This late edition of the Blind Spot Wrap (due to illness) was compiled by Izabella Kaminska (IK) and Dario Garcia Giner (DGG).
Business, Econ and Finance etc:
- Nouriel Roubini’s quasi-apocalyptic take on the ‘unavoidable crash’ shaking our economy, resulting from our ultra-loose monetary policy, together with major negative supply shocks.
Do check out my own interview with Nouriel here (and here for the show notes). Overall, I found his new book Mega Threats realistic and refreshing, especially with respect to his views on inflation and climate change mitigation. Nor does he take any prisoners on crypto. Even so, as much as I agree with Nouriel on many things, I can’t get on board with his neo-Malthusian mindset. Or, for that matter, with some of the deeply contradictory views he seems to hold. Sadly, we didn’t have enough time together for me to properly challenge him on some of those inconsistencies. But if you listen to the interview you will hear me hinting strongly about some of these issues.
One of those contradictions pertains to Nouriel’s admission that globalisation was not on a sustainable path, but at the same time that Brexit and Trump — which were clearly in my mind reactions to the non-sustainability of globalisation — were terrible errors regardless. This seems non-sensical. To my mind, once it became obvious globalisation was not delivering on the domestic Western front, it was clear something had to give. Viewing Brexit and Trump as “errors” seems wrong-headed to me. They were signals more than anything. Signals that the path we were on was not sustainable. Where would we be now if that expression of discontent had not rocked the world and forced us to acknowledge those failings? [Even if, in my opinion, we are yet to properly address those failings.]
There seems to be an ongoing view nonetheless that we could have restructured globalisation or tweaked it in a constructive way without those two events occurring. That I think is a fantasy. The left behind would still be left behind, and the system would still be going down the wrong course, and we would still be facing an eventual rebellion one way or another.
Nouriel’s logic feeds into the usual criticism of rising populism, illiberalism and autocracy without any acknowledgement of the irony that the solutions the elite (Nouriel included) are proposing to fend off the “mega threats” the world is facing also include “subordinating individual freedoms” (Nouriel’s words not mine) on hitherto unappreciated levels.
Having pushed him on this a little further, it seems Nouriel justifies this view with the idea that illiberalism in the name of the greater and longer-term collective good of the world is acceptable. Illiberalism in pursuit of national interests is not. Authoritarianism in the name of combatting climate change, meanwhile, is even more acceptable because it is a means to an end and temporary. This is unlike, say, the authoritarianism of Putin or Xi which is intended to be permanent and an end in and of itself.
Again, I find this contradictory. First, because Nouriel’s own view is that we probably won’t be able to successfully combat climate change with mitigation efforts — hence all the economically costly action we are taking is for nothing anyway since it won’t return us to any pre-existing norm.
Second, because of Nouriel’s clearcut support of Ukraine’s right to defend its borders and cultural identity against foreign invaders, regardless the economic cost or environmental damage. How does that square with the idea that other Western nations have to be fully accepting of mass-migration, irrespective of how it may or may not dilute their own identities? And how does that also square with the idea that other Western nations must self sacrifice on environmental fronts — but only up until the point they are embroiled in a war that is approved of by the West. If the latter happens all environmental and existential concerns become secondary.
Nouriel implies this is ultimately all about ensuring that the right hegemon oversees the new global order. And given the alternatives, the Western system remains optimal.
While Nouriel is very realistic and up front about the limitations and contradictions of policy measures like the energy price cap, it’s not because he thinks the sanctions themselves are overly self harming. It’s because they’re not self-harming enough. He sees the energy cap policy as needlessly populist. The time for Keynesianism is over, he says. Energy prices should be allowed to skyrocket to better encourage substitution. He is, of course, not wrong about this. Nor is he wrong in his critique that overly loose central bank policy encouraged low productivitiy and the proliferation of zombie companies and industries. But he is overly defeatist. There is no optimistic pathway out of any conundrum he presents us with — hence why bother with any self-sacrifice at all?
Even the book’s promise to show us “how to survive the ten trends that imperil our future” falls flat under proper scrutiny. Nouriel’s conclusion is clear. One way or another we are either facing the apocalypse or a period of mass authoritarianism on a global level until all these threats pass.
Nouriel laughs at billionaires like Peter Thiel taking precautions by building bunkers in New Zealand. He thinks their efforts will be in vain since they will be overwhelmed by other survivors. That’s why he won’t be investing in any bunkers.
