytJul 20th, 2023

July 26 Hearing On Hunter Biden Plea Deal To Test GOP And Trump

July 26 Hearing on Hunter Biden Plea Deal to Test GOP and Trump; Will They Back Up Their Claims of ... Read more July 26 Hearing on Hunter Biden Plea Deal to Test GOP and Trump; Will They Back Up Their Claims of Wrongdoing With Court Submissions? Hunter Biden Plea Deal Will Be A Major Test WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 19, 2023) – The July 26th court hearing on Hunter Biden’s so-called “sweetheart” plea deal will provide a major test of the sincerity and veracity of some GOP members of Congress, and of former president Donald Trump, as well as the strength of the evidence of serious wrongdoing by the President’s son and others, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, whose formal complaint triggered the criminal investigation of Donald Trump in Georgia. Trump and other Republicans who claim to have compelling evidence – including the sworn testimony of at least two whistleblowers – that Hunter engaged in criminal conduct far more serious than that to which he will be allowed to plead, and that there was political bias and wrongdoing involved in agreeing to the no-jail-time plea deal itself, surely know that they can bring such evidence in opposition to the judge’s approval of the plea deal to her attention. This is especially true, and important, because much of this information is now in the Congressional Record where the judge can take judicial notice of it, says Banzhaf, who filed information before then-chief-judge John Sirica which helped lead to the appointment of special prosecutors to investigate then-president Richard Nixon. It is also especially important because IRS supervisory agent Gary Shapley claimed that the IRS probe he was part of was prevented from taking steps “that could have led us to President Biden.” For example, IRS investigators (including Shapley) have reported that Delaware US Attorney David Weiss told several law-enforcement officials connected to the Hunter Biden investigation that he was not the ultimate decision-maker regarding whether Biden would be charged, and that he was being thwarted by other Biden-appointed US attorneys. It is also claimed that the Justice Department refused Weiss’s request that he be appointed as a special counsel to help insure a complete an unbiased investigation, notes Banzhaf. Concerns About The Investigation As House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith explained in greater detail in a recent letter: “The testimony of the two whistleblowers raises serious concerns about the handling of this investigation and prosecution, and multiple congressional inquiries into the whistleblowers’ allegations are ongoing. The whistleblowers alleged that prosecutors and Department of Justice officials engaged in unjustified delays and political interference that resulted, in part, in the statute of limitations expiring for tax years 2014 and 2015. According to the whistleblowers, the IRS recommended criminal charges be sought for tax years 2014 through 2019, including multiple felony counts. These represent only some of the allegations presented to the Committee by the whistleblowers, as they also provided numerous examples of unprecedented and unusual interference, delays, and roadblocks beyond what is described above, which appear to have hindered the investigation.” [emphasis added] Indeed, Smith has asked the Justice Department to insert into the record what is claimed to be overwhelming evidence of this wrongdoing, which is now a matter of public record, in order to avoid a serious miscarriage of justice, and perhaps even a coverup of criminal interference with an ongoing criminal investigation: “Given the abruptness of the plea agreement announcement shortly after it became public that whistleblowers made disclosures to Congress, the seriousness of the whistleblower allegations, and the fact that multiple congressional investigations into the matter are ongoing, we ask that you file this letter and the attached information in the docket of the above referenced matter and confirm with the Committee that you have done so as soon as possible, but no later than 5pm on Tuesday, July 18, 2023. Placing the attached materials into the record is critical because the testimony provided by the two IRS whistleblowers brings new and compelling facts to light, and because it is essential for the Judge in this matter to have relevant information before her when evaluating the plea agreement.” [emphasis added] If I, as a private citizen, can bring important information to the attention of a federal judge (then chief judge) overseeing the criminal investigation of the Watergate burglars, the Chairman of a House committee should be able to do no less regarding a minor no-jail plea bargain of an individual who his committee has been – and is still in the process of – investigating regarding far more serious criminal charges, argues Banzhaf. Similarly, anything presented by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy – who played a video for his Republican House colleagues about the evidence against both Joe and Hunter Biden, and who is second in the line of presidential succession (after only the vice president) – to Judge Maryellen Noreika, certainly could not be ignored by her, the law professor suggests. Banzhaf notes that there are many situations where judges have refused to accept a negotiated plea agreement: e.g., “if judges believe the agreements do not adequately address the nature of the crimes, the rights of victims, or the interests of the public'” the plea agreement “falls short given the backdrop of the parties’ motivation, [the defendant’s] trusted employment position, and the threats to national and global security . . . tat [the parties’] actions caused;” because the judge was inclined to give the defendant a longer sentence; “[i]t was not in the best interest of the community, or the country, to accept the[] plea agreements;” etc. Perhaps most tellingly, a judge once rejected a negotiated plea deal simply because “[i]t is contrary to justice. Justice in this society cannot be seen as being able to buy oneself out of a felony conviction.” “If Chairman Jason Smith, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, or even former president Donald Trump were to formally bring all of this information to the attention of Judge Noreika, it is quite possible if not likely that she would reject the “slap-on-the-wrist” plea deal being offered by his father’s Justice Department in view of the very serious criminal wrongdoings it appears Hunter has committed, says Banzhaf. At the very least, it is hard to see how with such evidence before her the judge could avoid at least granting a brief delay to permit ongoing formal investigations by congressional committees – where witnesses would be under oath and subject to perjury – to continue their work which even so far strongly suggests that the plea deal was improperly influenced by political pressure, and is hardly in the public interest. A refusal by Republicans to take this simple step would logically lead many to question the sincerity of their concerns about the deal, and/or the strength of the evidence they keep claiming to have, argues the activist law professor......»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkJul 20th, 2023

It’s official: Silicon Valley’s entire business model is a scam

New research reveals that the tech industry uses predatory pricing to crush competitors and bilk investors New research reveals that Silicon Valley uses predatory pricing to crush competitors and scam investors — evidence the government can use to bust up tech monopolies.Tyler Le/InsiderIn 2016, Matt Wansley was trying to get work as a lawyer for a tech company — specifically, working on self-driving cars. He was making the rounds, interviewing at all the companies whose names you know, and eventually found himself talking to an executive at Lyft. So Wansley asked her, straight-out: How committed was Lyft, really, to autonomous driving?"Of course we're committed to automated driving," the exec told him. "The numbers don't pencil out any other way."Wait a minute, Wansley thought. Unless someone invents a robot that can drive as well as humans, one of America's biggest ride-hailing companies doesn't expect to turn a profit? Like, ever? Something was clearly very, very screwy about the business model of Big Tech."So what was the investment thesis behind Uber and Lyft?" says Wansley, now a professor at the Cardozo School of Law. "Putting billions of dollars of capital into a money-losing business where the path to profitability wasn't clear?"Wansley and a Cardozo colleague, Sam Weinstein, set out to understand the money behind the madness. Progressive economists had long understood that tech companies, backed by gobs of venture capital, were effectively subsidizing the price of their products until users couldn't live without them. Think Amazon: Offer stuff cheaper than anyone else, even though you lose money for years, until you scale to unimaginable proportions. Then, once you've crushed the competition and become the only game in town, you can raise prices and make your money back. It's called predatory pricing, and it's supposed to be illegal. It's one of the arguments that progressives in the Justice Department used to bust up monopolies like Standard Oil in the early 20th century. Under the rules of capitalism, you aren't allowed to use your size to bully competitors out of the market.The problem is, conservative economists at the University of Chicago have spent the past 50 years insisting that under capitalism, predatory pricing is not a thing. Their head-spinning argument goes like this: Predators have a larger market share to begin with, so if they cut prices, they stand to lose much more money than their competitors. Meanwhile their prey can simply flee the market and return later, like protomammals sneaking back to the jungle after the velociraptors leave. Predatory companies could never recoup their losses, which