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People who study the origins of civil wars see "indicators" the US is on the brink of conflict, Yale historian says

Yale history professor Timothy Snyder cited the high degree of polarization, beliefs in alternative realities, and the celebration of violence. An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021.Photo by Leah Millis/Reuters Yale history professor Timothy Snyder spoke with Insider about the future of American democracy. Snyder said factors like polarization and alternative realities indicate the US is close to conflict. But Snyder said he thinks it's even more likely that the US could cease to exist. Though the idea of another civil war in the near future seems far-fetched to many Americans, people who study such conflicts might disagree, according to Timothy Snyder, a history professor at Yale University.Snyder, an expert on the rise of authoritarianism, discussed the future of American democracy in an interview with Insider during which he said he fears the US might not survive if former President Donald Trump runs again in 2024.Insider asked Snyder how he feels about people invoking the Civil War when discussing the current state of affairs."First of all, I just want to say that, for the people who actually study the origins of civil wars, not just in the US, but as a class of events, America doesn't look good right now," Snyder said.He cited the high degree of polarization, beliefs in alternative realities, and the celebration of violence, pointing to some who praised the actions of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teen who killed two people at a racial justice protest in Wisconsin in 2020. (A jury acquitted Rittenhouse, who said he acted in self-defense.)"Those social scientists who actually work on this topic — neutrally — see indicators in the United States, which suggests that we are on the brink of some kind of conflict," Snyder said.Snyder said it is "very possible" that the US could install a president in 2025 who technically loses the election by a clear margin. He said with "a few gimmicks" a candidate that loses the popular vote and loses the electoral college could become president."A few states just have to withhold their electoral votes; the House of Representatives then votes, according to state delegations; the Supreme Court then blesses the whole configuration; and then all of a sudden you have an installed president of the United States," Snyder explained.In that scenario, it's possible the US ends up with a civil war. But Snyder said he thinks that scenario would more likely lead to the dissolution of the US."It's a kind of conflict that ends with governors seeking some kind of safe haven for their states. It's a kind of conflict that ends with Americans moving from one part of the country to another to be with people with whom they feel safer," he said."It's the kind of conflict that ends with some kind of basic political reconstruction, where the US as we know it doesn't have to exist."Read Insider's full interview with Snyder here.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytJan 15th, 2022

Yale history professor Timothy Snyder told Insider he fears American democracy may not survive another Trump campaign

Author and historian Timothy Snyder thinks the 2024 campaign could end with the loser claiming power — and that could break up the United States. Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University specializing in the history of Central and Eastern Europe and the Holocaust, speaks at Oslo Freedom Forum 2019 on May 27, 2019 in Oslo, Norway.Julia Reinhart/Getty Images Timothy Snyder is a history professor at Yale University and an expert on the rise of authoritarianism. Snyder is the author of "The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America," among other books. He spoke to Insider about what he sees as grave threats to democracy in the United States. Timothy Snyder does not want to be a downer, he says, but he is not feeling too optimistic about America these days. A history professor at Yale University, and the author of a series of books on authoritarianism and the road to tyranny, he looks at the United States these days and wonders if the country as we know it will still exist in a few years.In a recent article — marking one year since a former president, who lost an election, sought to thwart the peaceful transfer of power — Snyder painted a grim scenario where something like the January 6 insurrection had succeeded. How would the country, and the rest of the world, react to the installation of a leader who clearly did not win?In an interview with Insider, Snyder discussed Donald Trump, democracy, and what he fears could happen come 2024.It's been a year now since the January 6th insurrection. What do you think the state of American democracy is? Are we on firmer ground now, a year out?Well, I mean, obviously things could be worse. The January 6th insurrection a year ago could have succeeded. We could be living in a country that is wracked by civil and indeed violent conflict after Donald Trump succeeds in, at least temporarily, staying in power, thanks to some kind of conspiracy of his supporters, the Department of Justice, supporters in Congress and so on, right? So things could be worse. And I wouldn't wanna deny that.Unfortunately, that scenario is not one that is just in the rearview mirror. It's also one that is right in front of us. The problem with a failed coup, which is what January 6th, 2021, is, is that it is practice for a successful coup. So what we're looking at now is a kind of slow-motion practice for a repetition of all of that, but this time with the legal parts of it more fully prepared. What I'm afraid of is that now, in the shadow of a big lie — namely, that Trump actually won — the states are preparing the legal steps that will enable Trump to be installed as president the next time around. And that in turn will lead to a terrible sort of conflict, the kind that we haven't seen before. Some people look at January 6th and they see that — as bad as it was — it did not succeed, obviously. And, in fact, the leading players were kind of bumbling, right? I think that some have dismissed January 6th as a foolish stunt that got out of hand, but that never stood a chance of succeeding. I guess maybe you could both agree with that, but also think that's something that could be a lesson for them going forward.Let me try a comparison. If you think that democracy just succeeded on January 6th, sort of on its own strength, then you're missing the backdrop. In the course of the year 2020 there were a lot of important individuals and institutions, ranging from civil society to business, who were aware that there was some possibility that Trump would go for it, even if he lost, and were making preparations for that all year long. Without those preparations, it's very likely that Trump would have succeeded, or at least he would've come close enough to succeeding that we would be in terrible, bloody chaos for a very long time. It's like you're imagining an athlete winning a gold medal in the Olympics and thinking, 'Okay, that guy never actually practiced. He just showed up that day, in Tokyo, and won the medal'. The reason why democracy succeeded in 2021 is that a lot of people put in a lot of hard work ahead of time. And if it's going to keep succeeding, a lot of people are going to have to keep doing a lot of hard work. That attitude, that things just kind of happened because they happened — if we have that attitude, we're not going to put in the work and we're going to have this problem a second time around. The second thing to say about that is that, sure, sometimes coups fail, and when they fail the people who carry them out look foolish. But we're kind of in a strange spot in the US. Normally when you try a coup and you fail, you face some kind of consequence, right? In an authoritarian regime, your political life is terminated in some unpleasant way. In a democratic regime with a rule of law, you face legal consequences. We in the US are in this weird middle state, where you can try to carry out a coup, and pretty obviously break the law in all kinds of ways, and nevertheless, you can kind of just hang out and remain in politics. We're in a very awkward place, a strange place, where this sort of thing can repeat itself,Are you encouraged at all by the work of the January 6 committee and also the charges that the Department of Justice unveiled, where they've actually started charging people with seditious conspiracy?I hate to always be negative, and I won't be, but let me just start with a proviso. It's really too bad that, thanks to the archaic institution known as the filibuster, we don't have a bipartisan January 6th committee. We did have majorities in both the house and the Senate for something like that, but nevertheless, it doesn't exist. And that's a shame because democracy depends upon reflection and self-correction, and the January 6th committee is about reflection and self-correction, and so it's too bad that it couldn't have been done in the broadest way possible.That said, the work that it's doing is incredibly important. Democracy depends upon facts. Democracy depends upon knowing what's going on, operating in the shadow of a big lie, as a lot of us are doing — and even those of us who don't believe in the lie have to deal with it all the time — is incompatible with democracy. Myths and personality cults, and massive doses of self-deception, are incompatible with democracy. Figuring out just what happened, step by step, is compatible because it gives us that chance to reflect and to improve and to move on. So the work that the January 6th committee is doing is absolutely indispensable.I was going to ask you about the Democrats' response in January 6th, but actually your response there makes me want ask you about the Republicans' response. Because does the Democrats' response even matter if one of the major political parties is completely behind what you call 'the big lie'? There was a brief moment, after January 6th, where it seemed like the leading members of the Republican Party were going to break from Donald Trump and his claims. But it definitely seems like that's a way to get yourself kicked out of the party these days.To answer your literal question, it does of course matter what the Democrats do. It matters whether they try to figure out the truth. It matters whether they dig in and do the hard work of having to challenge their colleagues in the Senate, in the House, which of course is not that pleasant for the Democrats. That all matters very much because, without a legal and historical sense of the events of January 6th, we're not going to be able to keep going as a democracy. All of that baggage, from the Civil War forward that we don't clean up, just stands in the way of a democratic future. So it does matter what the Democrats are doing.The Republicans are facing a different kind of problem than the Democrats. Their problem is that, if they don't stand up to the big lie, and to the big liar himself, then they are doomed to become an authoritarian party. The logic of the big lie is such that, since you're claiming that the other side cheated you are then going to cheat yourself. You're basically promising your supporters that you're going to cheat. You're telling your supporters that a vote for us is not really a vote to try to win an election, a vote for us is just to kind of get us vaguely close enough that we can then fix the election, thanks to voter suppression and voter subversion and all the things that we're preparing now. So the Republicans face this very different ethical situation, which is that the longer they operate within the shadow of the big lie, the more they're gonna be remembered by posterity as a party that became authoritarian and possibly broke the system.I think, by the way, that a good number of them realized that. I think, by the way, that a good number of them are trying to find some way to get out from under this. And I hope that I hope that more of them find the courage to try to do so.Do you agree with the assessment that this is the worst crisis for democracy since the Civil War?I think we're in the same territory as the Great Depression and the Civil War. And those were moments when the United States was very lucky with its leaders. I mean, it's no coincidence that we tend to remember Lincoln and Roosevelt as the presidents that stand out. I would add the Great Depression to that because I think the Great Depression was also a moment when it could have all gone south. But yes, we're on historically dangerous territory.Obviously, when people refer to the Civil War, I mean, one response to that can be that that's, you know, hysterical, right? We don't appear to be on the verge of a violent conflict between two heavily armed sides. So how do you see that playing out? Where could this lead?First of all, I just want to say that, for the people who actually study the origins of civil wars, not just in the US, but as a class of events, America doesn't look good right now, with its high degree of polarization, with its alternative reality, with the celebration of violence — the example of Kyle Rittenhouse. Those social scientists who actually work on this topic — neutrally — see indicators in the United States, which suggests that we are on the brink of some kind of conflict.You're asking me about my scenario? My scenario is not very complicated. My scenario is that if, as is very possible, we install a president in January 2025 who has lost by a clear margin — let's say 10 million popular votes, and let's say 89 electoral votes — it's not very difficult in that situation for the loser to become the winner, thanks to just a few gimmicks. A few states just have to withhold their electoral votes; the House of Representatives then votes, according to state delegations; the Supreme Court then blesses the whole configuration; and then all of a sudden you have an installed president of the United States.I think by 2025 it's going be very hard for a lot of Americans to accept something so blatantly undemocratic, the more so since people will have known that this kind of plot was in the works for several years. So my scenario is at that point you would then have uncertainty as to who the President of the United States actually was — uncertainty among the population and also uncertainty within the institutions of government, both bureaucracy, the civil administration, but also unfortunately the armed parts of the government: the armed forces, the national guard.So that's the scenario. It's not very complicated. And unfortunately, it's the kind of thing that one has seen in other countries. And it's not really all that implausible.Speaking of other countries, what parallels can you draw, with the caveat that we know history doesn't repeat, exactly? What do you see as analogous to the situation that the United States finds itself in today?There are all kinds of comparisons. History doesn't repeat, but it does instruct. And it also instructs the people who are trying to undermine the rule of law. An easy, contemporary example is Hungary. Hungary is a place where, legalistic step by legalistic step, the spirit and reality of democracy and the rule of law were removed, such that Hungary, although it still has elections, is a country, which you can't really characterize as a functioning democracy. That is the road that we are on. And that is a model, not a historical one, but a contemporary one for a lot of Republicans right now.  Hungary's going to be more and more present — in fact, it's already been present, for example, on Tucker Carlson — as a kind of positive ideal for rule: an authoritarian regime, on the basis of a minority and kind of ritual elections.Going back a few years: Russia. Russia pioneered what's called the 'administrative resource.' That is, you have elections, but the elections are arranged in such a way that you know who's going to win. And you can't really point to exactly where things went wrong because they went wrong at a whole bunch of different levels at the same time. But nevertheless, your guy always wins. We're moving in that direction. We're moving towards the administrative resource.A more distant historical parallel: the failed democracies of the 1920s and 1930s. A similarity there is that, thanks to obstreperousness and complicated parliamentary rules, laws weren't passed and people all over Central and Eastern Europe began to think that parliament, or what we call Congress, is just not very important. It would be better to have a strong leader. Someone who at least reflects our mood. Someone who can get things done. As it becomes difficult for our Congress to pass laws, and as Republicans deliberately, of course, make it difficult for our Congress to pass laws, that kind of sentiment is also building in the US.Where do you trace the beginnings of guess what you would call the Republicans' weakening commitment to democracy? Is it the rise of Donald Trump and his personality call and his unique characteristics? Is he a product of a conservative movement that had been, for years, kind of slowly moving away from the idea of democracy as a value?You have to go way back in US history. There's always been a party which wanted to suppress the votes of all of Black people and call that democracy. For a long time, that was the Democratic Party. They switched, after civil rights in the sixties, and it became the Republican party. But this is kind of the original sin of American democracy — that we've always had a political party which wants to suppress votes and game the system.I think there are three recent developments, though. One is the surgical precision by which we now carry out gerrymandering, which means that the Republican Party, in particular, is playing only to the loudest voices in its own choir and is ever less representative of the general public. The second change is social media, within which I would include also foreign interventions in our social media. Social media is a bit like a gerrymandering of the brain. It allows voters to collect themselves into clusters and not have contact with anyone else. And that radicalizes things.And then the third is, I mean, give credit where credit is due: the personality cult of Donald Trump. The Republicans have not had a figure like this before, who is willing to call them out on their own hypocrisies, basically to expose them nakedly for the worst things that they do, as opposed to the values that some of them still would like to express in politics. They've never had a kind of cult of personality like this, where everything was out in the open. That creates a new kind of popularity. I think it'll be hard for Republicans to rally around, at this point, someone else to carry out a second coup, partly because I think no one has both the combination of a sheer indifference to ethics and the popularity that Mr. Trump has at this moment.It sounds like you're saying if in 2024 the Republican nominee were Ron DeSantis or Tucker Carlson, who seem to have the same political values — Tucker Carlson, as you mentioned, openly admires [Hungary's] Viktor Orbán — that the threat to democracy would be greatly diminished, which seems to reduce the threat to the person of Donald Trump.I wouldn't want to say it's a good situation to have a whole cast of characters who want to come to power under the cover of a big lie, using non-democratic means. That's still not a good situation that we have a DeSantis or a Carlson or a Josh Hawley or possibly a Ted Cruz — that we have a whole list of people who'd be willing to come to power that way. That's not a good situation. But, at the moment, it's Mr. Trump who captures the imagination of a lot of the American electorate. To carry out a coup of this kind, you've gotta get close enough to make it plausible. And you have to have somebody who's absolutely ruthless. And I think he remains, therefore, the best of the worst, or the worst of the worst, depending upon how you want to look at it.I want to ask you about President Biden. Obviously, he's given a couple of speeches recently that have explicitly labeled not just Donald Trump but the Republican Party as a threat to democracy. How do you grade his response to January 6th?It's a tough time right now for Mr. Biden in public opinion. I think he has been put in a very difficult situation — in a way, an historically unprecedented situation. With the exception, we just don't have presidents coming to power at a time when the existence of the republic has been challenged. And unlike Lincoln, Biden, can't begin from the position of some kind of clear victory. That is to say, the people who oppose American democracy are still out there in the field. Mr. Trump is in Florida doing his thing, every day. And there's no clear way to remove them from the picture.So he has to be president, and he has to do the normal things that a president does, which is try to get laws passed. And he has to, simultaneously, embody the values of our democratic Republic. It's a tough combination. Because he'd like to be able, I think, to stand above all of this. And then, after a year, it's become clear that he just can't. I think all of these attitudes have been correct. I just think it's unfortunate — going back to the comparison to FDR, unlike FDR he doesn't have big majorities in his first term. If he had big majorities, a lot of the stuff that we're talking about would be moot. We would have a bipartisan investigation. A lot more laws would've been passed.And above all, we'd already have electoral reform, which is the single most important thing: making it easier for Americans to vote would be good, not only for the whole system, it would also be good for the Republicans because it would force the Republican closer into the role of being a party which has to seek votes, has to care about public opinion, has to represent people, rather than the worst parts of a system. If Biden had a bigger majority, then all that stuff would've already happened. I think he's come to power at a really uninviting time. His first year has been, let's say a lot better than we think — it's been a lot better than the atmospherics would suggest.President Biden's approval rating, some polls suggest, is in the 30s and Democrats look like they're on the verge of losing their majority in the House and their 50-50 control of the Senate. Polls also suggest that a large majority of the public is concerned about the state of democracy. They do not particularly like Donald Trump. Yet they seem ready to return the Republican Party — a party that's committed to Donald Trump and his lies about the 2020 election — to power. How do you reconcile all that?I think there are several things going on there. One, just lots of people, regardless of party commitment, don't see the kind of legalistic threat building up to a second coup attempt or an installation of a president. In early 2020, and this is perfectly understandable, people don't necessarily see that the combination of voter suppression and vote subversion and a candidate who's going to break all the rules in a few years that this — that this combined with Republican victory in both the House and the Senate makes the end of democracy in the US, unfortunately, conceivable. People don't see that because it's a complicated institutional story and people would prefer to vote in 2022 on the stuff they're thinking about in 2022. That's understandable, but it's really unfortunate.The second thing, which is going on here, is that there's a kind of irony in our system, which is that Democrats tend to trust the very institutions that Republicans are corrupting. Republicans are the ones who, if you poll them, are more likely to say somebody's gonna fix the election. Democrats just aren't worried enough about this because they tend to believe the institutions are going to work, that everybody will come together, etcetera. And so I think it's hard in particular for Democrats to think, okay, it's 2022, we have to vote like hell because otherwise we're going to have Trumpland — in a worse version — two years down the line.And then the third thing that's going on is just people are sick of COVID. People are sick of living unusual lives. People are sick of all these restrictions on them, understandably. And people are going to vote their mood. That's just the way democracy is.The things that we're talking about, we should talk about and try to get them across, but there's also just this basic matter that people are unsatisfied with COVID. And Republicans know this and they're trying to keep COVID going as long as possible because they think it favors them. And they're probably right. People want to go back to normal life and until they go back to normal life, it's hard to have a normal election where the kinds of things we're talking about will get to the surface.Let's revisit this scenario where Trump and the Republican Party have claimed victory and have had some legal cloaking of this claim that has installed the loser of the election in power. You talked about competing allegiances among, perhaps, different branches of the military. It would be a very unclear situation of who, legally, different institutions in the United States should be pledging allegiance to. How do you see that playing out a year later? If Trump is in there as a minority, loser-president, seen as illegitimate by 55% of the American public, what's that look like for him and for the rest of the country?I mean, look, god forbid, I don't want all this to happen. And I think there's time to prevent it from happening. But I don't think the scenario that you're talking about is the one that we have to worry about. I think the scenario we have to worry about is that there isn't a US at that point. The kind of conflict that begins January 20, 2025, isn't the kind of conflict that ends with one president being just unpopular, or even seen as illegitimate. It's a kind of conflict that ends with governors seeking some kind of safe haven for their states. It's a kind of conflict that ends with Americans moving from one part of the country to another to be with people with whom they feel safer. It's the kind of conflict that ends with some kind of basic political reconstruction, where the US as we know it doesn't have to exist.That's the thing I think that people have the hardest time getting through their minds. Like the US, as we know it, doesn't have to exist. It's built upon these constitutional foundations, which are very flawed and which are now being intensely abused. If those constitutional foundations lead to something which is broadly unacceptable, we're going to be in unknown territory, which can go to unknown places. But it's very often the thing that you take for granted the most, like the existence of your own country, which is the thing that you should be paying the most attention to.That's a lesson which the Soviets learned in 1991, right? It's 30 years since the Soviet Union came to an end. We can look back at that and say, 'aha, it came to an end because it was a flawed communist system.' And sure, that's true. But we didn't expect it to come to an end, and they didn't expect it to come to an end. The fundamental lesson there is that big, powerful systems that you don't think can come to an end can come to an end if you don't get a hold of the internal problems — what they used to call the internal contradictions. We have some internal contradictions. We say we're a democracy, but we're becoming ever less so in practice. And if we don't get a hold of that, the system as we know it may not continue at all.That's what I'm worried about, sincerely. And I like to think — maybe I'm naive — that if folks on both sides of the aisle, Republicans, Democrats, and others, could imagine themselves into a 2025 where the existence of the country is actually in doubt, if we could think ourselves forward to that, and then think back to where we are now, it might moderate things that we're doing.My basic feeling is that the Republicans are right to think they can game their way to power. But by the time they game their way to power, it's not clear that there will be anything to have power over. And I don't think they've thought their way through to the end of that. And I think they need to, and everyone needs to, so that we can, you know, so that we can operate in such a way where at least our republic is still around a few years from now,To clarify that: you're thinking less that scenario where it's a shooting war between the army and the navy or competing factions in the military, and more like what we've kind of seen with blue states and climate change, for example, under Trump, where they kind of announce we have our own foreign policy, and we're actually going to band together and pursue our own policies. Speak directly to us, not Washington, DC. That's not America.I think some combination of that is what we're talking about. The more you get into details, the more you're going to be wrong, because the details won't be exactly what we think. In that scenario, I think Trump is president of something, but I'm not sure he governs from Washington, DC, and I'm not sure the thing that he runs is called the United States of America.In that scenario, he and the Supreme Court get to get to run something, but I'm not sure it's most of the country at that point. The military, you know, is subordinate to civilian command, which is a proud tradition that we have, but it's not clear who the civilian commander actually is, that's a real problem. And if there are conflicting orders coming down, or if different commanders within our armed forces are giving conflicting orders, then you have a situation where either you're going to have a literal civil war or people are going say, 'Hey, the way to prevent violent conflict is to have some kind of peaceful separation along some kind of lines.' That will suggest itself. The model that I have in mind now is Yugoslavia.It all seems wild and science-fictiony at this point, but if you reason your way through to 2025 with an installed president, and you don't see some scenario like this, you must be thinking, 'Okay, Trump can get installed and nobody will care.' And I just don't think that's plausible. I just don't think the combination of Trump himself — who's wildly unpopular along among a lot of people and who has already effectively announced that his policies next time around will be still more radical — and installation will be accepted by Americans and American institutions. That's a step that I can't make mentally. I don't see how installing Trump won't lead to a major challenge to the existence of the republic.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJan 14th, 2022

US is "closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe," a leading expert on civil wars says in a new book

In her new book, "How Civil Wars Start," Barbara F. Walter writes that the US exhibits the key warning signs that precede armed conflict. Violent protesters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in WashingtonAP Photo/John Minchillo, File Barbara F. Walter, a civil war expert, said the US is closer to violent conflict than many think. In her new book, Walter identifies three factors that increase the likelihood of a civil war. Her book, "How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them," was released earlier this month. Barbara F. Walter has spent more than 30 years studying civil wars around the globe and, according to her new book, the US is a lot closer to one than most people think.Walter – a political scientist and professor at the University of California, San Diego – is one of the world's leading experts on civil wars. She's a member of the Political Instability Task Force, a group of analysts that study data to predict where volatility and violence is most likely to break out.In her new book, "How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them," which came out this month, Walter outlines three factors researchers have identified that presage civil conflict and explains in detail the ways in which the US exhibits those warning signs."Civil wars ignite and escalate in ways that are predictable; they follow a script," Walter writes, adding that the same patterns have emerged in Bosnia, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Northern Ireland, and Israel.She said one of the best predictors of civil war is if a country is moving towards or away from democracy. If a country is an "anocracy" – a term used to refer to countries that are not fully democratic or fully autocratic but somewhere in between – they are more likely than both full autocracies or democracies to experience violence.Today, the US is an anocracy for the first time in more than two hundred years, according to Walter, who cites the Polity Project, a nonprofit that measures how democratic or autocratic a country is. Walter said the country's recent slip on the democracy scale started with the 2016 election, which observers said was marred by politically driven rules and Russian interference.The US slipped further on the scale during President Donald Trump's term, when executive powers expanded and the president refused to cooperate with Congress's first impeachment inquiry, Walter said. And then it slipped again, after the January 6 insurrection.Another warning sign Walter points to is "factionalism," a specific kind of political polarization."Countries that factionalize have political parties based on ethnic, religious, or racial identity rather than ideology, and these parties then seek to rule at the exclusion and expense of others," she writes, adding that Trump especially catered to Americans along ethnic and religious lines with a focus on white evangelical Christians.Finally, Walter points to a phenomenon known as "downgrading" as another predictive measure. Downgrading refers to a dominant group's loss of status in society. She said researchers have found the "trajectory of a group's political status" was the "most powerful determinant of violence.""People were especially likely to fight if they had once held power and saw it slipping away," she writes.Walter said downgrading can apply to all kinds of groups, "rich or poor, Christian or Muslim, white or Black," but the key is that the group feels a "status reversal," not just a political defeat.She cites racial resentment among whites who believe Black Americans or other minority groups are now getting unfair special treatment. She also points to Trump's focus on the grievances of working-class white people and his attempts to appeal specifically to those who feel they have lost something, as evidenced by his slogan "Make America Great Again.""Where is the United States today? We are a factionalized anocracy that is quickly approaching the open insurrection stage, which means we are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe," Walter concludes.Walter explains that a civil war today might look different than in the past. She points to specific examples of violence, like the extremist plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the insurrection at the Capitol as indicators that at least some groups are already willing to move towards violence.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 22nd, 2022

