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Newsletter 12-10-2021

Colin Powers
Colin Powers

Hi everyone. Thanks for subscribing. If you have the inclination, please pass this newsletter around to others who might enjoy the read. Now onto this week's edition of No Craic, Mad Craic, and Great Craic.

No Craic

(1) The financial cycle is turning on emerging markets at the moment. This is happening at the same moment as the Biden administration is pushing for an end to the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), a piecemeal, mostly shit program that affords some of the poorest countries in the world temporary abatement on debt repayments owed to bilateral, official creditors.

This coalescence of events--declining dollar and euro investment inflows + increasing dollar and euro outflows (courtesy of renewed debt repayment obligations)--spells big trouble. Financial instability, crashing asset prices, and balance-of-payment crises are likely on the horizon.

(2) The US military-industrial complex produces more carbon emissions than 171 countries, including oil exporters like Nigeria, the UAE, Venezuela, Algeria and Iraq.

Apropos of nothing, the US House of Representatives voted 363-70 this week in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act, thereby authorizing $768.1 billion in defense spending (a figure more than $25 billion in excess of the one requested by the White House) for fiscal year 2022. A sizable majority in the Senate is expected to sign off on the funding bill next week.      

(3) The World Inequality Lab--directed by academic star/maybe domestic abuser Thomas Piketty--put outs its annual report this week.

Key takeaways: (i) The Middle East and North Africa stormed the yard to become the most unequal region in the world in terms of income (the top 10% of earners in MENA take home 58% of aggregate income).

(ii) Wealth inequality deepened across the world. The top decile now controls over 70% of total household wealth in North America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Russia and Central Asia, MENA, and Latin America. The top 1% in MENA holds 44.5% of total wealth, a percentage point short of the share held by their counterparts in Latin and America and Russia/Central Asia.

(iii) Between-country inequality is growing nearly as quickly as within-country inequality.

(4) The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative-run legislation factory, is taking aim at public and private divestment from fossil fuel companies.

The organization's Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force is currently pushing two pieces of model legislation at state houses across the country. Because everything that occurs today is the stupidest possible outcome, both draft laws have been anchored to the metaframe of culture war and the need to combat what this cast of jabroneys calls "critical energy theory." As they see it, wokeism and such is leading to "law-abiding energy companies" being denied credit by banks and financiers of different types, not on the basis of economic merit but politics. The laws they've drawn up would help put in an end to this by mandating that "states use their collective economic purchasing power to counter the rise of politically motivated and discriminatory investing practices." Pulling directly from the tactic ALEC adopted in earlier efforts aimed at squeezing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement led by anti-Israeli apartheid activists, the legislation would also empower state governments to punish those investors deemed to be engaging in such practices:

   State comptrollers would be directed to create and maintain 'a list of all financial companies that boycott energy companies,” further allowing them to “request written verification from a financial company that it does not boycott energy companies.” Any company that doesn’t reply to said request within 61 days, per the model bill, would be “presumed to be boycotting energy companies.” Listed companies that don’t stop “boycotting energy companies” within 90 days would then be subject to losing state contracts or investments. State agencies would then be required to “sell, redeem, divest, or withdraw all publicly traded securities” in qualifying companies unless that would “result in a loss in value or a benchmark deviation.” Attorneys general would be empowered to enforce rules mandating that state agencies report which companies they’ve divested from and the “prohibited investments” they still hold.    

(5) Lots of attention has been paid to the transformation of left-wing parties from working class bastions to vehicles for professional-managerial class politeness. Confounding this discourse in many instances has been the difficulties of defining what, precisely, working class means. Are we still just speaking about the unionized work force or does this no longer reflect actually existing social conditions? If public sector employees and health care professionals are making up growing shares of the unionized, what happens to the lines between allegedly college-educated wokeys and proper working class chaps?

Shout out Eric Blanc

As it turns out, trade union movements, like left-wing parties, are indeed becoming increasingly college-educated in their membership. This leaves the lesser educated with one less institution for giving voice to their interests. Thereby made, at one and the same time, more socially vulnerable and more politically untethered, it ought be unsurprising that segments of these populations are being absorbed within cynical right-wing movements.    

Mad Craic

(6) Sixteen contestants were disqualified from the beauty pageant held annually at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia after it was discovered that they had received Botox and collagen injections in their lips, noses and jaws. Another eleven were given the boot for having gotten hormone shots to boost muscle growth.

The winner of the contest, one should know, will walk away with $66 million.

(7) Here you can see Lou Bega--famed singer song-writer of "Mambo no.5"--performing a concert before Polish troops defending the country's eastern flank against dastardly immigrants. Sharks have been jumped at many times in history, though this is truly something.

Great Craic

(8) For anyone puzzled by the reactionary turn of Glenn Greenwald, or the general business of anti-woke intellectual crusading, John Ganz has a smart and nicely written essay diving into the subject matter. Worth a read, I'd reckon.

(9) A former Attorney General in Israel, Michael Benyair, gave some rather matter-of-fact statements on the obviousness of greater Israel--inclusive of Israel '48 and the occupied territories--constituting an apartheid state.  As he puts it: "After about 55 years of rule, it is no longer a temporary military occupation of a democratic state in territory not hers. This is the supremacy of the rights holders over the disenfranchised in the entire area under their control. The solution to this is one of two things: granting equal rights to the disenfranchised in the entire controlled area and the loss of the Jewish majority, or ending the control of the disenfranchisers of the disenfranchised and granting self-determination to each community, in its own territory. The passage of years does not help to resolve the dilemma, but to exacerbate it."

(10) Below you can watch a jaguar swimming.

Have a great weekend.


Colin Powers

Colin received his PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 2020. He is a two-time Fulbright Fellow.