meant predatory behaviors are irrational. And since Chicago School economists are the kind of economists who believe that markets are always rational, that means predatory pricing cannot, by definition, exist.The Supreme Court bought the argument. In the 1986 case Matsushita Electric Industry Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., the court famously ruled that "predatory pricing schemes are rarely tried, and even more rarely successful." And in 1993, in Brooke Group v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., the court said that to convict a company of predatory pricing, prosecutors had to show not only that the accused predators had cut prices below market rates but also that they had a "dangerous probability" of recouping their losses. That effectively shut down the government's ability to prosecute companies for predatory pricing."The last time I checked, no one — including the United States government — has won a predatory pricing case since Brooke Group," says Spencer Waller, an antitrust expert at Loyola's School of Law. "Either they can't prove below-cost pricing, or they can't prove recoupment, because a nonexpert generalist judge who buys the basic theory when they read Matsushita and Brooke Group is super-skeptical this stuff is ever rational, absent really compelling evidence."Lots of economists have come up with solid counter-counterarguments to the Chicago School's skepticism about predatory pricing. But none of them have translated to winnable antitrust cases. Wansley and Weinstein — who, not coincidentally, used to work in antitrust enforcement at the Justice Department — set out to change that. In a new paper titled "Venture Predation," the two lawyers make a compelling case that the classic model of venture capital — disrupt incumbents, build a scalable platform, move fast, break things — isn't the peak of modern capitalism that Silicon Valley says it is. According to this new thinking, it's anticapitalist. It's illegal. And it should be aggressively prosecuted, to promote free and fair competition in the marketplace."We think real world examples are not hard to find — if you look in the right place," Wansley and Weinstein write. "A new breed of predator is emerging in Silicon Valley." And the mechanism those predators are using to illegally dominate the market is venture capital itself.Venture investing is the answer to the question of what would happen if you staffed a bank's loan department with adrenaline junkies. The limited partners in venture funds demand high returns, and those funds are transient things, lasting maybe a decade, which means the clock is ticking. Venture capitalists and the investors who put money into their funds aren't necessarily looking for a successful product (though they wouldn't turn one down). For VCs and their limited partners, the most profitable endgame is a quick exit — either selling off the company or taking it public in an IPO.Those pressures, Wansley and Weinstein argue, encourage risky strategies — including predatory pricing. "If you buy what the Chicago School of economists think about self-funded predators, you might think it's irrational for a company to engage in predatory pricing for a bunch of reasons," Weinstein says. "But it might not be irrational for a VC." The idea that it's so irrational as to be nonexistent is "a bullshit line that has somehow become common wisdom."Take Uber, one of their key examples. It'd be one thing if the company had simply outcompeted taxicabs on the merits. Cabs, after all, were themselves a fat and complacent monopoly. "Matt and I don't have any problem with that," Weinstein says. "You have a new product, scale quickly, and use some subsidies to get people on board." Disrupt an old business and make a new one.But that's not what happened. As in a soap opera or a comic-book multiverse, the ending never arrived. Uber kept subsidizing riders and drivers, losing billions trying to spend its competitors into oblivion. The same goes for a lot of other VC-backed companies. "WeWork was setting up offices right next to other coworking spaces and saying, 'We'll give you 12 months free.' Bird was scattering its scooters all over cities," Wansley says. "The pattern to us just seems very familiar." Uber is one of the best investments in history, and it was a predatory pricing.On its face, it also seems to prove the point of the Chicago School: that companies can never recoup the losses they incur through predatory pricing. Matsushita and Brooke Group require that prosecutors show harm. But if the only outcome of the scaling strategy used by Uber and other VC startups is to create an endless "millennial lifestyle subsidy," that just means wealth is being transferred from investors to consumers. The only victims of predatory pricing are the predators themselves.Where Wansley and Weinstein break important new ground is on the other legal standard set by the Supreme Court: recoupment of losses. If Uber and WeWork and the rest of the unicorns are perpetual money losers, it