Ending Fiat Money Won"t Destroy The State

Ending Fiat Money Won't Destroy The State Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute, A certain meme has become popular among advocates of both gold and cryptocurrencies. This is the “Fix the money, fix the world” meme. This slogan is based on the idea that by switching to some commodity money—be it crypto or metal—and abandoning fiat currency, the world will improve greatly.  Taken in its moderate form, of course, this slogan is indisputably correct. State-controlled money is immoral, dangerous, and impoverishing. It paves the way for government theft of private wealth through the inflation tax, and thus allows the state to do more of what it does best: wage wars, kill, imprison, steal, and enrich the friends of the regime at the expense of everyone else. Privatizing the monetary system and imposing a “separation of money and state” would help limit these activities. But it’s also important to not overstate the benefits of taking money out of the hands of the state. The temptation to push the “fix the world” idea to utopian levels is often seen among cryptocurrency maximalists, and among some gold promoters as well. For example, at least one bitcoin enthusiast thinks bitcoin will bring “the end of the nation states.” And in one particularly over-the-top paragraph from another bitcoin promoter, we’re told that cryptocurrency will essentially cure every ill from poverty to corruption to environmental destruction.  The idea that changing to different money will somehow end theft, poverty, or even war is the sort of messianic thinking that would have given old-school Marxists a run for their money. Yes, we can all agree that if we “improve the money” we also “improve the world.” But removing the state’s money monopoly won’t make states fold up their tents and slink away in the night. (And, needless to say, simply changing the money won’t make bad food or poverty disappear either.) States existed before states took control of the money. And they’ll exist afterward—unless profound ideological changes take place as well. States Predate Fiat Money In a recent essay for mises.org titled “How Governments Seized Control of Money,” I explored the early history of the European state and the long process of how states gradually asserted control over money and the financial system. Significantly, however, we find that state power grew well before states established anything resembling true monopolies over the monetary system—or the power to create fiat money. That is, states long predate the money monopolies they now enjoy. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—without the benefit of fiat currencies—states created enormous standing armies for the first time. They established mercantilist economies. Many rulers managed to assemble large bureaucracies to serve absolutist states. States were centralized to a degree that had not been seen in Western Europe since the Romans. It was a period of enormous gains in state building for princes and their agents. Yet these states could not “print money” nor enjoy the benefits of fiat money except in very short-lived and limited cases. Indeed, this period of immense state growth was also a period of “concurrent” and “parallel” currencies during which a wide variety of gold and silver coins—most of them foreign—competed within the borders of a single state. Many efforts by regimes to issue questionable, debased money failed because there were so many alternatives. But this didn’t stop, say, Louis XIV from hammering together a powerful state. So, when we ask ourselves the question, “Can states survive without fiat currency?” the answer is clearly “All experience points to yes.” States Can Still Tax without Fiat Money The existence and health of the state does not depend on fiat money or monetary inflation. Those things help a state, to be sure, but they’re not critical to the equation. Rather, what really matters is the ability to use the state’s monopoly on the means of coercion to seize resources. The great historian of the state Charles Tilly has noted that “no state lasts long” without the ability to engage in “extraction” or “drawing from its subject population the means of statemaking, warmaking, and protection.”1 “Extraction,” of course, will to most modern readers mean simply “taxation.” But historically it can mean other things as well. States can extract resources by demanding tribute as a payment for the “protection” services a state allegedly provides. This might be payment made by a local government to the central government. States also often own large amounts of land and other property. This means states can extract resources directly through rents, leases, and fees. States also can grant monopolies to nominally “private” organizations which provide both tangible and intangible benefits to the state (this is a common tactic under systems like mercantilism). None of this requires fiat money or a monopoly of the production of money. This all simply requires that states have the coercive force necessary to collect taxes, rents, tribute, and other benefits. Some advocates of cryptocurrencies have nonetheless attempted to claim that when the financial system is decentralized through crypto networks states will somehow be unable to tax. This would work if resources took no form other than money. But that’s not the case. Since human beings are physical beings—with needs for food, water, shelter, heating, and more—the state need only concentrate on taxing and monitoring physical goods. This would certainly shift the tax burden from the financial sector to physical assets, but it wouldn’t end the ability to tax. Rather, if states find themselves with less access to the monetized economy, states will instead increase taxes on real estate, retail trade, fuel, and hard-to-move physical capital. These states could even require that these payments be made in the state’s preferred money, thus ensuring the continuation of state-controlled money, even if that money is a less preferred money within a competitive framework. Those who refuse to comply would see their assets confiscated at the point of a state-wielded gun. War Making: The Key Piece of the Puzzle Finally, we must remember why states need to extract all these resources to begin with. One reason, of course, is that resource extraction begets more resource extraction. Once a state has an army of tax collectors and regulators, it’s easier to expand resource extraction even more. Fortunately—from the state’s perspective—this requires only a fraction of total revenues. Moreover, many taxpayers can be counted on to enthusiastically comply.  An enormous portion of that revenue—virtually all of it in the days before the modern welfare state—has traditionally gone to what Tilly calls a “state’s essential minimum activities.” These are statemaking: attacking and checking competitors and challengers within the territory claimed by the state. warmaking: attacking rivals outside the territory already claimed by the state; protection: attacking and checking rivals of the rulers’ principal allies, whether inside or outside the state’s claimed territory. These activities are the “core competencies” of states, and these activities also constitute—as Rothbard noted—the most high-stakes activities for states. They are high stakes because states that fail to succeed in these activities are generally doomed states. Thus, even if states are forced to scale back their welfare states, they will fight tooth and nail before giving up any of these “minimum activities.“  Historically, of course, states have been able to obtain more than enough when it comes to resource extraction for purposes of war making and ensuring the protection of the their coercive powers. A monopoly over money and fiat currency was never essential to this equation. States have proven to be quite ingenious when it comes to borrowing, threatening, and propagandizing when necessary to carry out wars—whether against foreigners or against a state’s own people.  Ideologically, of course, the origins of the state lie largely in the ability of state agents to promise “protection” from both foreign and domestic threats. And so long as the general public believes the state is necessary in this equation, states will continue to be able to demand tax revenues, obedience, and “unity.” If anyone doubts that such ideas are alive and well, one need only speak in favor of splitting the United States into smaller pieces. One is likely to immediately hear about how this must never be allowed to happen because China (or some other bogeyman of the day) poses too grave a threat to American “national interests.” A “strong America” is necessary, we’re told. This “strength,” of course, is funded by taxes.  The ideological grip states have over the public in this regard is extremely strong. Unless ideologies change in a big way, most people in the world are likely to continue to look to states to offer protection from various perceived evils. Consequently, separating the state from money won’t fundamentally change the world of geopolitics. It won’t change the fact that many states are immensely popular and regarded by the subject population as important and beneficial. Moreover, age-old sources of conflict will remain. Ethnic tensions will endure. Nationalism won’t disappear. Border disputes and fights over who “rightfully” controls some strategic strip of coastline won’t go away. Yes, taking the control of money out of the hands of politicians and bureaucrats is clearly a good thing, and ought to be done quickly and thoroughly. But it won’t “fix the world.” It’s only a piece of a much larger puzzle. Tyler Durden Wed, 01/12/2022 - 17:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 13th, 2022

How Bubbles, Price, & COVID-19 Changed Bitcoin For Me

How Bubbles, Price, & COVID-19 Changed Bitcoin For Me Authored by Joakim Book via BitcoinMagazine.com, Bitcoin is not a bubble. It’s the monetary escape hatch we need now that the COVID-19 cat is out of the bag... I trained as a financial historian. My academic work focused on banks and financial markets in the past, and I was always fascinated by iconic bubbles of financial history — the tulip mania, the financial boom of the 1690s, the South Sea Company and Britain’s many financial panics in the 19th century. I wrote a thesis on the 1847 commercial crisis. I analyzed financial returns on London’s stock market in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and showed that returns then squared well with the first round of factor analyses developed a century later. I investigated the Bank of England's role in the 1857 crisis, the 1866 Overend, Gurney & Company collapse and the 1890 bailout of Baring Brothers. (If you are under the impression that financial crises, government mismanagement and central bank bailouts only happened in the post-1971 era of modern monetary debasement, you are sorely mistaken). You could, Ray Dalio-style, say that nothing is new under our financial sun: many of these past crises map well onto more modern ones — perhaps, because there are only so many ways to make losses or catastrophically ruin monetary arrangements. While the concept of “bubbles” runs freely across the chronicles of financial history and those who study it, I was less convinced. The hand-waving arrogance with which well-established financial historians would denounce something as a bubble, delusion or financial madness would be familiar to most bitcoiners reading The New York Times or The Economist today. Mostly, these otherwise astute academics meant to launch derogatory remarks on the sorts of people who handled assets, and implied that real-world plebs in trading pits or exchanges couldn’t possibly possess knowledge of the superior kind with which their own university libraries embodied them. Worse, when pushed, the idea of bubbles never seemed to mean much else than “what goes up must come down.” What fascinates me about Bitcoin is the questions it poses for monetary economics — monetary rules, macroeconomic stability, regression theorem, Gresham's law and the classification of fiat-commodity money. When I first heard rumblings of this technological solution to overthrow the state’s monetary monopoly, I mostly denounced it as hopeful technobabble. My orange-pilled friends couldn’t explain why it mattered monetarily, how it improved much on what we had (or with better central bankers, could have). The use value seemed altogether superfluous in a fintech world where moving value was easier than ever and central banks couldn’t even hit their inflation targets, let alone shove us over the brink of hyperinflation. Then, two things changed: price and COVID-19. To many laymen, reasoning from a change in asset price seems like an asinine and bubble-fueled reason to change one’s mind — the quintessential herd mentality. To convince you that it’s not, I return to the idea of bubbles before I argue that Bitcoin is the monetary escape hatch necessary in a less free world. PRICES KNOW SOMETHING YOU DON’T At the base of economics lies an information and calculation argument: real market prices, emerging in trade between willing participants, generate information about the world. It allows us to calculate profits and losses, to see if what we make is worth more than what we put in. It allows market participants (i.e., all of us) to grasp what’s going on — not, mind you, in the news agency way of broadcasting highly-curated pictures from afar, but by informing your economic decisions. Shortages and price declines tell us what’s scarcer and more plentiful, what’s in high demand and what is better used elsewhere. Financial markets and assets do the same thing for society’s current and future allocation of savings. The prices of securities vary more than market prices because the (far-off) future and how to assess it is less knowable than the immediate present or recent past. The “trouble with bubbles” is that nobody knows the future. Asset prices incorporate the knowledge that exists about the present and forecasts the future in the best way that we know how. If owners of securities are wrong about that future, they lose money or miss out on profitable investments. Scott Sumner of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University explains this well for the two most recent bubbles in U.S. financial history: the dot-com bubble in the late ’90s and early 2000s, and the housing bubbles a few years thereafter: “I think asset prices are usually relatively efficient based on fundamentals. I'm very dubious of people who claim that such and such a market is obviously overvalued. Most experts, I think, believe that the tech stocks in 2000 were obviously overvalued, or housing prices in 2006 were obviously overvalued… people [were] saying things like ‘those stock prices only make sense if you think American internet firms will eventually dominate the global economy.’ "Well, they do now. Or the 2006 housing prices would only make sense if you think interest rates will get lower and lower and NIMBY [not in my backyard] regulations will stop new construction. Well, both of those things have happened and we’re now at a new normal of much higher housing prices in America. I think these markets we're picking up some long-term trends that really did change the traditional fundamental price earnings ratio or rent price ratio in housing.” Knowing that something is “obviously overvalued” is the kind of extreme hubris that opponents of Bitcoin suffer from in outsized amounts. The fundamental value is zero, says economist Steve Hanke; as renowned and astute a writer as Nassim Taleb wrote some mathematical equations and proved (“proved”) that bitcoin’s fundamental value was nil. How could they possibly know that? Perhaps they ran a model, mentally or computationally, plugged in some values, and out popped a bubble verdict. Could be, but when you’re testing market (ir)rationality, you’re also implicitly testing the model: “Irrational bubbles in stock prices,” concluded the father of the efficient market hypothesis, Eugene Fama, in the 1990s, “are indistinguishable from rational time-varying expected returns.” Fundamentals, and our confidence in them, change, which is reflected in asset prices moving up or down. Against Taleb, Nic Carter had the pithiest rebuttal: No sir, it’s $34,500 — or whatever the market priced it at when he said it. When prices fall after a rally — say, internet stocks from 200 to 2001, home prices from 2007 to 2009 or bitcoin in April 2021 — laymen and professionals alike say that it’s a bubble. But what if the price increases captured something real, and were then validated by future events? U.S. median house prices recouped their losses four years later, and today stand about 60% higher (that’s nominally; deflated by CPI, house prices are about 16% higher in 2021 than at the peak of 2007). Internet stocks, including some of those ridiculed as hopelessly overvalued in 2001, dominate the U.S. stock market — their products and services have conquered the world. The chattering classes’ case against Netflix, just a few years ago, was similarly overwhelming: This hopeful tech company couldn’t possibly monetize its overextended services. It would have to conquer the world for the stock’s then-valuation to make sense… and then it did exactly that. Netflix expanded services, upped its margins and offered original content. Few are the analysts today yapping about Netflix as an obvious bubble. Bitcoin's scope and promise is larger than any of them. What is its future value? For the next year, I predict that bubble charges against bitcoin, of which we saw plenty this year, will fade away. Both because angry nocoiners tire of making them when they’re received with ridicule, and because the longer something stays alive, expands and flourishes, the less sense the etiquette makes. Nobody calls Amazon a bubble anymore, nor Netflix. Even Tesla’s haters have largely surrendered, accepting that what propelled it to the fifth-largest U.S. company by market capitalization is something other than bubbling madness. No Bitcoiner takes the bubble attack seriously. Price matters, and only bubbles that fail (i.e., don’t recover) are relegated to history’s dustbin as “bubbles”; the successful ones are just promising ventures, deemed as such by a future that has hindsight as a guide. AN ESCAPE TO FREEDOM Every society that collapsed into turmoil — economic, monetary, military, social or other — has had individuals contemplating when to leave. It’s not an easy decision, forecasting doom and deterioration for one’s country of birth. Many are the migrants who can tell painful stories of uprooting their lives, made increasingly impossible by authorities, famine, war or hyperinflation, for an uncertain existence elsewhere. When staring down the "unending path to unfreedom that we’re experimenting with these days" as I argued earlier this year, what else is there but escape? When rule by the people is replaced by ruling the people, escape hatches are crucial. COVID-19 measures all over the world — and the agitated tenacity with which troves of people embodied them — showed me that lines of privacy and tyranny drawn in the sand could be approached, flirted with… and then crossed by about a mile. Seeing the writing on the wall, I, like many others, wanted an out. In an uncertain future, you never know which place becomes a beacon of freedom (two years ago, who would have bet on Sweden? And now that it, too, is conforming — whereto?) and who will confiscate your assets. The idea of a monetary escape hatch clicked with me. "When in doubt,” wrote Ray Dalio in his new book, “get out”: “If you don't want to be in a civil war or a war, you should get out while the getting is good... History has shown that when things get bad, the doors typically close for people who want to leave. The same is true for investments and money as countries introduce capital controls and other measures.” If history is any guide, you won’t be able to peacefully and in organized fashion be able to take your assets with you: “When the flight of wealth gets bad enough,” concluded Dalio, “the country outlaws it.” Plenty of Americans have taken that advice, though so far, only in a regional sense — the exodus from California speaks volumes. Others living under oppressive regimes, in the West and elsewhere, have taken similar actions, departing their domiciles for freer pastures elsewhere. Bitcoin facilitates the monetary component of that shift, to move value from an unfree jurisdiction to a freer one. When fleeing a sinking ship, you need your body, your health and your loved ones. Ideally, you want your most treasured belongings too, which, thanks to bitcoin, you can now carry without anybody knowing. It comes with the more important shift of holding funds outside the purview (and control!) of your invasive government. Dan Held’s Thanksgiving wishes stated it clearest: “With governments restricting more of our rights, what would be our light at the end of the tunnel? And with COVID, this trend has accelerated, with our movement and access to goods and resources diminished all for the sake of public safety.” You never know what you rely on until it’s abruptly taken away. When your assets are confiscated, your money devalued, your transactions declined and your bank decides to freeze your account for whichever made-up reason it’s trumpeting next, it’s too late. Backups and escape hatches must be put in place before they’re needed. I never saw the need for a monetary or financial escape before: I had access to inflation-protection and developed financial markets. I could move my funds wherever I wanted, whenever, for a sliver of what it would have cost just decades ago. Except for the occasional technical glitch or misadventures in poor countries, my transactions were never declined. I had not, to put it bluntly, checked my financial privilege. The last decade or so, culminating with COVID-19, convinced me that the unproblematic and worriless existence I had taken for granted might not always be that way. Measures against this public emergency probably won’t be what ultimately does in freedom, collapses societies and ushers in the authoritarianism of dystopias. But the COVID-19 cat is out of the bag now, and the power play that rulers experimented with this year and the last is from now on available at every political negotiation table like it never was before. With only vague references to public safety and astonishingly low barriers, locking up people in their homes is now a feasible option. The ability to escape — to get out — hasn’t been this important in generations. This time isn’t different, but this time we have Bitcoin. Perhaps that’s enough. Tyler Durden Sat, 01/01/2022 - 16:10.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytJan 1st, 2022

A 1997 Prophecy: Bitcoin And The Unfolding Of "The Sovereign Individual" Thesis

A 1997 Prophecy: Bitcoin And The Unfolding Of 'The Sovereign Individual' Thesis Authored by Bob Simon via BitcoinMagazine.com, The following is the written version of a video presentation which can be viewed here. THE WANING OF THE MODERN AGE “In our view, you are witnessing nothing less than the waning of the Modern Age. It is a development driven by ruthless but hidden logic. More than we commonly understand, the next millennium will no longer be ‘modern.’ We say this not to imply that you face a savage or backward future, although that is possible, but to emphasize that the stage of history now opening will be qualitatively different from that into which you were born. Something new is coming. Just as farming societies differed in kind from hunting and gathering bands, and industrial societies differed radically from feudal or yeoman agricultural systems, so the New World to come will mark a radical departure from anything seen before.” –”The Sovereign Individual,” page 53 Published in 1997 from authors James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg, “The Sovereign Individual” can best be described as a guidebook. The authors combine a deep investigation into the history of man with a careful analysis of praxeology, or the study of human action, to come to a startling conclusion: Our civilization is standing at the precipice of radical change. Those who recognize this change and take the proper actions will benefit immensely, while those who remain ignorant will suffer the consequences. The book can also be viewed as a prophecy, making bold predictions about the future of civilization, many of which have already come to pass. A quarter of a century ago, while “experts” such as Paul Krugman were predicting that the internet would have little impact on the economy, Davidson and Rees-Mogg were predicting the emergence of the cybereconomy; non-state digital money; personalized media; the convergence of the telephone, computer and TV into a single device; as well as the record level of public distrust in major institutions currently unfolding before our eyes. THE THESIS OF “THE SOVEREIGN INDIVIDUAL” While religious and allegorical themes are beautifully woven throughout the book, the authors make it very clear that their thesis is rooted in hard logic, specifically a concept they call “the logic of violence.” Throughout all of history, humans have had to deal with the simple truth that taking is often easier than making. Working hard to acquire possessions such as food, shelter and clothing means nothing if they cannot be protected. The available methods by which humans have defended themselves and their property have transformed drastically from the time of hunter-gatherers up until the present day. In the authors’ views, it is this transformation of the logic of violence that is at the root of all major societal change throughout history. The fundamental axiom of the book is this: Human action is guided by incentives. If we can become conscious of the incentives, then we can, to a certain extent, forecast human action. For example, dropping a $100 bill on the ground of any city in the world will produce very predictable results: someone will quickly pick it up. To better understand the origins of these incentives, the authors introduce a concept called “megapolitics.” “The concept of megapolitics helps illuminate some of the major mysteries of history: how governments rise and fall and what types of institutions they become; the timing and outcome of wars; and patterns of economic prosperity and decline. By raising or lowering the costs and rewards of projecting power, megapolitics governs the ability of people to impose their will on others.” –“The Sovereign Individual,” page 65 Unlike manmade political institutions, megapolitics exist outside of the realm of conscious direction. Davidson and Rees-Mogg describe the four basic types of megapolitical forces as being topography, climate, microbes and technology. Of these four, technology is described as “having played by far the largest role in determining the costs and rewards of projecting power during the modern centuries.” CYBERCASH It is the authors’ belief that the emergence of cryptography in conjunction with the borderless jurisdiction of cyberspace was poised to drastically alter the logic of violence, and therefore shift the balance of power from the state to the individual. In the past, massive and expensive armies were needed to secure large amounts of wealth. Today, thanks to the invention of Bitcoin, wealth can be stored in the brain of any human being, simply by memorizing 24 words. Instead of needing to rely upon state-run institutions to uphold property rights, wealth in the 21st century will be protected by unbreakable cryptography, or in other words, pure mathematics. Read as the authors describe in detail the eventual emergence of what they call “cybercash” and keep in mind that all this was first published in 1997: “Now the advent of the Information Age implies another revolution in the character of money. As cybercommerce begins, it will lead inevitably to cybermoney. This new form of money will reset the odds, reducing the capacity of the world's nationstates to determine who becomes a Sovereign Individual. A crucial part of this change will come about because of the effect of information technology in liberating the holders of wealth from expropriation through inflation. Soon, you will pay for almost any transaction over the Net the same time you place it, using cybercash. This new digital form of money is destined to play a pivotal role in cybercommerce. It will consist of encrypted sequences of multihundred-digit prime numbers. Unique, anonymous, and verifiable, this money will accommodate the largest transactions. It will also be divisible into the tiniest fraction of value. It will be tradable at a keystroke in a multi-trillion-dollar wholesale market without borders.”  –“The Sovereign Individual,” page 215 Bitcoin has turned this 1997 prophecy into a reality. Bitcoin will be the most important tool in the arsenal of the 21st century sovereign individual. Impervious to confiscation via theft or inflation, and open to all human beings on earth with access to the internet, the rise of Bitcoin represents the rise of the sovereign individual. THE STRUGGLE FOR SOVEREIGNTY Sovereignty in this context is a zero-sum game. When individuals gain sovereignty, the state necessarily loses sovereignty over them. As citizens continue to take advantage of new technological innovations, institutions will naturally struggle to reclaim power. We are not only seeing this with Bitcoin in the form of propaganda-style attacks launched by many central banks, but we are seeing it in legacy media as well. In the words of “The Sovereign Individual,” “The mass media will become individualized media… No longer will you be at the mercy of Dan Rather or the BBC for the news that reaches you. You will be able to select news compiled and edited according to your instructions.” With the rise of alternative, independent and social media, the mainstream media has never held less power than it does today. Legacy news organizations are so desperate for significance that they do not hesitate to lie, manipulate and sow fear and hatred among its viewers in exchange for cheap clicks and views. So many of the biggest issues in society are kept alive by the mainstream media’s incessant desperation for relevance. CNN’s recent spat with Joe Rogan provides us a real time example of legacy media’s waning influence. Rogan, a single man, was able to expose CNN’s lies about him by the simple virtue of the fact that he, himself, has a larger audience than CNN does. We are entering a world where all voices will have the opportunity to be heard. The internet is providing each human being a chance to live up to their full potential. Geography, social class, gender and other labels are no longer limitations in the new digital world. The internet doesn’t care what you look like. If you are able to provide value, you will be rewarded. A NEW PARADIGM As fascinating and impressive as the authors’ use of logic to accurately predict many aspects of our modern life is, perhaps equally fascinating is their ability to look into the deeper, more mysterious patterns of history. “Giggle if you will, but we do not despise or dismiss intuitive understandings of history. Although our argument is grounded in logic, not in reveries, we are awed by the prophetic power of human consciousness... Understanding the way the world works means developing a realistic intuition of the way that human society obeys the mathematics of natural processes. Reality is nonlinear. But most people's expectations are not. To understand the dynamics of change, you have to recognize that human society, like other complex systems in nature, is characterized by cycles and discontinuities. That means certain features of history have a tendency to repeat themselves, and the most important changes, when they occur, may be abrupt rather than gradual.” –“The Sovereign Individual,” page 49 The pattern they are referring to is a curious 500-year cycle which seems to correlate with paradigm shifting events in Western civilization. Beginning in 500 BC, the emergence of Greek democracy and philosophy laid the foundations of Western civilization. The birth of Christ in 4 BC, during the height of the Roman empire, set the stage for Judeo-Christian values becoming the bedrock of Western culture. Five centuries later, in 500 AD, the fall of Rome would lead to the dark ages in Western Europe, a period of institutional collapse and lawless disarray. 1,000 AD marks the beginning of a period now known as the Middle Ages in which commerce and literacy were rediscovered. In the words of Raoul Glaber, an 11th century historian quoted by “The Sovereign Individual,” the turn of the millennium “shook off the tatters of antiquity.” 500 years later, around the year 1,500, the Renaissance, the Reformation and the discovery of the New World all contributed to what we view as the commencement of the modern era. Now, here we sit 500 years later in the very early stages of the 21st century. Technological advances are being compounded exponentially. The era which gave birth to our modern notion of the nation state around the year 1,500 is coming to an end. As the balance of power shifts from the institutional level to the individual level, we would expect the legacy system to tighten its grip. This is exactly what we’re seeing. Simply questioning the official story given by the state or mainstream media can result in being labeled a dangerous conspiracy theorist. Attempting to create a dialogue about important issues on social media can result in censorship and re-education. Suddenly, the inalienable right of bodily sovereignty encoded at Nuremberg is being revoked by governments throughout the world. Citizens of many countries are literally trapped within the borders, unable to leave unless granted permission by their government. Innocent Australians are being removed from their homes and shipped in buses to internment camps where they are being held in isolation, and then hunted down when they try to escape back to their families. Unable to fund these operations against their citizens via transparent taxation, governments and central banks throughout the world have resorted to printing exorbitant amounts of money resulting in the highest inflation in decades. The mainstream media tells you this is all normal, the government tells you this is all normal, the big tech monopolies tell you this is all normal. However, to anyone paying any attention at all, it is becoming abundantly clear that the emperor has no clothes. As unsettling as all this may be, it is all a part of a natural process. Metamorphosis requires death and rebirth. Old institutions are dying, and the madness we are witnessing all around us is simply evidence of their accelerating decay. Just as Gutenberg's printing press broke the Catholic Church’s monopoly on information five centuries ago, Bitcoin is poised to break the state’s monopoly on money. The stage is already set: Insolvent governments will continue to print money in an effort to maintain control over their subjects. The savings of millions of responsible people throughout the world will be wiped out as the value of paper trends towards zero. Many unwitting people will go down with the ship. But for the rest of us, a bright orange lifeboat awaits. Tyler Durden Mon, 12/27/2021 - 16:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 27th, 2021

Ted Cruz"s new e-book on Critical Race Theory argues that seeking equity in the US is really calling for "discrimination" against white people

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican of Texas, taught school board candidates that Critical Race Theory is "taking our schools by a storm." Now his lecture is being circulated as an e-book among conservatives. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican of Texas, published an e-book on Critical Race Theory.Ken Cedeno/AFP via Getty Images Ted Cruz just put out an ebook on how to fight Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools.  The Texas senator says critical race theory concepts have "infiltrated our education system." He said to look out for "buzzwords" words like "white privilege," "systematic racism," and "equity." Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is on a mission to "defeat" Critical Race Theory, the study of racial bias in US laws that he says is "taking our schools by storm."Though educators say CRT isn't taught in K-12 schools, Cruz argues the concepts have "infiltrated our education system" in a free, downloadable 10-page e-book exploring the origins of the college-level course, and alleging that it's tied to Marxism."Together, I think we can defeat Critical Race Theory in our schools and make sure that students learn the true history of America—the story of American greatness," Cruz says in the e-book.The e-book, based on Cruz's August 9 lecture at the conservative Leadership Institute's School Board Campaign Training, echoes complaints and talking points that other conservatives have used to fuel controversy over the topic. For example, Christopher Rufo, the Manhattan Institute fellow who started the political discussion about CRT in 2020 on Fox News, encouraged conservatives to use the term "race-based Marxism" in a CRT briefing book section on messaging called "winning the language war."Anyone trying to download the book must provide their email and will be met with a request for donations. "Please give today to help train more conservatives to stop Critical Race Theory in its tracks," the request says.Cruz's e-book teaches conservatives how to "spot CRT concepts" in K-12 curricula by looking for "buzzwords" like "white privilege," " systemic racism" and "equity."  He focuses on "equity," a word Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as "fairness or justice in the way people are treated." Cruz argues that CRT rejects equality and instead demands "equity.""You see, to Critical Race theorists, in order to achieve equity, local and federal government policies must dis-criminate so that the same results are achieved by all races," Cruz writes. "If policies don't meet that standard, CRT considers them racist policies."The e-book, promoted through a sponsored tweet Wednesday by the Washington Times, was part of an 11-hour program the Leadership Institute sponsored in August to prepare conservatives to run for local school board seats "against the entrenched left," according to a message that appears when you sign up to download the book. He participated in the program as school board races across the country were heating up over culture war issues in education, including the teaching of race. A study by Ballotpedia identified 272 school districts in 25 states where candidates took a stance on critical race theory, the role of race in curricula or specific equity and diversity plans, Covid-19 responses, and sex education or the use of gender-specific facilities. The most commonly cited issue was "race in education/critical race theory," mentioned in 248 races, according to the study. Meanwhile, bills and laws to restrict discussion about race and gender in classrooms have cropped up in Republican-led states.Cruz, a Harvard-trained lawyer and former solicitor general of Texas, argues that CRT is based on a Marxist view of society as a conflict between oppressors and the oppressed. He adds that "critiques of capitalism and property have been threads in the CRT quilt since the very beginning."He links CRT to the New York Times Magazine's "1619 Project," an accounting of US history with slavery's consequences and Black Americans' contributions to America at the center. Several school districts are teaching the 1619 project using curriculum guides from the Pulitzer Center. Cruz also quotes from a document by the National Education Association, the nation's largest union representing both teachers and college faculty, that says they "oppose attempts to ban critical race theory and/or The 1619 Project," they support an "honest teaching of social studies," and that it's "appropriate for curriculum to be informed by academic frameworks" that include CRT. NEA had no immediate comment.Cruz urged conservatives to stand up and fight, citing a case in Southlake, Texas, where he said conservative parents "rallied together to defeat a ridiculous Critical Race Theory initiative that the local school district's diversity committee" had put forth."The conservative parents were able to band together to fight this, and they got three times as many people to show up and vote in the school board elections than usually vote. And guess what—they won the school board elections about 70 to 30—a huge margin," Cruz wrote. "That's what happens when we have grassroots leaders like you pushing back against Critical Race Theory."Fordham University School of Law professor, Tanya Katerí Hernández, who has taught CRT for 25 years, described the topic to Insider as an analysis of legal jurisprudence that examines how advances in civil rights laws were undermined and have in many ways led to disenchantment with a colorblind approach to dealing with racism. People think "it's part of an anti-whiteness mode of analysis or a racial hate platform," she said, adding that that's "completely untrue."But Morton Blackwell, Leadership Institute president, says in an email that accompanies the e-book that Cruz "helps conservatives understand the ugly truth" about CRT."Please share this e-book with other members of your family and community so they too can learn to spot Critical Race Theory concepts," he writes. "As Senator Cruz makes clear, when conservatives stand up and act, we can defeat leftist indoctrination."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytDec 16th, 2021

We read Ted Cruz"s new e-book on Critical Race Theory. He argues that seeking equity in the world is really calling for "discrimination" against white people.