He tells me he himself would rather go down with the ship. Who after all would really want to survive the apocalypse?
Personally, that’s too much of a death cult mentality for me. I’d rather put my faith in those who at least have some hope they might survive and who perceive mass totalitarianism on any level as fundamentally unacceptable. – IK
- David Galbraith argues the root causes of secular deflation and subsequent inflation can be found in the interplay of technology and investment.
- Bari Weiss’ Free Press takes a closer look at how PayPal has increasingly become an e-payments police force.
- An in-depth look into the untold story behind the Icelandic economic crash.
- The Office of National Statistics found a surprise fall in retail sales just before Christmas, signalling an increasingly harsh cost of living crisis in the UK.
- Goldman Sachs is laying off 4,000 workers.
- The official cases against Sam Bankman Fried from the CFTC, the SEC and the DOJ make for some interesting reading.
- FTX CEO John Ray’s testimony before the House Financial services Committee on December 13.
- Former FTX spokesman Kevin O’Leary, meanwhile, blames the fall of FTX on Binance in an extraordinary little testimony.
- Donald Trump has announced the release of the Donald Trump Digital Trading Card collection, a Trump-themed NFT series.
- The BIS’ Hyun Song Shin argues that the great crypto crisis is upon us.
The BIS has generally been very good with its crypto and blockchain analysis, but it’s not like it was entirely immune to the associated crypto research bubble. Nonetheless, it’s good to hear Shin acknowledging that “blockchain’s returns have been remarkably meagre considering the early hype” and that “One after the other, projects that have explored its potential benefits have come up empty-handed.”
Now, if only the BIS would also drop its lovefest with CBDCs, given they bring absolutely nothing new to the table either (other than narrow banking). There is absolutely no rational way to argue that “a more promising approach is through central bank digital currencies that operate within the broader digital monetary system” while simultaneously admitting blockchain and crypto are mostly pointless.
- Breakneck LNG build-out shows Germany can move fast, Scholz says.
- Millions have signed up to the National Grid’s energy-saving scheme that aims to counter blackouts by paying consumers to cut their electricity during peak hours.
- Europe’s $1 trillion energy bill only marks start of the crisis.
Hate to say we told you so. But, err… we did. Bloomberg cites numerous sources on why the energy crisis has only just begun, including the prospect of increasing demand from Asia now that China has rolled back its zero Covid policy. Meanwhile, over at the ECB, even Christine Lagarde has finally recognised that blunt-edged tools like energy price caps come with their own externalities. As she noted during last week’s press conference about the TTF market measures (our emphasis):
“Suffice to say that one of the considerations in the legal opinion that was issued has to do with the fact that there is a clear risk of pushing out of the derivative and clearing system, which functions as it does. The TTF [Title Transfer Facility] has its own method of operations, but at least there is a degree of information that is available and that can be used. The risk is, in our view, based on the financial stability perspective that we take, that there could be transactions that would move out to much darker corners with a lot less information available that would then certainly cause some financial instability.
Separately from that, we have also opined on the fact that the ECB can be consulted, but is not a member of the operation, and cannot have an active role in that process, because it is part of the ECB to be an independent institution, and not participate in such a mechanism, which leads me to tell you that I don’t have the solution, because it’s not for us to find the solution.”
Lagarde’s comments came as the ICE commodity exchange warned there was a risk to the viability of the TTF gas market if the EU would go ahead with the price cap.
As a reminder energy ministers are meeting today (Monday) to determine the details of the gas price cap. Politico has seen a document suggesting ministers will opt for an even lower cap than previously envisioned. – IK
- Marc Andreessen made a ChatGPT template for avid readers of the New York Times during their current strike.
- Michael Shellenberger revealed how Twitter’s arbitrary banning policy was applied to Donald Trump while allowing the heads of repressive states like the Ayatollah to keep their own accounts.
- Taibbi expands on the master-canine relationship between the FBI and Twitter.
- Cliff Sims, the former deputy director of national intelligence for strategy/comms has a thread on what it’s like to deal with journalists who play the dual role of covering the intelligence and national security communities while being mouthpieces of the permanent security state.
- Following Twitter’s banning of an account that published coordinates of Elon Musk’s jet, Elon claims the real-time posting of someone’s location violates Twitter’s Terms of Service.
Elon has since also approved an updated terms of service that bans links to rival services such as Mastadon, Truth Social etc. He has also offered to resign from the position of CEO if the outcome of a poll recommends in favour of it. At pixel time the poll was trending 57.5 per cent in favour of Elon resigning — though many speculate that Elon has already decided to pass the baton on to somebody else.