sounds like the standard isn't met. But Wansley and Weinstein point out that it can be — even if the companies never earn a dime and even if everyone who invests in the companies, post-IPO, loses their bets. That's because the venture capitalists who seeded the company do profit from the predatory pricing. They get in, get a hefty return on their investment, and get out before the whole scheme collapses."Will Uber ever recoup the losses from its sustained predation?" Wansley and Weinstein write. "We do not know. Our point is that, from the perspective of the VCs who funded the predation, it does not matter. All that matters is that investors were willing to buy the VCs' shares at a high price."Let's be clear here: This isn't the traditional capitalist story of "you win some, you lose some." The point isn't that venture capitalists sometimes invest in companies that don't make their money back. The point is that the entire model deployed by VCs is to profit by disrupting the marketplace with predatory pricing, and leave the losses to the suckers who buy into the IPO. A company that engages in predatory pricing and its late-stage investors might not recoup, but the venture investors do. "The single most important fact in this paper is that Benchmark put $12 million into Uber and got $5.8 billion back," Wansley says. "That's one of the best investments in history, and it was a predatory pricing."This new insight — that venture capital is predatory pricing in a new wrapper — could prove transformative. By translating the Silicon Valley jargon of exits and scaling into the legalese of antitrust law, Wansley and Weinstein have opened a door for the prosecution of tech investors and their anticompetitive behavior. "Courts will have to adjust the way they're thinking about recoupment," Weinstein says. "What did the investors who bought from the VCs think was going to happen? Did they think they were going to recoup?" That, he says, would be a "pretty good pathway" for courts to follow in determining whether a company's practices are anticompetitive.Capitalism is supposed to allow competition to foster innovation and choice; monopolies quash all that so a few people can get rich.What makes this argument particularly powerful, from a legal perspective, is that it doesn't reject the basics of the Chicago School's thinking on antitrust. It accepts that consumer welfare and the efficiency of markets are paramount. It just points out that something uncanny — and illegal — is taking place in Silicon Valley. "I'm pro-enforcement and anti-Chicago School, so I'm always looking for areas where I think they're wrong," Weinstein says. "And here's one."That kind of "serious legal scholarship" can be particularly successful with the courts, according to Waller, the antitrust expert at Loyola. "It's a good, modest strategy to say, 'We think your model's wrong, but even if your model's right in general, it's not right here.' That's both how you win cases and how you chip away at an edifice you want to challenge."With so many industries imploding into oligopolies — tech, healthcare, pharma, entertainment, journalism, retail — it's a hopeful sign to see the trustbusting mindset stirring to life once more. Capitalism is supposed to allow competition to foster innovation and choice; monopolies quash all that so a few people can get rich. But the new scholarship on predatory pricing could ripple well beyond the courts. Wansley and Weinstein's paper put me in mind of "The Big Con," David Maurer's linguistic study of con artists first published in 1940. Maurer said the most delicate part of a con was the end — the blow-off. After the sucker has been bled dry, the grifter has to ditch the victim, ideally in such a way that they won't go to the cops. In the perfect crime, the mark doesn't even know they've been had. The transfer of lousy tech equity to late-stage investors who have been led to believe it's valuable sure looks like a good blow-off to me.So now that we know precisely how Silicon Valley's big con works, maybe the marks won't be so quick to fall for it. Once you know what a phishing email looks like, you tend to stop replying to them. The same goes for recognizing the outlines of this particular grift. "It's not a Ponzi scheme, but it favors certain investors," Weinstein says. "If people in Silicon Valley start thinking about this as a predatory pricing scam, then I think the late-stage investors will start asking questions."And not just about ride hailing or office sharing. Maybe grocery delivery? Or streaming-service subscriptions? The same kind of aha! light that went off for Wansley during his interview with the Lyft executive could start to go off for other people as well. Some of them will be investors who decide not to park their money in predatory tech companies. And some of them, perhaps, will be government regulators who are looking for ways to bust our modern-day trusts.Adam Rogers is a senior correspondent at Insider.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytJul 18th, 2023