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican of Texas, taught school board candidates that Critical Race Theory is "taking our schools by a storm." Now his lecture is being circulated as an e-book among conservatives. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican of Texas, published an e-book on Critical Race Theory.Ken Cedeno/AFP via Getty Images Ted Cruz just put out an ebook on how to fight Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools.  The Texas senator says critical race theory concepts have "infiltrated our education system." He said to look out for "buzzwords" words like "white privilege," "systematic racism," and "equity." Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is on a mission to "defeat" Critical Race Theory, the study of racial bias in US laws that he says is "taking our schools by storm."Though educators say CRT isn't taught in K-12 schools, Cruz argues the concepts have "infiltrated our education system" in a free, downloadable 10-page e-book exploring the origins of the college-level course, and alleging that it's tied to Marxism."Together, I think we can defeat Critical Race Theory in our schools and make sure that students learn the true history of America—the story of American greatness," Cruz says in the e-book.The e-book, based on Cruz's August 9 lecture at the conservative Leadership Institute's School Board Campaign Training, echoes complaints and talking points that other conservatives have used to fuel controversy over the topic. For example, Christopher Rufo, the Manhattan Institute fellow who started the political discussion about CRT in 2020 on Fox News, encouraged conservatives to use the term "race-based Marxism" in a CRT briefing book section on messaging called "winning the language war."Anyone trying to download the book must provide their email and will be met with a request for donations. "Please give today to help train more conservatives to stop Critical Race Theory in its tracks," the request says.Cruz's e-book teaches conservatives how to "spot CRT concepts" in K-12 curricula by looking for "buzzwords" like "white privilege," " systemic racism" and "equity."  He focuses on "equity," a word Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as "fairness or justice in the way people are treated." Cruz argues that CRT rejects equality and instead demands "equity.""You see, to Critical Race theorists, in order to achieve equity, local and federal government policies must dis-criminate so that the same results are achieved by all races," Cruz writes. "If policies don't meet that standard, CRT considers them racist policies."The e-book, promoted through a sponsored tweet Wednesday by the Washington Times, was part of an 11-hour program the Leadership Institute sponsored in August to prepare conservatives to run for local school board seats "against the entrenched left," according to a message that appears when you sign up to download the book. He participated in the program as school board races across the country were heating up over culture war issues in education, including the teaching of race. A study by Ballotpedia identified 272 school districts in 25 states where candidates took a stance on critical race theory, the role of race in curricula or specific equity and diversity plans, Covid-19 responses, and sex education or the use of gender-specific facilities. The most commonly cited issue was "race in education/critical race theory," mentioned in 248 races, according to the study. Meanwhile, bills and laws to restrict discussion about race and gender in classrooms have cropped up in Republican-led states.Cruz, a Harvard-trained lawyer and former solicitor general of Texas, argues that CRT is based on a Marxist view of society as a conflict between oppressors and the oppressed. He adds that "critiques of capitalism and property have been threads in the CRT quilt since the very beginning."He links CRT to the New York Times Magazine's "1619 Project," an accounting of US history with slavery's consequences and Black Americans' contributions to America at the center. Several school districts are teaching the 1619 project using curriculum guides from the Pulitzer Center. Cruz also quotes from a document by the National Education Association, the nation's largest union representing both teachers and college faculty, that says they "oppose attempts to ban critical race theory and/or The 1619 Project," they support an "honest teaching of social studies," and that it's "appropriate for curriculum to be informed by academic frameworks" that include CRT. NEA had no immediate comment.Cruz urged conservatives to stand up and fight, citing a case in Southlake, Texas, where he said conservative parents "rallied together to defeat a ridiculous Critical Race Theory initiative that the local school district's diversity committee" had put forth."The conservative parents were able to band together to fight this, and they got three times as many people to show up and vote in the school board elections than usually vote. And guess what—they won the school board elections about 70 to 30—a huge margin," Cruz wrote. "That's what happens when we have grassroots leaders like you pushing back against Critical Race Theory."Fordham University School of Law professor, Tanya Katerí Hernández, who has taught CRT for 25 years, described the topic to Insider as an analysis of legal jurisprudence that examines how advances in civil rights laws were undermined and have in many ways led to disenchantment with a colorblind approach to dealing with racism. People think "it's part of an anti-whiteness mode of analysis or a racial hate platform," she said, adding that that's "completely untrue."But Morton Blackwell, Leadership Institute president, says in an email that accompanies the e-book that Cruz "helps conservatives understand the ugly truth" about CRT."Please share this e-book with other members of your family and community so they too can learn to spot Critical Race Theory concepts," he writes. "As Senator Cruz makes clear, when conservatives stand up and act, we can defeat leftist indoctrination."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytDec 16th, 2021

Ferguson: Omicron Sounds The Death Knell For Globalization 2.0

Ferguson: Omicron Sounds The Death Knell For Globalization 2.0 Authored by Niall Ferguson, op-ed via Bloomberg.com, On top of an intensifying cold war between the U.S. and China and other seismic changes, the rapid spread of Covid-19’s newest variant could finish off our most recent phase of global integration. “Somewhere out there,” I wrote here two weeks ago, “may lurk what I grimly call the ‘omega variant’ of SARS-CoV-2: vaccine-evading, even more contagious than delta, equally or more deadly. According to the medical scientists I read and talk to … the probability of this nightmare scenario is very low, but it is not zero.” Indeed. Little did I know, but even as I wrote those words something that appears to fit this description was spreading rapidly in South Africa’s Gauteng province: not the omega variant, but the omicron variant. As I write today, major uncertainties remain, but what we know so far is not good. People are emotionally predisposed to look on the bright side — we are all sick of this pandemic and want it to be over — so it pains me to write this. Nevertheless, I’ll stick to my policy of applying history to the best available data, even if it means telling you what you really don’t want to hear. First the data: South African cases were up 39% on Friday, to 16,055. The test positivity rate rose from 22.4% to 24.3%, suggesting that the true case number is rising even faster. A Lancet paper suggests that Omicron is likely by far the most transmissible variant yet. There are three possible explanations for this: A higher intrinsic reproduction number (R0), An advantage in “immune escape” to reinfect recovered people or evade vaccines, or Both of the above. An important preprint published on Dec. 2 pointed to immune escape. South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases has individualized data on all its 2.7 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the pandemic. From these, it identified 35,670 suspected reinfections. (Reinfection is defined as an individual testing positive for Covid-19 twice, at least 90 days apart.) Since mid-November, the daily number of reinfections in South Africa has jumped far faster than in any previous wave. In November, the hazard ratio was 2.39 for reinfection versus primary infection, meaning that recovered individuals were getting Covid at more than twice the rate of people who had never had Covid before. And this was when omicron made up less than a quarter of confirmed cases. By contrast, the same study found no statistically significant evidence that the beta and delta variants were capable of reinfection. And, crucially, at least some of these new infections are leading to serious illness. On Thursday, the number of Gauteng patients in intensive care for Covid almost doubled from 63 to 106. Data from a private hospital network in South Africa that has over 240 patients hospitalized with Covid indicate that 32% of the hospitalized patients were fully vaccinated. Note that around three-quarters of the vaccinated in South Africa received the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine. The rest got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Yet these are not the data that worried me the most last week. Those had to do with children. Between Nov. 14 and 28, 455 people were admitted to hospital with Covid-19 in Tshwane metro area, one of the largest hospital systems in Gauteng. Seventy (15%) of those hospitalized were under the age of five; 117 (25%) were under 20. And this is not just a story of precautionary hospitalizations. Twenty of the 70 hospitalized toddlers progressed to “severe” Covid. Up until Oct. 23, before experts estimate omicron began circulating, under-fives represented only 1.8% of cumulative Covid hospital admissions in South Africa. As of Nov. 29, 10% of those now hospitalized in Tshwane were under the age of two. If this trend holds as omicron spreads to advanced economies — and it is spreading very fast, confirming omicron’s high transmissibility — the market impact could be much bigger than is currently priced in. Unlike with the delta wave, many schools would return to hybrid instruction, parents would withdraw from the labor force to provide childcare and consumption patterns would again shift away from retail, hospitality and face-to-face services. Hospital systems would also face shortages of pediatric intensive care beds, which have not been much needed in prior Covid waves. South Africa’s top medical advisor Waasila Jassat noted on Dec. 3 that hospitalizations on average are less severe than in previous waves and hospital stays are shorter. But she also noted a “sharp” increase in hospital admissions of under-fives. Children under 10 represent 11% of all hospital admissions reported since Dec. 1. Here’s what we don’t know yet. We do not know how far prior infection and vaccination will protect against severe disease and death in northern hemisphere countries, where adult vaccination rates are much higher than in South Africa (just 24%). And we do not know if omicron will prove as aggressive toward children in those countries, especially the very young children we have not previously contemplated vaccinating. (Because South Africa has limited testing capacity, we do not know the total number of under-fives infected with omicron in Gauteng, so we do not know what percentage of children are falling sick.) We may not know these things for another week, possibly longer. So panic is not yet warranted. Nor, however, is wishful thinking. It may prove a huge wave of mild illness, signaling the final phase of the transition from pandemic to endemic. But we don’t know that yet. Now the history. First, it makes all the difference in the world whether or not children fall gravely ill in a pandemic. Covid has so far spared the very young to an extent rarely seen in the recorded history of respiratory disease pandemics. (The exception seems to be the 1889-90 “Russian flu,” which modern researchers suspect was in fact a coronavirus pandemic.) The great influenza pandemics of 1918-19 and 1957-58 killed the very young as well as the very old. The former also carried off young adults in the prime of life. The latter caused significant excess mortality among teenagers. Up until this point, Covid was the social Darwinist disease: It disproportionately killed the old, the sick and the gullible (the vulnerable people who allowed themselves to be persuaded that the vaccine was more dangerous than the virus). A hundred years ago, many experts would have hailed such a disease for the same reasons they promoted eugenics. We think differently now. However, emotionally and rationally, we still dread the deaths of children much more than the old, the sick and the foolish. The moment children become seriously ill — as has already happened in Gauteng — the nature of the pandemic fundamentally alters. Risk aversion will be far higher in the Ferguson family, for example, if its youngest members are vulnerable for the first time. The second historical point is that this may be how our age of globalization ends — in a very different way from its first incarnation just over a century ago. The first age of globalization, from the 1860s until 1914, ended with a bang, not a whimper, with the outbreak of World War I. Within a remarkably short space of time, that conflict halted trade, capital flows and migration between the combatant empires. Moreover, the war and its economic aftershocks strengthened and ultimately empowered new political movements, notably Bolshevism and fascism, that fundamentally repudiated free trade and free capital movements in favor of state control of the economy and autarky. By 1933, the outlook for liberal economic policies seemed so utterly hopeless that, in a lecture he gave in Dublin, even John Maynard Keynes threw in the towel and embraced economic self-sufficiency. Now, there is an argument (made by my Bloomberg colleague and occasional editor James Gibney) that the pandemic will not kill globalization. I am not so sure. Defined too broadly, to include any kind cross-border interaction, the word loses its usefulness. Yes, there were all kinds of “transnational networks in science, health, entertainment,” as well as increasingly ambitious international agencies between the wars. But the fact that (for example) the Pan European movement was founded by Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi in the 1920s does not mean that the subsequent decades were a triumph of European integration. There was a great deal of international cooperation and cross-border activity between 1939 and 1945, too. That does not mean that the 1940s were a time of globalization. For the word to be meaningful, globalization must refer to relatively higher volumes of trade, capital flows, migration flows and perhaps also cultural integration on a global scale.   On that basis, globalization peaked — or maybe “maxed out” would be more accurate — in around 2007. Calculate it how you like: Whether the ratio of global exports to GDP, the ratio of gross foreign assets to GDP, global or national migrant flows in relation to total population, they all tell the same story of a sustained rise of globalization hitting a peak around 14 years ago. The economic historian Alan M. Taylor has long argued that we should measure globalization by looking at current account imbalances, which tell us when a lot of trade and lending are happening. On that basis, too, globalization peaked in 2007. Even Before Covid, Trade and Lending Were Trending Down Source: Our World in Data from Maurice Obstfeld and Alan M. Taylor, "Global Capital Markets: Integration, Crisis, and Growth," Japan–US Center UFJ Bank Monographs on International Financial Markets; and International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database. Note: The data shown is the average absolute current account balance (as a percentage of GDP) for 15 countries in five-year blocks. The countries in the sample are Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, U.K., U.S.. Since the financial crisis of 2008-9, however, the volume of world trade has flatlined relative to the volume of industrial production. The U.S. current account deficit peaked in the third quarter of 2006 at -6.3% of GDP. The latest read? -3.3%. The same story emerges when one turns to migration. The foreign-born share of the U.S. population rose rapidly from its nadir in 1970 (4.7%) to a peak of 13.7% in 2019. But the rate of growth clearly slowed after 2012. It remains below its historic peak of 14.7%, back in 1890. Data for net migration similarly point to peaks prior to the financial crisis. Net emigration from South Asia peaked in 2007, for example. So did net immigration to the United Kingdom. Not-So-Open Borders Source: United Nations Population Division What about cultural globalization? My guess is that peaked in 2012, which was the last year that imported films earned more at the Chinese box office than domestic productions. The highest-grossing movie in the history of the People’s Republic is this year’s “Battle of Lake Changjin,” a Korean War drama in which heroic Chinese troops take on the might of the U.S. Army—and win. (Watch the trailer. Then tell me globalization is going to be fine.) What has caused globalization to recede? Let me offer a six-part answer. First, global economic convergence. This may come as a surprise. An influential story over the past two decades was Branco Milanovic’s thesis that globalization had increased inequality. In particular, Milanovic argued in 2016 that “large real income gains [had] been made by people around the median of the global income distribution and by those in the global top 1%. However, there [had] been an absence of real income growth for people around the 80-85th percentiles of the global distribution.” He illustrated this argument with a famous “elephant chart” of cumulative income growth between 1988 and 2008 at each percentile of the global income distribution. On closer inspection, the elephant was a statistical artifact. Strip out the data for Japan, the former Soviet Union and China, and the elephant vanishes. The story Milanovic’s chart told was of the decline of ex-Soviet and Japanese middle-class incomes following the collapse of the USSR and the bursting of Tokyo’s bubble in 1989-90, and the surge of Chinese middle-class incomes, especially after China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001. The real story of globalization turns out to be a sustained reduction in global inequality as Chinese incomes caught up rapidly with those in the rest of the world, combined with big increases in national inequality as the “one percent” in some (not all) countries got a whole lot richer. At the heart of globalization was what Moritz Schularick and I called “Chimerica”—the symbiosis between the Chinese and American economies that allowed American capital to take advantage of low-cost Chinese labor (offshoring or outsourcing), American borrowers to take advantage of abundant Chinese savings, and American consumers to take advantage of cheap Chinese manufactures. It could not last. In 2003 Chinese unit labor costs were around a third of those in the U.S. By 2018 the two were essentially on a par. In that sense, the glory days of globalization were bound to be numbered. For as Chinese incomes rose, the rationale for relocating production to China was bound to become weaker. Secondly, and at the same time, new technologies — robotics, three-dimensional printing, artificial intelligence — were rapidly reducing the importance of human labor in manufacturing. With the surge of online commerce and digital services, globalization entered a new phase in which data rather than goods and people crossed borders, even if the Great Firewall of China partly cordoned off China’s internet from the rest of the world’s. Chimerica, as Schularick and I argued back in 2007, was in many ways a chimera — a monstrous creature with the potential to precipitate a crisis, not least by artificially depressing U.S. interest rates and inflating a real estate bubble. When that crisis struck in 2008-9, it was the third blow to globalization. For those who suffered the heaviest losses in the United States and elsewhere, it was not illogical to blame free trade and immigration. A 2015 study by the McKinsey Global Institute showed clearly that people in the U.S., U.K. and France who saw themselves as “not advancing and not hopeful about the future” were much more likely than more optimistic groups to blame “legal immigrants,” “the influx of foreign goods and services,” and “cheaper foreign labor” for, respectively, “ruining the culture and cohesiveness in our society,” “leading to domestic job losses” and “creating unfair competition to domestic businesses.” The only surprising thing was that these feelings took as long as seven years to manifest themselves as an organized political backlash against globalization, in the form of Britain’s vote to exit the European Union and America’s vote for Donald Trump. Dani Rodrik’s famous trilemma — which postulated that you could have any two of globalization, democracy and sovereignty — was emphatically answered in 2016: Voters chose democracy and sovereignty over globalization. This was the fourth strike against “the globalists,” a term invented by the populists to give globalization a more easily hateable human face. The financial crisis and the populist backlash didn’t sound the death knell for globalization. They merely dialed it back — hence the plateau in trade relative to manufacturing and the modest decline (not collapse) of international capital flows and migration. The fifth blow was the outbreak of Cold War II, which should probably be dated from Vice President Mike Pence’s October 2018 Hudson Institute speech, the first time the Trump administration had taken its anti-Chinese policy beyond the confines of the president’s quixotic trade war (which only modestly reduced the bilateral U.S.-Chinese trade deficit). Not everyone has come to terms with this new cold war. Joseph Nye (and the administration of President Joe Biden) would still like to believe that the U.S. and China are frenemies engaged in “coopetition.” But Hal Brands and John Lewis Gaddis, John Mearsheimer and Matt Turpin have all come round to my view that this is a cold war — not identical to the last one, but as similar to it as World War II was to World War I. The only question worth debating is whether or not, as in 1950, cold war turns hot. There is no Thucydidean law that says this is inevitable, as Graham Allison has shown. But I agree with Mearsheimer: The risk of a hot war in Cold War II may actually be higher than in Cold War I. Nothing would kill globalization faster than the outbreak of a superpower war over Taiwan. (And “The Battle of Lake Changjin” is blatantly psyching Chinese cinemagoers up for such a conflict.) The decoupling of the U.S. and Chinese economies would almost certainly have continued even if the sixth blow — the Covid pandemic — had not struck. It has been astounding how little the Biden administration has changed of its predecessor’s China strategy. However, the pandemic has delivered the coup de grace — “a brutal end to the second age of globalization,” as Nicholas Eberstadt put it last year. True, the volume of merchandise trade has recovered even more rapidly in 2021 than the World Trade Organization anticipated back in March. But the emergence of a new, contagious and lethal coronavirus has caused a collapse of international travel and tourism. The number of passengers carried by the global airline industry plunged by 60% in 2020. It will be not much better than 50% of its pre-pandemic level this year. International tourist arrivals are down by even more this year than last year — close to 80% below their 2019 level. In Asia, international tourism has all but ceased to exist this year. Meanwhile, both the U.S. and the Chinese governments keep devising new ways to discourage their nationals from investing in the rival superpower. Didi Global Inc., the Chinese Uber, just announced it is delisting its shares from the New York Stock Exchange. And the pressure mounts on Wall Street financiers — as Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio discovered last week — to wind up their “long China” trade and stop turning a blind eye to genocide in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses. Next up: the campaign to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Strikingly, a growing number of Western sports stars and organizations such as the Women’s Tennis Association are already willing to defy Beijing — in the case of the WTA by suspending tournaments in China in response to the disappearance of the tennis star Peng Shuai, who accused a senior Communist Party official of sexually assaulting her. China’s leaders should be even more worried by a recent Chicago Council of World Affairs poll, which showed that just over half of Americans (52%) favor using U.S. troops to defend Taiwan if China invades the island — the highest share ever recorded in surveys dating back to 1982. Last month I asked a leading American lawmaker how he explained the marked growth in public hostility toward the Chinese government. His answer was simple: “People blame China for Covid.” And not without reason, as Matt Ridley’s new book “Viral” makes clear. For the avoidance of doubt, I do not foresee as complete a collapse of globalization as happened after 1914. Globalization 2.0 seems to be going out with a whimper — or perhaps a persistent cough — rather than with a bang. Income convergence and technological change were bound to reduce its utility. Having overshot by 2007, globalization settled at a lower level after the financial crisis and was less damaged by populist policies like tariffs than might have been anticipated. But the advent of Cold War II and Covid-19 struck two severe blows. How far globalization is rolled back depends on how far the two phenomena persist or worsen. Maybe — let us pray — the alarming data from Gauteng will not imply a major new wave of illness and death in the wider world. Maybe the omicron variant will not, after all, be that nightmare variant I have feared: more infectious, more lethal, vaccine-evading, not ageist. But omicron is only the 15th letter in the Greek alphabet. In all of Africa only 7.3% of the population are fully vaccinated and there are countless immunocompromised individuals with HIV. Even if omicron turns out to be, like delta, a variant we can live with, there is still some non-zero chance that at some point we get my “omega variant.” In that scenario, the pandemic does not oblige us, weary as we are of it, by ending, but recurs in a succession of waves extending for years. One begins to wonder if China will ever lift its stringent restrictions on foreign visitors. Under such circumstances, I see little chance of Cold War II reaching the détente phase earlier than Cold War I.   In addition to applying history, I have come to believe that we should also apply science fiction, on the principle that its authors are professionally incentivized to envision plausibly the impact of social, technological and other changes on the future. (Fact: an Italian sci-film called “Omicron,” in which an alien takes over a human body, was released in 1963.) No living author is better at this kind of thing than Neal Stephenson, whose “Snow Crash” coined the word “metaverse,” and whom I got to know — appropriately via Zoom — through my friends at the Santa Fe Institute. When Stephenson and I met for a late-night Scotch at a bar in Seattle a few weeks back, we swiftly found common ground. Never have I seen a longer list of wines and spirits: We could have scrolled down on the iPad the server handed us for an hour and still not reached the end. Eventually, we found the malt whisky. And immediately we agreed: Laphroaig — the standard 10-year-old version. Stephenson’s latest novel is “Termination Shock.” Buy it. You will be catapulted into a future Texas of intolerable heat, man-eating hogs, and other nightmares, the effect of which will be to make your present circumstances seem quite tolerable. Part of Stephenson’s genius is his use of the throwaway detail. “RVs,” he writes, were “already at a premium because of Covid-19, Covid-23 and Covid-27.” It’s not really part of the plot, but it stopped my eyeballs in their tracks. And remember: He predicted the metaverse. In 1992. Tyler Durden Mon, 12/06/2021 - 05:00.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytDec 6th, 2021