My general opinion of the whole Elon Twitter affair sides with what Bari Weiss has expressed in this Twitter thread (which Elon also took issue with). There is definitely an underlying hypocrisy to what Elon is doing. But this is hardly surprising. Elon has always shown antipathy for the “free press”. In his time, he has had clashes with everyone from Jeremy Clarkson to Alphaville. He even dissolved Tesla’s press department because he believed the press was treating the automaker unfairly.
But at the same time, the totally disproportional reaction of the media to Elon relative to the Twitter File revelations of what the old regime was doing seems utterly bonkers to me.
That Elon would have to learn the hard way that free speech is a complex right to guarantee, and that in most cases the best we can hope for is a policy of free speech maximisation, was always predictable. But the accusations of hypocrisy go both ways. You can’t on one hand champion the deplatforming of all sorts of names because you disagree with what they say on the basis that “Twitter is a private company and has that right” and then simultaneously be shocked or annoyed when you yourself are deplatformed because the new regime dislikes what you say.
This is why I favour free-speech maximisation for all. It’s a position that acknowledges that it’s very hard to rule explicitly and decisively on matters of dangerous or harmful speech, and that more often than not — beyond clearly illegal speech such as that pertaining to defamation or incitement to violence — such rulings have to tend to subjectivity based around cultural attitudes. Does a no live coordinate doxxing policy make sense? In some cases yes. In others no. The context and circumstances, as with most things in life, really matter.
As to the accusations that the Twitter files are nothing burgers, that’s a hard disagree from me. Imagine if it was revealed that mainstream newspapers were deleting commentary on request from government authorities, political groups or intelligence services?
In fact, consider the outcry that actually did occur when the FT removed an oped by Mehreen Khan on the request of President Macron. – IK
Amazon is too big to fail:
- Arthur Snell writes a Twitter thread on how the ungritted hill he lives on becomes slippery for delivery trucks under cold conditions, and exposes the cost-cutting inefficiencies of Amazon’s supposedly self-employed drivers.
- The fake book wars of Amazon.
- Amazon workers vote to strike at Coventry depot.
- An excellent in-depth look into what life is like back in Albania, and why it is that Albanians are so keen to travel to the UK.
The tragedy of the situation lies in an entrenched social divide between the honest and the corrupt, and the normalisation of mafia structures as the only pathway to success. It is a structural situation that I fear is now also being emulated in the West.
Politics, Politics, Politics:
- Democrat Senator Kyrsten Sinema registers as an independent days after the Democrats finally secure a one-seat majority in the Senate.
- Marc Andreessen shares essays by six Communist intellectuals of the 1920s and 30s that discerned the lie behind communism.
- Under the recommendation of unnamed “agencies,” Biden cites the risk of “identifiable harm” if certain JFK records are published and orders their continued secrecy until June 30, 2023.
Some of the released documents are nevertheless interesting.
One document from 1967 details an effort to identify all CIA employees in New Orleans together with a ready-made list to bring charges against some with regards to the Kennedy Assasination.
The Kennedy files have always been a strange affair. But fewer still noticed an even stranger document that was released under Donald Trump’s presidency. This was a file that revealed the CIA had been investigating whether Hitler was alive in South America around the time JFK was murdered. Though most believe such a document is totally irrelevant to JFK’s assasination, controversial historians of underground Nazi organisations in the postwar period such as Joseph Farrell believe that Nazi-led groups hired by the CIA had a role to play in this murder.
The theory is simple: the CIA worked with Nazi groups such as the Gehlen Organisation or Werwolf, and used them when it found itself under threat from JFK. Though we may never know the truth of the affair, it’s fascinating that an assasination that occured in the 60s is still an evolving and mysterious affair. – DGG
- RFK Jr calls Tucker Carlson’s report on the CIA’s potential role in the murder of JFK “the most courageous newscast in 60 years”.
In the broadcast, Tucker cites a source that has had access to the still-classified JFK files as confirming that the CIA was involved in the assassination. Could that source be Donald Trump himself? Could those be the documents the FBI is so upset about in Mar-O-Lago? The clue is in the choice of words used, surely? – IK
- Why France and 51 other countries voted against UN resolution condemning Nazism.