America"s Woke Colleges Can"t Be Salvaged. We Need New Ones

America's Woke Colleges Can't Be Salvaged. We Need New Ones Authored by Niall Ferguson, op-ed via Bloomberg.com, I'm Helping to Start a New College Because Higher Ed Is Broken If you enjoyed Netflix’s “The Chair” - a lighthearted depiction of a crisis-prone English Department at an imaginary Ivy League college - you are clearly not in higher education. Something is rotten in the state of academia and it’s no laughing matter.   Grade inflation. Spiraling costs. Corruption and racial discrimination in admissions. Junk content (“Grievance Studies”) published in risible journals. Above all, the erosion of academic freedom and the ascendancy of an illiberal “successor ideology” known to its critics as wokeism, which manifests itself as career-ending “cancelations” and speaker disinvitations, but less visibly generates a pervasive climate of anxiety and self-censorship. Some say that universities are so rotten that the institution itself should simply be abandoned and replaced with an online alternative — a metaversity perhaps, to go with the metaverse. I disagree. I have long been skeptical that online courses and content can be anything other than supplementary to the traditional real-time, real-space college experience. However, having taught at several, including Cambridge, Oxford, New York University and Harvard, I have also come to doubt that the existing universities can be swiftly cured of their current pathologies. That is why this week I am one of a group of people announcing the founding of a new university — indeed, a new kind of university: the University of Austin. The founders of this university are a diverse group in terms of our backgrounds and our experiences (though doubtless not diverse enough for some). Our political views also differ. To quote our founding president, Pano Kanelos, “What unites us is a common dismay at the state of modern academia and a belief that it is time for something new.” There is no need to imagine a mythical golden age. The original universities were religious institutions, as committed to orthodoxy and as hostile to heresy as today’s woke seminaries. In the wake of the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution, scholars gradually became less like clergymen; but until the 20th century their students were essentially gentlemen, who owed their admission as much to inherited status as to intellectual ability. Many of the great intellectual breakthroughs of the Enlightenment were achieved off campus. Only from the 19th century did academia become truly secularized and professional, with the decline of religious requirements, the rise to pre-eminence of the natural sciences, the spread of the German system of academic promotion (from doctorate up in steps to full professorship), and the proliferation of scholarly journals based on peer-review. Yet the same German universities that led the world in so many fields around 1900 became enthusiastic helpmeets of the Nazis in ways that revealed the perils of an amoral scholarship decoupled from Christian ethics and too closely connected to the state. Even the institutions with the most sustained records of excellence — Oxford and Cambridge — have had prolonged periods of torpor. F.M. Cornford could mock the inherent conservatism of Oxbridge politics in his “Microcosmographia Academica” in 1908. When Malcolm Bradbury wrote his satirical novel “The History Man” in 1975, universities everywhere were still predominantly white, male and middle class. The process whereby a college education became more widely available — to women, to the working class, to racial minorities — has been slow and remains incomplete. Meanwhile, there have been complaints about the adverse consequences of this process in American universities since Allan Bloom’s “Closing of the American Mind,” which was published back in 1987. Nevertheless, much had been achieved by the later years of the 20th century. There was a general agreement that the central purpose of a university was the pursuit of truth — think only of Harvard’s stark Latin motto: Veritas — and that the crucial means to that end were freedom of conscience, thought, speech and publication. There was supposed to be no discrimination in admissions, examinations and academic appointments, other than on the basis of intellectual merit. That was crucial to enabling Jews and other minority groups to take full advantage of their intellectual potential. It was understood that professors were awarded tenure principally to preserve academic freedom so that they might “dare to think” — Immanuel Kant’s other great imperative, Sapere aude! — without fear of being fired. The benefits of all this defy quantification. A huge proportion of the major scientific breakthroughs of the past century were made by men and women whose academic jobs gave them economic security and a supportive community in which to do their best work. Would the democracies have won the world wars and the Cold War without the contributions of their universities? It seems doubtful. Think only of Bletchley Park and the Manhattan Project. Sure, the Ivy League’s best and brightest also gave us the Vietnam War. But remember, too, that there were more university-based computers on the Arpanet — the original internet — than any other kind. No Stanford, no Silicon Valley. Those of us who were fortunate to be undergraduates in the 1980s remember the exhilarating combination of intellectual freedom and ambition to which all this gave rise. Yet, in the past decade, exhilaration has been replaced by suffocation, to the point that I feel genuinely sorry for today’s undergraduates. In Heterodox Academy’s 2020 Campus Expression Survey, 62% of sampled college students agreed that the climate on their campus prevented them from saying things they believed, up from 55% in 2019, while 41% were reluctant to discuss politics in a classroom, up from 32% in 2019. Some 60% of students said they were reluctant to speak up in class because they were concerned other students would criticize their views as being offensive. Such anxieties are far from groundless. According to a nationwide survey of a thousand undergraduates by the Challey Institute for Global Innovation, 85% of self-described liberal students would report a professor to the university if the professor said something that they found offensive, while 76% would report another student. In a study published in March entitled “Academic Freedom in Crisis: Punishment, Political Discrimination and Self-Censorship,” the Centre for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology showed that academic freedom is under attack not only in the U.S., but also in the U.K. and Canada. Three-quarters of conservative American and British academics in the social sciences and humanities said there is a hostile climate for their beliefs in their department. This compares to just 5% among left-wing faculty in the U.S. Again, one can understand why. Younger academics are especially likely to support dismissal of a colleague who has made some heretical utterance, with 40% of American social sciences and humanities professors under the age of 40 supporting at least one of four hypothetical dismissal campaigns. Ph.D. students are even more intolerant than other young academics: 55% of American Ph.D. students under 40 supported at least one hypothetical dismissal campaign. “High-profile deplatformings and dismissals” get the attention, the authors of the report conclude, but “far more pervasive threats to academic freedom stem … from fears of a) cancellation — threats to one’s job or reputation — and b) political discrimination.” These are not unfounded fears. The number of scholars targeted for their speech has risen dramatically since 2015, according to research by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FIRE has logged 426 incidents since 2015. Just under three-quarters of them resulted in some kind of sanction — including an investigation alone or voluntary resignation — against the scholar. Such efforts to restrict free speech usually originate with “progressive” student groups, but often find support from left-leaning faculty members and are encouraged by college administrators, who tend (as Sam Abrams of Sarah Lawrence College demonstrated, and as his own subsequent experience confirmed) to be even further to the left than professors. There are also attacks on academic freedom from the right, which FIRE challenges. With a growing number of Republicans calling for bans on critical race theory, I fear the illiberalism is metastasizing. Trigger warnings. Safe spaces. Preferred pronouns. Checked privileges. Microaggressions. Antiracism. All these terms are routinely deployed on campuses throughout the English-speaking world as part of a sustained campaign to impose ideological conformity in the name of diversity. As a result, it often feels as if there is less free speech and free thought in the American university today than in almost any other institution in the U.S. To the historian’s eyes, there is something unpleasantly familiar about the patterns of behavior that have, in a matter of a few years, become normal on many campuses. The chanting of slogans. The brandishing of placards. The letters informing on colleagues and classmates. The denunciations of professors to the authorities. The lack of due process. The cancelations. The rehabilitations following abject confessions. The officiousness of unaccountable bureaucrats. Any student of the totalitarian regimes of the mid-20th century recognizes all this with astonishment. It turns out that it can happen in a free society, too, if institutions and individuals who claim to be liberal choose to behave in an entirely illiberal fashion.  How to explain this rapid descent of academia from a culture of free inquiry and debate into a kind of Totalitarianism Lite? In their book “The Coddling of the American Mind,” the social psychiatrist Jonathan Haidt and FIRE president Greg Lukianoff lay much of the blame on a culture of parenting and early education that encourages students to believe that “what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker,” that you should “always trust your feelings,” and that “life is a battle between good people and evil people.” However, I believe the core problems are the pathological structures and perverse incentives of the modern university. It is not the case, as many Americans believe, that U.S. colleges have always been left-leaning and that today’s are no different from those of the 1960s. As Stanley Rothman, Robert Lichter and Neil Nevitte showed in a 2005 study, while 39% of the professoriate on average described themselves as left-wing in 1984, the proportion had risen to 72% by 1999, by which time being a conservative had become a measurable career handicap. Mitchell Langbert’s analysis of tenure-track, Ph.D.-holding professors from 51 of the 66 top-ranked liberal arts colleges in 2017 found that those with known political affiliations were overwhelmingly Democratic. Nearly two-fifths of the colleges in Langbert’s sample were Republican-free. The mean Democratic-to-Republican ratio across the sample was 10.4:1, or 12.7:1 if the two military academies, West Point and Annapolis, were excluded. For history departments, the ratio was 17.4:1; for English 48.3:1. No ratio is calculable for anthropology, as the number of Republican professors was zero. In 2020, Langbert and Sean Stevens  found an even bigger skew to the left when they considered political donations to parties by professors. The ratio of dollars contributed to Democratic versus Republican candidates and committees was 21:1. Commentators who argue that the pendulum will magically swing back betray a lack of understanding about the academic hiring and promotion process. With political discrimination against conservatives now overt, most departments are likely to move further to the left over time as the last remaining conservatives retire. Yet the leftward march of the professoriate is only one of the structural flaws that characterize today’s university. If you think the faculty are politically skewed, take a look at academic administrators. A shocking insight into the way some activist-administrators seek to bully students into ideological conformity was provided by Trent Colbert, a Yale Law School student who invited his fellow members of the Native American Law Students Association to “a Constitution Day bash” at the “NALSA Trap House,” a term that used to mean a crack den but now is just a mildly risque way of describing a party. Diversity director Yaseen Eldik’s thinly veiled threats to Colbert if he didn’t sign a groveling apology — “I worry about this leaning over your reputation as a person, not just here but when you leave” — were too much even for an editorial board member at the Washington Post. Democracy may die in darkness; academic freedom dies in wokeness. Moreover, the sheer number of the administrators is a problem in itself. In 1970, U.S. colleges employed more professors than administrators. Between then and 2010, however, the number of full-time professors or “full-time equivalents” increased by slightly more than 50%, in line with student enrollments. The number of administrators and administrative staffers rose by 85% and 240%, respectively. The ever-growing army of coordinators for Title IX — the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination — is one manifestation of the bureaucratic bloat, which since the 1990s has helped propel tuition costs far ahead of inflation. The third structural problem is weak leadership. Time and again — most recently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where a lecture by the University of Chicago geophysicist Dorian Abbot was abruptly canceled because he had been critical of affirmative action — academic leaders have yielded to noisy mobs baying for disinvitations. There are notable exceptions, such as Robert Zimmer, who as president of the University of Chicago between 2006 and 2021 made a stand for academic freedom. But the number of other colleges to have adopted the Chicago statement, a pledge crafted by the school’s Committee on Freedom of Expression, remains just 55, out of nearly 2,500 institutions offering four-year undergraduate programs. Finally, there is the problem of the donors — most but not all alumni — and trustees, many of whom have been astonishingly oblivious of the problems described above. In 2019, donors gave nearly $50 billion to colleges. Eight donors gave $100 million or more. People generally do not make that kind of money without being hard-nosed in their business dealings. Yet the capitalist class appears strangely unaware of the anticapitalist uses to which its money is often put. A phenomenon I find deeply puzzling is the lack of due diligence associated with much academic philanthropy, despite numerous cases when the intentions of benefactors have deliberately been subverted. All this would be bad enough if it meant only that U.S. universities are no longer conducive to free inquiry and promotion based on merit, without which scientific advances are certain to be impeded and educational standards to fall. But academic illiberalism is not confined to college campuses. As students collect their degrees and enter the workforce, they inevitably carry some of what they have learned at college with them. Multiple manifestations of “woke” thinking and behavior at newspapers, publishing houses, technology companies and other corporations have confirmed Andrew Sullivan’s 2018 observation, “We all live on campus now.” When a problem becomes this widespread, the traditional American solution is to create new institutions. As we have seen, universities are relatively long-lived compared to companies and even nations. But not all great universities are ancient. Of today’s top 25 universities, according to the global rankings compiled by the London Times Higher Education Supplement, four were founded in the 20th century. Fully 14 were 19th-century foundations; four date back to the 18th century. Only Oxford (which can trace its origins to 1096) and Cambridge (1209) are medieval in origin.  As might be inferred from the large number (10) of today’s leading institutions founded in the U.S. between 1855 and 1900, new universities tend to be established when wealthy elites grow impatient with the existing ones and see no way of reforming them. The puzzle is why, despite the resurgence of inequality in the U.S. since the 1990s and the more or less simultaneous decline in standards at the existing universities, so few new ones have been created. Only a handful have been set up this century: University of California Merced (2005), Ave Maria University (2003) and Soka University of America (2001). Just five U.S. colleges founded in the past 50 years make it into the Times’s top 25 “Young Universities”: University of Alabama at Birmingham (founded 1969), University of Texas at Dallas (1969), George Mason (1957), University of Texas at San Antonio (1969) and Florida International (1969). Each is (or originated as) part of a state university system. In short, the beneficiaries of today’s gilded age seem altogether more tolerant of academic degeneration than their 19th-century predecessors. For whatever reason, many prefer to give their money to established universities, no matter how antithetical those institutions’ values have become to their own. This makes no sense, even if the principal motivation is to buy Ivy League spots for their offspring. Why would you pay to have your children indoctrinated with ideas you despise? So what should the university of the future look like? Clearly, there is no point in simply copying and pasting Harvard, Yale or Princeton and expecting a different outcome. Even if such an approach were affordable, it would be the wrong one. To begin with, a new institution can’t compete with the established brands when it comes to undergraduate programs. Young Americans and their counterparts elsewhere go to college as much for the high-prestige credentials and the peer networks as for the education. That’s why a new university can’t start by offering bachelors’ degrees. The University of Austin will therefore begin modestly, with a summer school offering “Forbidden Courses” — the kind of content and instruction no longer available at most established campuses, addressing the kind of provocative questions that often lead to cancelation or self-censorship. The next step will be a one-year master’s program in Entrepreneurship and Leadership. The primary purpose of conventional business programs is to credential large cohorts of passive learners with a lowest-common-denominator curriculum. The University of Austin’s program will aim to teach students classical principles of the market economy and then embed them in a network of successful technologists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and public-policy reformers. It will offer an introduction to the world of American technology similar to the introduction to the Chinese economy offered by the highly successful Schwarzman Scholars program, combining both academic pedagogy and practical experience. Later, there will be parallel programs in Politics and Applied History and in Education and Public Service. Only after these initial programs have been set up will we start offering a four-year liberal arts degree.  The first two years of study will consist of an intensive liberal arts curriculum, including the study of philosophy, literature, history, politics, economics, mathematics, the sciences and the fine arts. There will be Oxbridge-style instruction, with small tutorials and college-wide lectures, providing an in-depth and personalized learning experience with interdisciplinary breadth.   After two years of a comprehensive and rigorous liberal arts education, undergraduates will join one of four academic centers as junior fellows, pursuing disciplinary coursework, conducting hands-on research and gaining experience as interns. The initial centers will include one for entrepreneurship and leadership, one for politics and applied history, one for education and public service, and one for technology, engineering and mathematics. To those who argue that we could more easily do all this with some kind of internet platform, I would say that online learning is no substitute for learning on a campus, for reasons rooted in evolutionary psychology. We simply learn much better in relatively small groups in real time and space, not least because a good deal of what students learn in a well-functioning university comes from their informal discussions in the absence of professors. This explains the persistence of the university over a millennium, despite successive revolutions in information technology. To those who wonder how a new institution can avoid being captured by the illiberal-liberal establishment that now dominates higher education, I would answer that the governance structure of the institution will be designed to prevent that. The Chicago principles of freedom of expression will be enshrined in the founding charter. The founders will form a corporation or board of trustees that will be sovereign. Not only will the corporation appoint the president of the college; it will also have a final say over all appointments or promotions. There will be one unusual obligation on faculty members, besides the standard ones to teach and carry out research: to conduct the admissions process by means of an examination that they will set and grade. Admission will be based primarily on performance on the exam. That will avoid the corrupt rackets run by so many elite admissions offices today. As for our choice of location in the Texas capital, I would say that proximity to a highly regarded public university — albeit one where even the idea of establishing an institute to study liberty is now controversial — will ensure that the University of Austin has to compete at the highest level from the outset. My fellow founders and I have no illusions about the difficulty of the task ahead. We fully expect condemnation from the educational establishment and its media apologists. We shall regard all such attacks as vindication — the flak will be a sign that we are above the target. In our minds, there can be no more urgent task for a society than to ensure the health of its system of higher education. The American system today is broken in ways that pose a profound threat to the future strength and stability of the U.S. It is time to start fixing it. But the opportunity to do so in the classic American way — by creating something new, actually building rather than “building back” — is an inspiring and exciting one. To quote Haidt and Lukianoff: “A school that makes freedom of inquiry an essential part of its identity, selects students who show special promise as seekers of truth, orients and prepares those students for productive disagreement … would be inspiring to join, a joy to attend, and a blessing to society.” That is not the kind of institution satirized in “The Chair.” It is precisely the kind of institution we need today. *  *  * Niall Ferguson is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He was previously a professor of history at Harvard, New York University and Oxford. He is the founder and managing director of Greenmantle LLC, a New York-based advisory firm. His latest book is "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe." Tyler Durden Wed, 11/10/2021 - 22:05.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytNov 10th, 2021

Green Energy: A Bubble In Unrealistic Expectations

Green Energy: A Bubble In Unrealistic Expectations Authored by David Hay via Everegreen Gavekal blog, “You see what is happening in Europe. There is hysteria and some confusion in the markets. Why?…Some people are speculating on climate change issues, some people are underestimating some things, some are starting to cut back on investments in the extractive industries. There needs to be a smooth transition.” - Vladimir Putin (someone with whom this author rarely agrees) “By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of its citizens.” – John Maynard Keynes (an interesting observation for all the modern day Keynesians to consider given their support of current inflationary US policies, including energy-related) Introduction This week’s EVA provides another sneak preview into David Hay’s book-in-process, “Bubble 3.0” discussing what he thinks is the crucial topic of “greenflation.”  This is a term he coined referring to the rising price for metals and minerals that are essential for solar and wind power, electric cars, and other renewable technologies. It also centers on the reality that as global policymakers have turned against the fossil fuel industry, energy producers are for the first time in history not responding to dramatically higher prices by increasing production.  Consequently, there is a difficult tradeoff that arises as the world pushes harder to combat climate change, driving up energy costs to painful levels, especially for lower income individuals.  What we are currently seeing in Europe is a vivid example of this dilemma.  While it may be the case that governments welcome higher oil and natural gas prices to discourage their use, energy consumers are likely to have a much different reaction. Summary BlackRock’s CEO recently admitted that, despite what many are opining, the green energy transition is nearly certain to be inflationary. Even though it’s early in the year, energy prices are already experiencing unprecedented spikes in Europe and Asia, but most Americans are unaware of the severity. To that point, many British residents being faced with the fact that they may need to ration heat and could be faced with the chilling reality that lives could be lost if this winter is as cold as forecasters are predicting. Because of the huge increase in energy prices, inflation in the eurozone recently hit a 13-year high, heavily driven by natural gas prices on the Continent that are the equivalent of $200 oil. It used to be that the cure for extreme prices was extreme prices, but these days I’m not so sure.  Oil and gas producers are very wary of making long-term investments to develop new resources given the hostility to their industry and shareholder pressure to minimize outlays. I expect global supply to peak sometime next year and a major supply deficit looks inevitable as global demand returns to normal. In Norway, almost 2/3 of all new vehicle sales are of the electric variety (EVs) – a huge increase in just over a decade. Meanwhile, in the US, it’s only about 2%. Still, given Norway’s penchant for the plug-in auto, the demand for oil has not declined. China, despite being the largest market by far for electric vehicles, is still projected to consume an enormous and rising amount of oil in the future. About 70% of China’s electricity is generated by coal, which has major environmental ramifications in regards to electric vehicles. Because of enormous energy demand in China this year, coal prices have experienced a massive boom. Its usage was up 15% in the first half of this year, and the Chinese government has instructed power providers to obtain all baseload energy sources, regardless of cost.  The massive migration to electric vehicles – and the fact that they use six times the amount of critical minerals as their gasoline-powered counterparts –means demand for these precious resources is expected to skyrocket. This extreme need for rare minerals, combined with rapid demand growth, is a recipe for a major spike in prices. Massively expanding the US electrical grid has several daunting challenges– chief among them the fact that the American public is extremely reluctant to have new transmission lines installed in their area. The state of California continues to blaze the trail for green energy in terms of both scope and speed. How the rest of the country responds to their aggressive take on renewables remains to be seen. It appears we are entering a very odd reality: governments are expending resources they do not have on weakly concentrated energy. And the result may be very detrimental for today’s modern economy. If the trend in energy continues, what looks nearly certain to be the Third Energy crisis of the last half-century may linger for years.  Green energy: A bubble in unrealistic expectations? As I have written in past EVAs, it amazes me how little of the intense inflation debate in 2021 centered on the inflationary implications of the Green Energy transition.  Perhaps it is because there is a built-in assumption that using more renewables should lower energy costs since the sun and the wind provide “free power”.  However, we will soon see that’s not the case, at least not anytime soon; in fact, it’s my contention that it will likely be the opposite for years to come and I’ve got some powerful company.  Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, a very pro-ESG* organization, is one of the few members of Wall Street’s elite who admitted this in the summer of 2021.  The story, however, received minimal press coverage and was quickly forgotten (though, obviously, not be me!).  This EVA will outline myriad reasons why I think Mr. Fink was telling it like it is…despite the political heat that could bring down upon him.  First, though, I will avoid any discussion of whether humanity is the leading cause of global warming.  For purposes of this analysis, let’s make the high-odds assumption that for now a high-speed green energy transition will continue to occur.  (For those who would like a well-researched and clearly articulated overview of the climate debate, I highly recommend the book “Unsettled”; it’s by a former top energy expert and scientist from the Obama administration, Dr. Steven Koonin.) The reason I italicized “for now” is that in my view it’s extremely probable that voters in many Western countries are going to become highly retaliatory toward energy policies that are already creating extreme hardship.  Even though it’s only early autumn as I write these words, energy prices are experiencing unprecedented increases in Europe.  Because it’s “over there”, most Americans are only vaguely aware of the severity of the situation.  But the facts are shocking…  Presently, natural gas is going for $29 per million British Thermal Units (BTUs) in Europe, a quadruple compared to the same time in 2020, versus “just” $5 in the US, which is a mere doubling.  As a consequence, wholesale energy cost in Great Britain rose an unheard of 60% even before summer ended.  Reportedly, nine UK energy companies are on the brink of failure at this time due to their inability to fully pass on the enormous cost increases.  As a result, the British government is reportedly on the verge of nationalizing some of these entities—supposedly, temporarily—to prevent them from collapsing.  (CNBC reported on Wednesday that UK natural gas prices are now up 800% this year; in the US, nat gas rose 20% on Tuesday alone, before giving back a bit more than half of that the next day.) Serious food shortages are expected after exorbitant natural gas costs forced most of England’s commercial production of CO2 to shut down.  (CO2 is used both for stunning animals prior to slaughter and also in food packaging.)  Additionally, ballistic natural gas prices have forced the closure of two big US fertilizer plants due to a potential shortfall of ammonium nitrate of which “nat gas” is a key feedstock.  *ESG stands for Environmental, Social, Governance; in 2021, Blackrock’s assets under management approximated $9 ½ trillion, about one-third of the total US federal debt. With the winter of 2021 approaching, British households are being told they may need to ration heat.  There are even growing concerns about the widespread loss of life if this winter turns out to be a cold one, as 2020 was in Europe.  Weather forecasters are indicating that’s a distinct possibility.   In Spain, consumers are paying 40% more for electricity compared to the prior year.  The Spanish government has begun resorting to price controls to soften the impact of these rapidly escalating costs. (The history of price controls is that they often exacerbate shortages.) Naturally, spiking power prices hit the poorest hardest, which is typical of inflation whether it is of the energy variety or of generalized price increases.  Due to these massive energy price increases, eurozone inflation recently hit a 13-year high, heavily driven by natural gas prices that are the equivalent of $200 per barrel oil.  This is consistent with what I warned about in several EVAs earlier this year and I think there is much more of this looming in the years to come. In Asia, which also had a brutally cold winter in 2020 – 2021, there are severe energy shortages being disclosed, as well.  China has instructed its power providers to secure all the coal they can in preparation for a repeat of frigid conditions and acute deficits even before winter arrives.  The government has also instructed its energy distributors to acquire all the liquified natural gas (LNG) they can, regardless of cost.  LNG recently hit $35 per million British Thermal Units in Asia, up sevenfold in the past year.  China is also rationing power to its heavy industries, further exacerbating the worldwide shortages of almost everything, with notable inflationary implications. In India, where burning coal provides about 70% of electricity generation (as it does in China), utilities are being urged to import coal even though that country has the world’s fourth largest coal reserves.  Several Indian power plants are close to exhausting their coal supplies as power usage rips higher. Normally, I’d say that the cure for such extreme prices, was extreme prices—to slightly paraphrase the old axiom.  But these days, I’m not so sure; in fact, I’m downright dubious.  After all, the enormously influential International Energy Agency has recommended no new fossil fuel development after 2021—“no new”, as in zero.  It’s because of pressure such as this that, even though US natural gas prices have done a Virgin Galactic to $5 this year, the natural gas drilling rig count has stayed flat.  The last time prices were this high there were three times as many working rigs.  It is the same story with oil production.  Most Americans don’t seem to realize it but the US has provided 90% of the planet’s petroleum output growth over the past decade.  In other words, without America’s extraordinary shale oil production boom—which raised total oil output from around 5 million barrels per day in 2008 to 13 million barrels per day in 2019—the world long ago would have had an acute shortage.  (Excluding the Covid-wracked year of 2020, oil demand grows every year—strictly as a function of the developing world, including China, by the way.) Unquestionably, US oil companies could substantially increase output, particularly in the Permian Basin, arguably (but not much) the most prolific oil-producing region in the world.  However, with the Fed being pressured by Congress to punish banks that lend to any fossil fuel operator, and the overall extreme hostility toward domestic energy producers, why would they?  There is also tremendous pressure from Wall Street on these companies to be ESG compliant.  This means reducing their carbon footprint.  That’s tough to do while expanding their volume of oil and gas.  Further, investors, whether on Wall Street or on London’s equivalent, Lombard Street, or in pretty much any Western financial center, are against US energy companies increasing production.  They would much rather see them buy back stock and pay out lush dividends.  The companies are embracing that message.  One leading oil and gas company CEO publicly mused to the effect that buying back his own shares at the prevailing extremely depressed valuations was a much better use of capital than drilling for oil—even at $75 a barrel. As reported by Morgan Stanley, in the summer of 2021, an US institutional broker conceded that of his 400 clients, only one would consider investing in an energy company!  Consequently, the fact that the industry is so detested means that its shares are stunningly undervalued.  How stunningly?  A myriad of US oil and gas producers are trading at free cash flow* yields of 10% to 15% and, in some cases, as high as 25%. In Europe, where the same pressures apply, one of its biggest energy companies is generating a 16% free cash flow yield.  Moreover, that is based up an estimate of $60 per barrel oil, not the prevailing price of $80 on the Continent. *Free cash flow is the excess of gross cash flow over and above the capital spending needed to sustain a business.  Many market professionals consider it more meaningful than earnings.  Therefore, due to the intense antipathy toward Western energy producers they aren’t very inclined to explore for new resources.  Another much overlooked fact about the ultra-critical US shale industry that, as noted, has been nearly the only source of worldwide output growth for the past 13 years, is its rapid decline nature.  Most oil wells see their production taper off at just 4% or 5% per year.  But with shale, that decline rate is 80% after only two years.  (Because of the collapse in exploration activities in 2020 due to Covid, there are far fewer new wells coming on-line; thus, the production base is made up of older wells with slower decline rates but it is still a much steeper cliff than with traditional wells.)  As a result, the US, the world’s most important swing producer, has to come up with about 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of new output just to stay even.  (This was formerly about a 3 million bpd number due to both the factor mentioned above and the 2 million bpd drop in total US oil production, from 13 million bpd to around 11 million bpd since 2019).  Please recall that total US oil production in 2008 was only around 5 million bpd.  Thus, 1.5 million barrels per day is a lot of oil and requires considerable drilling and exploration activities.  Again, this is merely to stay steady-state, much less grow.  The foregoing is why I wrote on multiple occasions in EVAs during 2020, when the futures price for oil went below zero*, that crude would have a spectacular price recovery later that year and, especially, in 2021.  In my view, to go out on my familiar creaky limb, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!  With supply extremely challenged for the above reasons and demand marching back, I believe 2022 could see $100 crude, possibly even higher.  *Physical oil, or real vs paper traded, bottomed in the upper teens when the futures contract for delivery in April, 2020, went deeply negative.  Mike Rothman of Cornerstone Analytics has one of the best oil price forecasting records on Wall Street.  Like me, he was vehemently bullish on oil after the Covid crash in the spring of 2020 (admittedly, his well-reasoned optimism was a key factor in my up-beat outlook).  Here’s what he wrote late this summer:  “Our forecast for ’22 looks to see global oil production capacity exhausted late in the year and our balance suggests OPEC (and OPEC + participants) will face pressures to completely remove any quotas.”  My expectation is that global supply will likely max out sometime next year, barring a powerful negative growth shock (like a Covid variant even more vaccine resistant than Delta).  A significant supply deficit looks inevitable as global demand recovers and exceeds its pre-Covid level.  This is a view also shared by Goldman Sachs and Raymond James, among others; hence, my forecast of triple-digit prices next year.  Raymond James pointed out that in June the oil market was undersupplied by 2.5 mill bpd.  Meanwhile, global petroleum demand was rapidly rising with expectations of nearly pre-Covid consumption by year-end.  Mike Rothman ran this chart in a webcast on 9/10/2021 revealing how far below the seven-year average oil inventories had fallen.  This supply deficit is very likely to become more acute as the calendar flips to 2022. In fact, despite oil prices pushing toward $80, total US crude output now projected to actually decline this year.  This is an unprecedented development.  However, as the very pro-renewables Financial Times (the UK’s equivalent of the Wall Street Journal) explained in an August 11th, 2021, article:  “Energy companies are in a bind.  The old solution would be to invest more in raising gas production.  But with most developed countries adopting plans to be ‘net zero’ on carbon emissions by 2050 or earlier, the appetite for throwing billions at long-term gas projects is diminished.” The author, David Sheppard, went on to opine: “In the oil industry there are those who think a period of plus $100-a-barrel oil is on the horizon, as companies scale back investments in future supplies, while demand is expected to keep rising for most of this decade at a minimum.”  (Emphasis mine)  To which I say, precisely!  Thus, if he’s right about rising demand, as I believe he is, there is quite a collision looming between that reality and the high probability of long-term constrained supplies.  One of the most relevant and fascinating Wall Street research reports I read as I was researching the topic of what I have been referring to as “Greenflation” is from Morgan Stanley.  Its title asked the provocative question:  “With 64% of New Cars Now Electric, Why is Norway Still Using so Much Oil?”  While almost two-thirds of Norway’s new vehicle sales are EVs, a remarkable market share gain in just over a decade, the number in the US is an ultra-modest 2%.   Yet, per the Morgan Stanley piece, despite this extraordinary push into EVs, oil consumption in Norway has been stubbornly stable.  Coincidentally, that’s been the experience of the overall developed world over the past 10 years, as well; petroleum consumption has largely flatlined.  Where demand hasn’t gone horizontal is in the developing world which includes China.  As you can see from the following Cornerstone Analytics chart, China’s oil demand has vaulted by about 6 million barrels per day (bpd) since 2010 while its domestic crude output has, if anything, slightly contracted. Another coincidence is that this 6 million bpd surge in China’s appetite for oil, almost exactly matched the increase in US oil production.  Once again, think where oil prices would be today without America’s shale oil boom. This is unlikely to change over the next decade.  By 2031, there are an estimated one billion Asian consumers moving up into the middle class.  History is clear that more income means more energy consumption.  Unquestionably, renewables will provide much of that power but oil and natural gas are just as unquestionably going to play a critical role.  Underscoring that point, despite the exponential growth of renewables over the last 10 years, every fossil fuel category has seen increased usage.  Thus, even if China gets up to Norway’s 64% EV market share of new car sales over the next decade, its oil usage is likely to continue to swell.  Please be aware that China has become the world’s largest market for EVs—by far.  Despite that, the above chart vividly displays an immense increase in oil demand.  Here’s a similar factoid that I ran in our December 4th EVA, “Totally Toxic”, in which I made a strong bullish case for energy stocks (the main energy ETF is up 35% from then, by the way):  “(There was) a study by the UN and the US government based on the Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse Gasses Induced Climate Change (MAGICC).  The model predicted that ‘the complete elimination of all fossil fuels in the US immediately would only restrict any increase in world temperature by less than one tenth of one degree Celsius by 2050, and by less than one fifth of one degree Celsius by 2100.’  Say again?  If the world’s biggest carbon emitter on a per capita basis causes minimal improvement by going cold turkey on fossil fuels, are we making the right moves by allocating tens of trillions of dollars that we don’t have toward the currently in-vogue green energy solutions?” China's voracious power appetite increase has been true with all of its energy sources.  On the environmentally-friendly front, that includes renewables; on the environmentally-unfriendly side, it also includes coal.  In 2020, China added three times more coal-based power generation than all other countries combined.  This was the equivalent of an additional coal planet each week.  Globally, there was a reduction last year of 17 gigawatts in coal-fired power output; in China, the increase was 29.8 gigawatts, far more than offsetting the rest of the world’s progress in reducing the dirtiest energy source.  (A gigawatt can power a city with a population of roughly 700,000.) Overall, 70% of China’s electricity is coal-generated. This has significant environmental implications as far as electric vehicles (EVs) are concerned.  Because EVs are charged off a grid that is primarily coal- powered, carbon emissions actually rise as the number of such vehicles proliferate. As you can see in the following charts from Reuters’ energy expert John Kemp, Asia’s coal-fired generation has risen drastically in the last 20 years, even as it has receded in the rest of the world.  (The flattening recently is almost certainly due to Covid, with a sharp upward resumption nearly a given.) The worst part is that burning coal not only emits CO2—which is not a pollutant and is essential for life—it also releases vast quantities of nitrous oxide (N20), especially on the scale of coal usage seen in Asia today. N20 is unquestionably a pollutant and a greenhouse gas that is hundreds of times more potent than CO2.  (An interesting footnote is that over the last 550 million years, there have been very few times when the CO2 level has been as low, or lower, than it is today.)  Some scientists believe that one reason for the shrinkage of Arctic sea ice in recent decades is due to the prevailing winds blowing black carbon soot over from Asia.  This is a separate issue from N20 which is a colorless gas.  As the black soot covers the snow and ice fields in Northern Canada, they become more absorbent of the sun’s radiation, thus causing increased melting.  (Source:  “Weathering Climate Change” by Hugh Ross) Due to exploding energy needs in China this year, coal prices have experienced an unprecedented surge.  Despite this stunning rise, Chinese authorities have instructed its power providers to obtain coal, and other baseload energy sources, such as liquified natural gas (LNG), regardless of cost.  Notwithstanding how pricey coal has become, its usage in China was up 15% in the first half of this year vs the first half of 2019 (which was obviously not Covid impacted). Despite the polluting impact of heavy coal utilization, China is unlikely to turn away from it due to its high energy density (unlike renewables), its low cost (usually) and its abundance within its own borders (though its demand is so great that it still needs to import vast amounts).  Regarding oil, as we saw in last week’s final image, it is currently importing roughly 11 million barrels per day (bpd) to satisfy its 15 million bpd consumption (about 15% of total global demand).  In other words, crude imports amount to almost three-quarter of its needs.  At $80 oil, this totals $880 million per day or approximately $320 billion per year.  Imagine what China’s trade surplus would look like without its oil import bill! Ironically, given the current hostility between the world’s superpowers, China has an affinity for US oil because of its light and easy-to-refine nature.  China’s refineries tend to be low-grade and unable to efficiently process heavier grades of crude, unlike the US refining complex which is highly sophisticated and prefers heavy oil such as from Canada and Venezuela—back when the latter actually produced oil. Thus, China favors EVs because they can be de facto coal-powered, lessening its dangerous reliance on imported oil.  It also likes them due to the fact it controls 80% of the lithium ion battery supply and 60% of the planet’s rare earth minerals, both of which are essential to power EVs.     However, even for China, mining enough lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper, aluminum and the other essential minerals/metals to meet the ambitious goals of largely electrifying new vehicle volumes is going to be extremely daunting.  This is in addition to mass construction of wind farms and enormously expanded solar panel manufacturing. As one of the planet’s leading energy authorities Daniel Yergin writes: “With the move to electric cars, demand for critical minerals will skyrocket (lithium up 4300%, cobalt and nickel up 2500%), with an electric vehicle using 6 times more minerals than a conventional car and a wind turbine using 9 times more minerals than a gas-fueled power plant.  The resources needed for the ‘mineral-intensive energy system’ of the future are also highly concentrated in relatively few countries. Whereas the top 3 oil producers in the world are responsible for about 30 percent of total liquids production, the top 3 lithium producers control more than 80% of supply. China controls 60% of rare earths output needed for wind towers; the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 70% of the cobalt required for EV batteries.” As many have noted, the environmental impact of immensely ramping up the mining of these materials is undoubtedly going to be severe.  Michael Shellenberger, a life-long environmental activist, has been particularly vociferous in his condemnation of the dominant view that only renewables can solve the global energy needs.  He’s especially critical of how his fellow environmentalists resorted to repetitive deception, in his view, to undercut nuclear power in past decades.  By leaving nuke energy out of the solution set, he foresees a disastrous impact on the planet due to the massive scale (he’d opine, impossibly massive) of resource mining that needs to occur.  (His book, “Apocalypse Never”, is also one I highly recommend; like Dr. Koonin, he hails from the left end of the political spectrum.) Putting aside the environmental ravages of developing rare earth minerals, when you have such high and rapidly rising demand colliding with limited supply, prices are likely to go vertical.  This will be another inflationary “forcing”, a favorite term of climate scientists, caused by the Great Green Energy Transition. Moreover, EVs are very semiconductor intensive.  With semis already in seriously short supply, this is going to make a gnarly situation even gnarlier.  It’s logical to expect that there will be recurring shortages of chips over the next decade for this reason alone (not to mention the acute need for semis as the “internet of things” moves into primetime).  In several of the newsletters I’ve written in recent years, I’ve pointed out the present vulnerability of the US electric grid.  Yet, it will be essential not just to keep it from breaking down under its current load; it must be drastically enhanced, a Herculean task. For one thing, it is excruciatingly hard to install new power lines. As J.P. Morgan’s Michael Cembalest has written: “Grid expansion can be a hornet’s nest of cost, complexity and NIMBYism*, particularly in the US.”  The grid’s frailty, even under today’s demands (i.e., much less than what lies ahead as millions of EVs plug into it) is particularly obvious in California.  However, severe winter weather in 2021 exposed the grid weakness even in energy-rich Texas, which also has a generally welcoming attitude toward infrastructure upgrading and expansion. Yet it’s the Golden State, home to 40 million Americans and the fifth largest economy in the world, if it was its own country (which it occasionally acts like it wants to be), that is leading the charge to EVs and seeking to eliminate internal combustion engines (ICEs) as quickly as possible.  Even now, blackouts and brownouts are becoming increasingly common.  Seemingly convinced it must be a role model for the planet, it’s trying desperately to reduce its emissions, which are less than 1%, of the global total, at the expense of rendering its energy system more similar to a developing country.  In addition to very high electricity costs per kilowatt hour (its mild climate helps offset those), it also has gasoline prices that are 77% above the national average.  *NIMBY stands for Not In My Back Yard. While California has been a magnet for millions seeking a better life for 150 years, the cost of living is turning the tide the other way.  Unreliable and increasingly expensive energy is likely to intensify that trend.  Combined with home prices that are more than double the US median–$800,000!–California is no longer the land of milk and honey, unless, to slightly paraphrase Woody Guthrie about LA, even back in the 1940s, you’ve got a whole lot of scratch.  More and more people, seem to be scratching California off their list of livable venues.  Voters in the reliably blue state of California may become extremely restive, particularly as they look to Asia and see new coal plants being built at a fever pitch.  The data will become clear that as America keeps decarbonizing–as it has done for 30 years mostly due to the displacement of coal by gas in the US electrical system—Asia will continue to go the other way.  (By the way, electricity represents the largest share of CO2 emission at roughly 25%.)  California has always seemed to lead social trends in this country, as it is doing again with its green energy transition.  The objective is noble though, extremely ambitious, especially the timeline.  As it brings its power paradigm to the rest of America, especially its frail grid, it will be interesting to see how voters react in other states as the cost of power leaps higher and its dependability heads lower.  It’s reasonable to speculate we may be on the verge of witnessing the Californication of the US energy system.  Lest you think I’m being hyperbolic, please be aware the IEA (International Energy Agency) has estimated it will cost the planet $5 trillion per year to achieve Net Zero emissions.  This is compared to global GDP of roughly $85 trillion. According to BloombergNEF, the price tag over 30 years, could be as high as $173 trillion.  Frankly, based on the history of gigantic cost overruns on most government-sponsored major infrastructure projects, I’m inclined to take the over—way over—on these estimates. Moreover, energy consulting firm T2 and Associates, has guesstimated electrifying just the US to the extent necessary to eliminate the direct consumption of fuel (i.e., gasoline, natural gas, coal, etc.) would cost between $18 trillion and $29 trillion.  Again, taking into account how these ambitious efforts have played out in the past, I suspect $29 trillion is light.  Regardless, even $18 trillion is a stunner, despite the reality we have all gotten numb to numbers with trillions attached to them.  For perspective, the total, already terrifying, level of US federal debt is $28 trillion. Regardless, as noted last week, the probabilities of the Great Green Energy Transition happening are extremely high.  Relatedly, I believe the likelihood of the Great Greenflation is right up there with them.  As Gavekal’s Didier Darcet wrote in mid-August:  ““Nowadays, and this is a great first in history, governments will commit considerable financial resources they do not have in the extraction of very weakly concentrated energy.” ( i.e., less efficient)  “The bet is very risky, and if it fails, what next?  The modern economy would not withstand expensive energy, or worse, lack of energy.”  While I agree this an historical first, it’s definitely not great (with apologies for all the “greats”).  This is particularly not great for keeping inflation subdued, as well as for attempting to break out of the growth quagmire the Western world has been in for the last two decades.  What we are seeing in Europe right now is an extremely cautionary case study in just how disastrous the war on fossil fuels can be (shortly we will see who or what has been a behind-the-scenes participant in this conflict). Essentially, I believe, as I’ve written in past EVAs, we are entering the third energy crisis of the last 50 years.  If I’m right, it will be characterized by recurring bouts of triple-digit oil prices in the years to come.  Along with Richard Nixon taking the US off the gold standard in 1971, the high inflation of the 1970s was caused by the first two energy crises (the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo and the 1979 Iranian Revolution).  If I’m correct about this being the third, it’s coming at a most inopportune time with the US in hyper-MMT* mode. Frankly, I believe many in the corridors of power would like to see oil trade into the $100s, and natural gas into the teens, as it will help catalyze the shift to renewable energy.  But consumers are likely to have a much different reaction—potentially, a violently different reaction, as I noted last week.  The experience of the Yellow Vest protests in France (referring to the color of the vest protestors wore), are instructive in this regard.  France is a generally left-leaning country.  Despite that, a proposed fuel surtax in November 2018 to fund a renewable energy transition triggered such widespread civil unrest that French president Emmanuel Macron rescinded it the following month. *MMT stands for Modern Monetary Theory.  It holds that a government, like the US, which issues debt in its own currency can spend without concern about budgetary constraints.  If there are not enough buyers of its bonds at acceptable interest rates, that nation’s central bank (the Fed, in our case) simply acquires them with money it creates from its digital printing press.  This is what is happening today in the US.  Many economists consider this highly inflationary. The sharp and politically uncomfortable rise in US gas pump prices this summer caused the Biden administration to plead with OPEC to lift its volume quotas.  The ironic implication of that exhortation was glaringly obvious, as was the inefficiency and pollution consequences of shipping oil thousands of miles across the Atlantic.  (Oil tankers are a significant source of emissions.)  This is as opposed to utilizing domestic oil output, as well as crude from Canada (which is actually generally better suited to the US refining complex).  Beyond the pollution aspect, imported oil obviously worsens America’s massive trade deficit (which would be far more massive without the six million barrels per day of domestic oil volumes that the shale revolution has provided) and costs our nation high-paying jobs. Further, one of my other big fears is that the West is engaging in unilateral energy disarmament.  Russia and China are likely the major beneficiaries of this dangerous scenario.  Per my earlier comment about a stealth combatant in the war on fossil fuels, it may surprise you that a past NATO Secretary General* has accused Russian intelligence of avidly supporting the anti-fracking movements in Western Europe.  Russian TV has railed against fracking for years, even comparing it to pedophilia (certainly, a most bizarre analogy!).  The success of the anti-fracking movement on the Continent has essentially prevented a European version of America’s shale miracles (the UK has the potential to be a major shale gas producer).  Consequently, the European Union’s domestic natural gas production has been in a rapid decline phase for years.  Banning fracking has, of course, made Europe heavily reliant on Russian gas shipments with more than 40% of its supplies coming from Russia. This is in graphic contrast to the shale output boom in the US that has not only made us natural gas self-sufficient but also an export powerhouse of liquified natural gas (LNG).  In 2011, the Nord Stream system of pipelines running under the Baltic Sea from northern Russia began delivering gas west from northern Russia to the German coastal city of Greifswald.  For years, the Russians sought to build a parallel system with the inventive name of Nord Stream 2.  The US government opposed its approval on security grounds but the Biden administration has dropped its opposition.  It now appears Nord Stream 2 will happen, leaving Europe even more exposed to Russian coercion.  Is it possible the Russian government and the Chinese Communist Party have been secretly and aggressively supporting the anti-fossil fuel movements in America?  In my mind, it seems not only possible but probable.  In fact, I believe it is naïve not to come that conclusion.  After all, wouldn’t it be in both of their geopolitical interests to see the US once again caught in a cycle of debilitating inflation, ensnared by the twin traps of MMT and the third energy crisis? *Per former NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasumssen:  Russia has “engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organizations—environmental organizations working against shale gas—to maintain Europe’s dependence on imported Russian gas”. Along these lines, I was shocked to listen to a recent podcast by the New Yorker magazine on the topic of “intelligent sabotage”.  This segment was an interview between the magazine’s David Remnick and a Swedish professor, Adreas Malm.  Mr. Malm is the author of a new book with the literally explosive title “How To Blow Up A Pipeline”.   Just as it sounds, he advocates detonating pipelines to inhibit fossil fuel distribution.  Mr. Remnick was clearly sympathetic to his guest but he did ask him about the impact on the poor of driving energy prices up drastically which would be the obvious ramification if his sabotage recommendations were widely followed.  Mr. Malm’s reaction was a verbal shrug of the shoulders and words to the effect that this was the price to pay to save the planet. Frankly, I am appalled that the venerable New Yorker would provide a platform for such a radical and unlawful suggestion.  In an era when people are de-platformed for often innocuous comments, it’s incredible to me this was posted and has not been pulled down.  In my mind, this reflects just how tolerant the media is of attacks on the fossil fuel industry, regardless of the deleterious impact on consumers and the global economy. Surely, there is a far better way of coping with the harmful aspects of fossil fuel-based energy than this scorched earth (literally, in the case of Mr. Malm) approach, which includes efforts to block new pipelines, shut existing ones, and severely restrict US energy production.  In America’s case, the result will be forcing us to unnecessarily and increasingly rely on overseas imports.  (For example, per the Wall Street Journal, drilling permits on federal land have crashed to 171 in August from 671 in April.  Further, the contentious $3.5 trillion “infrastructure” plan would raise royalties and fees high enough on US energy producers that it would render them globally uncompetitive.) Such actions would only aggravate what is already a severe energy shock, one that may be worse than the 1970s twin energy crises.  America has it easy compared to Europe, though, given current US policy trends, we might be in their same heavily listing energy boat soon. Solutions include fast-tracking small modular nuclear plants; encouraging the further switch from burning coal to natural gas (a trend that is, unfortunately, going the other way now, as noted above); utilizing and enhancing carbon and methane capture at the point of emission (including improving tail pipe effluent-reduction technology); enhancing pipeline integrity to inhibit methane leaks; among many other mitigation techniques that recognize the reality the global economy will be reliant on fossil fuels for many years, if not decades, to come.  If the climate change movement fails to recognize the essential nature of fossil fuels, it will almost certainly trigger a backlash that will undermine the positive change it is trying to bring about.  This is similar to what it did via its relentless assault on nuclear power which produced a frenzy of coal plant construction in the 1980s and 1990s.  On this point, it’s interesting to see how quickly Europe is re-embracing coal power to alleviate the energy poverty and rationing occurring over there right now - even before winter sets in.  When the choice is between supporting climate change initiatives on one hand and being able to heat your home and provide for your family on the other, is there really any doubt about which option the majority of voters will select? Tyler Durden Tue, 10/26/2021 - 19:30.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytOct 26th, 2021

The 20 best books of 2021, according to Book of the Month readers

Every year, Book of the Month crowns the best book of the year in November. Here are all the 2021 nominees, based on readers' favorites. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. Every year, Book of the Month crowns the best book of the year in November. Here are all the 2021 nominees, based on readers' favorites. Amazon; Bookshop; Alyssa Powell/Insider Book of the Month sends great books from emerging authors directly to subscribers. At the end of each year, readers vote for their favorite books they read through the service. Here are the 20 most loved BOTM selections of 2021. The winner will be announced on November 11. Book of the Month sends new and noteworthy books - often before they become popular - to subscribers each month. In the past, the company has picked hits such as "The Great Alone" by Kristin Hannah, "Pachinko" by Min Jin Lee, and "The Girl With the Louding Voice" by Abi Daré to bring to its readers.Membership (small)At the end of the year, the club's thousands of subscribers vote on the best books they read through the service, making it a more curated version of Goodreads' best books of the year. For example, the 2020 winner was "The Vanishing Half" by Brit Bennett, which also won the 2020 Goodreads award for Best Historical Fiction.Below, you'll find a reading list of the top 20 books of 2021 according to Book of the Month readers. Book of the Month will announce the best book of 2021 on November 11, awarding the winning author a $10,000 prize. The 20 best books picked by Book of the Month in 2021, according to its readers:Descriptions are provided by Amazon and edited lightly for length and clarity. "Things We Lost To The Water" by Eric Nguyen Bookshop; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $13.99When Huong arrives in New Orleans with her two young sons, she is jobless, homeless, and worried about her husband, Cong, who remains in Vietnam. As she and her boys begin to settle into life in America, she sends letters and tapes back to Cong, hopeful that they will be reunited and her children will grow up with a father.But with time, Huong realizes she will never see her husband again. While she attempts to come to terms with this loss, her sons, Tuan and Binh, grow up in their absent father's shadow, haunted by a man and a country trapped in their memories and imaginations. As they push forward, the three adapt to life in America in different ways: Huong gets involved with a Vietnamese car salesman who is also new in town; Tuan tries to connect with his heritage by joining a local Vietnamese gang; and Binh, now going by Ben, embraces his adopted homeland and his burgeoning sexuality. Their search for identity — as individuals and as a family — threatens to tear them apart, un­til disaster strikes the city they now call home, and they are suddenly forced to find a new way to come together and honor the ties that bind them. "Imposter Syndrome" by Kathy Wang Bookshop; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $16.59Julia Lerner, a recent university graduate in computer science, is living in Moscow when she's recruited by Russia's largest intelligence agency in 2006. By 2018, she's in Silicon Valley as COO of Tangerine, one of America's most famous technology companies. In between her executive management (make offers to promising startups, crush them and copy their features if they refuse); self-promotion (check out her latest op-ed in the WSJ, on Work/Life Balance 2.0); and work in gender equality (transfer the most annoying females from her team), she funnels intelligence back to the motherland. But now Russia's asking for more, and Julia's getting nervous.Alice Lu is a first-generation Chinese-American whose parents are delighted she's working at Tangerine (such a successful company!). Too bad she's slogging away in the lower echelons, recently dumped, and now sharing her expensive two-bedroom apartment with her cousin Cheri, a perennial "founder's girlfriend." One afternoon, while performing a server check, Alice discovers some unusual activity, and now she's burdened with two powerful but distressing suspicions: Tangerine's privacy settings aren't as rigorous as the company claims they are, and the person abusing this loophole might be Julia Lerner herself. The closer Alice gets to Julia, the more Julia questions her own loyalties. Russia may have placed her in the Valley, but she's the one who built her career; isn't she entitled to protect the lifestyle she's earned? Part page-turning cat-and-mouse chase, part sharp and hilarious satire, "Impostor Syndrome" is a shrewdly-observed examination of women in tech, Silicon Valley hubris, and the rarely fulfilled but ever-attractive promise of the American Dream. "The Lost Apothecary" by Susan Penner Amazon; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $13.99Hidden in the depths of 18th-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary's fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious 12-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.Meanwhile, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her 10th wedding anniversary alone in present-day London, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London 200 years ago, her life collides with the apothecary's in a stunning twist of fate — and not everyone will survive. "This Close To Okay" by Leese Cross-Smith Bookshop; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $15.62On a rainy October night in Kentucky, recently divorced therapist Tallie Clark is on her way home from work when she spots a man precariously standing at the edge of a bridge. Without a second thought, Tallie pulls over and jumps out of the car into the pouring rain. She convinces the man to join her for a cup of coffee, and he eventually agrees to come back to her house, where he finally shares his name: Emmett. Over the course of the emotionally charged weekend that follows, Tallie makes it her mission to provide a safe space for Emmett, though she hesitates to confess that this is also her day job. What she doesn't realize is that Emmett isn't the only one who needs healing — and they both are harboring secrets.Alternating between Tallie and Emmett's perspectives as they inch closer to the truth of what brought Emmett to the bridge's edge — as well as the hard truths Tallie has been grappling with since her marriage ended — "This Close to Okay" is an uplifting, cathartic story about chance encounters, hope found in unlikely moments, and the subtle magic of human connection. "We Are the Brennans" by Tracey Lange Bookshop; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $19.49When 29-year-old Sunday Brennan wakes up in a Los Angeles hospital, bruised and battered after a drunk driving accident she caused, she swallows her pride and goes home to her family in New York. But it's not easy. She deserted them all — and her high school sweetheart — five years before with little explanation, and they've got questions.Sunday is determined to rebuild her life back on the east coast, even if it does mean tiptoeing around resentful brothers and an ex-fiancé. The longer she stays, however, the more she realizes they need her just as much as she needs them. When a dangerous man from her past brings her family's pub business to the brink of financial ruin, the only way to protect them is to upend all their secrets — secrets that have damaged the family for generations and will threaten everything they know about their lives. In the aftermath, the Brennan family is forced to confront painful mistakes — and ultimately find a way forward together. "The Maidens" by Alex Michaelides Bookshop; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $16.78Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this, Mariana is confident. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike ― particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana's niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?When another body is found, Mariana's obsession with proving Fosca's guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything ― including her own life. "Razorblade Tears" by S.A. Cosby Bookshop; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $20.10Ike Randolph has been out of jail for 15 years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah's white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.Derek's father, Buddy Lee, was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed of his father's criminal record. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their prejudices about their sons and each other as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys. "Malibu Rising" by Taylor Jenkins Reid Amazon; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $16.80Malibu: August 1983. It's the day of Nina Riva's annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over — especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva.The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud — because it is long past time for him to confess something to the brother from whom he's been inseparable since birth.Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can't stop thinking about has promised she'll be there.And Kit has a couple of secrets of her own — including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.By midnight the party will be entirely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family's generations will all come rising to the surface. "Four Winds" by Kristin Hannah Bookshop; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $14.49Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the land's bounty is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage is a woman's only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: Marriage to a man she barely knows.By 1934, the world has changed; millions are out of work, and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa's tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive.In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa ― like so many of her neighbors ― must make an agonizing choice: Fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family. "The People We Keep" by Alison Larkin Amazon; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $22.99Little River, New York, 1994: April Sawicki is living in a motorless motorhome that her father won in a poker game. Failing out of school, picking up shifts at Margo's diner, she's left fending for herself in a town where she's never quite felt at home. When she "borrows" her neighbor's car to perform at an open mic night, she realizes her life could be much bigger than where she came from. After a fight with her dad, April packs her stuff and leaves for good — setting off on a journey to find her own life.Driving without a chosen destination, she stops to rest in Ithaca. Her only plan is to survive, but as she looks for work, she finds a kindred sense of belonging at Cafe Decadence, the local coffee shop. Still, somehow, it doesn't make sense to her that life could be this easy. The more she falls in love with her friends in Ithaca, the more she can't shake the feeling that she'll hurt them the way she's been hurt.As April moves through the world, meeting people who feel like home, she chronicles her life in the songs she writes and discovers that where she came from doesn't dictate who she has to be. "The Heart Principle" by Helen Hoang Amazon; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $13.99When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She's going to embark on a string of one-night stands — the more unacceptable the men, the better.That's where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex — he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she has just started to understand. However, when tragedy strikes Anna's family, she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love — but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves. "Instructions for Dancing" by Nicola Yoon Amazon; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $14.40Evie Thomas doesn't believe in love anymore. Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began… and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually.As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance Studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: Adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything — including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he's only just met.Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it's that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love. In the end, is love worth the risk? "Once There Were Wolves" by Charlotte McConaghy Bookshop; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $20.99Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team of biologists tasked with reintroducing 14 gray wolves into the remote Highlands. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape but Aggie, too — unmade by the terrible secrets that drove the sisters out of Alaska.Inti is not the woman she once was, either, changed by the harm she's witnessed ― inflicted by humans on both the wild and each other. Yet, as the wolves surprise everyone by thriving, Inti begins to let her guard down, even opening herself up to the possibility of love. But when a farmer is found dead, Inti knows where the town will lay blame. Unable to accept that her wolves could be responsible, Inti makes a reckless decision to protect them. But if the wolves didn't make the kill, then who did? And what will Inti do when the man she is falling for seems to be the prime suspect? "People We Meet On Vacation" by Emily Henry Amazon; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $9.98Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She's a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year, they live far apart — she's in New York City, and he's in their small hometown — but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven't spoken since.Poppy has everything she should want, but she's stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together — lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong? "The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina" by Zoraida Cordove Bookshop; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $21.49The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty or why their matriarch won't ever leave their home in Four Rivers — even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.Seven years later, her gifts have manifested differently for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly's daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea's line. Determined to save what's left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador — to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back. "Damnation Spring" by Ash Davidson Bookshop; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $19.81Colleen and Rich Gundersen are raising their young son, Chub, on the rugged California coast. It's 1977, and life in this Pacific Northwest logging town isn't what it used to be. For generations, the community has lived and breathed timber; now, that way of life is threatened. Colleen is an amateur midwife. Rich is a tree-topper. It's a dangerous job that requires him to scale trees hundreds of feet tall — a job that both his father and grandfather died doing. Colleen and Rich want a better life for their son — and they take steps to assure their future. Rich secretly spends their savings on a swath of ancient Redwoods. Colleen, desperate to have a second baby, challenges the logging company's use of herbicides that she believes are responsible for the many miscarriages in the community — including her own. The pair find themselves on opposite sides of a budding conflict that threatens the very thing they are trying to protect: Their family. "The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany" by Lori Nelson Spielman Bookshop; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $10.95Since the day Filomena Fontana cast a curse upon her sister more than 200 years ago, not one second-born Fontana daughter has found lasting love. Some, like second-born Emilia, the happily single baker at her grandfather's Brooklyn deli, claim it's an odd coincidence. Others, like her sexy, desperate-for-love cousin Lucy, insist it's an actual hex. But both are bewildered when their great-aunt calls with an astounding proposition: If they accompany her to her homeland of Italy, Aunt Poppy vows she'll meet the love of her life on the steps of the Ravello Cathedral on her 80th birthday — and break the Fontana Second-Daughter Curse once and for all.Against the backdrop of wandering Venetian canals, rolling Tuscan fields, and enchanting Amalfi Coast villages, romance blooms, destinies are found, and family secrets are unearthed — secrets that could threaten the family far more than a centuries-old curse. "The Last Thing He Told Me" by Laura Dave Bookshop; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $12.92Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her.Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers — Owen's 16-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother. As Hannah's increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen's boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn't who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen's true identity — and why he disappeared.Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen's past, they soon realize they're also building a new future — one neither of them could have anticipated.You can read our interview with author Laura Dave here. "The Office of Historical Corrections" by Danielle Evans Bookshop; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $17.49Danielle Evans is known for her blisteringly smart voice and X-ray insights into complex human relationships. With "The Office of Historical Corrections," Evans zooms in on particular moments and relationships in her characters' lives in a way that allows them to speak to larger issues of race, culture, and history. She introduces us to Black and multiracial characters experiencing the universal confusions of lust and love and getting walloped by grief — all while exploring how history haunts us, personally and collectively. Ultimately, she provokes us to think about the truths of American history — about who gets to tell them and the cost of setting the record straight. "Infinite Country" by Patricia Engel Amazon; Lauren Arzbaecher/Insider Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $14.80I often wonder if we are living the wrong life in the wrong country.Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally reunite with her family.How this family came to occupy two different countries — two different worlds — comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia's parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We see them leave Bogotá with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States on a temporary visa, and we see the births of two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil. We witness the decisions and indecisions that lead to Mauro's deportation and the family's splintering — the costs they've all been living with ever since. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytOct 15th, 2021