In recent days, the term “Nazism” has been trending on Twitter on numerous occasions. More often than not the links take people to poorly contextualised reports of Western countries voting against a UN resolution proposed by Russia to condemn the glorification of Nazism. The vote for this draft resolution, which has been proposed by Russia every year since 2012, actually occurred in early November.
It’s worth noting the resolution was actually adopted on December 16, 2021, when only Ukraine and the United States voted against it. But this year, in the context of the Ukraine war, many states that previously voted in favour of it abstained or voted against the measure in solidarity with Ukraine. That included all NATO states bar Turkey. The states said they objected to Russia’s use of the denazification narrative to justify its invasion of Ukraine, with Canada and the US stressing the draft resolution was only being proposed by Russia to “legitimise a discourse based on disinformation”.
To better understand the rationale for Ukraine’s opposition to the resolution it’s worth reading the explanation they posted in 2014. The key point made was this: “We have always demanded that Russia should stop glorifying Stalinism and neo-Stalinism because of their misanthropic and xenophobic nature. Until and unless the notions of Stalinism and neo-Stalinism are equally condemned along with nazism and neo-nazism and other forms of intolerance Ukraine will not be able to support the draft presented by Russia.” – IK
- Violent protests erupted across Peru following the former president’s failed self-coup leading the new government to declare a police state.
- Trump announced plans to create a “Digital Bill of Rights” to protect free speech in the digital age.
- Kosovo sent special forces into a Serbian neighbourhood, sparking unrest, barricades and news that Serbia is considering sending security forces to Kosovo.
- Henry Kissinger urges Western powers to consider negotiation and diplomacy to avoid world war three in a piece for the Spectator.
- A retired British Army Intelligence Corps officer analyses Wagner Group’s trench assault methodologies in the Bakhmut offensives.
- Rumours in the Syrian city of Raqqah that the United States may seek to set up a permanent military base in the former ISIS capital.
- A gift received by Poland’s top police commander from members of a Ukrainian police and emergency services delegation exploded, leading the commander and a civilian to receive minor injuries as a result.
- The United States is planning to double the number of troops from Ukraine its training in Germany.
- The US Army is investigating soldiers who posed in dog bondage masks.
- Russia is considering putting musicians on the front line to boost morale.
- French prosecutors have searched the headquarters of President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party and the Paris office of consultancy firm McKinsey. The scandal is fast becoming known as “the McKinsey affair” in France.
- Politico does a deep dive into what happened in the European Parliament’s Qatar scandal.
- Danske Bank to pay $2bn penalty for defrauding US banks via its Estonian branch.
- MPs write to the British Chancellor to demand Jeremy Hunt cut some of the £7bn of government spending on ‘woke’ projects.
- NHS hires army of “lived experience” tsars on ridiculously high salaries.
- Police were called in by Oxford City Council against residents angered by ‘draconian’ plans to introduce a ‘climate lockdown’ traffic scheme.
Is Covid Over?
- British MP Andrew Bridgen alleges there may be an ongoing ‘cover up’ of Covid vaccine effects in inflaming heart arteries by a senior member of the British Heart Foundation. A video of the debate is available on YouTube and the transcript is on Hansard.
Bridgen casually notes in the testimony that he is “double-vaccinated with AstraZeneca, which has now been withdrawn”. I confess I had to do a double take as I had entirely missed the news that the AstraZeneca vaccine had been withdrawn. Further googling seems to confirm this is indeed the case. The reason I had not clocked it, however, is because the mainstream press had mostly covered it with headlines like this: “No plans for UK to order more supplies of AstraZeneca Covid vaccine.” Most articles also emphasised that the vaccine was still a British success story and had saved millions of lives, and was and remains an excellent vaccine, but that (for not properly explained reasons) the relevant task forces were now recommending mRNA vaccines only.
But who can forget the barrage of countries that came out against the AZ vaccine in the early days of the rollout, linking it to blood clots and openly banning it for their populations? Something simply does not compute. If AZ has been de facto withdrawn because of safety issues, this should be explicitly stated.
- Dr John Campbell reviews new evidence from a German post-mortem study into the connection between Covid vaccinations and myocarditis, which concludes that “myocarditis can be a potentially lethal complication following mRNA-based anti-SARS-CoV-2 vaccination.”
- Heather Mac Donald flags the New York Times’ latest Covid fearmongering campaign and general contradictory approach to Covid.
- Epidemiologist and co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration, Jay Bhattacharya, on how he found himself at the heart of the Twitter suppression story.