Former President Jimmy Carter issues a dire warning ahead of Capitol riot anniversary: The US "teeters on the brink of a widening abyss"

He listed five demands that Americans should demand of political leaders to "uphold the ideals of freedom and adhere to high standards of conduct." Former President Jimmy Carter.AP Photo/John Amis, File Former President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed for The New York Times saying that democracy is in danger. It was published on the eve of the January 6, 2021, Capitol riots. "Americans must set aside differences and work together before it is too late," Carter wrote. Former President Jimmy Carter issued a warning that the spread of misinformation and the deepening political divide jeopardizes US democracy, in an op-ed published in The New York Times on the eve of the anniversary of the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection.The 39th president, who is now 97-years-old, said he'd hoped the riot — in which a Pro-Trump mob attempted to overturn the 2020 election — would enlighten the nation and force it to act against "the toxic polarization that threatens our democracy."He listed five demands that Americans should demand of political leaders to "uphold the ideals of freedom and adhere to high standards of conduct":Put aside political differences to uphold the constitution and fairnessEstablish better election security and reformCreate ways to re-unify the political divideEliminate violence from politics by creating or amending existing lawsReform social media and encourage the spread of accurate informationThe January 6, 2021, riots ended with five people dying and hundreds more injured — including approximately 140 officers.More than 727 people have been charged so far in relation to the riot. The US House of Representatives has also convened a bipartisan committee that is currently investigating the Capitol insurrection — including subpoenaing lawmakers, media personalities, and former President Donald Trump's confidants.In closing, Carter said, "Our great nation now teeters on the brink of a widening abyss.""Without immediate action, we are at genuine risk of civil conflict and losing our precious democracy. Americans must set aside differences and work together before it is too late," he added.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 5th, 2022

The Defenestration Of Dr. Robert Malone

The Defenestration Of Dr. Robert Malone Commentary authored by John Mac Ghlionn via The Epoch Times, Dr. Robert Malone is a U.S. virologist and immunologist who has dedicated his professional existence to the development of mRNA vaccines. In the 1980s, Malone worked as a researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where he conducted studies on messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology. In the early 1990s, Malone collaborated with Jon A. Wolff and Dennis A. Carson, two eminent scientists, on a study that involved synthesization. In fact, Malone is the father of mRNA vaccines. He has served as an adjunct associate professor of biotechnology at Kennesaw State University, and he co-founded Atheric Pharmaceutical, a company that was contracted by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in 2016. As you can see, Malone is no ordinary man. In fact, he’s a rather extraordinary man. Before embarking on a distinguished career in science, Malone worked as a carpenter and as a farmhand. Becoming a doctor was a lofty aspiration, but through hard work and determination, his dream became a reality. Over the course of three decades, Malone has established himself as one of the most competent people in the fields of virology and immunology. Dr. Robert Malone (L) speaks at the Global Covid Summit in Nashville, Tenn., on Dec. 18, 2021. (Courtesy of Global Covid Summit/Screenshot via NTD) Why, then, is he considered “a pariah” (in his own words) by so many of his peers? Why did Twitter recently suspend his account? Malone is arguably the most qualified person in the world to speak on what we as a society should and shouldn’t be doing during the pandemic. Yet for reasons that will become abundantly clear, he finds himself ostracized, largely silenced, and cut off from the scientific community. Why? Two months before his Twitter account was suspended, Malone wrote a rather prophetic Twitter post: “I am going to speak bluntly,” he wrote. “Physicians who speak out are being actively hunted via medical boards and the press. They are trying to delegitimize us and pick us off one by one.” He finished by warning that this is “not a conspiracy theory” but “a fact.” He urged us all to “wake up.” Sadly, many of us are still asleep. In my research for this piece, it seems clear to me that Malone has been silenced, not because he’s some quack spouting nonsense, but because he challenged—and still challenges—the overarching narrative about vaccines and the lethality of COVID-19. Malone was recently interviewed by Joe Rogan. For the uninitiated, Rogan is the host of one of the most influential podcasts in the world. At one point during the three-hour interview, Malone referred to Dr. Anthony Fauci as Tony Fauci, a man he knows personally. Malone, in other words, knows where all the skeletons are hidden. The same is true for Dr. Peter McCullough, another world-renowned expert who has appeared on Rogan’s podcast. Prior to writing this piece, I consulted both Malone and McCullough. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a briefing at the White House on Dec. 1, 2021. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo) Over the course of the past 18 months, Malone has been painted as some kind of anti-vax fringe scientist, a man of questionable merit who’s spouting nonsense. Well, he’s not. Malone happens to be vaccinated. All he has ever asked for is the chance to have frank and honest discussions on vaccines. In his own words, vaccines have “saved lives. Many lives.” “But it is also increasingly clear that there are some risks associated with these vaccines,” Malone said. “Various governments have attempted to deny that this is the case. But they are wrong. Vaccination-associated coagulation is a risk. Cardiotoxicity is a risk. Those are proven and discussed in official USG communications, as well as communications from a variety of other governments.” Malone isn’t a crazed conspiracy theorist: He’s a man who’s intimately familiar with the benefits and the risks of vaccines. He’s a proponent of informed consent. Perhaps before letting someone inject a vaccine into your body, you should be fully informed of the risks involved, he says. He isn’t an unreasonable man. Nevertheless, in this age of faux outrage and fabricated storylines, society needs a fall guy, a boogie man, a sacrificial lamb. Malone fits the bill. He knows too much. It’s much easier to discredit a decorated physician—who challenges the overarching narrative—than it is to actually debate him. Zero Degrees of Separation The story goes deeper. In 2019, the BBC established the Trusted News Initiative (TNI), a partnership that now includes organizations such as Facebook, Twitter, Reuters, and The Washington Post. We’re told that it was established to tackle “disinformation in real time.” TNI was ostensibly designed to wage a war on “fake news.” Upon closer inspection, however, it appears to have been designed to promote very specific narratives and to silence any dissenting voices, such as Malone’s. Instead of trusting the TNI, we should question the motives of its members. After all, The Washington Post recently published a piece asking people to stop criticizing President Joe Biden. The message is clear: Stop being mean to the president, even if the president is being mean to you (on more than one occasion). Then, there’s James C. Smith, chairman of the Thomson Reuters Foundation. He sits on the board of directors for Pfizer, a company that’s responsible for the creation of vaccines with questionable efficacy and that has a history of manipulating data. In short, Pfizer is a company with a questionable reputation. Nevertheless, Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla was recently named CNN’s Business CEO of the Year. Make of that what you will. When one thinks of TNI (and the mainstream media in general), various terms instantly spring to mind. “Objectivity” isn’t one of them. “Highly compromised” and “conflict of interest” do come to mind, however. Speaking of objectivity, or the lack thereof, in August 2021, The Atlantic ran a much-cited hit piece on Malone, which was high on accusations, but low on actual evidence. It attacked his character and credibility—repeatedly. Rather intriguingly, the article, like all of The Atlantic’s COVID-19 articles, was funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The former is an organization established and owned by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation owns stock in Johnson & Johnson, a company whose vaccine has been associated with the development of blood clots—the very thing Malone has been warning us about for the better part of two years. People might scoff. But contrary to popular belief, democracy doesn’t die in darkness. It dies in broad daylight. Its death is slow and protracted, one by a thousand cuts rather than by one fatal stab. As author Steve Levitsky once wrote, democracies don’t often die at the hands of military generals, “but of elected leaders—presidents or prime ministers who subvert the very process that brought them to power.” “One of the great ironies of how democracies die is that the very defense of democracy is often used as a pretext for its subversion,” he wrote. “Would-be autocrats often use economic crises, natural disasters, and especially security threats—wars, armed insurgencies, or terrorist attacks—to justify antidemocratic measures.” Apply these lines to the pandemic, and Levitsky’s words carry more weight than ever before. In the United States, one must not question the efficacy of masks, vaccines for kids, the logic (or lack thereof) of lockdowns, or the unconstitutional nature of vaccine mandates. What about the little matter of vaccine breakthrough deaths? Don’t ask any questions. But wait, if science can’t be questioned, doesn’t this make it propaganda? Hush now. Don’t you love America? Don’t you want people to live, rather than die? Then shut up and get the vaccine, then the booster shot, then the booster-booster shot. We, the arbiters of truth, know what’s best for you. Somewhat ironically, these self-appointed arbiters of truth spout no shortage of lies. Is it any surprise, then, that more and more Americans continue to lose faith in the mainstream media and the government? Yet here we are, being condescended to by the likes of CNN’s Don Lemon and MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace. Worse still, we’re supposed to take orders from Fauci, a man who supposedly represents science, yet goes out of his way to smear scientists. Why would a man of science attack the very thing that he’s supposed to represent? A stock photo of social media platform icons in a mobile device. (Pixabay/Pexels) According to numerous reports, Fauci has repeatedly deceived the American people. It’s important to remember that Fauci is, first and foremost, a talking head for the U.S. government. In reality, he’s a politician with a medical degree. To quote the author Gillian Flynn, the author of “Gone Girl”: “The truth is malleable; you just need to pick the right expert.” Who better than Fauci, a highly qualified individual with his own fan club? But don’t be fooled. Fauci might act like he answers to no one, but he does. He answers to the U.S. government. Who, then, does the government answer to? Big Pharma, it seems. In 2019, the Roosevelt Institute published a fascinating report, “The Cost of Capture: How the Pharmaceutical Industry has Corrupted Policy Makers and Harmed Patients.” The report outlines the many ways in which the pharmaceutical industry has shaped policies through corporate capture. This is a phenomenon that sees private industries use their significant financial and political influence to manipulate a state’s decision-making apparatus. The report warned about the dangers of lobbying and of deeply flawed medical research. What we’re seeing is the convergence of Big Pharma, Big Tech, and Big Government. Let’s call it the unholy trinity, with Big Tech doing the bidding of Big Government, and Big Government doing the bidding of Big Pharma. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, YouTube has removed the Joe Rogan episodes featuring Robert Malone and Peter McCullough. Why? Because when it comes to viruses and vaccines, these are among the most notable and accomplished experts in the world. They appear to know things that the government doesn’t want us to know. Additionally, Google, the owner of YouTube, appears to be closely involved with the U.S. government. What we’re left with is the equivalent of a digital dictatorship, with even the most qualified people being silenced, ostracized, and, in some cases, defenestrated. Robert Malone is a wise man, an honest man, and a highly credible man. The grief that has come his way—and continues to come his way to this day—is unwarranted. But as he knows only too well, this is the price one must pay for challenging the unholy trinity. Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times. Tyler Durden Wed, 01/05/2022 - 19:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 5th, 2022

Ray Dalio On The Changing World Order: "Entirely Possible Neither Side Will Accept Losing The 2024 Election"

Ray Dalio On The Changing World Order: "Entirely Possible Neither Side Will Accept Losing The 2024 Election" Authored by Ray Dalio via LinkedIn.com, At the risk of boring you by repeating myself, now at this beginning of the new year and with the publication of my book Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order, I want to concisely convey the most important thoughts I have about the paradigm we are now in, which is a result of how the world order appears to be changing. To be clear, while I express concerns and risks, I believe that we collectively have the power to manage our challenges well if we are smart and considerate with each other. Also, please know that I am not sure that any expectations I have are right. I’m just passing along my thinking for you to take or leave as you like.   MY CONCLUSIONS UP-FRONT The world order is changing in important ways that have happened many times before in history, though not in our lifetimes. How the world order is changing has created the paradigm that we are in. By “paradigm,” I mean the environment that we are in. Paradigms typically last about 10 years, with occasional big corrections within them. They are driven by a persistent set of conditions that takes those conditions in a swing from one extreme to an opposite extreme. Because of this, each paradigm is more likely to be opposite than similar to the one before it. For example, the Roaring ’20s were followed by the depressionary 1930s, and the inflationary 1970s were followed by the disinflationary 1980s. The assets and liabilities that you would most like to have, and those that you would most like to avoid, change with the paradigm that exists at the time. For example, in the Roaring ’20s you’d want to own stocks and avoid bonds, while in the depressionary 1930s it would be the opposite; in the inflationary 1970s you’d want to own hard assets like gold and avoid bonds, while in the disinflationary 1980s you’d want to own financial assets and avoid hard assets. For reasons explained in this report, I believe the current paradigm is a classic one that is characterized by the leading empire (the US) 1) spending a lot more money than it is earning and printing and taxing a lot, 2) having large wealth, values, and political gaps that are leading to significant internal conflict, and 3) being in decline relative to an emerging great power (China). The last time we saw this confluence of events was in the 1930-45 period, though the 1970-80 period was also analogous financially. In this piece, I will explain my reasoning and show charts that display these things happening. (For a much more comprehensive description, read Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order.) What should one do in this new paradigm? This paradigm is leading to a big shift in wealth and power. Naturally, as a global macroeconomic investor, the economic and market behaviors in this paradigm are top of mind. I think one should consider minimizing one’s ownership of cash and bonds in dollars, euros, and yen (and/or borrow in these) and putting funds into a highly diversified portfolio of assets, including stocks and inflation-hedge assets, especially in countries with healthy finances and well-educated and civil populations that have internal order. These things are especially important in this paradigm. In brief, I think one’s assets and liabilities should be well-balanced with minimum exposures to dollar, euro, and yen currency and debt assets. During this time, I also think it will pay to be short cash (i.e., borrow cash). Of course there will be corrections during the several years in the paradigm—for example, in central bank tightenings. But I don’t see any sustained period in which the government will likely allow cash returns to be better than the returns of a well-diversified, non-cash portfolio (e.g., All Weather) geared to the level of risk you’re comfortable with because that would cause terrible problems. These circumstances also have big geopolitical implications, which I will touch on here.  Now I will show you the reasoning behind my conclusions. Please do not just believe my conclusions because I don’t want you to blindly follow me. I urge you to challenge my reasoning and see how it goes. I hope the picture comes through clearly in the charts and text that follow.  THE FOLLOWING ARE THE THREE BIGGEST ISSUES THAT I WANT TO FOCUS ON 1) Big Debt and Debt Monetizations, Particularly in the World’s Leading Reserve Currency 2) Internal Conflicts over Wealth and Values Gaps 3) External Conflicts, Most Importantly the Rise of a Great Power (China) to Challenge the Existing Great Power (the US) The confluence of these three issues is shaping the type of paradigm we are in. While I can’t cover them in depth in this brief report, I can hit the most important aspects of them, particularly of the debt/money/investment issue because that’s an area I have devoted my life to. All three issues transpire in cycles driven by cause/effect relationships that are logical and can be understood. It is important to understand how these cycles work and where we are in them. 1) BIG DEBT AND DEBT MONETIZATIONS The three major reserve currency empires—the United States, Europe, and to a lesser extent Japan—are in poor financial shape. The top chart shows for the US how debt levels (black line) are high today and were high in the 1929-33 and 2008 periods. In both cases, interest rates hit 0% (blue line), and the printing of money and buying of financial assets began in a big way (red line). More recently, the COVID-triggered downturn and the political move to the left has led to a massive increase in debt creation and debt monetization in the US (and other countries). There is no doubt that this will continue even after COVID disappears, as large deficits that have to be monetized will exist. This makes everyone financially rich (i.e., they have a lot of money) and devalues money, which takes away much of this newfound wealth. THIS PRINTING OF MONEY AND BUYING OF DEBT ASSETS HAS DRIVEN INTEREST RATES SO LOW THAT CASH AND BONDS ARE STUPID TO OWN You aren’t getting an interest rate—why would you keep your money there? You are guaranteed to get lousy rates, particularly on cash. The charts below show that you are basically going to get the worst interest rates ever in both inflation-adjusted and nominal terms. Think about the deal. The charts below show the number of years it takes for the money one invests in bonds and cash to be returned before one starts making a profit. The one on the top left is in dollars and the one on the top right is in inflation-adjusted dollars. As shown, the amounts of time are between 50 years and never. This creates more incentive to sell and borrow this debt than to buy more. At the same time, a lot more debt will be produced and will have to be sold. There won’t be enough demand to buy it, especially since global investors are already overweight in it. The way this is dealt with is that the Fed prints a lot more money and buys a lot of debt. REMEMBER THAT ONE PERSON’S DEBTS ARE ANOTHER PERSON’S ASSETS, AND IMAGINE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THE ASSET HOLDERS SOLD BECAUSE THE DEBT ASSETS WERE UNATTRACTIVE (WHICH THEY ARE) That would lead to either a big increase in interest rates or a huge increase in the printing of money to buy the debt to artificially hold interest rates down. The chart below shows the amount of debt assets relative to GDP, which means that a lot can be sold if the holders lose their taste for it.  THE AMOUNT OF FINANCIAL ASSETS RELATIVE TO REAL ASSETS IS DANGEROUSLY HIGH, WHICH COULD LEAD TO A “BANK RUN”-TYPE MOVE FROM FINANCIAL ASSETS TO REAL ASSETS I am not saying this will happen, but I am saying that there is a much higher probability of this happening than is reflected in market pricing. Think about it. There is only one purpose of investment assets, and that is to sell them to get cash to buy the real goods and services that one wants. Throughout history, whenever there were far more claims on real assets than there were real assets, a crisis eventually occurred when many holders of these financial assets went to sell them and discovered that there were far too many of them. That led to a “run on the bank”-type dynamic. Right now, there are vastly more financial assets than there are real assets, so if there was a move to convert them into real assets, that would lead to a “run on the bank”-type dynamic, which central banks would certainly respond to by printing a lot of money to allow people to get the money, but it would be of much less value. Making financial asset prices go up by creating a lot of money and debt makes people financially richer, but it doesn’t make them actually richer. It also leads to periods of bad real returns. This is shown in the following charts [3]. The top chart shows financial asset values as a percentage of all assets, the second chart shows financial net worth relative to GDP, and the third chart shows rolling returns of the 60/40 stock/bond portfolio since 1910.  PERIODS LIKE THESE PRODUCE TERRIBLE RETURNS FOR HOLDING CASH In my opinion, the four periods circled in the chart below are the analogous periods to today, each of which produced analogous paradigms to what we’re experiencing. PERIODS LIKE THESE EVENTUALLY PRODUCE BAD REAL RETURNS FOR STOCKS AND BONDS 2) INTERNAL CONFLICTS OVER WEALTH AND VALUES GAPS In the US (and a number of other countries), wealth and income gaps are the largest since the 1930s. AND THE POLITICAL GAPS ARE THE GREATEST EVER This chart shows that the US Republican Party (red lines) is more right-leaning and the US Democratic Party (blue lines) is more left-leaning than at any time since 1900, so the gap between them is enormous. There is great internal conflict going on in the United States now, which makes it a risky place. For example, it is entirely possible that neither side will accept losing the 2024 election. Such political clashes hurt productivity and create an inhospitable environment, which hurts capital flows. GOVERNMENT SPENDING WILL INCREASE A LOT. TAX RATES WILL RISE A LOT, BUT NOT ENOUGH TO COVER THE SPENDING. SO WEALTH WILL BE REDISTRIBUTED THROUGH BOTH TAXES AND DEBT MONETIZATIONS. 3) EXTERNAL CONFLICTS DUE TO THE RISES AND DECLINES OF GREAT POWERS The chart below shows indices of the strengths and weaknesses of the leading world powers since 1500. Note the Dutch, British, American, and Chinese cycles. The Dutch guilder was the world’s reserve currency when the Dutch Empire was on top, the British pound was the world’s reserve currency when the British Empire was on top, and the US dollar is the dominant reserve currency now that the US is on top. Note how things are changing. These cycles are transpiring for archetypical reasons. This chart is a simplified version of what you just saw for these four empires. The gray shaded areas are the periods of great internal and external conflicts and restructurings via depression, revolution, and war (typically lasting 10-25 years). They are followed by more extended periods of peace and prosperity in which order is brought about by the existence of a dominant power that no country wants to fight because it’s too strong, leading people to work harmoniously together. THE ARCHETYPICAL BIG CYCLE I will begin taking you through the typical cycle at the point that the new order is created. After revolutions and wars a new order—i.e., a new system run by new leaders—is created. For example, the last world order to be created came after WWII, in 1945. At that point in the cycle there is a dominant power, and nobody wants to fight the dominant power, so this part of the cycle is typically peaceful and, if managed well, prosperous. It is economically rewarding, which leads people to borrow and bet on it continuing, leading to over-indebtedness. Because economic opportunities are naturally distributed unevenly, large wealth gaps develop. Also, with time, competitors emerge and grow in power. Over-indebtedness and declining competitiveness eventually lead to financial problems at the same time as there are large wealth and political gaps. This produces more internal conflict and people demanding more money, which leads governments to create more debt and print a lot more money, which weakens the currency and raises inflation. As the dominant power weakens and other powers get strong enough to challenge it, there are greater internal and external conflicts that lead to revolutionary changes in who has what wealth and power. That ends the old order and leads to the next new order. That is now happening. As explained in my conclusions up-front, I believe that important wealth and power shifts are underway, creating a new paradigm in which 1) it is undesirable to hold dollar-, euro-, and yen-denominated credit assets, especially short-term debt assets, because they will have significantly negative real returns, and 2) it is desirable to hold a well-diversified portfolio of currencies, countries, and asset classes. What I’ve given you above is an inadequately brief overview of that which is covered comprehensively in my book Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order. If you are interested in this subject, I urge you to read it. In the coming days, I’ll be sharing another update on what I’ll be watching for in 2022. Tyler Durden Tue, 01/04/2022 - 17:25.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 4th, 2022

Meet the typical baby boomer: Worth $206,000, they"ve been blamed for ruining the economy for millennials and are in the midst of the "gray tsunami"

Baby boomers have reaped the benefits of low interest rates and housing inflation. They're wealthy, but some still don't have enough money to retire. Baby boomers have shifted demographics and the economy for the past 70 years.Javier Bragado/Getty Images Baby boomers are the post-World War II generation. The typical boomer has generated wealth for themselves thanks to a growing economy. But many say boomers didn't think about the future and left a broken economy for younger generations. Named for the wave of births that occurred from 1946 to 1964, baby boomers set the tone for a post- World War II America.They were brought up during some of America's biggest defining events in living history, from the Vietnam War and civil rights movement to Beatlemania and the moon landing. As they entered adulthood, they sought the American Dream marked by a steady career and a house, a car, and a family in the suburbs. But they developed a here-and-now mentality that disregarded the future, which many experts and media outlets have argued came at the expense of younger generations, like millennials.They reaped benefits from low interest rates and inflated housing prices, which increased the value of their assets. As such, many boomers have acquired enough wealth to partake in the greatest wealth transfer in modern history, which will go to their children and philanthropy.But not everything is bright for boomers. Many still have debt and don't have enough money saved to sustain a full retirement. And there isn't a long-term care system yet in place for all the boomers aging into their senior years. Here's what life looks like for the typical baby boomer.The post-World War II generation, boomers have been shifting the structure of the US population and economy for more than 70 years.Javier Bragado/Getty ImagesFollowing the end of World War II when the US emerged as one of the world's economic superpowers, Americans celebrated by getting busy in the bedroom. Births from 1945 to 1946 increased by 20% to 3.4 million, peaking at 4.3 million in 1957 — a number of "unprecedented" births, per the Census.It was the beginning of the baby boomer generation, whose members now turn ages 58 to 76 this year. By 2030, all boomers will be at least 65. As of 2019, per the most recent Census data available, there are around 73 million baby boomers in the US.Research from McKinsey Global Institute found the generation has "earned record levels of income, generated great wealth, and spurred economic growth." They've witnessed some of the most important cultural and political events in American history, which have defined their upbringing.In this July 1969 file photo, Astronaut Edwin Aldrin walks by the footpad of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module.NASALike all generations, boomers are shaped by key historical and cultural events. Politically, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War all affected baby boomers, reported Insider's Frank Olito. They also grew up in the Cold War and were there when President John F. Kennedy was elected — and assassinated.Culturally, they were also defined by Woodstock, Beatlemania, and the moon landing. And, while millennials and Gen Z are the generations known for their tech savviness, boomers were first to witness the advent of some of the technology we use today. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, the men behind Apple and Microsoft respectively, were part of the baby boom. Their coming of age experience taught the typical boomer that they should focus on the present.Robert Nickelsberg/Getty ImagesNeil Howe, the economist, historian, and demographer who coined the term "millennial," previously told Insider that boomers were raised by the GI generation, who cared about building strong institutions and looking into the future. Boomers took that for granted and developed a "live-for-today attitude," he said."The boomer coming of age experience taught them that we should really trust your gut and focus more on what makes us feel good today," he added.They were also raised on the idea of the postwar American Dream, which they continued to chase as they entered adulthood. Their goal-centric minds valued hard work and relationships, idealizing a stable career that promised "the good life" in the suburbs with a house and a family. While this mentality has served boomers well, many have argued that it didn't serve future generations well. It's why boomers have typically been blamed for ruining the economy for millennials.Matt Henry Gunther/Getty ImagesHowe said boomers' coming-of-age experience is why they refuse to pay for institutional upkeep, preferring to spend money on things that change people's lives now. "They're not interested in making sure that the institutional framework is sustained over time," he said.They reaped economic benefits from this mindset, a Deutsche Bank Research report found last year. Boomers, it said, saw an increased value in assets thanks to low interest rates and inflated housing prices. They didn't have to pay as much for education as millennials have, nor will they face the cost for environmental damage caused by the carbon emission-releasing companies in which they've invested. "The magnitude of the boomers' votes and financial resources have given them enormous political influence over the last 40 years," wrote investor and cofounder of Oaktree Capital Management Howard Marks in a recent note. "The result has been extensive deficit spending on things the boomers want and a failure to modify benefit programs that need fixing, all at the expense of future generations."  But the typical boomer will help out their children in the long run. They're wealthy enough to pass down an inheritance in a process known as "The Great Wealth Transfer."IRAs can be a good way to save for retirement, but there are different types to choose from, with each offering different tax benefits and rules.Marko Geber/GettyNever have older generations had so much wealth, reported The Wall Street Journal. Boomers benefited from the post-World War II economy, it stated, which saw declining tax rates on high-income households and a strong stock market. They held onto these savings in the face of low interest rates and a declining pension system.It put them in prime position to pass down money in their later years, known as the Great Wealth Transfer. The Journal cited the $70 trillion boomers and Silent Gen are expected to transfer between 2018 and 2042, according to research and consulting firm Cerulli Associates. About $61 trillion of that will go to their millennial and Gen X children, with the rest donated to philanthropy."From a big-picture viewpoint, millennials will likely receive the greatest wealth transfer in modern history — from the baby boomers," Jason Dorsey, a researcher of millennials, consultant, and president of The Center for Generational Kinetics, previously told Insider.     The typical boomer has a median net worth of $206,700.NurPhoto/Getty ImagesThat's according to a MagnifyMoney analysis of Federal Reserve data. It's slightly wealthier than their counterparts 20 years ago, who had a median net worth of $205,200 in inflation-adjusted dollars.Looking at baby boomers' average net worth presents a different picture, though. That sits at $1.2 million — nearly double the net worth than Americans had at that age two decades ago, which was $747,600 in inflation-adjusted dollars. While the average net worth is likely skewed by outliers like higher-earning households, the differences between the two over the past 20 years indicates that rich boomers got even richer.Meanwhile, millennial households saw their average net worth decline from $103,400 to $100,800 in the same time frame.Much of that wealth comes from real estate. The typical boomer owns a home and doesn't plan on selling it anytime soon.Tim Boyle/Getty ImagesThree-quarters of boomers own a home, and many plan to stay in them longer than their parents did. Older generations typically begin to sell their homes to move in with their families or into assisted-living facilities or nursing homes, leaving the next generation to take over as the biggest wealth holders in real estate.But boomers are hanging on. They've held the most real estate wealth of any generation for the past 20 years, according to Michael Kolomatsky's analysis of Federal Reserve Data for The New York Times. While this peaked in 2011 at about 49%, boomers still hold 44% of real estate wealth in 2021, compared to 31% of Gen Xers, the next richest generation. By this token, Gen Xers should have held the most real estate wealth as of 2017, but they're still far behind.It's a sign that boomers are "aging in place," Kolomatsky wrote, a growing concept that the pandemic has exacerbated. It's partly because some boomers are cautious of nursing homes in a Covid era, he added.But other boomers are taking advantage of an appreciating housing market, per a recent Zillow report, putting their houses up for sale to downsize or move to a new town. With lifetime savings and home equity, they're able to win out bidding wars.But not everything is rosy for boomers. The typical boomer household still has debt, owing $28,672.Marko Geber/Getty ImagesThat's across credit card, auto loan, and student loan debt and excludes a mortgage, according to a LendingTree analysis. It's not as high as Gen X, who carries a median of $37,524 in non-mortgage debt, but more than the median $24,929 millennials carry. Boomers are most burdened by credit card debt, which an average of 81.4% of boomer consumers are dealing with. That's more than any other generation, and they also carry the highest overall median balance of $3,958.    It indicates that many boomers are indebted as they head into their retirement years. The typical boomer over age 65 has just $58,035 saved.boonchai wedmakawand/ Getty ImagesThe actual savings balance of most retirees is lower than it should be. The median 55- to 64-year-old's 401(k) account balance is $61,738, according to Vanguard data. For those 65 and up, it's $58,035.Data from Fidelity estimates that the average 65-year-old woman retiring in 2019 will spend $150,000 on healthcare alone in retirement, and the average man will spend $135,000. That's  more than double the median balances. And a chunk of baby boomers who have no retirement savings whatsoever. According to data from the Insured Retirement Institute in 2019, about 45% of baby boomers surveyed had no savings. IRI reported that about half of the baby boomers who don't have retirement savings did have money set aside at one time, but they had to use the cash before retirement.On the other hand, more boomers retired in 2020 than any other year, bringing the total share of retired boomers to 40%. The early retirements have been contributing to the labor shortage in the US economy. As boomers enter their golden years, the US is undergoing a demographic shift the Census calls the "gray tsunami."An assumable mortgage lets you transfer the loan to another personWestersoe/Getty ImagesAccording to Census Bureau demographic statistician Stella Ogunwole, the older population is becoming more significant. "As boomers age through their 60s, 70s, 80s, and increasingly beyond, the 'big bulge' of the boomer generation will contribute to the overall aging of the US population in coming decades," she said.A higher life expectancy and declining birth rate has the Census projecting that older adults are expected to outnumber children under age 18 for the first time in US history by 2034. This means there is an increased need for caregiver and health services for people over age 65."This is an enormous issue," Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow focused on health care at the Urban Institute, told CNBC. "Advances in technology and public health have allowed people to live longer in a condition of frailty, and we haven't developed a long-term care system to keep up with that."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 2nd, 2022

Greenwald: To Deny "Lab Leak" COVID Theory, NYT & WaPo Use Dubious, Conflicted Sources

Greenwald: To Deny "Lab Leak" COVID Theory, NYT & WaPo Use Dubious, Conflicted Sources Authored by Glenn Greenwald via Substack, A bizarre and abrupt reversal by scientists regarding COVID's origins, along with clear conflicts of interest, create serious doubts about their integrity. Yet major news outlets keep relying on them... Peter Daszak, President of EcoHeath Alliance, speaking in 2017 (Wikipedia) That COVID-19 infected humanity due to a zoonotic leap from a "wet market” in Wuhan — rather than a leak from a lab in the same Chinese city — was declared unquestionable truth at the start of the pandemic. For a full year, anyone dissenting from this narrative was deemed so irresponsible that they were banned from large social media platforms, accused of spreading "disinformation.” No debate about COVID's origins was permitted. It had been settled by The Science™. Every rational person who believed in science, by definition, immediately accepted at the start of the pandemic that COVID made a natural leap from bats or pangolins; that it may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan which just so happens to gather, study and manipulate novel coronaviruses in bats was officially declared a deranged conspiracy theory. The reason this consensus was so quickly consecrated was that a group of more than two dozen scientists published a letter in the prestigious science journal Lancet in February, 2020 — while very little was known about SARS-CoV-2 — didactically declaring “that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.” The possibility that COVID leaked from the Wuhan lab was dismissed as a "conspiracy theory,” the by-product of “rumours and misinformation” which, they strongly implied, was an unfair and possibly racist attack on “the science and health professionals of China.” For months, that letter shaped the permissible range of debate regarding the origins of COVID. Or, more accurately, it ensured that there was no debate permitted. The Science™ concluded that COVID was a zoonotic virus that naturally leaped from non-human animal to human, and any questioning of this decree was deemed an attack on The Science™. That Lancet letter has fallen into disrepute due to the key role in its publication played by one of its signatories, Peter Daszak of the EcoHealth Alliance. To say that Daszak had a gigantic but undisclosed conflict of interest in disseminating this narrative about the natural origins of COVID is to understate the case. Daszak had received millions of dollars in grants from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to conduct research into coronaviruses in bats, and EcoHealth awarded part of that grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the lab which would be the leading suspect, by far, for any COVID lab leak. Daszak's enormous self-interest in leading the world to believe that a lab leak was impossible is obvious. It would be a likely career-ending blow to his reputation if the Wuhan laboratory to which EcoHealth had provided funding for coronavirus bat research was responsible for the escape of a virus that has killed millions of people around the world and caused enduring suffering among countless others due to lockdowns and economic shutdowns. In July of this year, The Lancet published a new letter from the same group which signed that seminal letter in February of last year. The July 2021 letter included two fundamentally new additions. First, the language about COVID's origins was radically softened from the smug certainty of the February letter that closed debate to humble uncertainty given the lack of proof. While continuing to affirm a belief that COVID was naturally occurring (“our working view” is “that SARS-CoV-2 most likely originated in nature and not in a laboratory"), they moved far away from the definitive posture of that original letter, acknowledging that “opinions are neither data nor conclusions” and urging further investigation on what they called “the critical question we must address now": namely, “how did SARS-CoV-2 reach the human population?” In other words, after telling the world in February that any questioning of the zoonotic origin was a malicious "conspiracy theory,” they now acknowledge it is “the critical question we must now address.” The other major change was that this July Lancet letter included what the February letter shamefully omitted: namely, the key fact that Daszak's “remuneration is paid solely in the form of a salary from EcoHealth Alliance,” and that EcoHealth had received funding from NIH to study coronaviruses in bats, and used some of that funding to support research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. This disclosed conflict of interest about Daszak was included in the new July, 2021 letter as well as a separate “addendum” called “competing interests and the origins of SARS-CoV-2.” No explanation was provided about why these "competing interests” on the part of Daszak were not disclosed in that crucial, debate-closing February letter in the The Lancet. The U.S. Government began aggressively distancing itself from EcoHealth this year. In an October 20, 2021 letter to Congress, the NIH argued that while the coronavirus strains studied by the Wuhan lab through EcoHealth's grant “are not and could not have become SARS-CoV-2,” it argued that EcoHealth violated the terms of the grant by failing to notify NIH of “unusual results" from its research that could make the viruses it was studying more dangerous. They also accused EcoHealth of failing to promptly report the ongoing results of their experiments. All of this led to an unraveling of the Official Consensus. In May of this year — fifteen months after The Lancet pronounced the debate closed — Facebook reversed its policy of banning anyone who suggested that the virus may have come from the Wuhan lab. The reversal came, said the Silicon Valley giant, “in light of ongoing investigations into the origin”. This about-face came after The Wall Street Journal reported days earlier that U.S. intelligence sources claim that “three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care.” Weeks later, President Biden “ordered intelligence officials to 'redouble' efforts to investigate the origins of Covid-19, including the theory that it came from a laboratory in China.” The president's statement noted that “the US intelligence community was split on whether it came from a lab accident or emerged from human contact with an infected animal.” Suddenly, mainstream outlets such as The New York Times began publishing claims that, just months earlier, were officially declared "disinformation” and resulted in removal from social media platforms: “some scientists have argued that it’s possible SARS-CoV-2 was the result of genetic engineering experiments or simply escaped from a lab in an accident,” said the Paper of Record in October. The Official Consensus had undergone a 180-degree turn in the course of just over a year. "Lab leak” went from insane conspiracy theory that must be censored to serious possibility that must be investigated. As a result of all this, Daszak's reputation and credibility are crippled, and rightfully so. The once-revered scientist was profiled two weeks ago in Science under the headline “PROPHET IN PURGATORY.” It noted that while his “journey from oracle to pariah has appalled many colleagues,” many scientists — often loath to openly attack each other's ethics — insist that his wounds are both justified and self-inflicted. Even those who believe the vilification of Daszak has been excessive nonetheless acknowledge that EcoHealth was far from honest about questions central to understanding this worldwide pandemic: But some scientists, even those dismayed by the attacks, say Daszak is in part a victim of his own making. They argue he failed to reveal important information that later surfaced through embarrassing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and leaks, and some accuse him of making false statements. “Daszak has been far from forthcoming about EcoHealth’s research, much of which is highly relevant to the pandemic origin discussion,” says Filippa Lentzos, a social scientist at King’s College London who specializes in biosecurity. “It is the pattern of continuing obfuscation and deceit that I find alarming.” Edward Holmes, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sydney who’s solidly in the natural origins camp—he calls the debate a “tempest in an espresso cup”—says Daszak has been “unfairly vilified.” But EcoHealth “is guilty of shockingly poor communication and a naïvete that it would not come under scrutiny,” Holmes says. That Science profile, similar to the one from The New York Times acknowledging that the "lab leak” is a real possibility, noted that documents unearthed by FOIA litigation from The Intercept call into serious doubt the months of denials by Daszak and EcoHealth, as well as from Dr. Fauci, that funding provided by NIH to the Wuhan lab through EcoHealth was used for "gain of function” research — meaning research designed to manipulate pathogens to make them more contagious and/or dangerous to humans: In September, a FOIA request to NIH from The Intercept—which required a lawsuit to obtain documents—also yielded details about controversial experiments done at WIV by [WIV virologist Shi Zhengli] during her collaboration with EcoHealth. Her lab has more than 2000 samples of bodily fluids from bats that have tested positive for coronaviruses. To assess the risk of those viruses to humans, Shi’s team took sequences coding for their viral surface protein and stitched them into a bat coronavirus called WIV1, one of only three she has succeeded in growing in lab cultures. Daszak and Shi described these chimeric viruses in a 2017 paper. None of them has a close relationship to SARS-CoV-2. But some lab-leak proponents believe Shi, possibly with Daszak’s knowledge, hid other chimeric virus experiments that led to SARS-CoV-2. The same batch of documents also showed that in “humanized” mice, some of the chimeric viruses grew better and were more lethal than WIV1. An NIH official, in response to an inquiry from a member of Congress, claimed EcoHealth had “failed to report” the worrisome results immediately, as the grant required. Daszak sent NIH a detailed letter strongly rebutting that accusation. The documents also included a grant report that described an additional experiment, in which Shi added bat coronavirus surface proteins to the coronavirus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), a highly lethal human pathogen. Ferocious debates erupted about whether this work and the WIV1 studies constituted gain of function (GOF), the type of experiment that can make disease agents more transmissible or pathogenic and that requires extra layers of review. Richard Ebright, a biochemist at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, who has long lobbied against GOF research, tweeted that both “unequivocally” met the definition of [gain-of-function]. Despite the collapse of Daszak's reputation and credibility — due both to his undisclosed conflicts of interest and repeated deceit and even lying — The New York Times continues to cite him as one of its primary sources on the question of COVID's origins... ... To read the rest, click here and subscribe...   Tyler Durden Sun, 12/05/2021 - 16:30.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytDec 5th, 2021

I"m going to opine about the stock-market and crypto bubbles, so here are some things you might want to know about me...

I was a top-ranked analyst on Wall Street during the dot-com bubble. Here's some background on me that helps inform my current market views. BI I have a great deal of experience analyzing bubbles, having been the top-ranked internet analyst on Wall Street during the dot-com era. But before I opine on the current bubble, there are a few things you should know about me. Want to cut to the chase? Jump straight to my full breakdown of lessons learned during prior bubbles. Hello!I agree with the many market observers who think we're approaching the peak of one of the biggest speculative financial bubbles in history.So I'm going to write about that.But before I do, I'm going to remind you about some things you might want to know about me.First, I have some experience with bubbles — as a participant, observer, and student of history. Second, my bubble experience includes an event that, even now, a couple of decades later, makes me ashamed when I think about it. In 2003, in the aftermath of the late-1990s dot-com bubble, regulators investigated the way research analysts and investment bankers had worked together on IPOs and other financings during the boom. A dozen brokerage firms and stock analysts (and I) got charged with civil securities fraud. I had to pay a huge fine and got kicked out of the securities industry. Along with my work as an analyst, these events were widely publicized at the time, and I've written about them and my other bubble experiences extensively. But here's a summary.From 1994 to 2001, I was an investment banker and internet-stock analyst at Prudential, Oppenheimer, and Merrill Lynch. In 2000, I was ranked the number-one internet analyst by Institutional Investor, the Wall Street Journal, and others. I covered Amazon, Yahoo, AOL, and other high-fliers of the day. Like many others, I was, in hindsight, too optimistic about the long-term prospects of many of these early internet companies — and I have felt like an idiot about that ever since. But my views were more nuanced than they were later made out to be. In the hope that my thinking will help provide context for those navigating the current bubble, I'll share some of it here.AmazonIn a marvelous treatise called "A Short History of Financial Euphoria," the historian John Kenneth Galbraith observes that speculators in bubbles usually fall into one of two camps. The first camp believes that the wild price appreciation is not a temporary "bubble" but a permanent change in the way certain assets are valued (e.g. "It's different this time."). The second camp believes that it is a bubble, but that he/she/they will be able to cash out before the crash.In the late 1990s, I was between these two camps. I believed the internet was a profound new technology that would cause great upheaval in the economy and create lots of amazing investment opportunities. I also believed — and warned repeatedly — that "what looks like a bubble probably is" and that many then-soaring dot-coms would fail and disappear. Given these risks, I recommended that even aggressive investors only invest a small percentage of their portfolios in internet stocks and hold them for the long haul. I rated almost every stock I covered "High Risk." And I put my money where my mouth was: I bought and held Amazon, AOL, Yahoo, and other tech stocks. So when the bubble burst, I, too, got obliterated. From 2000 to 2002, the tech portion of my portfolio dropped about 90%. Many of my holdings never recovered. Thankfully, one of my stocks, Amazon, did recover — and then some. As Jeff Bezos has noted, when you get the big picture right, you can be wrong a lot and still be OK. In his book, Galbraith observes that all bubbles end the same way — with the public evisceration of those "previously most admired for their financial imagination and acuity" (e.g., me.) I didn't read Galbraith's book until after the crash. But it gave me a sense of what might be coming.Sure enough, in 2002, the then-Attorney General of New York, Eliot Spitzer, alleged that the relationship between the research and banking divisions at brokerage firms created a conflict of interest that made our research too optimistic. I had no issue with Spitzer's desire to improve the industry. But I did believe it was possible for analysts to do their jobs with integrity. I testified that I had never written a word in a research report that I didn't believe. Alas, Spitzer and the SEC went ahead and filed complaints about a dozen firms and analysts (and me) and restructured the industry.When those charges hit, I became an international disgrace. I worried I might never work again. Thankfully, while trying to figure out what to do next, I found that a lot of people still believed in me. I will forever be grateful for that.One gratifying footnote to my regulatory experience came in 2009. (And, no, I'm not referring to the prostitution scandal that forced Spitzer to resign as the Governor of New York.) The roughly $450 million in fines that I and the other firms and analysts paid went to create a fund to compensate those who believed they had been misled by our research. There were so few claims about my research that my portion of the fund mostly sat there earning interest. Eventually, the fund administrators just sent it to the Treasury.So that's some of my history with financial bubbles. And now on to some things I learned! ...Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 22nd, 2021

A Top CEO Was Ousted After Making His Company More Environmentally Conscious. Now He’s Speaking Out

(To receive weekly emails of conversations with the world’s top CEOs and business decisionmakers, click here.) The battle within Danone—producer of Activia and Oikos yogurts, Silk soy milk, and Evian water, among others—might have been dubbed a “food fight,” had it not erupted in such serious times. But it was no laughing matter. Months of… (To receive weekly emails of conversations with the world’s top CEOs and business decisionmakers, click here.) The battle within Danone—producer of Activia and Oikos yogurts, Silk soy milk, and Evian water, among others—might have been dubbed a “food fight,” had it not erupted in such serious times. But it was no laughing matter. Months of tension within the executive board of the $36-billion global food giant exploded in March 2021, just as the world began easing its lockdowns and launching mass vaccination campaigns. In a gloves-off power struggle, two small stakeholders maneuvered a coup, ousting the company’s CEO and chairman Emmanuel Faber, whose four-year leadership had made him a star among environmentalists and climate activists. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Faber had turned Danone into an “enterprise à mission,” France’s new category similar to an American B-Corp, whose purpose was far broader than profits and growth. He named his strategy “One Planet, One Health,” and created a carbon adjusted earnings per share indicator, pegging Danone’s success directly to its environmental performance. While that brought applause from climate activists, the company’s shares lagged behind peers like Nestlé and Unilever during the pandemic, as sales of some key Danone products like Evian water plummeted. Amid the shock of Faber’s ouster, there were roiling questions over what it all meant. Do CEOs now face an impossible dilemma: Either to please their shareholders, or to join the fight for climate justice and social equity? Faber had placed those issues at the core of the company. And outside it, he threw himself into activist CEO coalitions like the B Team and Business for Inclusive Growth, or B4IG. Little wonder, then, that his firing left palpable distress in some circles, from Paris to the U.N. “Are these two objectives, environmental and economic, irreconcilable?” asked France’s liberal Le Monde of Faber’s ouster. “It plunges us into a confusion of emotions over the ethics of capitalism,” the paper said. Faber, for his part, was more sanguine. At 57, he escaped to his beloved Alps, where he was born and raised, and climbed the peaks, reflecting on what to do, after a 24-year career at Danone. In October, he took a partnership at agritech impact fund Astanor Ventures. Far from irreconcilable, environment and economic objectives are, he believes, becoming inexorably aligned. Over green tea and Perrier in Paris on Nov. 16, Faber spoke with TIME about the role business leaders must play in solving the world’s urgent crises. Fresh off the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, he believes companies will be key—perhaps the key—to fighting climate change and inequity. (This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.) It’s been a very strange year for you. Did you feel sideswiped by what happened at Danone? Danone had grown to become my family, so it’s like leaving your family. I didn’t choose that. But I suddenly discovered that I was totally free to reinvent myself, in terms of where I do want to spend time and with whom and how. Which is a privilege, really. What happened was a few people that saw a window of opportunity and for personal reasons pursued that opportunity at the moment where it was easy to destabilize the governance of the company. The outside world believed you wanted to create a climate-driven company, and were punished for it. You know, they had voted the equivalent of public Benefit Corporation [B-Corp] status, 99%, not even a year before, they had agreed with the €3 billion climate and digital acceleration plan that we had announced a year before. … None of them were opposed to what we were doing. You need to read the end of the story, which is unfortunately on the 29th of July. The whole board had to resign. They said they would not seek any reappointment, and all of them would step down with one year in advance. The board had lost total credibility to shareholders. How should corporate boards be changed? What needs to happen in this new generation of corporate leaders? Climate change is there. I don’t think you would find one CEO in the business ecosystem that would say it is not there. That is behind us, different from five years ago… Five years ago, that recently? Oh yeah. I think the pandemic has also taught us lessons, about the fact that there were elements in our supposedly well-controlled and old system that we did just not control. This virus is only half a living organism, and yet it played havoc with the health system. Suddenly we discovered that our food systems were entangled in such a complex web that food sovereignty became huge in the agenda. We suddenly learned that what we felt was a predictable model and a safe model wasn’t, that we hadn’t been super good at being efficient, but we were tested in our resilience in the system. The other thing is, I think last summer’s extreme weather events, fires all over the place, floods all over the place, brought to the public attention that climate change was not in five or 10 years, it was not for remote countries. It is here now. Agriculture is the first victim of climate change warming. The yields are declining, water stress all over the place, soils are eroded. We see a number of situations where civil society and citizens are going after governments for action or inaction against climate change. Governments will have no other way than turning to companies and corporations to do the job, because governments are not doing the job themselves. The private sector will be front and center of the climate transition. So that’s one. Employees collectives are asking questions about ESG [Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance], big time. More and more, the war for talent is there for the larger companies. So many of the highly educated talents don’t want to work for these large companies. More and more employers are asking the new generation what they want: Meaning, they want impact. And then you have the shareholders. Already now it’s harder for the most carbon-emitting companies to find the right appeal from shareholders. I’ll just give you one example. Anglo American [Corporation] wanted to spin off their coal-mining operations, Thungela. Typically, the market would be ready to pay you 20 years of your current earnings because they believe these earnings have great potential to grow in the future. In the case of Thungela, when they spun it off, they got four months of EBITDA [Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization] multiple. They couldn’t find enough investors that would be willing to pay the cost on their reputation to consciously, in 2021, choose to invest in the business which is purely coal mining. So how do you even keep a business like that going? Well, that’s exactly my point. The global financial markets are increasingly reluctant to finance these assets. So far, ESG has been sort of an easy path for CEOs and boards that wanted to look good, but weren’t ready to really walk the talk. That’s the whole question of greenwashing. I think there will always be greenwashing. All this greenwashing noise is paralyzing everybody. It’s penalizing the people that are doing the real stuff, because they can’t prove that, and it’s favoring the people that are not doing the real stuff, because they can claim without being challenged on the reality of this stuff, because there are no metrics. The big announcement at COP26 for me was when the IFRS [International Financial Reporting Standards, which sets rules for public companies] said that they have prepared a prototype for a climate standard that is going to be transparent, comparable, and reliable and audited. It’s huge news. What they are essentially saying is by 2023, all companies will be able to—and in some cases compelled to—report under these new standards. Essentially, 140 countries already agreed to be part of the IFRS metrics in the past, so they would take the additional metric on climate, and adopt it as part of their IFRS. Each company will have to report on its targets on CO2 emissions and its pathway to reduce that. If a company is ahead of its plan, the market will look at this positively. If you’re late, it means that there are some capital expenditures that you need to do in the future. That will mean additional debt. So immediately, the valuation of companies in the stock market will be impacted. Which means as for profits, when you are ahead of your forecast, you get a bump on your share price, and a bump down if you’re super late on your emissions trajectory. Suddenly you can be compared, within peers, within an industry. And you start having a situation where the capital allocation can be based not only on profit but also on carbon. So it’s a huge change. How many companies followed your model of using a carbon-adjusted earnings per share metric, to show the financial cost of the company’s carbon emissions? Zero. Because it takes time. There was a whole journey for those shareholders to understand where I was coming from. We took them into the fields. We had food scientists coming to speak to them. We had been constantly and consistently over years speaking about this to our shareholders. When we decided to become a B-Corp, we were puzzled about how to explain that to our shareholders. I received a short note from my friend Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, and he said, “Emmanuel, that’s so great.” So I call him and say, “Would you shoot a short video saying why you think it’s great? You’re my biggest customer.” So he he did that. It was 2017. The Investor Day started with a video of my biggest customer, saying why it was great. It cut 80% of the questions. So when like two years later, we come up with this CO2 adjusted metric, they knew that this carbon charge was not just here to save the planet, it was to save the business, because we needed that carbon in the soil, not in the air. Beyond the food and agriculture system, you don’t have the same magic of telling a story that it’s actually good for the business to put carbon back into the soil. The absence of metrics on carbon made it very difficult to do this. I think the day you have those climate metrics it will become obvious. Maybe we were just ahead by a few years. … The metrics may not be the ones that we had, but there will be one, which will make it a market conversation instead of just one company that had this crazy idea. What got a lot of people’s attention from COP26 in Glasgow was Greta Thunberg’s protests. I think maybe most people will remember her saying, “It’s all blah, blah, blah.” Is that just cynical? And what’s the impact of that on the real work being done? Is it just a sideshow? Unfortunately, it’s a combination of all of that. I don’t think this is only cynicism. I think there has been blah blah. I have myself said that we had not moved either fast or far enough. But I can see many things moving fast. We’re still behind the curve, but we have never been as close as coming to a tipping point. CEOs are held back in talking, by their legal teams, by their comms teams, by their PR teams. They have this polished, you know, sometimes bullshit kind of communication. Shareholders were not so interested in all these discussions three years ago, but now they got very interested, and so everyone is super nervous. But in themselves, [CEOs] know that there is a problem, and they know that there is an opportunity. The food industry, your industry, is a big carbon business. We started the journey on carbon emissions in 2008. By 2009, all the team managers at Danone had a significant incentive [to reduce our] carbon footprint. An incentive bonus. A third [of the bonus] was on social and environmental issues, among which was carbon. The EBITDA level of the company and the carbon footprint had an equal weight in my bonus. So that’s how far we and I went into walking the talk and putting our money where our mouth was. Were you losing some money because that was part of the equation? No, I was making money. We established in 2009 a trajectory that said our peak carbon emissions would be in 2025. And the result of the hard work of 15,000 team leaders, incentivized in their bonuses, led us to reach peak carbon six years in advance, in 2019. So we have constantly been ahead of our plan and the reduction of the intensity of carbon. When you speak about agriculture, carbon is 60% of the organic matter of the soils. And the intensive agriculture, the monoculture kind of agriculture that is the dominant food system, is actually extracting carbon from the soil. Danone was the first—Patagonia and ourselves—to start a regenerative organic certification in the U.S. in 2015. When we started, no one understood what that was. It started by saying we need to regenerate the soil health by going from intensive agricultural practices to practices that actually put carbon back into the soil. We know how to do that. How big has the idea of putting carbon back in the soil become? In 2019, I gathered 30 of the largest companies in the world that that are using resources from the soil: Textile companies, fashion companies, cosmetics, food retailers, some data companies, Microsoft, Google, joined…. So we are now two years after, we have a set of indicators, a framework for what regenerative agriculture stands for. And you find these huge companies. After Danone, you have Nestlé, that this year said by 2030, we will supply from regenerative agriculture. These people needed a safe place where they could incubate and think and work and get their teams to meet together and discuss as an ecosystem. You talk about monoculture agriculture—growing only one type of crop at a time, as is popular at large American farms—ruining soils and the need to put carbon back into the soil, so they’re actually seeing the effects in terms of the quality of their crops? The International Union for Nature Conservation, which is a UN agency on biodiversity, ran a big study. They looked at the wild relatives of the varieties that are being used in the fields. Wild vanilla. Wild coffee, etc. They found out that a third of all the wild relatives in beans are under threat of extinction. They found out that 100% of the sample they used on vanilla’s wild relatives are under the threat of extinction. The seeds of those wild varieties, they constantly adapt to the climate conditions, to the water availability, to the shades or no shades, to the temperature, to the sun, to everything. They mutate naturally. So with climate change, these wild varietals are going to be just way more able to deal with things, and it is so important that we bring them on board. If you are a Cargill or others, or the big coffee companies or the big cocoa companies, that are directly dealing with this reality, with the farmers who see their yields declining and the water scarcity more and more, they have either the choice of going up in altitudes—meaning lower lands at lower volumes, more expensive to adapt—or to find alternatives. This is one of these topics on which I see CEOs’ minds just opening when they realize that there is this opportunity. Because climate change is knocking on the door saying, “Here is the huge problem we have.” But also nature is saying, “Here are the huge abilities that I have to solve your problems.” In your new role in Astanor Ventures, are you going to be putting investments in the future of agriculture? I think at the juncture of technology and nature-based solutions. I’ll say something which is terribly unpopular, but which I’ve been saying for 10 years: We are not paying the true cost of food. We are just not. Do you think that should be reflected when we go to the supermarket? Yes, it should be more expensive. Because it’s not sustainable in terms of farmer income, in terms of animal welfare, in terms of your health sometimes. When we walk into a supermarket in 10 years’ time, is it going to look different? Will there be different products on the shelves? What do you think, and what would you like to see? I hope it is going to be different. There is one aspect that I think I am absolutely convinced about: The food system will relocalize. The second biggest topic for governments through the pandemic has been to make sure that there would be enough food. And they suddenly realized that with the complexity of the food system, there were these bottlenecks. The reduction of the food system carbon emissions will also come from the fact that the ingredients will travel less. In 20 years from now, you will have much more local food. I would like to see more diverse local food, and more expensive than you have today. Some subsidies should be redirected in order to make sure that the people that cannot afford to pay are being given the possibility to do that. At the end of the day, we know where the food systems have led us: About two billion people that are overweight in the world, about 700 million people that have diabetes. Instead of dealing with these obesity and diabetes issues, by providing better food aid and supporting people that need to be supported, you’d actually save money for the future. This is the whole theory of where I think we can gradually move. And climate change will force us to move there. I want to get back to the original thing we were talking about: What we call “conscious capitalism.” You sound almost kind of optimistic, that there are really big changes to come out of this pandemic. And yet inequality is worse, and the profit motivation seems as strong as ever. What makes you so hopeful that people are going to act in the common good rather than in their own self interest? I’m not sure they will. I’ve seen the worst and the best in this pandemic. We see all over the place that growing inequalities are a danger for democracies. So I’m not optimistic. But we’ve seen solidarity, social bonding, people changing their behaviors in many ways, again for the worse and for the best. I see climate change as such a huge frontier for us as a species, that I’m sure it will bring the worst. And I see signs that it can also bring the best. It would be illogical to blame capitalism and the global financial markets for ruining the resilience of our species. I’ve defined myself as a business activist. I’m an activist of business being part of the solution, being the fundamental solution, the solution. I saw you said that when you were 33, you thought of leaving business. Now you think it is the place to be. Yes, I really think so. Do you think the next generation of CEOs is going to be quite different? The next, I don’t know. But the next-next? I think yes. Maybe they will not join the companies. That’s the point. And this is why CEOs are paying a lot of attention to these collectives of employees that have started all around the world. They are highly educated, talented managers. And they will be candidates for CEOs. They are part of a generation that was born with these questions already. So it’s not a cultural shift [for them]. We were talking about this climate skilling and upskilling. How to make people aware of [climate change]. This is not a problem for that generation. They’re entirely into it already, sometimes too much, with climate anxiety and everything. So they will leave these large companies, in which case I think these large companies will simply not survive, because they will not have the skills. Put it this way, if you’re not able to lead climate strategy 10 years from now, you should not be a CEO. It’s as simple as that. Your company will not find capital. I’m pretty clear on that......»»

Category: topSource: timeNov 21st, 2021

3 ways to cut $1 trillion in defense spending over the next decade

The CBO came up with three approaches to cutting about $1 trillion from the Pentagon budget over the next decade — a decrease of just 14%. An F-35A Combat Power Exercise at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, January 6, 2020.US Air Force/R. Nial Bradshaw Congress is moving to increase the Pentagon budget above the already astronomical level proposed by the Biden administration. But a new Congressional Budget Office report shows three ways to cut $1 trillion in defense spending over the next decade. Whether US leaders meet the challenges of today or continue to succumb to the power of the arms lobby is an open question. Even as Congress moves to increase the Pentagon budget well beyond the astronomical levels proposed by the Biden administration, a new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has outlined three different ways to cut $1 trillion in Department of Defense spending over the next decade.A rational defense policy could yield far more in the way of reductions, but resistance from the Pentagon, weapons contractors, and their many allies in Congress would be fierce.After all, in its consideration of the bill that authorizes such budget levels for next year, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives recently voted to add $25 billion to the already staggering $750 billion the Biden administration requested for the Pentagon and related work on nuclear weapons at the Department of Energy.By any measure, that's an astonishing figure, given that the request itself was already far higher than spending at the peaks of the Korean and Vietnam wars or President Ronald Reagan's military buildup of the 1980s.In any reasonable world, such a military budget should be considered both unaffordable and deeply unsuitable when it comes to addressing the true threats to this country's "defense," including cyberattacks, pandemics, and the devastation already being wrought by climate change.Worst of all, providing a blank check to the military-industrial-congressional complex ensures the continued production of troubled weapon systems like Lockheed Martin's exorbitantly expensive F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is typically behind schedule, far above projected costs, and still not considered effective in combat.Changing course would mean real reform and genuine accountability, starting with serious cuts to a budget for which "bloated" is far too kind an adjective.Three options for reductionsUS Navy aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan, USS Theodore Roosevelt, and USS Nimitz in the western Pacific, November 12, 2017.ReutersAt the request of Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the CBO devised three different approaches to cutting approximately $1 trillion (a decrease of a mere 14%) from the Pentagon budget over the next decade.Historically, it could hardly be a more modest proposal. After all, without any such plan, the Pentagon budget actually did decrease by 30% between 1988 and 1997.Such a CBO-style reduction would still leave the department with about $6.3 trillion to spend over that 10-year period, 80% more than the cost of President Joe Biden's original $3.5 trillion Build Back Better proposal for domestic investments.Of course, that figure, unlike the Pentagon budget, has already been dramatically whittled down to half its original size, thanks to laughable claims by "moderate" Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) that it would break the bank in Washington. Yet such critics of expanded social and economic programs rarely offer similar thoughts when it comes to the Pentagon's far larger bite of the budgetary pie.The options in the budget watchdog's new report are anything but radical:Option one would preserve the "current post-Cold War strategy of deterring aggression through [the] threat of immediate U.S. military response with the objectives of denying an adversary's gains and recapturing lost territory." The proposed cuts would hit each military service equally, with some new weapons programs slowed down and a few, as in the case of the B-21 bomber, cancelled.Option two "adopts a Cold War-like strategy for large nuclear powers of making aggression very costly and recognizing that the size of conventional conflict would be limited by the threat of a nuclear response." That leaves nearly $2 trillion for the Pentagon's planned "modernization" of the US nuclear arsenal untouched, while relying more heavily on working with allies in conventional war situations than current strategy allows for. It would mean that the military might take longer to deploy in large numbers to a conflict.Option three "de-emphasizes use of U.S. military force in regional conflicts in favor of preserving U.S. control of the global commons (sea, air, space, and the Arctic), ensuring open access to the commons for allies and unimpeded global commerce." In other words, Afghan- or Iraq-style boots-on-the-ground US interventions would largely be avoided in favor of the use of long-range and "over-the-horizon" weapons like drones, naval blockades, the enforcement of no-fly zones, and the further arming and training of allies.But looking more broadly at the question of what will make the world a safer place in an era of pandemics, climate change, racial injustice, and economic inequality, reductions well beyond the $1 trillion figure embedded in the CBO's recommendations would be both necessary and possible in a more reasonable American world.The CBO's scenarios remain focused on military methods for solving security problems, assuring an all-too-narrow view of what might be saved by a new approach to security.Nuclear excessFour B-61 nuclear gravity bombs at Barksdale Air Force Base.United States Department of Defense SSGT Phil SchmittenThe CBO, for instance, chose not to look at possible savings from simply scaling back (not even ending) the Pentagon's $2-trillion, three-decades-long plan to build a new generation of nuclear-armed missiles, bombers, and submarines, complete with accompanying new warheads.Scaling back such a buildup, which will only further imperil this planet, could easily save in excess of $100 billion over the next decade.One significant step toward nuclear sanity would be to adopt the alternative nuclear posture proposed by the organization Global Zero. That would involve the elimination of all land-based nuclear missiles and rely instead on a smaller force of ballistic missile submarines and bombers as part of a "deterrence-only" strategy.Land-based, intercontinental ballistic missiles were accurately described by former Secretary of Defense William Perry as "some of the most dangerous weapons in the world."The reason: a president would have only a matter of minutes to decide whether to launch them upon being warned of an oncoming nuclear attack by an enemy power. That would, of course, greatly increase the risk of an accidental nuclear war and the potential destruction of the planet prompted by a false alarm (of which there have been several in the past).Eliminating such missiles would make the world a far safer place, while saving tens of billions of dollars in the process.Capping contractorsIsaac Brekken/Getty ImagesWhile most people think about the Pentagon budget in terms of what it spends on new guns, ships, planes, and missiles, services are about half of what it buys every year.These are the contracts that go to various corporate "Beltway bandits" to consult with the military or perform jobs that could often be done more cheaply by federal employees. Both the Defense Business Board and the Pentagon's own cost estimating office have identified service contracting as an area where there are significant opportunities for large-scale savings.Last year, the Pentagon spent nearly $204 billion on various service contracts. That's more than the budgets for the Departments of Health and Human Services, State, or Homeland Security. Reducing spending on contractors by even 15% would instantly save tens of billions of dollars annually.In the past, Congress and the Pentagon have shown that just such savings could easily be realized. For example, a provision in a 2011 defense law simply capped such spending at 2010 levels. Government spending data shows that, in the end, it was reduced by $42 billion over four years.Closing unneeded basesAn aircraft hangar damaged by Hurricane Michael at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, October 11, 2018.ReutersWhile the Biden administration seeks to expand domestic infrastructure spending, the Pentagon has been desperate to shed costly and unnecessary military facilities.Both the Obama and Trump administrations asked Congress to authorize another round of what's called base realignment and closure to help the Defense Department get rid of its excess capacity. The Pentagon estimates that it could save $2 billion annually that way.The CBO report cited above explicitly excludes any consideration of such cost savings as politically unfeasible, given the present Congress. But considering the ways in which climate change is going to threaten current military basing arrangements domestically and globally, that would be an obvious way to go.Another CBO report warns that the future effects of climate change — from rising sea levels (and flooding coastlines) to ever more powerful storms — will both reduce the government's revenue and increase its mandatory spending, if its base situation remains as it is now.After all, ever fiercer tropical storms and hurricanes, as well as rising levels of flooding, are already resulting in billions of dollars in damage to military bases. Meanwhile, it's estimated that, in the decades to come, more than 1,700 US military installations worldwide may be impacted by sea-level rise.Future rounds of base closings, both domestic and global, should be planned now with the impact of climate change in mind.Turning around Congress, fighting off lobbyistsThe House Armed Services Committee at the start of a hearing on the National Defense Authorization Act, September 1, 2021.Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesSo far, boosting Pentagon spending has been one of the only things a bipartisan majority of this Congress can agree on, as indicated by that House decision to add $25 billion to the Pentagon budget request for Fiscal Year 2022. A similar measure is included in the Senate version, which it will debate soon.There are, however, glimmers of hope on the horizon as the number of members of Congress willing to oppose the longstanding practice of shoveling ever more funds at the Pentagon, no questions asked, is indeed growing.For example, a majority of Democrats and members of the leadership in the House of Representatives supported an ultimately unsuccessful provision to strip some excess funds from the Pentagon this year. A smaller group voted to cut the department's budget across the board by 10%. Still, it was a number that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.That core group is only likely to grow in the years to come as the costs of non-military challenges like pandemics, climate change, and the financial impact of racial and economic injustice supplant traditional military risks as the most urgent threats to American lives and livelihoods.Opposition to increased Pentagon spending is growing outside of Washington as well. An ever wider range of not just progressive but conservative organizations now support substantial reductions in the Pentagon budget.President Donald Trump at the signing of the 2019 NDAA, authorizing $716 billion in defense spending.Carolyn Kaster/APThe challenge, however, is to translate such sentiments into a concerted, multifaceted campaign of public pressure that will move a majority of the members of Congress to stop giving the Pentagon a yearly blank check. A new poll from the Eurasia Group Foundation found that twice as many Americans now support cutting the Pentagon budget as support increasing it.Any attempt to curb Pentagon spending will run up against a strikingly powerful arms industry that deploys campaign contributions, lobbyists, and promises of defense-related employment to keep budgets high. In this century alone, the Pentagon has spent more than $14 trillion, up to one half of which has gone to contractors.During those same years, the arms industry has spent $285 million on campaign contributions and $2.5 billion on lobbying, most of it focused on members of the armed services and defense appropriations committees that take the lead in deciding how much the country spends for military purposes.The arms industry's lobbying efforts are especially insidious. In an average year, it employs around 700 lobbyists, more than one for every member of Congress. The top five corporate weapons makers got a return of $1,909 in taxpayer funds for every dollar they spent on lobbying. Most of their lobbyists once worked in the Pentagon or Congress and arrived in the world of arms contractors via the infamous "revolving door."Of course, they then used their relationships with their former colleagues in government to curry favor for their corporate employers. A 2018 investigation by the Project On Government Oversight found that, in the prior decade, 380 high-ranking Pentagon officials and military officers had become lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for weapons contractors within two years of leaving their government jobs.Lloyd Austin at a ceremonial swearing-in at the White House, January 25, 2021. Austin joined the board of Raytheon after retiring from the military.Doug Mills-Pool/Getty ImagesA September 2021 study by the Government Accountability Office found that, as of 2019, the top 14 arms contractors employed more than 1,700 former military or Pentagon civilian employees, including many who had previously been involved in making or enforcing the rules for buying major weapons systems.The revolving door spins both ways, with executives and board members of the major weapons makers moving into powerful senior positions in government where they're well situated to help their former (and, more than likely, future) employers.The process starts at the top. Four of the past five secretaries of defense have also been executives, lobbyists, or board members of Raytheon, Boeing, or General Dynamics, three of the top five weapons makers that split tens of billions of dollars in Pentagon contracts annually.Both the House and Senate versions of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act extend the periods of time in which those entering the government from such industries have to recuse themselves from decisions involving their former companies. Still, as long as the Pentagon continues to pluck officials from the very outfits driving those exploding budgets, we should all know more or less what to expect.So far, the system is working — if you happen to be an arms contractor. The top five weapons companies alone split $166 billion in Pentagon contracts in Fiscal Year 2020, well over one-third of those issued by the Department of Defense that year.To give you some sense of the scale of all this — and our government's twisted priorities — Lockheed Martin alone received $75 billion in Pentagon contracts in Fiscal Year 2020, nearly one and one-half times the $52.5 billion allocated for the State Department and the Agency for International Development combined.Which way forward?More than 1,000 pieces of US Army equipment and vehicles at the port in Gdansk, Poland, September 14, 2017.US Army/Sgt. 1st Class Jacob A. McDonaldThe Congressional Budget Office's new report charts a path toward a more rational approach to Pentagon spending, but the $1 trillion in savings it proposes should only be a starting point.Hundreds of billions more could be saved over the next decade by reassessing our national security strategy, cutting back the Pentagon's nuclear buildup, capping its use of private contractors, and scaling back the colossal sums of waste, fraud, and abuse baked into its budget.All of this could be done while making this country and the world a significantly safer place by shifting such funds to addressing the non-military risks that threaten the future of humanity.Whether our leaders meet the challenges of today or continue to succumb to the power of the arms lobby is an open question.Mandy Smithberger, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy and the author of "Profits of War: Corporate Beneficiaries of the Post-9/11 Surge in Pentagon Spending" (Brown University's the Costs of War Project and the Center for International Policy, September 2021).Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 19th, 2021

Shellenberger: Why $6 Billion Won"t Solve World Hunger

Shellenberger: Why $6 Billion Won't Solve World Hunger Authored by Michael Shellenberger via michaelshellenberger.substack.com (emphasis ours), In late October, David Beasley, the Director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) urged billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk to “step up now, on a one-time basis” to address hunger globally. “Six billion [dollars] to help 42 million people that are literally going to die if we don’t reach them. It’s not complicated.”  But would you be surprised to learn that saving those 42 million lives is, in fact, complicated?   Part of the problem is how the money is spent. Musk tweeted back, “If WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it.” Musk added, “it must be open source accounting, so the public sees precisely how the money is spent.” Beasley responded, “I can assure you that we have the systems in place for transparency and open-source accounting.”  If WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it. — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 31, 2021 There have been problems in the past with the financial accounting and transparency of WFP and other United Nations agencies, but the larger problem is with food aid itself. After WFP won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020, it should have been a time of self-celebration. Instead, it enabled longtime critics of food aid to renew their criticisms of the WFP for dumping food on poor nations, driving down prices and bankrupting farmers, ultimately making it harder for poor nations to become self-sufficient.  This scenario has happened time and again around the world. In the 1950s and 1960s, surplus wheat from the US was sent to India, undermining local farmers. In 1976, the US sent wheat to Guatemala, in response to an earthquake, even though the country had just produced record yields. The decline of prices was so harmful to farmers that the government banned grain imports. Six years later, the Peruvian government asked the US government to stop dumping rice on the country, given its impact on poor farmers.   In 2002, Michael Maren, a former food aid monitor for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Somalia published a book called “The Road to Hell,” documenting how food aid prolonged that nation’s civil war in three ways.  First, much of the food aid was stolen and sold to buy arms, furthering the conflict.  Second, the food aid helped destroy the centuries-old credit system that allowed pastoral farmers to borrow money during droughts to pay for food, which they repaid later during good times. By undermining the credit system, foreign food aid had helped undermine the social ties that had kept the nation together.  And third, the food aid undermined the very incentive to farm. The WFP says it has learned from the past by giving one-third of its support in the form of cash aid, which is viewed as both more efficient, and more likely to avoid bankrupting small farmers. But cash aid can also fuel corruption, as I discovered the hard way 30 years ago when attempting to support a small, worker-owned coffee cooperative in Nicaragua.  My friends and I raised a few thousand dollars and gave it to the coop’s leaders. One year later, we returned to see how the money was spent. We were told one night by the coop’s angry cook that the coop’s all-male leadership had spent the money on alcohol and partying. None had gone towards upgrading the coop’s infrastructure. Naturally, the coop’s leaders denied it all, and said the money wasn’t sufficient, and they needed more. The lesson? When there is poor governance, aid money makes the situation worse, not better. An even bigger problem is that what causes hunger in most cases is not the absence of food but the presence of war and political instability.  A few days after his Twitter exchange with Elon musk, the WFP’s Beasley released a list of recipient nations and how much they would each receive in food aid and cash aid if Musk, Bezos, or someone else ponied up the more than $6 billion WFP said was needed to save 42 million lives. The list included the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Yemen, Ethiopia, Sudan, Venezuela, Haiti and Syria. Notice anything in common between them? They are all at war or in political turmoil, which is preventing farming and the transportation of food. Not all nations suffering from hunger and famine are at war. Some, like Madagascar, are suffering from drought. But we have known since economist Amartya Sen published his landmark 1981 book, “Poverty and Famines,” that most famines are deliberately caused as a weapon of war. They weren’t, for the most part, the result of food supplies in general or drought in particular, which farmers and societies have learned to deal with for millennia. Today, the world produces a 25 percent surplus of food, the most in recorded human history. To his credit, Beasley acknowledged that “$6 billion will not solve world hunger,” adding that that “it WILL prevent geopolitical instability [and] mass migration.”  If that were true, then that $6 billion would be the greatest philanthropic investment in human history. Unfortunately, it’s not.  Just look at Democratic Republic of the Congo, the eastern region of which is again at war. In the 1990s and again in the early 2000s, Congo was the epicenter of the Great African War, the deadliest conflict since World War II, which involved nine African countries and resulted in the deaths of three to five million people, mostly because of disease and starvation. Another two million people were displaced from their homes or sought asylum in neighboring countries. Hundreds of thousands of people, women and men, adults and children, were raped, sometimes more than once, by different armed groups.  When I was there in 2014, armed militias roaming the countryside had been killing villagers, including children, with machetes. Some blamed Al-Shabaab terrorists coming in from Uganda, but nobody took credit for the attacks. The violence appeared unconnected to any military or strategic objective. The national military, police and United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, about 6,000 soldiers, were either unable or unwilling to do anything about the terrorist attacks.  The sad truth is that wars are rarely settled from the outside and, when they are, it’s through long-term military occupation, not food aid. Even 20 years is not long enough, as the US failure to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan shows. We have known for more than two centuries that almost every nation escapes hunger and famine in the same way. First, there is sufficient stability to allow farmers to produce and transport their crops to the cities, and for businesses in the cities to operate without being bombed or shelled. The ugly truth is that such stability is often won the hard way, after years or decades of war and even genocide. Stability allows farmers to become more productive, and cities to develop new industries, such as manufacturing. Rising farm productivity means fewer people are required to work in farms, and many of them move to the city for work in factories and other industries. In the cities, the workers spend their money buying food, clothing and other consumer products and services, resulting in a workforce and society that is wealthier and engaged in a greater variety of jobs.  The use of modern energy and machinery means a declining number of workers required for food and energy production, which diversifies the workforce and grows the economy. During the last 200 years, poor nations found that they didn’t need to end corruption or educate everyone to develop. As long as factories were allowed to operate freely, and the politicians didn’t steal too much from their owners, manufacturing could drive economic development. And, over time, as nations became richer, many of them, including the US, became less corrupt.  While a few oil-rich nations like Saudi Arabia have achieved very high standards of living without ever having embraced manufacturing, almost every other developed country in the world, from Britain and the United States to Japan to South Korea and China, has transformed its economy with factories.  This remains the case today. Ethiopia had to end and recover from a bloody 17-year civil war, which resulted in at least 1.4 million deaths, including one million from famine, before its government could invest in infrastructure. Today, factory workers in the capital city of Addis Ababa continue to make clothing for Western labels including Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and H&M. Ethiopia has been competitive both because of its low wages compared to places like China and Indonesia, where they have risen in recent years, as well as its investments in hydroelectric dams, the electricity grid and roads. As a result, Ethiopia has seen more than 10 percent annual growth over the last decade. But all of that is now in jeopardy. There is a growing war in the northern Tigray region, and the Ethiopian government has blocked aid from being delivered, which has resulted in nearly a half million people suffering from famine. Now, the US and other nations are considering imposing trade sanctions in response, putting in jeopardy the livelihoods of factory workers in Addis Ababa. The reason for continuing famines in a world of plenty is not just complicated but also tragic. Over the last 20 years, economists and other experts have criticized development aid for being counterproductive, making nations dependent upon outsiders, and undermining efforts at internal development. Those complaints have mostly been ignored. Today, many developed nations continue to see charitable aid as an alternative to economic development. The latest guise to sell charity as development comes in the form of “climate adaptation.” The idea is that poor nations should forgo the use of fossil fuels, a necessary ingredient to industrialization and development, and instead rely on foreign hand-outs to adapt to higher temperatures. For poor nations to finally free themselves from the clutches of would-be rescuers from the rich world, they will need to defend their right to develop, including through the use of fossil fuels, and seek to trade with rich nations on equal terms. That may be starting to happen. In response to calls by rich world leaders that Africa not use fossil fuels, South Africa’s energy minister on Wednesday called for united resistance. “Our continent collectively is made to bear the brunt for polluters,” complained Gwede Mantashe. “We are being pressured, even compelled, to move away from all forms of fossil fuels… a key resource for industrialization.”  He’s right. From climate change to food aid, rich nations are demanding the poor nations develop in ways radically different from the way they developed centuries ago, without agricultural self-sufficiency, industrialization and fossil fuels. It can’t work. The harsh truth is that poor nations must go through the same, often painful steps toward development, including, often civil war, in order to achieve the political stability they need to develop. Rich nations can be partners to poor nations. But we should stop trying to be their saviors. Michael Shellenberger is author of Apocalypse Never (Harper Collins 2020), San Fransicko(HarperCollins 2021), and President of Environmental Progress. He lives in Berkeley, California. Tyler Durden Thu, 11/18/2021 - 21:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 18th, 2021